Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: REFUGE (08/29/19)
- TITLE: Fatuma's New Country
By Sandra Alsworth
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Her head swirled with confusion as her mind flashed back to the civil war in her own country of Liberia. The shots were as loud as thunder, but lasted only a second and resulted in death all around her. She felt black fear while looking down the barrel of the rifle that was pointed at her head. The desperation of leaving her home, all she had, stealthily creeping through the jungle for week after week, always hiding, always terrified.
She thought she had escaped the war, but it had followed her here. She whispered that Bible verse that had calmed her so many times in the past. â€œGod is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.â€ She prayed, â€œGod, you are my refuge and strength. You are my help in trouble. Help me now. I need you.â€
Light flooded the closet as the door opened. Fatuma looked up at the concerned face of her father. His comforting arms reached out to pick her up and hold her tight. â€œItâ€™s alright, Baby, itâ€™s alright. Those are just fireworks, not guns. Weâ€™re safe here in America. I promise. Those are noises of people having fun for a holiday they have here called â€˜the Fourth of July.â€™ Those noises canâ€™t hurt you.â€ Her pounding heart slowed. Her clenched fists relaxed.
Behind him she saw Mert, the white-haired lady who met them at the airport just two days ago when they first arrived in America. Her dad called her their â€œsponsor,â€ and she was helping them get settled in their new country. Mertâ€™s closet had been her hiding place.
Later, after a quick trip to town, Mert reappeared with a white lumpy bag. She handed Fatuma a small yellow box filled with tiny white paper lumps. She showed her how to throw them to the ground where they each emitted a tiny snap. She called them â€œPop-Its.â€
She gave her father matches to light the end of a pink cylinder the size of his little finger. The cylinder spun around and around while buzzing and shooting out sparks in a brilliant bouncing circle. At first Fatuma jumped back with a startled gasp and covered her ears. Then her hands slowly dropped to her side as she stared fascinated at the flashing, swirling colors. Mert called it a â€œground flower.â€
Her father lit another one, a â€œKiller Bee.â€ The fountains of fiery sparks in burning colors of red, gold and green enchanted her, but she covered her ears during the shrill whistles. She laughed at the little paper hen that shot fiery eggs out its backside.
Later, as she curled up in her unfamiliar bed, she prayed, â€œThank You, God, for bringing me into this safe and beautiful country, America.â€
This is a true story, though I filled in the details. Mert was my mother, and she helped hundreds of refugees settle into their homes, get jobs, sign up their kids for school and learn English. The girl I call â€œFatumaâ€ is now a young lady going to college and preparing for a bright future here in America.
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