Goldilocks of Great Ormond Street

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executive editor r.l. black layout editor dino laserbeam

Š 2015, unbroken/Abigail Mitchell Cover Art and Illustrations by Kelsey Dean

We are excited to bring you this special issue of Unbroken, featuring a prose poem by Abigail Mitchell, inspired by the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children; it is to the children, the families, and the staff of this hospital and others like it around the world that this issue is dedicated. Please see our note at the end of this issue on how you can help The Children's Hospital. Huge thanks to Abigail Mitchell for allowing us to showcase her work, and to Kelsey Dean, for her beautiful artwork.

Goldilocks of Great Ormond Street by Abigail Mitchell G, seven years old, is walking through a forest of white beds with immaculate corners. Great Ormond Street is brimming with people because Mr. B. is coming to inspect. G is tugging at golden curls, until they unfold, watching as they spring back again, and this itches. This scratches at the bare skin of her scalp under the netting. G is walking through the forest barefoot on the linoleum, out of the Lion Ward and into the corridor. Nobody has noticed. She passes down the hall in her white nightgown. Little raggedy bear dangling from her hand. In a room there is a nice lady reading a bedtime story, though it’s five to noon, and a red-eyed little boy is nodding off to Bedfordshire as her voice swoops and leaps with the treacherous Hook. This is the part where Peter is hurt, but the lady bypasses that for the happy ending. This is typical; the nice ladies always do this. Through the doors, and into the Elephant Ward. Inside the Elephant Ward, G passes a man with a metal trolley. She waits, and when he ducks into a room, inspects it. On the trolley there are three small bowls of porridge. G isn’t hungry, and she doesn’t like porridge anymore. The look of it, or the texture, or the lumps where Papa hasn’t stirred it right. She looks inside, and in the room are three children with sad eyes and pale faces. “This won’t do,” G says, to the raggedy bear. She tips the little bowls onto the ground and hops over the puddle on the floor. She hurries down the ward, and her heart beat is sluggish in her chest as the dizziness hits again. “Someone’s spilled all the porridge,” the man shouts, and the children cheer.

G laughs, but her lungs are aching. She moves on through the heavy doors, heaving with her spindly arms until they part to let her through. She’s tired now, but she’s not where she needs to be. Back in the Lion Ward Mama and Papa are fretting. They’ll be wondering where she’s gotten to. Down the corridor again, feet cold on the linoleum. One of the ladies looks at her funny, so G stops, ducks into a cupboard and waits. She closes her eyes for just a moment, and when she opens them she is coming out of the cupboard and into the Bear Ward, which is just right, she tells her raggedy friend. She is oh so weary. There are more white beds and the ladies are scurrying about tucking in the blankets, but in a little room to the side, three are empty. The children are gathered at the play tables with glue and glitter, and the nurses are taking them by the hand and crouching beside their tiny chairs. They are drawing Peter Pan gone off to Neverland in his green cap, and fairy dust and crocodiles. G would like to sit with them, but now is not the time. She lays down in the closest bed, high with perfect corners. She pulls up the covers and shuts her eyes tight. But the bed is too hard, and the sheets are too cold and crisp. “This won’t do,” G murmurs, and climbs out of the bed. She wanders over to the next one. Lower, and unmade completely. G tries wriggling around in the covers, but the mattress is too squishy and the radiator is too close. “Nor this,” G says, and her heart beats slow in her chest like agreement. It hurts to pull her body up to the third bed, but this is neither too warm nor too cool. Neither too hard nor too soft. She tugs the sheets over her and closes her eyes one more time, and she is so incredibly weary that she finally falls to sleep… Some time later, the people come back to the room to find G. there. Mr B., who is the chief inspector, and a little boy, and a daddy and a nurse.

"Someone's been sleeping in this bed,” the nurse says, tutting over the imperfect corners of the high one. “Someone’s been sleeping in this bed,” says the daddy, fuming at the rumpled sheets of the low one. "Someone's been sleeping in my bed and she's still there!" exclaims the boy, and they all turn to look. The alarm is sounded, because where did this little girl come from? This is the part where they think she’ll wake up. Raggedy bear has fallen from the bed. The chief inspector’s mustache twitches, because all is not in order. This is the part where G will jump up, run from the room, down the stairs, away into the forest, never to return. But she doesn’t. The people gather around. Mama is crying, but G is too weary to lift her neck. The pillows are so soft. The flowers on the table smell like honeysuckle. In the middle bed, G sighs and dreams well for the first time in days, not crying, or wheezing, or throwing up porridge onto the linoleum. G passes the sign for Bedfordshire and keeps walking. A great light, warmest she’s felt in days, beats down on her bare head. This bed is just right.

About the Author: Abigail Mitchell is a British writer who recently graduated from the University of Southern California's MPW program. This year, she was the grand prize winner of the Canada International Film Festival’s screenplay contest, and her writing – fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction – can be found in Paper Nautilus, The Nervous Breakdown, The Butter and more.

About the Artist: Kelsey Dean spends most of her spare time stringing words together and training her hands to draw the pictures in her head. Her writing and/or artwork can be found in several publications, including 3Elements Review, Glint Literary Journal, Neutrons Protons, and Arsenic Lobster. You can view her artwork here, and you can read more about her in this Artist Spotlight.

About The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children: “Since its formation in 1852, the hospital has been dedicated to children’s healthcare and to finding new and better ways to treat childhood illnesses. Each year, there are over 240,000 patient visits to the hospital. Finding new and better treatments and cures for childhood illnesses has always been central to our work. Take a look at our research review to find out more. GOSH is also at the forefront of paediatric training in the UK. We train more children’s nurses than any other hospital. We also play a leading role in training pediatric doctors. Our mission is to provide world-class clinical care and training, pioneering new research and treatments in partnership with others for the benefit of children in the UK and worldwide. In everything we do, we work hard to live up to our three core values: pioneering, worldclass and collaborative.” Please consider giving to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, or to any other Children's Hospital around the world. Your gift could mean the difference in a child's life.

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