March 25, 2020-
(This is a short story which came to me, this evening, as I was in a meditation group.)
Katrin was playing in her room, with Bradley Bear and Kimmy Koala. She had just sat her animals in the little chairs, and was preparing to play teacher, when she heard a bump in the family room next to hers. She told the “children” to stay quiet, and went to check out what had happened. Mommy was getting stressed, with new baby coming in three more months, and Kat did not want her mother to fall down and have an accident.
She saw the breeze rustling the curtain-an odd sight, given it was early April, and Mommy never opened the window much before the first of May. Kat went towards the window and was startled to see a pair of shoes behind the curtain. Although she was only four years old, Katrin Leigh Osterman was the epitome of boldness, as her grandmother put it. She went slowly, but confidently, towards the curtain and pulled it back.
There, looking unusually fearful, was a big man. He reminded Katrin of the main character in a show that she watched with Mommy, called “Reading Rainbow”. She asked, “Mister, what are you doing, standing behind our curtain? Are you okay?” The man stared, still fearful, at the little girl. Then, he spoke: “I am very hungry. I have not eaten as much as a crust of bread , in almost five days. I have been hiding, since I got off a small plane. I watched your family and saw they seem friendly-but I could not be certain. So, I had to sneak into the house first.”
“What’s your name, Mister?”, Katrin whispered, feeling sad at his story.
“I am Adibe Junius.”, replied the man. ” My family name comes first, then my given name, so please call me Junius.”
“I am glad to meet you, Junius. My name is Katrin”, said the girl, still whispering. Kat knew that Mother would be a bit scared of this stranger in her house, but Junius seemed tired, weak and more than a bit scared, himself. She asked him to sit in a chair and said she would get him something to drink. Then, she went to the kitchen, where her mother was resting in a comfy chair.
“Mommy, I have something to show you, in the family room.”, Kat said, in her Big Girl voice. She then stepped on a footstool and got a glass of water from the refrigerator spigot. ” Pleas come with me.”
Brittany got up, in a world-weary manner, wondering what her bright and adventurous offspring was up to now, carrying a glass of water to the back of the house. Was she going to “teach” the stuffed animals how to drink without spilling?
Junius looked up at the five-foot, five inch cinnamon-coloured woman, who gasped at seeing a nearly six-foot tall man, sitting in her rocking chair. “KATRIN LEIGH ! What on Earth are you doing, letting a stranger into this house??”, the horrified woman scolded her daughter.
“Please, Madame”, the chastened man spoke up, “She did not let me in. I came in, through the window, as I am desperate.”
“DESPERATE? I’ll show you desperate! Since when do you just walk into someone’s home, without so much as a ‘By your leave? And who are you, anyway?”, Brittany snapped.
At this point, all of Junius’ hunger and thirst pangs left him, and he burst into tears. “I knew this would be a mistake. I left Congo in a flight of panic and have not eaten since I got off the plane, five days ago. All the smugglers gave any of us was a bowl of rice, with peanut sauce.”
“Congo? Smugglers? Peanut sauce?”, the flinty-eyed mother said, her eyes getting narrower by the second. “If this story gets any weirder, I’m about set to call Santa Claus.”
“It’s true”, Junius said, collecting himself , just a bit. “I fled the war back home, and a white man came up to me, in Kinshasa, and said he could get me to Cape Town, so long as I carried a crate of animals to a certain spot. I delivered the animals to a wet market, in the Chinese neighbourhood, then I was chased out of there by a gang of teenaged boys. They called me ‘dirtbag foreigner.’ Imagine that, I am an African, and they said I didn’t belong. So, I wandered around, until I came to this neighbourhood.”
Brittany was drawn in by this story, and he certainly wasn’t dressed like anyone from around Cape Town. “Give Mr. Junius the glass of water, Katrin”, she relented.
Junius sipped the water surprisingly carefully, and threw his head back, letting out a heavy sigh. “Do you know where I might get a clean bed, Madame, and a plate of food?”
Tears started to well up in Brittany’s eyes. “I can get you to our church. The pastor will let you clean up, help you get some fresh attire and see that you are fed. He can do this a lot easier than we can, and he will put you to dignified work.”
Ten minutes later, Brittany Osterman had spoken to Reverend Stenbeek, who readily agreed to take Junius in, provided he followed the church house rules. Junius walked with the two ladies to the rector’s house, and was warmly greeted by the Dutch Reformed Church pastor and his wife. “Junius, you stumbled upon the nicest people in this parish,” Leonidas Stenbeek proclaimed, “and you couldn’t have been greeted by anyone kinder than our Lady Katrin!”
“Please put your bag in the first bedroom, then go and shower yourself. ” Leo said, and then to his smiling wife, ” Margrit, I shall grill some prawns, in our guest’s honour! Please prepare him some porridge, for when he gets showered and dressed. Then, we shall all dine together.” “Yes, that we must. It’s a great day to welcome one of our brothers,” the sturdy pastor’s wife announced, “Brittany, do sit and rest. Katrin, please help me peel some carrots.”
The proud little girl carefully peeled and sliced seven carrots, one for her and two for each of the Big People, just as Grandmother had taught her. It was a great day to welcome an uncle.
Love this, Gary; sweet that it came through you. I wonder where these souls are now.
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It is a work of fiction, based loosely on two very sweet people: An actual war refugee, who is in hiding in DR Congo, and a little girl with a big heart, here in the U.S. South Africa is a magnet for refugees from other parts of Africa, so it was chosen as the setting.
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