I woke up, stumbled out of the bedroom, and just before I get to the bathroom there’s this small round face looking up at me. “Ack! Er, what–”
“Is that the chamber-pot?” he said in a very small, slightly British voice as he pointed at the toilet. I nodded, and he scrambled in to use it. I scrambled back to my bedroom and hurriedly dressed. I remember I kind of heard some noise, just before I woke up completely, and maybe that’s what woke me up, but ….
Then I headed down the hall again and started doing a head count. Four in the spare room, including the little one who just exited the bathroom. Five in the living room, sitting quietly on the couch and chairs. Three in the kitchen, looking around. All between the ages of five and twelve, in dungarees and coats, most with little hats. Shaggy-headed, one or two with slightly smudged faces. All of them looking at me as I go by. “Good morning, Master,” they all said.
“Um, don’t you all have somewhere to be?” I ask. They all shake their heads. And it finally hits me: My house has been infested with orphans.
I look at the clock. It’s 7:30. And now they’re all looking at me, hungrily. “Er, ah…”
“Is there any porridge, Sir?” one of them says hopefully.
“Porridge, right! Um…” and then I remember I’d just bought a box of instant oatmeal, so I rip open all of the packets, dump the contents into the biggest bowl I have, and boil water. I remember to add more water to the oatmeal than I usually do, because most people like it that way. They’re looking at it like it’s a steak because it’s still so thick. So then there’s dozen little guys crowded in my kitchen using every bowl I have (and every spoon).
I have to say, they’re awfully well behaved. And quiet. They even all take their bowls to the sink and stack them neatly.
Then after breakfast, some of the older ones go get their coats. “What’s your name?” I ask one of them. ” ‘Arry,” he says. “Where are you going?” I ask. “Out rag-picking,” Harry says. “Oh.” Then I think. “Um, rags aren’t much of a going concern nowadays, but there’s metal.” And their eyes light up, and as they run out the door I yell “But don’t take any metal that’s still attached to houses!”
Great. The neighborhood association is going to love me.
Meanwhile that leaves me the five littlest ones, and one of them has figured out how to turn the TV on, so they’re looking at it in wonder — and it’s the news, which I figure isn’t good for them, so I grab the remote and change the channel. And it’s Spongebob Squarepants, which I figure isn’t good for them, either. Finally, I find the History Channel, which is showing history for once — something about the Industrial Revolution. I figured they would find that familiar. I’m obviously grasping here. All I know about orphans is that you yell at them, but these kids are so well-behaved there is nothing to yell at them about. So I have to figure out what to do with orphans before History Channel starts showing Swamp Rednecks Pawning Gators or whatever it is. Probably will have to take them to the store with me so I can pick up a lot more porridge, er, ….
And it hits me. Here it’s Lewis Carroll’s birthday, and I’m overrun by Dickens’ orphans. Something ain’t right.