The Long Lost Relative
“Land sakes a Goshen, will somebody open up in there!” shouted an elderly black cat at the front door of the Roth’s home. As he yowled, he slammed his substantial body into the front door. Bill and Sally Roth immediately jumped off the couch and hurried to the front door to investigate the commotion.
“It must be Aunt Clotilda. I did not imagine she would be here for several more hours,” murmured Bill.
Koal peered through the bay window to see who might be out there; and why, in fact the cat he saw had not used the cat door.
“Who is it Koal?” Miss Peach inquired, stretching lazily on her cushion. Her long hair calico coat beamed brightly in the sunlight. Sparky completed the trio on the window seat and craned his slim neck to look outside.
“I don’t know, he is either from another part of the neighborhood, or he came in that old station wagon parked in the driveway. He might be my cousin by the look of him; several times removed, of course,” remarked Koal.
Miss Peach, Sparky and Koal ran up to the front door to see whom Bill would let in.
“Why look Sally, it’s Aunt Clotilda’s old cat; and here comes my Aunt!”
A stout elderly woman climbed out of the driver’s seat with some struggle and slammed the car door impatiently.
“Why are you just standing there Billy? Help me inside and bring in my trunks!” She firmly ordered her nephew. She walked stiffly to the front door. She wore a bright floral dress. Koal wondered whether she could see her own footsteps beneath such an ample bosom.
The visiting black, longhaired cat sauntered into the Roth home and made himself comfortable. “Where in tar-nation is the food around here? I can smell it, I surely can; and I would appreciate it if some came my way! If ya’ all are cousins, if ya’ would show me the way, as it were.”
“Right this way, my dear cousin!” said Koal in his best Chester-like accent. The visitor did not seem to notice the mocking tone. He followed Koal into the kitchen and stopped just in front of a partially filled bowl; one of three. He ate and he ate; and he ate. Miss Peach, Sparky and Koal watched with astonishment, but patiently waited for him to consume his fill.
“Now,” ventured Koal, “if I recall correctly, you are Buford T, are you not?”
“That I am!” declared Buford T “I know we ain’t never met as such, but I seen pictures of ya here and there. I guess ol’ Bill must of sent ‘em. Old Auntie sticks a lot of ‘em on the mantle.”
“You and Koal certainly look a lot alike,” added Miss Peach. “It might be the case that you are even bigger than Koal.”
“Well, there ain’t nuthin’ like southern cooking ta put meat on your bones. It ain’t but us two now-a-days, but when we is home it’s fried chicken; grits ‘most every day, biscuits and gravy and melt in yur mouth ribs!”
“What are grits?” Sparky asked meekly.
“Well it’s, you know, a hominy porridge, ya know with some milk and butter?” uttered an impatient Buford T “Ain’t done everybody knows that! But you-all have kitty kibbles; ain’t that quaint.”
Koal felt somewhat intimidated by his cousin. Perhaps things were better in the south, but it was unlikely he would ever know firsthand. “So cousin, we are curious, what is it like where you are from?”
“Well, it’s September; so it’s still powerful hot in Georgia, hot and moist. Ya can cut the air with a knife. The folks there are probably the friendliest on earth; even and including our kind. Politeness, that’s what it is, politeness, we are always considerate with our neighbors.”
“By ‘our kind’, do you mean us felines, or everyone in Georgia?” asked Sparky.
“I mean us cats! Don’t ever lose your pride about bein’ a feline! Why Ah could tell ya a pile of stories about a certain cat.” Buford T seemed to drift off in his thoughts after that. His eyes glazed over and he became silent. Miss Peach felt that this moment was awkward so she moved her nose close to Buford T’s nose.
“Why don’t we move to the bay window so we can be more comfortable, uh; cousin Buford,” suggested Miss Peach. “You can lie on my cushion if you like.”
“That’s mighty polite of you, mighty polite. You would be quite the southern belle in our parts.” Buford T changed his manner of voice into that of a cultured southern gentleman quite suddenly.
Koal noticed a glint in Buford T’s eye as he conversed with Miss Peach. He suddenly had a vision of Miss Peach going home with his cousin, leaving him and Sparky all alone. He shook his head to force the thought out of his head. They all took a place on the ample sill. Miss Peach lagged behind as she procured another pillow from the couch, by dragging it backwards with her mouth and up onto the window ledge.
Bill had been struggling with three large trunks, moving them from the station wagon one at a time. He slumped over them in the hall. He breathed hard from his exertion.
“What’s the matter Billy?” bellowed Aunt Clotilda. “I carried two at once! Ya know if we were in Georgia, my old man, Cornelius, now he was a proper gentleman, not like,” here she looked at Bill and glanced at Sally is if they were particularly uncouth. She let her mouth gape for a bit and then smacked her large lips, “a soft shelled crab. I suppose all this rain makes ya soft in the head; and the gut.” She looked down at Bill’s abundant belly.
“I’m very sorry Auntie.” Bill cast his eyes downward.
Aunt Clotilda suddenly felt very fatigued, her eyes felt glassy and moist. She excused herself to avail herself to the sofa, which Miss Peach had just jumped off with the extra cushion.
“Is Aunt Clotilda always like that?” asked Koal.
“Like what?” answered Buford T in a puzzled tone.
“Billy!” croaked Aunt Clotilda, in a loud gravelly voice. “Why aren’t you serving me some cucumber sandwiches? Some mint iced tea would be nice, too. What kind of place is this?”
Koal whispered to Sparky, “This should be a very interesting visit. How long do you suppose she will be staying?”
“The longer the better”, grinned Sparky.
“Why? Are you crazy?”
“This is kinda funny, if you think about it. It is a lot like some of the sitcoms Sally likes to watch.”
“You have a warped sense of humor my friend.”
“That I do!”
The cats moved their attention from the hominids and towards each other.
“Now about that certain cat that I mentioned, Koal.”
“Yes, cousin B., is he a neighbor of yours?”
“Good gracious no, in fact he is our great, great, great; well he is our grandfather from 157 years ago. At least that’s when it all happened.”
“What happened?” asked Koal, Miss Peach and Sparky in unison.
“Ya’ all never heard this story?”
“No, how would we? We are a gazillion miles from your place. I think Chester would know how far exactly.”
“Who is this Chester?”
“Only the smartest cat alive! Probably smarter than most humans!” declared Miss Peach with absolute confidence.
“Ah must meet him, to be sure, but Ah would give him a run for his money!” exclaimed Buford T as he squinted his eyes. “Anyways, this grandfather of ours was quite a hero; as I heard it told down through the generations, mother to kitten. He and his companion kitty saved his human family and guided them to a much safer place.”
Sparky made himself more comfortable on his cushion and prepared for a fascinating tale. Curled into a spiral with his chin turned upwards, he was ready to absorb the story. Koal and Miss Peach simply sat on their cushions, while Cousin Buford T settled on the sill next to Miss Peach’s cushion. In the background, they could hear an obsequious nephew trying to placate his fussy aunt.
Buford T took a deep breath; and began his narration. “Way back then, there were lotsa cats around makin’ a living off of rats and scraps. There were two cats, though who became friendly with a family living on a cotton plantation. They lived in a wooden shack, this man and wife, a girl and her younger brother.”
Buford T’s audience felt enthralled and slowly melted into the story as if it were happening around them. “I believe it was the year 1860, around late spring when things were just gettin’ really green. You know what our ancestor’s name was Koal?”
Koal sleepily shook his head from side to side and said “no”.
“Jackson! Jackson! Can you believe that! The name of a true hero! I guess the story goes he had black fur just like you and I, but had short hair. His companion had black and white fur. People call her a tuxedo kitty because it looked like she was dressed for dinner. Ah guess, you and I, Koal got our long fur from some black Persian in our blood line. So our great grandfather being very intelligent, saddles up to this family, and learns to understand English, you know, like we have; you comprehend?”
Koal wonders how his cousin’s colloquial vernacular is, in fact, exactly English, certainly not formal English.
“The boy in this family learns how to read. So he reads the newspapers, which is used to wrap vegetables and scraps from their master’s kitchen. I guess he learned how from readin’ the church Bible, no wait it was a hymnal.”
“What is that?”
“You know; the Bible, THE BOOK?”
“Sorry cousin, but this is stuff Chester would know, we lead pretty simple lives here.”
“Well, Ah guess so. Anyway, so the son learns to read; trial and error, ‘cause he is real smart.” Buford T watched his companion’s eyes become distant, and wondered if they were still focused on his narrative. Buford T enjoyed the attention immensely.
“Read me again what that paper done said.”
“Well I can read it, or do you want me just to tell you what it says in an condensed way?”
“It says, I guess; you knows best.”
“It says;” Daniel began. Eventually several men began to gather one by one near Daniel and Charles on what might be considered a porch just outside a wooden shack. The evening quickly faded into twilight. Daniel shook the newspaper straightening it so he could read it, then paraphrase it. “I guess this fellow; Jefferson Davis wants to be our president here in the south. It seems he wants to make life as we know it, like things are now; forever and ever. It says here that he has an inclination to take advantage of our labor so the economy can be upheld and thrive without collapsing. Apparently, he is willing to wage war with the northern states in order to maintain our successful economy. It seems that our working for nothing creates a thriving living for everyone else.”
The gathered men spoke in low voices and discussed what had been read. All of them felt that their lives were predictable, yet very uncomfortable and dangerous. The thought of having this dilemma continue forever was unpleasant and yet it was all they had known from the time of their birth.
“Well, it ain’t like we gots any hopes about this.” Said one man as he sucked on a grass stem, “Ah heard some folks at the last shack, tried to, you know, escape.” He murmured, “dey got a right proper floggin’ fo’ that, to be sure. Dey don’t look too good to me afta’ dat.”
“There is also a declaration from the Constitutional Union Convention,” continued Daniel. “This is a group of men. There is to be a meeting in Baltimore and a list of men that are going there to uphold the constitutional rights of slave owners in our state of Georgia. They want not only keep slavery, but to uphold the capture of fugitive slaves; even if they escape to the Free States.”
“Ah hear dat if ya make it to dey north, you is home free,” uttered another man.
“With this law, that would not be the case,” stated Daniel.
“Yeah, but it’s not like we gots some kinda’ map, anyway; and how far is dey north exactly? And I don’t want no slave catchers after me, no how!”
Just then, a pure black cat emerged from some scraggy bushes to join Daniel and the men. Next to him walked a delicate tuxedo kitty named Nectarine. They sat at the far end of the porch and listened to the banter. A friendly man in a worn straw hat and dirty cotton shirt used his hands and arms very expressively to make his points. Each of the men had a ceramic mug and frequently sipped the water. Thousands of crickets chirped in the oncoming darkness.
“What do you suppose these men are talking about Jackson?” asked Nectarine.
“I think I would like to listen a bit longer, but it sounds like they are discussing escaping from here and the possible consequences if they were to do so. It is a well worn subject around here, as you know.”
“Why don’t we head inside and see if Mama Lizbeth has any scraps for us,” suggested Nectarine. She and Jackson walked inside. The shack was very small, containing only two straw beds on the floor. A make shift kitchen counter from a table stood directly before them. The four stools had all been placed outside for the men, though many sat directly on the porch floor. Charlene, daughter to Charles and Elizabeth helped her mother cook the greens, corn meal and small scrap of meat. The two cats looked up earnestly at the cooks and meowed piteously.
“Now what chu two want, eh? Ain’t there ‘nough mices out there?” Elizabeth had a special soft spot for Nectarine, but did not want anyone to know about it. “Well, I don’t s’ppose you’ll ever leave us alone till ya get somethin’. Here, I got jus’ the thing. Got some old grits just covered in bacon fat. Char, give us that fryin’ pan ova’ dere.”
Charlene handed her mother the pan and Elizabeth took a wooden spoon and scraped the contents directly onto the creaky floor. The cats licked up the lard eagerly. Afterwards they licked their paws and faces liberally while softly purring. Abruptly the men outside became louder and more animated. Being curious, the two kitties ran out to see what was taking place.
“Daniel, you sure about dat?” asked a concerned Charles.
“It says here that there is to be a huge auction on Tuesday. So we will have two days before whatever happens, happens. It says several owners will be selling; and buying, including ours.”
“Shoot, I don’t wanna go to some strange plantation!”
“You and me, both!” exclaimed another man.
“Why you supposen’ dey do that?”
“Git rid o’ the troublemakers, I reckon, er just git more help; not sure,” suggested Charles. “You eva’ see why so, in dem papers son?”
“Yes, apparently there are several reasons for selling slaves.” All of the men bent forward and listened to Daniel. “The first two reasons are given very accurately by my Papa. Also if an owner is having money problems, he might be forced to sell some, or in extreme cases, all of his property. This can include his slaves, his home or the fields of cotton or tobacco that are grown. Now since we are here in Savannah, it is less likely any of us will go. Our economy has been doing well. In the past, folks from here have ended up in Alabama for instance. Also some of the older workers might be sold off for younger folks.”
“You sure is a smart boy,” said the man out in the shadows. “Not sure what the mastah would do to you if he knew.”
“He ain’t gonna know, if Ah can help it,” declared Charles vehemently.
Daniel bowed his head and felt his face turn flush. He wore torn khaki shorts and his white cotton shirt hung unbuttoned. His ribs easily showed through his skin, a sign he was undernourished, as were all of the enslaved inhabitants.
“Ah did hear a rumor, dough”, whispered the gravelly voiced man sitting at the edge of the porch called Bo, “dey say, in the kitchen ya knows, dat dey master is gone whack in his head and all. He’s a gittin’ fits and falls over, but the family is tryin’ to hush it up, ya know.”
“Might be goin crazy in dey head, I s’ppose. Let’s hope it don’t affect us none.”
“You best go to bed, Daniel. You and Char gotta git up early fer church ya know.”
“Yes Papa, do you feel I do not need to read anymore?”
“I think we gots all we can handle for now my boy.”
The men sauntered off to their own shacks and Elizabeth served the food that had been prepared.
Daniel’s mother tucked her two children into a bed made with a white cloth over some dry straw. They kept their work clothes on, soiled as they were. The bed was lumpy. No top blanket was needed this time of year it being mid spring. Jackson and Nectarine jumped onto the bed and curled up with the children. Mama began singing an old African spiritual in low tones to help them fall asleep. She kept it up until she heard all four breathing deeply.
The next morning, while the family went to church, Jackson and Nectarine decided to head over to the master’s barn to hunt for mice. It was a bit risky since the master’s cat, a haughty silver tabby named Odis Lee, felt that this was his exclusive territory. The cats from the slave shacks were not welcome. However, Odis Lee was frequently given scraps from the plantation kitchen, making him lazy, so he might very well not make an appearance in the barn. The women lucky enough to work in the kitchen rather than the cotton fields would often spoil the cat.
The barn doors were wide open so the cats walked inside. The air was thick with the smell of hay and cow manure. The cows had already been milked and the animals had been put out to pasture. A small puddle of milk lay welcoming at the bottom of a pail that had been left in the barn.
“Forget the mice for now, let’s have some milk,” cried Nectarine. The two then knocked the pail over, pushed their faces into the thick milk and consumed every drop. They then climbed up the steep ladder leading into the hayloft. It was common for mice to scurry around the hay hoping to find seeds that had fallen from the stalks.
“You hear that?” whispered Jackson, “I think I hear some rustling.” He moved his ears around until he could pinpoint the location. They ran to the back of the pile of hay, used their paws to root around, peel back the grass and found the source of the noise. It was a nest of mice, the mother of which had quickly run away before Jackson had arrived, followed closely by Nectarine. The litter of babies lay hunkered in the nest, too young to realize the danger they were in.
Despite her predatory nature, Nectarine hesitated, “Jackson, I just can’t do it, like this, not with babies.”
“Hardly a mouthful at that; I agree, let us look for something bigger, a rat maybe.” They descended the ladder and found Odis Lee waiting for them at the bottom.
“Well, well, well, looky at the trespassers!” exclaimed the big silver tabby. “Now, I thought we had an understanding about not comin’ in here to take what is rightfully MINE!”
“As you can see,” explained Nectarine, “we have taken nothing.”
“Then what is that white stuff on your upper lips, some chalk maybe?”
“I thought only ‘your’ varmints were off limits. Besides, you get scraps of chicken, catfish and even roast of beef; far better fare than we could ever hope for.”
“It’s the luck of the draw. You two fell in with, shall we say the servants of the place, and I was adopted by the master. So like the master, I get to lord it over the rest of you.”
“Well, ‘Mastah’ Odis Lee, we will be on our way; unless you prefer to have the fur torn off your ears by the two of us.”
“Ya’ all have a point, ya do, so I will let you go this time, since ya didn’t really take anything of value, but don’t come back ya hear.”
“Yeah we hear,” snickered Nectarine.
They both left the barn and leisurely walked over to the cotton fields hoping for better mousing opportunities.
“I imagine Odis Lee gets to eat from silver kitty bowls,” mocked Nectarine.
“I would rather starve and live with our good folks, than spend a minute at the mansion, or eat from a silver bowl.”
“Too true, Jackson, too true.”
Sunday at the plantation was a day to rest. It allowed the slaves to attend church, if they wished. It was a separate church from that of their masters. The day off also allowed them time to build furniture from the wood gathered in the woods and to clean their homes. Mostly it was a time to gather and chat. In Africa, it was common for villagers to gossip about slights and hurts, to complain about one’s husband or the behavior of one’s children. Most of the slaves had heard oral histories of African life. Over time, much of it had become forgotten. Even here, on Sunday it became the day to enter ones grievances to one another. The men complained about their wives, the wives complained about their husbands or their last whipping. All the while the children played games with sticks or just ran about playing tag. Sunday ended all too soon and another six days of work followed.
Monday morning was just like any other morning by way of the workers going into the fields. They sang as they labored to keep a working rhythm and make time pass. At mid morning, the slaves were allowed a break. They would normally bring their breakfast to the fields to eat later. Usually breakfast consisted of corn bread. Some young workers would provide water from a bucket. This would continue throughout the day. The afternoons were hot and humid. As the sun started to lower on the horizon, the bosses rode out on horses and allowed the cotton gatherers to go back home. Many evenings, a newspaper wrapped bundle of assorted vegetables and pieces of organ meats could be found on the porch and placed onto the porches of the various shacks.
That night papers wrapped around the meat were too wet to read, but the papers with the root vegetables and greens could have the dirt brushed off and read by Daniel. Mama took the potatoes, mustard greens and liver. She happily exclaimed she would make a stew out of it all.
“You do just that, M’love! Do we ever appreciate what you do!” cried Charles.
The kitties sat near the shack wall and away from the stools placed on the porch. Once again, Daniel was summoned to read the front page of the paper. At his first words, a boss appeared on horseback.
“You! Boy, what are you doing with that paper?”
“He was a foldin’ it up as part of his chores so as to make it light dey fire in dat stove. We saves it up so’s we can light dat wood, you know, sir,” explained Charles, his head bowed.
“Well, it looked like he was reading it to me.”
“Yezz, sir, yezz, sir, but how could he do that, he ain’t gone ta school proper?”
The boss looked at Daniel severely and paused to assess the situation. “I suppose you are right. Now I forgot why I came here. Oh well, I will see you first thing Tuesday morning.” He rode off.
“Best be readin’ inside, I ‘spect.”
Daniel felt shaken by the unexpected visit, took the folded newspaper and joined his mother and sister inside the cabin. The rest of the evening proceeded more quietly than usual in the slave quarters.
Too soon, morning broke and everyone prepared to walk out to the cotton fields. The boss returned on his horse, stopping in front of Charles.
“I remember why I came last night.” He pointed to Charles and dismounted his horse. “Come here, I need to shackle you.”
“Whad I do? Whad I do?”
“You haven’t done anything.” The boss calmly explained with a greasy smile. “You are to be sold today!”
Elizabeth’s emotions erupted; she started screaming and wailing. “Why him, why my man?”
“Shut up! It is none of your business! Shut up or you’ll get a good whipping; you understand?”
Elizabeth ran into the cabin with her hand clamped over her mouth, with Daniel and Charlene close behind. Their shackled father shuffled away, tethered by a rope behind the boss’s horse. Charles felt a hopeless despair wash over him.
The boss turned around in his saddle and shouted towards their cabin. “Get back to work if you know what’s good for you!”
Mama Lizbeth’s children sat beside her, holding her tightly, while trying to suppress their own tears. Charlene’s emotions finally overcame her and she slumped against her mother. The world was a blur through her welling tears. She saw the shack interior in a watery blob of dim light including the brick stove and dirty floor through her tears. She could not recall any time when the dirt was not pervasive and in every part of their existence. Dirt caked on their feet, on the floor and even on their bedding. The dirt was on their food, in the drinking water, and under everyone’s fingernails. Charlene wondered why, at this painful moment, she focused on such a mundane part of life. Dust into dust; didn’t the Bible say that? Her mind then became more clear.
“Mama, Mama! What are we gonna do! They can’t take our Papa, they just can’t!” Charlene cried pitifully.
Mama Lizbeth stayed seated on the straw and sobbed.
Daniel found his composure, then squinted his eyes in determination and uttered; “we will get him back. I suddenly have a plan. You two go to the fields, I will come for you when I know more. We will escape this place and go north.”
“But, but, how baby, how?” asked his mother weeping.
The Foreign Exchange Student
Chester and Fahima spent a lazy morning lying on the forbidden blue velvet couch in the living room. Chester’s even grey fur complemented Fahima’s very long coat of pure white. Over the summer, she had come to learn her English quite well. Chester decided a good way to do so was to watch television, especially since it made pictorial references the radio did not. The nature programs were a notable favorite, especially if they included small birds or rodents. Chester had to explain to her that when the camera zoomed in on an animal it did not make the mouse the size of a large dog.
They heared the front door open, and they swiftly jumped off of the couch. Chester watched as Sandra, her parents and a young man came into the living room.
A very excited Sandra showed the boy around the house. “Although we don’t often use this room but, our cats, Chester and Fahima, spend a lot of time in here. Oh, and the white one is Fahima; I like to brush her.” Chester moved closer to the boy. “Hey Chester, this is Andrew. He is staying with us for the school year. He is from Liberia, but I don’t suppose you understand any of this.”
Andrew bent over and pet first Chester and then walked over to Fahima and stroked her soft luxurious fur for some time. “I am amazed at how soft she is! I am sure we will enjoy each other’s company,” he said.
“Let me show you to your room!” exclaimed Sandra, “and then I’m going to call Helen, you definitely need to meet her.” The two rushed upstairs to the spare bedroom.
“Let us learn more of this Liberia,” declared Chester. Fahima followed him to the office and they both sat on the sumptuous leather chair in front of the computer.
“I see the current leader is a woman, a certain Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but before her was Charles Taylor. This means that our guest was born after the turmoil and at the end of a horrible civil war in Liberia and its neighbor Sierra Leone. It is unlikely he would have known what took place in his country, unless, of course, he learned it in school. Before Mr. Taylor, we have a Samuel Doe who was originally a sergeant in the military, but performed a coup d’état in 1980. My, what an interesting place this is!”
“It is much like where I come from, stated Fahima. “So many strifes, so much people get injured.”
“I have looked at your nation my dear, and that is certainly very true. I am so very glad you are with us now. Of course, your former family has long since returned to their country.”
The door bell rang and Sandra and Andrew dashed downstairs to welcome Helen. Chester and Fahima joined the group to observe the meeting. The abandoned computer still had a website dedicated to Liberia on the screen.
“Hey Helen you look great!” uttered Sandra with a big grin, “I want you to meet our African guest; Andrew.”
“I am very glad to meet you!” Helen said, taking and shaking his hand.
“And you as well. I must say your country is a bit cooler than mine; it is a great relief,” explained Andrew.
Sandra and Helen spoke in unison, talking over each other in their excitement.” Well it is comfortable now, but our winters are a bit wet, I mean really, really wet. Plus you might see some snow. Have you ever seen snow?”
“Truly I have not. In my country it is always hot. It is either moist and hot or dry and hot, but always very hot. My school uniform is a pair of shorts and a simple white shirt, because it is so hot. I must say, I feel a bit chilly even at this moment despite that your summer is waning and it is still warm.”
“That is so funny, we feel uncomfortably warm even now, especially when outside,” declared Sandra. “Let’s go into the family room.”
The children settled onto a couch and an easy chair in the family room. Chester jumped up onto Sandra’s lap, while Fahima choose Andrew’s lap.
“I see you have found a new friend,” uttered Chester.
“I do miss my Parviz in many ways, “she declared. “This new boy feels very comfortable, very nice.”
“So Andrew, it is so exiting to have you here, you must tell us about Liberia, what’s life like there? Are there elephants and lions everywhere?”
“Heh heh, no life in the city has no wild animals. I live in an apartment in Bensonville a very big city near the coast. My grandmother, mother and I live there. I do not know where my father is. I do not know even what he is like. I remember him looking on me when I was about a month old, and he scared me very badly. My mother placed me on her bed when he made a visit. He put his entire hand on my chest and shook me all the while laughing heartily. It occurred to me that he was going to murder me and take my mother away! Obviously, this did not take place, but I remember it like it was yesterday.”
“You can remember your early childhood? I can’t remember anything before I was, like, five or six, I think.”
‘Yes I can remember everything I saw, everything I ate and wore and everything that was said from the time I could understand English I remember thinking in a different language before I knew English, but I cannot remember what that was. Isn’t everyone like that?”
“No, I can’t even remember what I ate two days ago. You are amazing, Andrew!”
“Such a memory certainly helps to facilitate the success in doing school work. In my country, I always received very high marks and I hope to do the same here.”
“Maybe you can help us with our homework. Helen is very good at math, but I have a lot of trouble with it.”
“What will we be studying this year?”
“Pre-algebra, grammar, US history and hopefully art and some sports, do you have sports in Liberia?”
“Of course! We have football, or I suppose what you call soccer, it is taken very seriously by everyone and even by the children who play in school.”
“That’s so awesome! We play too; you have got to sign up.”
“Of course, that would interest me very much.”
“Are you going to stay for the whole year?”
“Yes, at least until next July. Honestly, however, I would not mind staying in this great country from now on.”
“Why is that? Wouldn’t you miss your mom and your friends?”
“Part of me would, yes, but she has many troubles. One reason I am here is so I could escape from the difficulties I experienced there.”
“Wow, I am so sorry; what difficulties?”