... page 3

“Did you call me, madam?” I asked.

“Yes, Joseph. Would you please come here?”

“Yes, madam.”

I ran over, taking cautious steps to minimize the risk of further injuring my toe. The lady asked me to have a seat in front of her. She then opened a little white box and began taking some things out. She set a bucket full of water in front of me, moved closer, and took my foot in her hands. After a very careful look at my injured toe, she said, “Please, wash it very well in here.”

As I dunked my foot in the water, I started to shiver, not because it was cold, but because I was not used to cleaning any part of myself. Even worse, I had heard horrible stories about hospitals. Each time I had passed by a medical center I’d seen and heard sad children screaming and crying. What was Henry’s mom going to do to my toe? I wanted to yell, “No matter what you do, please do not touch it!” Instead, I anxiously said, “Madam, it does not hurt anymore.”

She looked at me, bent down, and picked up my leg to dry my foot with a white towel. I had never seen my toe like this. It had emerged from thick layers of dried brown mud, dirt, and debris. She started clipping my toenail with a tiny pair of scissors. I was scared to death and was squeezing the chair so hard that I thought I heard it crack. My usual reaction to extreme fear or pain was wetting my pants, and I was about to let go. I desperately held it in very tight, but I did not know how long I could last. As the discomfort became more prominent, I slightly lifted my butt off the seat, and sat back down. The pain was overwhelming me. I could not take it anymore, and then, drop-by-drop, I felt the warm sensation trickling down. The fear and pain had made me pee, and I felt deep pain and shame. How could I ever look Henry in the eye again?

Suddenly, a steady flow of black fluid stained the white cloth Henry’s mom held. As she applied very gentle pressure to empty my toe of its poison, I altered my breathing pattern as much as possible to avoid smelling the foul odors emanating from the wound. Fortunately, the good smell from the white box gradually predominated, as she cleansed my toe several times with alcohol. Honestly, I did not know what it was that she was using, but I thought it was alcohol—what dreaded hospitals used—the cleanser of all wounds. She wrapped my shrunken toe with some bandages and I felt immediate relief. Enduring the pain had been immensely difficult, but worth it. And had I not urinated, I would have said it was great.
I had to do something about the pee on my clothes. I looked at the bucket of filthy water. Suddenly, an ingenious idea occurred to me! I just had to catch them off guard. The lady finished working on my toe and I put my foot back on the ground. As she was wiping the scissors, I suddenly reached toward the bucket with both my hands, scooped out some water, and proceeded to dump it right over my shorts. Her eyes questioned my gesture as I did it again, and again. I was drenching my pants in the dirty water, purposely ensuring that I was really wet down there.

Once I felt the water dripping between my legs, I was sure that my mission had been accomplished. She shook her head and gave me a reassuring smile.

“Joseph, you should go now.”

I had known that moment would come. It had been too long since I’d arrived and I had to go sell the rest of my bananas. I reluctantly said my good-byes and, with Henry’s mom’s help, the tray of bananas went back on my head. I started the sad, slow walk toward the front gate. The lady had bought about a third of my load; so I was delighted to have had fun and made a good sale. It would take a painful walk throughout the city to get the remainder sold. As Henry was opening the steel security gate, I thought I heard his mother calling me. I looked back and saw her waving. She wanted me to come back! I hurried and in a fraction of a second, I stood in front of her, excited but confused. I saw her drop her shoulders as her eyes focused in on my toe. Her raspy voice revealed her concern as she said, “Your parents should take you to the hospital.”

My eyes followed her hands as she reached into the box she was holding and pulled out a pair of brand new shoes. They looked amazing! They were white, with red stripes and laces! She tenderly asked me to try them on. My heart raced. I wanted to snatch them out of her hands and hug them. Answered prayers. I let go of my banana tray, which she caught and brought down to the ground. I put them on and the shoes fit! They were wonderful. As I took a few test steps, I pictured myself looking like the other kids—with shoes! I would feel less like an outcast and fit in for once. I could play soccer freely, uninhibited, without having to hold back in fear of injuries. How great!

I totally forgot that she had just mentioned my parents. I did not want to think about them. This was my moment. I knew that they would never let me keep something so beautiful. Absolutely not! I recalled one instance when I had been given nice clothes and my parents had taken them from me.

“Thank you very much, Madam,” I said.

I was taking the shoes off when I heard, “No, Joseph, don’t…they are yours. Keep them on.”

“Thank you, madam. But I cannot keep them.”


“I cannot, madam. I want to go now.”

samplechapterquote3She must have understood that it was useless to argue, and once again helped me transfer the bananas back to my head. As the gate closed behind me, I felt terrible that I’d turned her gift down, but I’d had no choice. I could not have brought those shoes home. My parents would have been enraged and I would pay the price. I had briefly thought about taking the shoes and hiding them somewhere between my home and school. I could wear them on my way to school and hide them on my way home. But it could never work because I would look so unusual in those wonderful shoes that my entire neighborhood and school would talk about me, and my parents would surely get the news. That wasn’t a price worth paying.

And yet, I didn’t mind. I had been transformed. I had experienced compassion. I had received the very first hug of my life. I had found one of the pieces of myself that I had been missing during my shaky journey on earth.

Please provide Feedback about this chapter.