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This African Girl

This Girl,

she stands,

ready to face the world.

She stands,

with her head held high,

facing you, facing me,

facing countless faces.

In a crowd, a class, on the street,

she stands,

up to judgment,

against the hate,

despite the constraints,

holding on to the support,

she finds in those who value her the most.

She stands,

this African Girl,

She Stands.

Lake Nakuru

Short Fiction

Bitter Sweet

Harsh realities find us when we’re least expecting them. A few minutes ago, her world had been perfect. Sitting in her cousin’s living room, cheering on her country in the London Olympics marathon, she was visiting to see her cousin’s new baby. The plan was to have lunch, play with the baby a little, and then go on her merry way back home.

An hour into the marathon, casual conversation flowing lazily, like a breeze on a very sunny day, a new visitor comes in. He takes a sit, introductions are brief, and he’s part of the family in some way. Suddenly the conversation sails away from the lazy flow, storming off to the ugly side of the world. Her country is apparently at war, helping a bordering country try to fix its problems and the man seated across her is neck deep in it. Literally, he sleeps in a hole in a trench at the front line. He tells tales of watching the stars, marveling at their beauty, the next minute; he is defending his country’s freedom with rounds of fire toward an enemy who is as determined to kill him.

Hundreds of enemies coming at him, more fighting, sleepless nights, bombs bursting over his head, more trenches and holes. Suddenly, watching the marathon seems so useless, such an insipid exercise compared to what he sacrifices on a daily basis. Harsh realities hit home in such strange moments. As he leaves an hour later, she murmurs,

“Stay safe,” her tone silent, soft, full of regret. But, his eyes are jaded, he has seen too much to feel the soft, his soul is hardened by the brutal human nature he meets daily fighting for our comfortable lives.  Our sweet freedoms that we enjoy without much thought for his discomfort.

Her country almost wins the Olympic Marathon, and although they come in second, she’s grateful for one little thing she can smile about. That and the happy baby who has finally emerged after hours of sleep, dripping with innocence, not knowing that at the borders ravaged souls defend the country they live in. She holds the baby close and prays that the baby never knows, never has to deal with the harsh realities of life.

Short Fiction

A Sardine in a Delicatessen Store

She walked briskly along her street headed home.  She was late; it was almost nine o’clock, the night pitch black, the street lights barely lighting her way.  Hands folded tight against her chest, she bit her lip and trudged along the uneven path leading to the farm house.  She cursed bureaucracies for the umpteenth time today.  Trying to find a job in this ridiculous economy was akin to a guerrilla war.  Men in suits ambushing your character when you least expect it, she closed her eyes in frustration.  She wished her old job would pay her severance, two more days and she was going to be poorer than a church mouse.  She’d be happy to have even ten shillings for fare to get to the next interview.

There was no way to tell if she’d gotten the job she’d interviewed for this afternoon.  The suits in charge had played hard ball, warning the group of interviewees that some of them wouldn’t get picked.  A painful pang swept through her and she prayed for luck.  She prayed…her walk slowed, she wondered if her god was listening.  Berating herself for wavering, she continued her brisk walk and prayed in earnest.  Just maybe…she would get the job.

She finally got to the farm’s green gate.  It was Monday, her day to make dinner.  She locked the gate with a sigh.  She’d promised she’d be home earlier.  Obviously, that hadn’t gone so well.  Her brothers would be giving her a lecture.  She slowed down on the short walk to the house.  Stopping at the front door, she took in a deep bracing breathe, preparing herself for a lecture.  She opened the door, removed her shoes, and gave a small gasp when she glanced up.

A cheerful atmosphere filled the living room, and beyond that, the dining table was laden with delicious foods.  The scent of roast meat  filled her nostrils and her stomach rumbled in appreciation.  Her older brother rushed to her and hugging her in greeting.  He smiled wide, picking her up and twirling her around.  He told her he was happy she was home and led her to the living room.  Her younger brother pressed a fresh cup of coffee into her hand.  The lecture she’d feared never came.  When she sat at the dinner table to eat with her brothers, her father brought her an envelope from her previous employer.  She opened it with a frown having given up on receiving her severance pay from that company.  She was surprised as a sardine that went to sleep in the ocean and woke up in a delicatessen store when she pulled out a check.  Her severance money, she smiled in elation.  Maybe her God was listening after all, she decided.  There was hope.

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