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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Junk Food (08/30/12)

TITLE: Perhaps a little Salt
By Jack Taylor
09/01/12


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Perhaps a little salt.

It wasn’t the flies crawling through his hair that got me. It was his choice of dinner.

I was standing outside the market in Kabale, Uganda when I noticed the four boys trying to catch objects being tossed out of a huge blue metal dumpster. The ground around the bin was heaped with shredded plastic bags and rinds and refuse of every describable kind.

Being new in town, I wanted to find out what was happening outside the dingy hotel lobbies and sparse cafes set up for the tourists heading west to see the gorillas. It seemed that every second body on the street was pasted to the seat of a Chinese made bicycle.

These two wheeled wonders wove around potholes and buses and trucks and cars with amazing cargo. One bicycle carried a huge pig tied up for market and another carried a cow held down by two men. Several of the bikes carried flocks of chickens or huge loads of pineapples or bananas. Some with special racks carried dozens of large cases of sodas or beer or shortening or other canned goods.

But none of these items were for the boys sorting through the trash heap outside the market. No one even seemed to notice them in their rags and clay covered bodies. The stench by the bin was overwhelming and I couldn’t imagine how this eyesore could be ignored.

The smallest boy was the first to see me taking a step in their direction. He must have been about five. Perhaps he was the lookout. His short verbal signal encouraged the others to stop their gleaning and to look in my direction.

I hesitated a moment. At six foot five it was almost impossible not to be noticed. Perhaps my wide brimmed olive green safari hat also marked me as a little different than the others travelling through. I knew from my experience in this country that the likely response to my approach would be the use of all their English vocabulary. “White-man, give me money.”

Instead, the group just stood and stared up at me. Within a minute another head popped up over the edge of the bin from the inside. This boy was obviously older, maybe ten. His immediate smile was unmissable. “Agondee. Hello, friend. Today, God has blessed us.”

The street boy scrambled over the top of the bin and dropped down beside the others. A dirt-stained Colorado Avalanche jersey hung off his frame. He stood calmly beside the others who had their own jerseys. Chicago Bulls, Montreal Alouettes, and Boston Red Sox. The smallest boy sported a soiled knee length formerly white undershirt with no marking of any kind.

I could see a paint can sitting on a trio of small rocks. The boys had been dropping items into the can. From the pockets of his drooping shorts the friendly lad produced a half-dozen rotting potatoes and dropped them into the can.

He waved me over and I hovered over the paint tin. There was still paint lining the inside edges of the can. Along with the rotten potatoes were a few other scraps of indescribable food items.

One of the little boys was on his hands and knees blowing underneath the can and that’s when I noticed the small burning mound of plastic that was being used to heat the contents in the paint can. I couldn’t imagine how they’d managed to start a fire out of plastic scraps but I was intrigued by their ingenuity.

The oldest boy ignored me and dragged a muddy stick out from under a soggy green plastic bag. He stood by the can and stirred while one of the other boys held the can in place. The smallest one walked up to me and wrapped his small arms around my leg. He was barely above my kneecap.

The lurch in my stomach was unmistakable as the paint inside the can began to peel. The oldest boy reached into the can and hauled out a warm specimen from their dinner. “You want?” he asked. “We welcome you, our guest. You can ask the blessing to God.”

I felt the tears coming as I took the young boy in my arms and knelt in the middle of the trash with the boys. They all came and hugged me without hesitation.

“I am not hungry,” I said truthfully. “I will pray for you now and I will come back again. God loves you all.”


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This article has been read 519 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 09/06/12
Wow! What a powerful story. I can't say much other than Wow. You took junk food to a totally different level and opened the eyes of all who read this. I sense there is probably more truth than fiction in this story and while it breaks my heart, it also screams the very definition of faith!
Barbara Lynn Culler09/06/12
Wow is right. How heart-breaking that would be. Great story.
Dannie Hawley 09/07/12
A super read of one of the saddest truths on this planet. This same scene is repeated daily in two-thirds of the world today. Your article has provided faces and shown us the hearts of these kids. Thanks!
Brenda Shipman09/07/12
A-maaazing take on the topic. Powerful opening line, GREAT use of nouns and verbs to describe the scene, heartbreaking, and outstanding in every way! We all need to take a long look at third world countries more often to gain a better perspective. I think our heart for the poor and our thankfulness for what we have would increase tenfold. The closing seemed a bit weak to me, although I'm not sure how I would change. Perhaps instead of the man telling them God loves them, you could have him sitting down with them on the ground, asking them their names, even as he fought back the tears. Anyway, doesn't detract from the beautiful message of your story. You need to be in the Masters level, I think.
Yvonne Blake 09/08/12
So sad...

This touches the heart - making the readers realize how ungrateful we are for our daily bread.

Great story!
Edmond Ng 09/10/12
So great are the needs of many who feed on food disposed as junk. May our hearts reach out to them and our actions reveal God's love toward them, displayed through our willingness to give joyfully in sharing what we have with them. An excellent written piece. God bless.
Genia Gilbert09/10/12
This is an engaging story, though sad. It should paint a picture in our mind of the needs of others and of how fortunate most of us really are. Great writing.
Ennis Smith 09/10/12
This story was so well written. The imagery potrayed is stark and surprisingly blunt. It ommediately puts the reader right in the center of the tale.

The topic itself is heart-breaking. And yet, despite the circumstances surrounding these little guys, they have the faith to thank God for their blessings. I felt so ashamed, knowing in my humanity I've complained over less traumatic circumstances.

I know its early yet, but I already believe this story deserves 1st place.

To say, "Well Done" doesn;t even begin to properly congratulate your effort. But...I find myself at a loss for the right words.
Myrna Noyes09/13/12
I am sobered upon finishing this excellently written but very sad story. It certainly packs a powerful punch. CONGRATULATIONS ON BOTH YOUR E.C. AND LEVEL WINS!!!!! They are well-deserved.
CD Swanson 09/13/12
Congratulations on your EC!!!!!!!!!!!!

God Bless~
CD Swanson 09/13/12
Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!

God Bless~
Bea Edwards 09/13/12
I am stunned by the picture you drew with words. I see their dark faces smiling and offering to share their meal with a stranger. Excellent way to take the topic in a direction that gives the reader pause!
Lillian Rhoades 09/13/12
An out of the box approach to the topic that went straight to my heart. Memories of my time spent in Haiti came flooding back.

Great writing! Congratulations
on the win.
Beth LaBuff 09/16/12
The salt (from your title) and the meaning from Scripture is just what is needed to help. Your story is haunting. I'm glad to see it received an Editor's Choice award.
Leola Ogle 09/16/12
Congrats Jack! Good job!