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Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Ties that Bind - Part III

Chapter 3 – Better Days
In which our intrepid young hero plays a chess tournament, meets the enigmatic Mr. Wednesday, and begins to fulfill his destiny.
A few weeks later...


Juldeh desperately tried to fight off the exhaustion that threatened to overwhelm him. He was getting bored of the chess tournaments, but he knew the alternative would be worse. He’d managed to make it all the way to the final, and so far, he hadn’t really been given much of a challenge. He’d even used the four move checkmate on one his opponents, a sure sign he was dealing with rank amateurs. He studied his opponent carefully, as she prepared to make her move. She was definitely older than him, and pretty, but he didn’t really feel like prolonging the game any longer. Regardless of what move she made, she would lose in his next move, she just didn’t know it yet. He’d been toying with her, like a Lioness stalking a wounded Zebra. She was concentrating intently, and as she finally made her move, he tried hard to stifle a yawn. Like Sisyphus before her, all her endeavour was in vain.

“Pawn to C3 – checkmate,” he smirked. She looked crestfallen as the realization dawned on her. She’d been checkmated with a pawn. Truthfully, he felt sorry for her, knowing she’d never live down the ignominy of such a defeat. The fact that he was younger wouldn’t help, but Chess was a game where age didn’t really matter. It was one of the things he liked most about it. The audience burst into applause, but Juldeh was unaffected by this. He didn’t live for the adulation of the crowd. Crowds were fickle. The only thing they loved more than a hero was to see a hero fall, to fail, to come up short. One loss is all it would take for the crowds to turn against him. They’d find themselves a new hero soon and the sordid process would repeat itself. At that unguarded moment, his thoughts turned to his mother. She had been his first and only instructor, and almost everything he knew about the game he’d learned from her. After her tragic death, along with his father in a car accident, he’d kept playing as a way to honor her memory.

He offered his opponent a handshake.

“Good game, Mai,” he said only half-seriously. “I suppose you’ll never recover from the ashes of your defeat, huh.”

“Don’t patronize me, little boy,” she replied with feeling, quickly hurrying away leaving him with his hand in the air.

Juldeh was used to that by now. No one liked losing, especially to a self taught 16 year old, prodigy or not. He’d played 40 year olds who’d almost turned violent after the game. He couldn’t control people’s reactions, and he didn’t plan to. All he could do was play to the best of his ability and try his best to have a little fun along the way. He shrugged his shoulders wearily as a few stragglers swarmed around him, ostensibly to discuss his moves. Somehow, his reticence to discuss his “chess philosophy” had given him a reputation for being cold and aloof. The first time he’d been asked what his chess philosophy was, he’d been puzzled when everyone had laughed at his innocent answer: “To win.” His mother had taught him that far beyond aesthetics, the purpose of a chess match was to win, and to do so as efficiently as possible. It had made sense to him then, and it still did.

He had to get back to the orphanage, or he’d miss dinner, and so he finally managed to excuse himself. He had barely walked two steps before he was stopped in his tracks by a smartly dressed man in a dark blue pinstriped suit. He was darker than anyone Juldeh had ever seen and he had to be at least 6 and a half feet tall. He smiled broadly, showing a perfect set of teeth. He slapped Juldeh on the back and gave him a wink with his one good eye. In place of the other was a glass eye that shimmered and sparkled in the dim light.

“That was some game m’boy,” he boomed. “That final checkmate was a thing of beauty. Like I always tell my daughter, even a pawn can checkmate a king.” He chuckled softly to himself, and continued. “Pardon my manners, son, I haven’t introduced myself. My name is Rutherford Smart, but everyone calls me Mr. Wednesday, and as for you Mr. Holland, I know more about you than you might think.”

Juldeh was taken aback by Mr. Wednesday’s strange manner, but he quickly regained his composure. How did this man whom he’d never met know anything at all about him?

“I’m sure we’ve never met sir, and if you don’t mind, I really must be going.” What Mr. Wednesday said next stopped him dead in his tracks, and would change the trajectory of his life in innumerable ways.

“I knew your parents, Juldeh. I heard what happened to them. I’m really sorry. They were good people. But it seems like my knowledge is incomplete. If you can, I’d like you to fill in the gaps for me.”

So Juldeh did. As concisely as possible, while not leaving out any important details, he shared the story of the last two years of his life. He told him about the death of his parents, about the refusal of all their friends to act as guardians to him and his brothers, about the painful choice he’d had to make, his pain at losing his brothers, having to live in an orphanage and being forced to play chess tournaments to earn money for the orphanage, while any chance of being adopted were constantly sabotaged because he was too valuable, and being segregated from the other orphans because of their anger at his preferential treatment. By the end, Juldeh’s voice had turned hard, bitter and cynical. He was almost spitting the words out, so white-hot was his fury. Being forced to put in words what he’d been put through gave him a true appreciation for the horrors. “My only sanity is the certainty that Adeyemi and Bosco are at least in a better place. If I had to, I’d do it all again.”

Mr. Wednesday’s eyes blazed with anger and he began pacing in an agitated manner as Juldeh finished his story. “This is unacceptable. Nobody should have to go through what you have, and certainly not the son of Anthony and Isabella Holland. Not if I have anything to do with it. , We’ll go to the orphanage, and see if we can’t get you out of there.”

A mixture of fear and hope coursed through Juldeh’s veins. He’d given into despair around the time Nella left. She’d asked him to accompany her to the airport, but he didn’t have the stomach for it. She’d been hurt, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. His luck had been so terrible in the past two years, and he had scarcely believed it could ever change. Now that his situation seemed to be improving, a nagging question gnawed at him.

“Not that I’m not grateful, sir, but I have to ask, why? Why are you doing this?”

Mr. Wednesday smiled at that. He asked Juldeh to follow him to his car, and as they did, he said, “I will, but first, let me tell you a story. When I was not much older than you, I was in even worse situation than you. My parents died when I was 8, and I moved constantly between foster homes. I fell in with the wrong crowd, became a delinquent, stole, and performed a myriad of other social ills. I was gladly walking the path to my own destruction, but that all changed when I met your mother. She was barely older than I was, but she helped me when nobody else would. When no one believed I could amount to anything, she did. Her parents took me in off the streets, helped me finish my education and got me a job after I did. All that I am I owe to them. You’re different than I was. You’ve been smart enough to keep yourself out of trouble. I owe it to the memory of your parents and now fate has made me find you in an act of great providence.”

Mr. Wednesday fished something out of his wallet and handed it to Juldeh. “Here,” he said, “I think you should have this.” Juldeh looked intently at it, and tears sprang to his eyes. It was a picture of his parents, in their younger days. They were obviously very much in love and incredibly happy. The caption at the bottom simply said: To Wednesday – Friends Forever

“Tony and Izzy were never anything other than kind to me, and if you’ll allow it, I’ll do my best to take care of you.”

Juldeh nodded his assent as they exited the great hall. They drove in silence for a while in Wednesday’s Toyota Highlander electric car. It was one of the few in Accra and Wednesday was inordinately proud of it.

“Accra has changed a lot in the years I’ve been away,” Wednesday said with a hint of sadness in his voice. “The city seems to have lost its soul. I mean, how many high rise buildings is enough? I remember the street vendors used to line the roads, hawking their wares. Those were simpler times, and now we’re rushing headlong into the abyss of western style land development. Do you know the city government has started using eminent domain to seize the land belonging to innocent hard working men and women? What a uniquely American thing to do, don’t you agree?”

Juldeh thought Wednesday had a rather romantic view of the past, but he wasn’t going to say that out loud. Instead, he simply said “There’s a difference between the world as we would like it to be and the world as it actually is, Sir.”

“You’re wise beyond your years, Juldeh. I’m sure you’ve got a bright future ahead of you.” Neither man said another word for the duration of the trip.

The sun was going down in a blaze of glory as they reached the building that housed the orphanage. The rickety gate flopped on its hinges as it twisted in the wind and the crooked building loomed like a dark lighthouse, luring ships to naught but their doom. For reasons he wasn’t quite sure, Juldeh felt like a convicted inmate taking his last walk to his fate. If all went well, he’d never have to see this place again.

It took two weeks, and a lot of sweat, blood, toil, tears, and bribes, but Wednesday was able to formally, and legally become Juldeh’s guardian. Juldeh was glad to see the last of the orphanage. Wednesday had sent his driver to pick him up, and he’d packed his few and meagre belongings into the trunk of the car. He said nothing as they drove to Medina, where Wednesday lived. He wasn’t sure what the future held, but he was ready to face it. He felt that his faith in god had been vindicated, and his heart was calm. Regardless of what happened, he would survive, but he still remembered the promises he’d made both to his brothers and Nella. He would never forget them, and if it took him till the end of time, he would see them again. It was his destiny.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Ties that Bind Chapter II

Chapter 2 – All Alone
It’s hard to believe that there’s nobody out there
It’s hard to believe that I’m all alone
At least I have her love, the woman who loves me
Lonely as I am, together we cry Under the Bridge, RHCP
Two years later...

Juldeh woke up with a silent scream stuck in his throat. He’d been having the same nightmare for three days. In the nightmare, which didn’t terrify him so much as it disturbed him, he was being hunted by his parents who had being transformed into flesh eating zombies as they mercilessly berated him for abandoning his brothers. The passing of time had brought more ambivalence about his decision than he cared to admit even to himself. He had been so sure at the time that he’d made the right choice, but as his life deteriorated, and the years went by with no knowledge about the welfare of his brothers, he sometimes wondered.

Juldeh looked at the watch on the little coffee table that was the only piece of furniture in his cramped room. It was almost 5 am and he should have been awake at least thirty minutes ago. He kicked off his thin blanket, sat up, and surveyed his room. It was cramped, being only about 10 by 8 feet. The bed took up most of the space and the coffee table was the only other piece of furniture. It was no five star hotel, but it was the best on offer at the orphanage. The others at the orphanage had to sleep in large dormitories that resembled little more than battery cages for human livestock. Juldeh was spared this fate, but he bitterly reflected that the only reason for this was the orphanage needing to keep him happy as their “prized possession”. Everybody knew and loved the youngest chess grandmaster in Ghanaian history. Too bad nobody loved him enough to get him out of this hell on earth. Circumstances had made him cynical, but he was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth, no matter how meagre it was.

His morning routine was always the same when he had to go to school. After taking an ice cold shower, getting half a cup of thin, lifeless looking gruel that was supposed to be porridge and a piece of stale bread with suspicious looking green spots, he had to walk almost forty five minutes to get to school. But today, he would be taking a little detour. He put on his school uniform, which consisted of a blue and white checkered shirt, khaki shorts, white socks and his black boots, which had definitely seen better days.

It was the dry season in Accra, and even this early in the morning, swirls of dust blew around the streets. The chaotic sounds of a city shaking itself out of its slumber cried out across the land. Juldeh walked with a purpose that he had not felt in years. Eventually, he found his way to Nella Owusu’s house, or more accurately, he reflected, mansion.

She was waiting for him, looking as radiant to him as she always did. He’d first met her almost two years previously, after moving schools, and they’d become fast friends. She was the only person he’d allowed to get close to him since the incident with his brothers. He looked closely at her and smiled. Her hair was done up in incredibly beautiful twists. She had a pert, round face caramel coloured skin, and a lean, toned, model-like body. “So, what’s the plan? You asked me to meet you this morning, and well, here I am”, Juldeh said evenly. It was only then that he noticed that she was not her usual perky self.

“Is something wrong?” The look of concern on Juldeh’s face touched Nella deeply. She regretted what she was about to tell him. She had come to care for him deeply, and she truly hated that she was about to visit even more heartbreak on his life.

“I don’t think we’ll be going to school today. There’s something very important I have to tell you.” Juldeh had never seen her look so serious. It frightened him a little bit, he had to admit to himself. This didn’t stop him however, from dutifully following her past the immense cast iron gates into the Owusu family compound. He’d been here twice before, but the view always took his breath away. She led him on a path of marble stones that zigzagged their way through the impeccably maintained lawn. In the middle of the lawn was a pond with two giant Koi fish swimming lazily back and forth. Nella stopped and fed the Koi. This gave Juldeh a chance to take a better look at them. One was black and the other was white, and as they swam around each other, they reminded him of the symbol for yin and yang.
I suppose that was the idea, he thought to himself.

“You can’t seem to get enough of the Koi, can you?” Nella asked playfully. “I think they’re a bit decadent myself, but you know my mother.” As she said this, she opened the intricately designed door. Juldeh stepped in, tried not to look too impressed and failed miserably. She led him through the foyer, past the antique furniture, the tastefully furnished interior dotted with invaluable paintings and furnishings, and into the kitchen.

“Would you like a drink? We have almost everything under the sun.”

“No, I’m fine, and by the way, isn’t there something you wanted to tell me.”

Nella got a glass of iced tea for herself and, once again he found himself following her into an expansive living room. She was one of the few people who always kept him off balance, he reflected. He didn’t quite know how he felt about that. Vulnerability was not a position he particularly cared to be in. They both sat down in the plush, luxurious sofa. Juldeh forced calm into his voice that he did not really feel and asked Nella to please explain. The suspense was killing him.

“I won’t be going back to school,” she said somewhat cryptically. Juldeh was confused, shocked and bewildered, but he decided not to say anything, hoping she would elaborate.

Nella continued with a pained look on her face. “My father just got appointed ambassador to England. We’ll be moving there before the week is over. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you earlier, but you have to understand, I wasn’t sure how you’d react.”

“I’m not that fragile,” he replied ruefully after an interminate pause.

Nella was surprised. He’d taken the news much better than she’d expected. Then again, she’d never seen him be anything other than even tempered and calm. “I was hoping we could spend the day together before I leave. What do you say? You up for it?”

“Am I? Do you even have to ask?” Juldeh said with a mischievous grin. As he finished saying this, she impulsively gave him a huge hug.

“Great, you won’t believe what I have planned,” she said excitedly, “but you’ll soon find out.”

They returned late that evening, tired but exhilarated. Juldeh couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so carefree. The last time he’d had this much fun, his parents had still being alive. Times had been different then. He’d had no responsibilities, and life had been simple. He shook his head to snap himself out of his reverie. Lately, he’d been catching himself brooding, and didn’t really like it. He looked up and caught Nella staring intently at him. She blushed and quickly averted her eyes.

“I had a really good time.” She paused and said in a softer voice “I could get Godfrey to drive you back home tonight, or maybe tomorrow morning. I make a mean breakfast.” As she said this, she closed the distance between them and cradled his head in her hands. She gazed deeply into his eyes, and Juldeh felt like time itself stood still in those moments. He knew what was coming, but he still felt the breath rush out of him as she embraced him passionately and pressed her lips to his. He returned the kiss just as passionately, but a voice in the back of his head sent off alarm bells. Things seemed to be moving on fast forward as he felt Nella tugging at his shirt. Pure, undiluted passion was something he had endeavoured to never experience again. He’d seen the heartache it could cause. What was the point of caring, if you lost everyone you cared about. The alarms got louder as her hands wandered across his body. He had to stop, and he managed to pull away with a superhuman effort.

Nella was astounded, puzzled.

“What’s wrong?” she asked finally. “Is it me?” Her face gave him a look of dismay.

“No, it’s definitely not you.”

He wanted to tell her that her unfounded guilt about moving might explain it, and he didn’t want to feel like he was taking advantage of her, but he said nothing.

“So, what’s the problem?”

Juldeh wanted to tell her that he wasn’t sure about her motivations, and he didn’t trust his motivations, but he remained silent.

“Nella, I really like you, in fact, I more than like you-I love you. I don’t want our first time to be like this. If we’re meant to be, then we’ll meet again, in better times. You have to trust me about this.” When he saw that she was crying softly, his heart broke even more. After what seemed like eternity, she wiped the tears from her face and smiled. Juldeh offered her a hug and she stepped into it.

“That was a smart move,” she said. “You’re completely right, and you know what, I believe you love me, or you wouldn’t have done that. And I love you too.”
Fatigue rushed into the calm moment, filling the vacuum left by passion and leaving them desperate for rest. “I’ll take the guest room, if you don’t mind,” Juldeh finally said. He was afraid he’d lose his self control if she kept looking at him like that. He followed her upstairs as she led him to the room. “I’ll be in the other room if you need anything,” she said as she walked out of the room, leaving him alone once again with his thoughts. He lay on the bed with his hands folded behind his head. He was sure that this was just another test in his young life. He’d faced many setbacks, but he knew he’d find a way to come through. His final thoughts as he drifted off to sleep were about how lonely he felt, how alone he was. He could say that he never worried, but that would be a lie. His heart was heavy with the pain of his experiences. He still believed in God. Everything would be alright.

The Ties that Bind - Alternate Ending Part I

This is just an alternate (more open ended) ending to the same story as before.

Chapter 1 - The Illusion of Choice

The year was 1997. In a decrepit little apartment room in Accra, Ghana, two boys were asleep even though it was midday. An older boy sat in a rocking chair that looked like it had seen better days. His name was Juldeh and the two sleeping boys were his twin brothers, Adeyemi and Bosco. The harsh sounds that boomed from outside went unnoticed in the tiny room. The only things that mattered to Juldeh at that moment were the tumultuous thoughts going through his head. He contemplated waking up the twins, but that was merely a fleeting thought that soon passed. Juldeh was twelve years old, but he looked slightly older. His hair was jet black and his brown eyes had a fierce intensity about them. He sat in the rocking chair with his eyes half closed. The look on his face betrayed the anguish and pain in his heart. Just then, one of the twins opened his eyes groggily and like clockwork, they were both awake.

“Where’s mom and dad?” They asked in unison. Juldeh turned to his brothers with a pained look on his face. “How could their eight year old minds grasp what had happened to their parents?” He wondered. He paused, just like he did between moves in his chess games, but those days were in the past. He was mature for his age and he knew that the truth did not always set you free. Even though his parents were not alive, he resented them for this. “ A twelve year old doesn’t need this kind of responsibility.” He decided finally. He could not believe that only a week ago, he was a carefree boy who had dreams of being a chess prodigy. “What good is chess” he thought “If it can’t bring my parents back?” He got up, went to the kitchen and got food for his brothers. He was probably the only boy in the world whose mother had taught him to cook. He had never thought he’d use that knowledge. A few days ago, chess and his calculus homework were important, but now he couldn’t picture himself ever doing those things again. He gave the chicken soup to his brothers and they devoured it hungrily. The overhead fan whirred noisily, but did little to dispel the oppressive heat. The twins who he had always considered a single entity asked in unison. “Are mom and dad on vacation?”

“Yes” Juldeh replied wearily, growing tired of the ever-growing multitude of lies. “And don’t talk with your mouth full.” He glanced over at the twins. They had jet-black hair, like his, and looked identical to each other with their pudgy faces and their fat bodies. Watching them eat ravenously did little to help his appetite. “How strange” he mused. He had never thought of his brothers as bothersome before, but now he’d never wanted to be more alone in his life. He felt guilty, but he could not help it. The guilt was a knife that stabbed at his heart. Now that his parents were gone, he knew that his days as a child were over and the realization was a bitter pill to swallow. He envisioned his life looming before him, but like a malnourished child with all the life sucked out of it. His brothers didn’t need to know anything. All they did was eat and sleep anyway. Juldeh also knew that the social system would soon be ready to impose its will upon his broken family.

He looked up from his reverie and realized it was sundown. The oppressive heat had set along with the blazing sun. Sleep had not come easily in the past week and he knew it would not come easily today. The twins were asleep and the streets seemed to be calling out his name. The room seemed even more oppressive and claustrophobia was starting to set in. The idea of a long walk was appealing. Like a sheep without a shepherd, he opened the door and stepped out. Three hours later he came back home. The walk had not been as satisfying as he thought it would be. On his bed, he vainly tried to go to sleep tossing and turning. When he did finally get to sleep, it seemed to him that only five minutes later it was daybreak. Even then, that was enough time to be haunted by the recurring nightmares. Just then, the doorbell rang and he got up to answer it. The man at the door was Mr. Francis Okonkwo. Even though it was so early in the morning, he was sweaty and looked uncomfortable in his suit. Juldeh looked up at him and instantly recognized him as the social worker in charge of them.

“May I come in? It’s awfully hot out there.” “You can come in” Juldeh replied coolly. He led Mr. Francis to the living room and ushered him to a seat. The twins were still asleep and so he told Mr. Francis to control his voice. The two sat down and in an ironic way, Mr. Francis felt like the child. “You still don’t want to go to the orphanage? That would be in the best interest of you and your brothers.” He asked this while knowing what the answer would be. “We both know that the room we’re in now is ten times bigger than the entire orphanage. To go there would be folly. Besides, we can legally stay here till the end of the month. This gives me thirteen days. I’d rather take my chances here with my brothers than put their lives in the hands of the bureaucracy.” Mr. Francis never ceased to be amazed by the young man in front of him. He decided that it was time to reveal the real reason for his visit.

“I am here to officially tell you that we have a family that is willing to adopt you. Now before you comment, let me finish. The family is from Canada. You probably don’t know where that is. They know you from your chess tournaments and they have expressed a strong interest in you. Now the decision is entirely up to you.” Juldeh was trying to calmly receive this information, but his heart was racing a mile a minute and the blood was pounding loudly in his ears. He’d always believed that he was destined for better things and now his expectations were finally starting to be realized. “However” Mr. Francis continued, “they’re only interested in adopting one child. Three children at once is not really the Canadian way.” The news that Juldeh just received made his heart sink like a stone. “My brothers need me and I can’t just leave them.” His voice faltered. Mr. Francis said, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The doors that get opened will never be closed.” Time stood immeasurable as both men sat. Mr. Francis continued, “I need a decision from you immediately.”

“This must be some cruel joke. O fate, how could you deliver such sweet sorrow?” Juldeh thought. It seemed to him like he had become an independent observer, outside his own body. He paused just like he did between chess moves and time stood immeasurable. “My decision is made Mr. Francis. Come back tomorrow and I shall tell you.” He knew what he had to do and nothing was going to stop him from fulfilling what he knew was his destiny. Three days later, he was standing on a pier looking up at the ship that was carrying the twins to their new life in Nova Scotia. His heart was heavy, but not with regret. He knew that they would meet again. As he walked back towards shore, a single tear rolled down his cheek. The orange rays of the setting sun pierced through the skies, and Juldeh realized that the heat was not oppressive anymore. In his heart, he believed with every fiber of his being that he would fulfill his destiny. He had God on his side.

The Ties that Bind

The year was 1997. In a decrepit little apartment room in Accra, Ghana, two boys were asleep even though it was midday. An older boy sat in a rocking chair that looked like it had seen better days. His name was Juldeh and the two sleeping boys were his twin brothers, Adeyemi and Bosco. The harsh sounds that boomed from outside went unnoticed in the tiny room. The only things that mattered to Juldeh at that moment were the tumultuous thoughts going through his head. He contemplated waking up the twins, but that was merely a fleeting thought that soon passed. Juldeh was twelve years old, but he looked slightly older. His hair was jet black and his brown eyes had a fierce intensity about them. He sat in the rocking chair with his eyes half closed. The look on his face betrayed the anguish and pain in his heart. Just then, one of the twins opened his eyes groggily and like clockwork, they were both awake.

“Where’s mom and dad?” They asked in unison. Juldeh turned to his brothers with a pained look on his face. “How could their eight year old minds grasp what had happened to their parents?” He wondered. He paused, just like he did between moves in his chess games, but those days were in the past. He was mature for his age and he knew that the truth did not always set you free. Even though his parents were not alive, he resented them for this. “ A twelve year old doesn’t need this kind of responsibility.” He decided finally. He could not believe that only a week ago, he was a carefree boy who had dreams of being a chess prodigy. “What good is chess” he thought “If it can’t bring my parents back?” He got up, went to the kitchen and got food for his brothers. He was probably the only boy in the world whose mother had taught him to cook. He had never thought he’d use that knowledge. A few days ago, chess and his calculus homework were important, but now he couldn’t picture himself ever doing those things again. He gave the chicken soup to his brothers and they devoured it hungrily. The overhead fan whirred noisily, but did little to dispel the oppressive heat. The twins who he had always considered a single entity asked in unison. “Are mom and dad on vacation?”

“Yes” Juldeh replied wearily, growing tired of the ever-growing multitude of lies. “And don’t talk with your mouth full.” He glanced over at the twins. They had jet-black hair, like his, and looked identical to each other with their pudgy faces and their fat bodies. Watching them eat ravenously did little to help his appetite. “How strange” he mused. He had never thought of his brothers as bothersome before, but now he’d never wanted to be more alone in his life. He felt guilty, but he could not help it. The guilt was a knife that stabbed at his heart. Now that his parents were gone, he knew that his days as a child were over and the realization was a bitter pill to swallow. He envisioned his life looming before him, but like a malnourished child with all the life sucked out of it. His brothers didn’t need to know anything. All they did was eat and sleep anyway. Juldeh also knew that the social system would soon be ready to impose its will upon his broken family.

He looked up from his reverie and realized it was sundown. The oppressive heat had set along with the blazing sun. Sleep had not come easily in the past week and he knew it would not come easily today. The twins were asleep and the streets seemed to be calling out his name. The room seemed even more oppressive and claustrophobia was starting to set in. The idea of a long walk was appealing. Like a sheep without a shepherd, he opened the door and stepped out. Three hours later he came back home. The walk had not been as satisfying as he thought it would be. On his bed, he vainly tried to go to sleep tossing and turning. When he did finally get to sleep, it seemed to him that only five minutes later it was daybreak. Even then, that was enough time to be haunted by the recurring nightmares. Just then, the doorbell rang and he got up to answer it. The man at the door was Mr. Francis Okonkwo. Even though it was so early in the morning, he was sweaty and looked uncomfortable in his suit. Juldeh looked up at him and instantly recognized him as the social worker in charge of them.

“May I come in? It’s awfully hot out there.” “You can come in” Juldeh replied coolly. He led Mr. Francis to the living room and ushered him to a seat. The twins were still asleep and so he told Mr. Francis to control his voice. The two sat down and in an ironic way, Mr. Francis felt like the child. “You still don’t want to go to the orphanage? That would be in the best interest of you and your brothers.” He asked this while knowing what the answer would be. “We both know that the room we’re in now is ten times bigger than the entire orphanage. To go there would be folly. Besides, we can legally stay here till the end of the month. This gives me thirteen days. I’d rather take my chances here with my brothers than put their lives in the hands of the bureaucracy.” Mr. Francis never ceased to be amazed by the young man in front of him. He decided that it was time to reveal the real reason for his visit.

“I am here to officially tell you that we have a family that is willing to adopt you. Now before you comment, let me finish. The family is from Canada. You probably don’t know where that is. They know you from your chess tournaments and they have expressed a strong interest in you. Now the decision is entirely up to you.” Juldeh was trying to calmly receive this information, but his heart was racing a mile a minute and the blood was pounding loudly in his ears. He’d always believed that he was destined for better things and now his expectations were finally starting to be realized. “However” Mr. Francis continued, “they’re only interested in adopting one child. Three children at once is not really the Canadian way.” The news that Juldeh just received made his heart sink like a stone. “My brothers need me and I can’t just leave them.” His voice faltered. Mr. Francis said, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The doors that get opened will never be closed.” Time stood immeasurable as both men sat. Mr. Francis continued, “I need a decision from you immediately.”

“This must be some cruel joke. O fate, how could you deliver such sweet sorrow?” Juldeh thought. It seemed to him like he had become an independent observer, outside his own body. He paused just like he did between chess moves and time stood immeasurable. “My decision is made Mr. Francis. Come back tomorrow and I shall tell you.” He knew what he had to do and nothing was going to stop him from fulfilling what he knew was his destiny. Three days later, he was on a cruise ship bound for Nova Scotia. He did not regret his decision. He both feared and respected God. He turned, stared at the twins who were looking with admiration up at him. “I’d do it all again for my broken family.” He deliberated. He and his brothers were finally getting the life with a new family that they deserved. He gazed at the sun as it set. The heat was not oppressive anymore. He had God on his side.

Introductory Post

At any given time, I'm working on at least three stories at a time, and I need a place to post them. Facebook, and it's poor formatting just wasn't cutting it anymore. Every now and then, I may have some words of wisdom that I just have to share with everyone, and they'll go here as well.