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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Childhood (09/03/09)

TITLE: 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 little 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 steal. 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 I 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. At noonday, after baths, we eat a bowl of rice, sometimes wearing our gift 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.

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This article has been read 1193 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joy Faire Stewart09/14/09
The vivid descriptions gave this heartbreaking story life, and it's a story I won't forget. Masterfully written!
Ada Nett09/14/09
This story is a mixture of sadness and joy...I am so glad these two children found someone who was willing to share the love of Jesus. A very well-written story.
Bryan Ridenour09/14/09
Thanks for sharing this reminder. This kind of story always reminds me to be thankful. Your writing is superb. Well done!
Gregory Kane09/15/09
I can thoroughly relate to this story living as I do in a similar part of Africa. And it's great that you presented real faith and education as two major planks in the solution.
Interestingly I completely misinterpreted what was going on. I imagined that Clovis was older and running alongside the girl. Hence when you refer to her carrying a baby, I assumed she was pregnant. Imagine my surprise then when I discovered right at the end that she was only ten! Nevertheless a poignant and alternative picture of childhood
Betty Castleberry09/15/09
This makes me very appreciative of what we have in our society. Your MC tugged at my heart. Well done.
Charla Diehl 09/15/09
Your story is gripping and makes me so sad for all the children in ths world who will not experience childhood.
Stories like this can raise the awareness of others, hopefully stirring hearts to help.
Beth LaBuff 09/15/09
This is so heart-breaking, especially in the fact that it's the only life they've known. You've made this so real.
Joy Faire Stewart09/17/09
Congratulations on your 1st place in Masters and EC 1st place! Fantastic writing.
Mona Purvis09/17/09
Powerful writing. Deserving of #1 and more. So, often we find it easier to write on lighter material. You punched my heart with this one. Not just entertaining but motivating and prayer-inducing.
Your voice is just so intense and believable.

Lisa Johnson09/17/09
All I can say is that you have written a awe-inspiring piece that reaches deep inside the hidden parts of the heart with a message that challenges and shames at the same time. Congratulations on first place in both Master's and EC.
Beth LaBuff 09/17/09
I'm so glad to see this being recognized, Sharlyn. Congratulations on 1st place EC!!
Patricia Turner09/17/09
Sharlyn, what a masterfully written piece - a heartbreaking story that needed to be told and read. So highly deserving of your EC 1st place win! Congratulations!
Catrina Bradley 09/17/09
Awesome in every way. Congratulations. :)
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/17/09
Congratulations on placing with this heartbreaking,excellently written piece.
Chely Roach09/17/09
Congratulations on this most excellent, moving piece. Superb...
Dianne Janak09/18/09
Congrats on your first place entry!! Wonderful job writing.
Glynis Becker09/18/09
Beautifully written and yet so heart-breaking. Congratulations on a well-deserved win!!
Elizabeth Baize09/19/09
This is amazing! It reminded me to pray for a family that I met about a year ago who have almost raised enough support to go to Uganda as missionaries.
Cherry Bieber 09/23/09
Thank you for sharing such a tender account of needy children. They truly are everywhere we go. Though my little brother and I were not raised in Uganda, we grew up with similar desperation. We, too, were not removed from our sad circumstances, but the Love of Jesus was definitely with us!
Linda Watson Owen10/30/09
Sharlyn, this is such a powerful entry that it makes me bow my heart in shame. What in the world are we as Christians doing to rescue the children of the world? Not enough. Not enough! Your own heart for children has created a story that should launch many ministries. Congratulations on 1st placement in the Challenge, but the real prize is what this story will do to inspire hearts and hands to help such children. Thank you for being the Lord's scribe, my friend.