By John Thomas Tuft

She stands all of 4’9” tall, looking like she just stepped off the pages of a Dickens’ novel with her mop of brown curls, freckles on her cheeks, below eyes that have seen far too much of the world’s raw side. Her name is Rapture. Rapture is a slinger. Her innocent looks are what make her a good slinger. She lives on the top floor of a trap house run by her uncle Brando. Trapping refers to selling illegal street drugs such as heroin and meth and Special K (ketamine). A trap house is a place where users come to buy the drugs and then shoot up, smoke it, or whatever it takes. Uncle Brando is a Yat from New Orleans, a descendant from the poor Irish of that area who shortened the greeting “where you at?” to Yat, as opposed to Cajun or Creole. Rapture adored her uncle Brando but didn’t like it when he urged her to try and buy the other kids’ Adderall at school so it could be crushed, repackaged, and sold to college students looking for a study aid.

Rapture put on her torn jeans, rainbow Skechers, and EXO tee shirt each morning, wondering what other little girls were doing. She looked like them but her friends at school said that their parents would not allow them to visit in her home. And they did not want their children inviting her into theirs. Uncle Brando made sure she had food and clothes and always asked if she had homework, but also expected her to pull her own weight in helping with the business. So, he made her a slinger. He didn’t dare keep his stash of drugs in the trap house. That’s much too obvious…and dangerous. When customers showed up, some of Brando’s crew took their money and then sent Rapture to the stash to retrieve what was needed—slinging the drugs back to the trap house. Who would ever suspect a cute little nine-year-old girl, picking her way among the old houses, curls bouncing, of having an eight ball or some Molly or Scooby snax of crystal meth in her pockets for Uncle Brando’s customers desperate to tweak, shoot up or whatever?

Rapture is in her room late at night, listening to the sounds of fights downstairs, loud singing, or snoring, and every so often gun shots in the distance. She sits on the window seat and dreams about what life might be like for other little girls as she looks out on the city. She remembers that her mother used to make her a birthday cake each year, whatever flavor she wanted. Rapture always wanted “banilla cake and fudge icening.” “You can’t wish away a life,” Momma used to scold as she put candles on it. “Birthday wishes are a glorious sadness.” It seems like a dream now, the time before. It hurts to think about it. Because then she remembers the Pain. The awfulness. Being so scared that she just wanted to run and hide. Feeling so alone, numbly going with Uncle Brando into this dreary place. Two more birthdays have come and gone, but no cake. No celebration of being wanted on this earth. Rapture looks at her calendar. Three more days and she will be ten.

She sighs and studies the moon. “Can I wish my way back to life, Momma?” Rapture comes up with a plan. The next time Uncle Brando sends her to the stash, Rapture sneaks an extra packet of a drug into the pocket of her jeans, heart pounding, the plan clear in her mind. Later that day she sneaks off and goes into a different neighborhood. When she spots a couple that she thinks might be a pair who have come to Uncle Brando’s trap house, she approaches them and offers them the packet for half price. They make her follow them to a dark, scary basement and ask who is putting her up to this. Rapture insists everything is on the up and up. She just needs the money. The look in their eyes of pure hunger and desperate need frightens Rapture, but she holds firm. Wishes are not free, after all. Finally, they relent, and she leaves with the ten dollars.

Rapture stopped in a store on the way home and did her shopping. The next day, the day before her birthday, she spent the day carefully and joyfully making herself a cake, banilla with fudge icening, of course. She took the cake mix, eggs and oil that she bought and mixed up the cake. She carefully poured it into pans and placed it in the oven. When the layers were done and cool, she opened the icing and slathered it on. Then she opened the box of candles and carefully placed ten of them on top. On her birthday evening, Rapture proudly took out the cake and lit the candles. She carefully picked it up and started down the stairs, wanting to share the birthday wishes with Uncle Brando and the others.

None of the drug users and drug crew and Uncle Brando himself, could ever forget the look on Rapture’s face as she brought the birthday cake into the room, candle flames dancing and shimmering. “Make a wish!” they all cried together. For a moment, everything was alright. As Rapture closed her eyes to make a wish, cars came screeching up outside the trap house. A long burst of gunfire shattered the night, window glass flying, furniture being chewed up. Seems a rival gang was upset that Brando’s crew had sold drugs in their neighborhood territory. A single sale. By a little girl trying to wish her way back to life. The policeman found her there on the floor, among the others, still breathing, but just barely. As he knelt beside her, she opened her eyes. “I got my wish,” said Rapture. “I’m going to Momma on the moon. She’s waiting there in glorious sadness…”

Words are magic and writers are wizards.