This is the first part in a serialized story. The rest of it, can be found here.
Quenden twisted sideways out of Avdonina’s grasp and tottered away, giggling with every step he took. The white tablet of Praccin lay crushed and dissolving on the patch of pine-wood floor that showed between the dust-stained cardboard.
Avdonina lunged onto her knees from the crouching position she’d held Quenden in and dabbed at the precious grains with her fingertip. She used her other hand to push her long chestunt hair behind her shoulder.
One pill of Praccin a day just wasn’t enough.
“Quen, come back here! Come back to your sister!”
The radio droned, “-and today the embargo against Lima enters its 273rd day. You will remember….” The announcer continued the dialogue about the onset of the epidemic, the discovery of a crystalline drug growing in the Peruvian mountains, the embargo, and the mass of children, thousands of them, thin and starving and sick, grouped together in cardboard transient villages, under bridge abutments or in derelict houses. All of the children, or so the newscaster claimed, were ADHD stricken and had tested over the eighty-five point governmental limit. With little room left in the state camps, these children were dumped by parents who had given up. Often older siblings were left behind to become caretakers.
Climbing to her feet, Avdonina cupped her fingers around the rescued drug. She followed Quenden to where he hid in the busted-out hole in the wall, his bedroom. Getting on her knees, she peeked at the giggle and patted her sleeping blanket with her free hand. “Come on. Be a good boy for me.”
He made no move out, only giggled more. Sighing, she straightened and reached for the color-and-erase book Dollun, her friend at the outreach center, had given Quenden, “Once Upon Rocker Land.”
Avdonina shoved her blanket against the dingy wall. “Guess I’ll just have to read by myself.” Settling down, she began reading, her voice soft. “Once upon a time…” She pressed a color button, blue, Quenden’s favorite, and the book beeped and filled the picture’s sky and stream with a bright blue. “…a magic boy in a not so magic land….” She pressed another button, trumpeting green across the bottom of the picture for grass.
The giggling stopped to be replaced by scraping and bumping. Soon, a small warm 4-year-old body wriggled into her lap, his own dark haired-head hitting against her chin. She read a little to him, making all the funny noises she could. Quenden laughed hard, his mouth open, his high voice swallowed by the wild screams of untamed children outside the broken walls and cardboard rugs. She quickly patted his little wet tongue with her pill-dusted finger. When her family had first begun this treatment, her brother had nearly bitten off her mom’s finger.
For a moment, Quenden stopped, wide eyes dawning with tears, freckled nose squinched tight. But only for half a second. Then she made another funny noise and his bright laughter peeled out again.
No, one pill was definitely not enough. Initially, it had held him below the eighty-five point limit, but he’d been well beyond that for a few months now. That Quenden hadn’t been one of the magic sixty-three percent of children who recovered after being treated with Praccin for a few short years and could then live drug free lives was something on which her parents hadn’t calculated. Nor had they planned on the embargo and sudden scarcity of the drug which had skyrocketed the prices on the black market. She’d used up all the money they’d left her buying more. Now she had nothing left and her brother needed Praccin.
The radio continued with the news. “Robert Shihs has won the lottery for the last space-going ship, now renamed Palindrome. He is currently working out flight plans with NASA engineers for his legendary journey to Dalquiz 4. Good luck, Bob!”
Avdonina combed her fingers through Quenden’s hair. Her heart tore at her. She reached for him and pulled him tight against her. He sat still and small in her lap, flipping the pages of the book, making it blip, burp and bugle as he pressed the color buttons. No way would she let the government have him. Somehow, someway she had to get more Praccin before they found Quenden.
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If you don’t want to wait to read the whole story, it’s available in “Sunlit Night, Coffee and Sweet Dreams“.