Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: HOME (02/07/19)
- TITLE: No simple word
By Jack Taylor
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I remember the first time someone asked the three of us where home was. We were playing on the monkey bars at the park on our tenth birthday when two old women wobbled up to us like penguins. Their black pantsuits, big round spectacles and white blouses didnâ€™t deter the impression. Their canes kept them from tipping over but it looked like it wouldnâ€™t be hard to help them tip all the way over onto the grass.
The first woman used her index finger to push her glasses back up on her nose as she peered at me. â€œYoung man,â€ she called, motioning me closer with her cane. â€œWhere is your home?â€ Her thick accent made it a challenge to understand but I answered truthfully.
â€œDuke street,â€ I said.
â€œNo,â€ she replied, shaking her head like an awol bobblehead. â€œWhere
were you born?â€
â€œNo, what country?â€
â€œWhat about your two friends?â€
â€œTheyâ€™re not my friends.â€
â€œAre they bothering you?â€
â€œNo more than usual.â€
She straightened up and looked at Chelsea. â€œYou should go back where you came from,â€ she said. â€œThis whole neighborhood has changed since your kind moved in.â€
Chelsea stood and stared with her mouth hanging open so I spoke up. â€œShe was born here as well. Sheâ€™s my sister.â€ I jerked my thumb at Connor. â€œAnd heâ€™s my brother. Weâ€™re triplets. We all got baptized at the same church.â€
She stuck her cane out in my direction. â€œYoung man, you know where liars go, donâ€™t you?â€
â€œNo, someplace hot.â€
Connor spoke up. â€œOh, I get it. Grandma Chesterson was born in Florida and sheâ€™s always saying how hot it is and how she will be going home any day now. I figure she never leaves so she must be the liar.â€
The two women did a great owl impression, standing and staring at us with their lips puckered. Mom called us over. â€œI hope youâ€™re not bothering the nice old ladies,â€ she said.
Chelsea covered her mouth with the back of her hand. â€œThey were talking to us about how hot it is in Florida.â€
â€œOh, wonderful,â€ mom said. â€œLadies, are you from Florida?â€
The first woman who had spoken with us tucked in her chin. â€œCertainly not. Weâ€™re from Germany and Scotland.â€
The second woman joined in the conversation. â€œAnd what about you? Where was your home?â€
Mom was born to missionaries and she always had trouble with that question. â€œI was born in the Philippines, went to elementary school in Kenya and spent my high school years in America. I married in Japan and lived for five years in Italy. Home is anywhere I am.â€
The first lady whispered something to the second but it wasnâ€™t heard so she had to repeat it louder. â€œI can see where the children get their confusion from. Seems like theyâ€™ll let anyone in these days.â€
Mom kept talking like she was supposed to be part of their conversation. â€œAre you talking about heaven?â€ she asked.
The first woman straightened up. â€œWhy would we be talking about heaven? Do we look like weâ€™re old enough to go home already?â€
Mom smiled. â€œI just wanted to make sure you were going to be comfortable there.â€
â€œWhy wouldnâ€™t we be?â€
â€œThereâ€™s going to be people from every tribe and tongue and nation calling heaven their home. If you have trouble with people here how will you ever feel comfortable there where you canâ€™t just move away?â€
The two women pivoted in slow motion and wobbled off down the sidewalk.
â€œGuess theyâ€™re going home after all,â€ I said.
â€œI donâ€™t think they believed we are triplets,â€ Connor said.
Chelsea giggled and then wrapped her arms around both of us brothers. â€œAnyone can see we are perfectly identical. Same birthday, same smile, same home. Some people are so strange.â€
I never forgot that conversation although Iâ€™ve grown up enough to finally understand the prejudice behind it. My momâ€™s assuring words have held me many a time when others wonder if I belong here. Our final home is going to have people from every tribe and tongue and nation. I wonder who might be comfortable there.
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