Kind of an after-thought, and it works best if read before parts 1 & 2.
Changed my mind again… Sorry!
“Mama! There’s a boy in the garbage!”
He glanced up at her yell, having not heard her come toward him. She was a small child, not much over five years standard, with dark hair and big brown eyes. She watched innocently as he stopped his rummaging in the garbage can. He began to back away, getting ready to run, when the woman who ran the mercantile started forward and grabbed him. “Let go of me!” he growled.
“Hold on there, young man.” the woman said, holding tightly as he struggled. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
He kicked her leg out from under her and they fell hard to the ground. She tried to hold on but the boy wriggled from her grasp, elbowing her in the face in the process. He scrambled to his feet and made to run away when a man in tan and dirty clothes, grabbed him by the arm and the back of the neck. “Whoa now. Just what is going on here?”
“Let go! I wasn’t doing anything!” the boy protested.
“I beg to differ young man.” he pointed to the woman as she was rubbing her jaw. “You caught my wife in the face.”
“She grabbed me!” he growled.
“Richard, it’s okay. He’s just a boy. I’ve been hit harder.”
He’s just a boy. The words annoyed him. Made him struggle harder.
“He’s just hungry, Daddy. Let him go.” the girl pleaded, her eyes even bigger than before.
“Be a little more careful next time. You understand?” He then let the boy go, who promptly took off down the alley and out of sight.
It was a few days later when he next ventured to pass by the mercantile. He caught sight of the girl watching him out of an upstairs window, and hurried down the street.
It was just a po-dunk little mining world, just off the primary shipping lanes. It had a small spaceport that mostly saw the coming and going of ore tankers, and the occasional smaller transport ship would come through, dropping supplies mostly, but once in a while passengers so that they could stretch their legs. It was one of those ships that he had smuggled himself aboard, and had snuck off before it left.
He had tried to get work in the mines, but he wasn’t big enough. Or so they said. He could lift the same amount any grown man could. So he wandered the streets, a homeless waif.
He would come back to the mercantile from time to time. There was always something edible there. Not that the small family was wasteful. But he would find whole pieces of fruit and perfectly good bread bundled up in the garbage. Once he had even found a shirt and some boots buried in the bottom of the can. Almost as if they were left there intentionally.
The little family’s name was Barlow. Richard worked in the mines, while Shirah ran the mercantile. The little girl was Esmina, Shirah’s daughter.
He didn’t know why, but he found himself becoming obsessed. Some days he would sit on a rooftop across the street and watch them. He thought the little girl to be lucky, to not only have a mother who wanted her, but someone who behaved as a father. He was jealous.
One night there was a fierce rainstorm. Lightening split the skies and thunder boomed. He found himself trying to hide from the rain in a corner of an alley under a tarp that was soon useless against the wind. The shredded canvas whipped about him and the rain came down in sheets, drenching him in seconds. He found himself deciding that he had no choice but to ask for help.
He went to the back door of the mercantile, soaked and caked with beige mud. The door whipped open just as he was about to knock, Shirah looking down at him with an amused expression. “Wait on the bench by the door and I’ll get you some dry clothes.” Was all she said.
He sat where she had told him, looking around, half expecting a trap. Catching movement from the corner of his eye, he saw Esmina set a towel down on the bench before darting back around the corner. He smiled before wrapping it around himself.
“Why won’t your mommy help you?” the girl asked, beginning to creep back around the corner.
“My mom left me a long time ago.” he said, staring down at mud-caked boots. “My dad, too.”
“Oh.” Esmina said. “My daddy is not my real daddy.” She inched even closer. “Mama said my real daddy wasn’t very nice…”
“Esmina, go finish your supper.” Shirah said quietly.
“Yes, Mama.” Esmina said, almost sadly.
He could hear another voice coming from further inside, Richard most likely. There was the sound of dishes clanking together and the smell of food. His stomach growled painfully.
“Change your clothes, then come eat. There’s enough to go around.”
He did as he was told, starting with his boots as she left the small room. The clothes were just a little bit big, but wonderfully dry. He ruffled the towel across his short, dark hair, making it spike up, before going into the next room.
Esmina grinned at him while Shirah didn’t look up as she ladled food into a bowl. Richard turned to look at him as he stepped timidly forward. “Hmm.” Richard said, eying the boy as he stood before him. “Get a little meat on his bones and they may actually fit him.” He gestured to the empty place at the table.
He nervously sat in the chair, ready to dart away at the slightest hint of trouble, trying not to fidget. “You’re like a stray dog who’s been beat.” Shirah noted, setting the bowl and a spoon down in front of him.
His stomach rumbled again as he took in the sight of a thick broth with chunks of vegetables and meat bobbing about in it. He grabbed up the spoon and shoveled some of the stew into his mouth. Spicy and savory, it burned his mouth, but he didn’t care. Spying a plate holding slices of homemade bread, he reached across the table. Richard took him by the wrist, one eyebrow arched. “We have manners in this house, young man.” A smile then tugged at the corner of his mouth as he picked up the plate and brought it within easy reach.
“Th-thank you, sir.” he stammered, taking a piece of bread before digging back into his stew.
“I hope you have a name, or should we just call you Dog?” Again the slightest hint of a smile tugged at his lips.
“Richard.” Shirah scolded gently. “Just let the boy eat.”
“They call me Riddick.” he said, barely remembering to swallow before speaking with his mouth full.
“Is that a first or a last name?”
“No, just Riddick.”