There was a little girl who lived on the streets. She made what money she could from selling wild flowers, collecting them at dawn by the river bank far out of town. She made enough money to feed herself and, in time, to purchase a woven wicker basket allowing her to collect and sell more flowers than before.
One day it so happened that she didn’t sell a single flower. She did not know why, or what the people bought instead but that night she went to sleep with an empty stomach. The following morning she went about her usual business, but again not a single bloom was bought. She slept with the other vagrant children, her stomach hollow and howling. Things continued on this way for many days until the little girl had no other recourse but to sell her basket for some bread. Without her basket she could collect few flowers and these still did not sell. She quickly grew weak and feeble and joined the other, less industrious, urchins begging on the street.
Sitting in a stone alcove across from the bakers the little girl watched a burly man selling hot pies and she resolved to have one. She had no money from begging. It was the legless and blind children with gaunt cheeks and yellow skin that made the most. She wasn’t agile. She wasn’t quick or cunning. She had never picked a pocket or cut the strings of a purse. All she had was the desire to eat a pie. She waited until the man’s back was turned and reached her hand out to take one. Her fingertips had just grazed the steaming pastry when her wrist was seized. What she had, had not been enough.
They cut off her left hand for stealing. Then they housed her in a large room full of cots where she was fed and slowly returned to health. Once she was well they returned her to the streets. She tried begging but looked too healthy to attract the eye of the wealthy and was instead passed over for women with bowed heads and fake bellies. She returned to the abandoned buildings the homeless camped in but was turned away by the spiteful children at the sight of her plump limbs and full cheeks.
In time she grew hungry, not as hungry as before, but it seemed worse for having been so recently fed. She found herself sitting across from the bakers once again. She couldn’t remember what it had felt like to lose her hand. The pain was nothing but a fact, known but not felt. However, she could easily recall the sensation of hot broth trickling down her throat, the softness of a cot and pillow beneath her aching body, the warmth of a blanket. She salivated at the scent of meat and salt and pastry. She reached her hand out.
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