Friday, November 20, 2009

Arrival and Survival of the City Kids

I'm sharing a little bit of fluff this week. With Thanksgiving coming, I thought about all the fun get-togethers taking place all over the United States this week. I hope these cousins make you smile.

Arrival and Survival of the City Kids
By Sharlyn Guthrie

The cousins all came to visit last week.
They arrived in their city clothes, stylish and sleek.
Uncle told Daddy, voice edged with alarm,
“My kids need to spend some time on the farm.
They’re lazy and soft and don’t have a clue.
I’m sure you and Marge will know just what to do.”

Like Daddy and Ma don’t have enough to do without babysitting.

Each left the mini-van wiping their tears,
backpack in hand, wires hung from their ears;
Zach with his I-pod, Rochelle’s DVD,
Jed’s portable lap-top, a Game Boy for Leigh.
The first thing Dad did was collect each device
and hide them away. He didn’t blink twice.

Do they think they’re on vacation or something?

Ma called us to dinner. She’d made quite a spread:
sliced parsnips, fresh peas, and homemade rye bread,
lamb burgers, taters, and strawberry pie.
They turned up their noses and passed it on by.
Daddy observed them, arching his left brow.
Such finicky eating he’d never allow.

I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow after Uncle leaves!

The boys did the dishes, the girls made the beds;
two rows ‘cross the floor, with heads matching heads.
Then, in the dark, we cousins -all seven-
whispered and giggled ‘til way past eleven.
“Hush! Don’t you know you’ll be up before long?”
Dad hollered, “the farm chores begin before dawn.”

I’ll bet they think he’s foolin’.

Of course Daddy woke us at quarter to five.
How would those city kids ever survive?
Jed helped milk the cows and Rochelle slopped the hogs.
We gathered the eggs, then fed cats and dogs,
gave corn to the chickens, and fed lambs their bottles,
then Zach mowed the hay field with tractor full-throttle.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think he was having fun.

We rode the hay wagon and baled up the hay,
Then up in the loft we stacked it away.
When dinner time came and the platters were passed
each morsel was eaten, right down to the last;
then straight to our beds with nary a whimper,
and all without Daddy once losing his temper.

Like Daddy would dust THEIR britches, anyway.

After that first day, we mixed work with fun.
We swam in the horse tank and dried in the sun,
played tag after dark –the whole cousin clan-
and swung in the hayloft on ropes like Tarzan;
then back in the corner Leigh glimpsed a cat’s paw
and discovered new kittens curled up in the straw.

You would-a thought she found gold or something.

Our cousins left Sunday; that day was our last.
We cried as we hugged them; the week went too fast.
We gave them zucchini, tomatoes, and beets,
carrots and corn and a kitten named “Deetz.”
They aren’t city kids now, as this story ends;
turns out our four cousins are really our friends.

Hey, wait! They forgot their stuff… I-pod, DVD player, laptop and Game Boy. (Smile.) They’ll be back soon.

Sherri is hosting Fiction Friday today at A Candid Thought. Go right on over there and find some links to more great fiction.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hot Chocolate Served With Hope

I wrote this for the topic "home group." It is fiction, because I had never really been part of a home group at the time that I wrote it. After meeting with my current home group last night, I decided to post this on my blog for Friday Fiction. Our small group is everything it should be. I look forward to it every Thursday evening and miss it when we can't attend. I dedicate this entry to the 6 other couples who make up our very special home group.

Hot Chocolate Served With Hope
by Sharlyn Guthrie

Warmth wrapped its long arms around me as I entered the cozy family room. It emanated from the handshakes and smiles that greeted me. It crackled inside the fireplace and flowed through me as I sipped hot chocolate and nibbled fresh-baked banana bread.

Curiosity pulled me into the conversation. It nudged with each introduction and needled through the small talk. It glimmered in the others’ eyes. It licked my fingers and curled up on my lap -cautious, but willing to take a risk.

Variety caught me by surprise, binding me into the common cord that wound through the evening. It directed music, shaped prayer requests, and expounded on the Scriptures. It projected from eclectically decorated walls. It delineated opinions, personalities, and backgrounds, piquing my interest. And it cleverly defined our humble troupe: a family with teenagers, a twenty-something with child, three singles, an elderly widower, a divorcee, and our middle-aged hosts.

Comfort crept in to replace caution, coaxing off protective layers and drawing my stocking feet up into the arm chair. It convinced me to relax and be myself –not perfect, just real. It eased strained features and curved set lips. It carried me into my Father’s presence.

Renewal began, flickering with hope’s tiniest ray, thawing the perimeter of a stone-cold heart. It bowed my head and brought me to my knees, weary and broken. It revealed my folly and my pride, evoking repentance. It was portrayed in the warmth and comfort of a home and in the imperfect, varied, and devoted members of Christ’s body assembled there. Complete healing still seemed distant, but hope insured it would come.

Please visit Vonnie's Blog for more great fiction.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Corner for Clovis and Me

Today I am sharing a story that came directly from my heart, as well as from what I saw, heard, and experienced in Uganda last summer. This story is not an exaggeration. It is an accurate portrayal of life for hundreds, even thousands of African children today.

My story won 1st place overall for the topic "childhood" in the Faithwriters' writing challenge. It can also currently be found online at Journey Ezine.

A Corner for Clovis and Me
By Sharlyn Guthrie

I hear chanting. As always, I believe at first it is a dream. Silently, I count to one hundred eight, the number of morning mantras. By twenty-five I know it is morning. Roosters crow now, and orange ribbons of daylight spill over our broken brick wall. Clovis sighs, his tiny hand curled around my finger. I curl myself around my sleeping brother. Clovis means fighter. My brother lives because he is a fighter. My name, Palesa, means flower, but I will fight, too, for my brother.

Clovis and I are Karamajong, a tribe known for fighting and stealing. Our people are despised and poor. After Mama died, Uncle sent me to the markets to steal. “Don’t come back empty-handed,” He said. Like all good Karamajong, I can steal, but I don’t like to. Once I brought home potato peels and rotten bananas. Uncle was boozing with his friends under the jackalberry tree, long straws curving from each of their mouths to the common boozing pot in the center. He slapped me so hard my eyes swelled shut.

Clovis was always with me in the markets. Some who saw that I carried a baby pretended not to see me stealing. One day I was grabbed on each side by two soldiers. Though I quickly gave up my loot, they only grunted, heaving Clovis and me into the back of a truck filled with many children. We left Kenya that day. We have not seen Uncle since.

The truck stopped in Jinja and we took to the streets. Having never been to school, I could not count. Now that I can count, though, I think there were one hundred eight of us -the same as the number of morning chants to the Allah god. These chants are heard, if not heeded. We are neither heard nor heeded, but shooed out of the way like rats. In Uganda there are many homeless children. Even potato peels and rotten bananas are scarce.

One day we found Miss Rachel; or she found us. She came looking for us with open arms, asking us our names, gazing into our eyes like we were something special. She began bringing us food, always calling us by name. She told us of Jesus, a Good Shepherd, who knows all of His sheep. He is her shepherd, she told us, and wants to be our Shepherd, too.

Miss Rachel brought posho one afternoon and looked over all who gathered around. “Where’s Lydia? She asked.”

“Lydia is dead,” I told her. “She was so hungry she pulled meat from a dead rat’s mouth and ate it. Then she died.” Miss Rachel cried. She pulled us all to her chest and cried and cried. That is when I first felt the love of the Good Shepherd.

I found a place in the slums for Clovis and me to sleep. One wall of this room has crumbled, but part of a roof still covers our corner. It is a good place to rest until the rains come. Then we hug each other and shiver, waiting for daylight, hoping for the next day’s sunshine. During rainy season we stop hoping for sunshine, and I beg Miss Rachel’s Jesus to stop the rain.

Last May, when the rains ended, Miss Rachel invited us to school! I was afraid of going to school, but she promised us food and took us there in a truck the first day. We had to watch where we were going so we would know how to come back.

School is five kilometers away. Each day now, I carry Clovis along the red, dusty road, dodging motorbikes and boda bodas. My feet are calloused and tough. Still, I wish sometimes for a pair of shoes.

At school we sing and pray to the living God. Then we drink a big cup of porridge. I smile, watching as Clovis slurps and licks the drips off his chin. He naps in my lap during morning classes. I listen carefully, doing my best to learn and understand. After baths, at noonday, we eat a bowl of rice, sometimes wearing our gifts of fresh, new clothes. Then, under the warm afternoon sun I run, and laugh, and play. And for a little while I feel like a girl of ten.

Author’s note: While Palesa is a fictional character, her story could be that of thousands of street orphans currently living in Uganda. For most of us, such an existence is difficult, even painful to imagine. For children like Palesa it is the only childhood they have ever known.

I will be returning to Uganda this next summer to hold a teacher conference for Ugandan teachers who work with these children, helping to feed, clothe and educate them daily. If you would like to contribute to this ministry, you can do so here: Heart of God in Uganda.

For more great fiction, please visit Rick @ Pod Tales and Ponderings.