A tale of choice, p.14
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       A Tale Of Choice, p.14

           Alexa Stewart
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  TOM WAS BRUTALLY thrown to the ground. How long he lay stunned, he didn’t know, but he was unhurt when he became aware of his surroundings. He rose to his feet, and looked around, finding his sister lying nearby. He leaned over and shook her, but there was no response. He called her name, but she didn’t answer. Grief filled his heart, was she dead? Then he saw Shelly. She was lying in a heap. Blood flowed down her face in little rivers onto the ground. Her body looked like a ragdoll tossed to the floor by an angry child. Her left arm lay next to her in an abnormal position. She looks like daddy, he thought in fear and anguish… dead.

  Suddenly, he remembered the tank. He turned in terror to see what the tank was doing. It lay in ruins with its top blown away. A gaping hole exposed its innards and fire was consuming it like a hungry giant. The trees and the fields around them were ablaze, while smoke swirled in the air, blocking out the sun. Yet the fire had not touched them. It had burned everything near them and then moved on.

  A moan next to him caused him to whirl around. Faith cried… loud and hard. The force of the blast had knocked her out. But there were no broken bones that he could see.

  It was a different story with Shelly. He tried to see if she was breathing, but there was no movement in her chest. Tears slid silently down his dirty, sooty face as he sat next to the woman he had come to depend upon. Her kindness and affection had comforted him. He liked being with her. The grief of losing his mother and father was now compounded by loss of this gentle lady.

  What should he do now? He retrieved the dirty white bag and took out the towel. With the knife from Shelly’s belt he cut a strip of cloth, and then another. He folded one into a thick pad. He then tried to place the pad on the head wound and secure it with the other piece of towel. He couldn’t bear to watch the bleeding continue. He didn’t believe she was alive. He just wanted to stop the flow from her head. The bleeding stopped, but she never moved, never moaned, never breathed.

  Tom sat in the smoky haze with Faith, still crying by his side, trying to figure out what to do. Everything was quiet now, except for Faith and the roaring of the fire as it consumed the tank and the surrounding countryside. The battle had stopped and he couldn’t tell in the smoke what was going on. The world seemed empty and dead.

  Unexpectedly, he saw silhouettes of four men in the smoke. Tom’s heart pounded. He tried to hush Faith, but she wouldn’t be consoled. She was terrified from the battle, the fire, and her pain. Three of the men appeared extremely tall and held long sticks in their hands as they walked concealed in the haze. The wind shifted, the smoke revealing three Maasai warriors and a young black man dressed in Western clothes.

  The Maasai were very tall indeed, wearing the traditional Shuka, a long red cloth wrapped around their waist and another over the shoulder. They were carrying long stout spears with wide oblong blades which looked quite sharp. Their hair was the color of red ocher and pulled back severely from their faces in small braids that hung down the back of their heads. They decorated their hair and neck with ornaments and beads. These men appeared tall, fierce and majestic in this desolate place.

  The young man, dressed in Western clothes, raised both of his hands, as if to surrender, and walked quickly over to Tom.

  “Don’t be afraid,” he said in excellent English as he knelt down. “We have come to help, if we can. We heard the child crying. Are you all right?”

  Tom just sat there, not sure what to do.

  “You must get her to stop crying or we may be found by bad men,” he told Tom. “It’s very dangerous here. My name is Benjamin Sauto. I’m a missionary with Samaritan’s Purse working at the Enguli compound.”

  Tom reached over, took Faith by the shoulders and shook her gently as he firmly said, “You must stop crying. It’s important for you to be quiet now, so no more fire and loud noises will come, okay?” Faith’s little eyes got large and her immediate silence was acute. You could see she didn’t want the fire or explosions to happen anymore. Sniffles were the only sounds the child made now.

  “We must get you out of here as quickly as we can,” Benjamin stated quietly, looking around in concern.

  Then he noticed Shelly lying near the children, with a makeshift bandage on her head. He went over to her, put his fingers on her wrist, and tried to find a pulse.

  “Is this your mother?” he asked.

  “No,” answered Tom. “She was a good friend. I think she’s dead,” he said tearfully. “My mother and father died a few days ago. She was trying to get us to Nairobi, to help and safety,” he added.

  “She isn’t dead. I feel life in her still,” he told Tom. Just then Shelly opened her eyes and moaned in pain. Focusing her eyes, she could see a stranger bending over her. She pulled her hand away in fear, but in that movement the pain in her head and other arm was overpowering and she cried out in anguish.

  Tom quickly got up, went over to her and knelt down beside her. “I… I thought you were dead,” he said overjoyed as he picked up her good hand and held it. Shelly laid there with her eyes closed. She just squeezed his hand in warm affection.

  Opening her eyes she asked weakly, “Who’s this?”

  “This is Benjamin. He is a missionary and he’s come to help us,” Tom told her proudly, as though he was saying… see God has provided again.

  Benjamin turned to Tom and said, “I want to take you, your sister and this lady to the clinic, but we need to fix her arm first. It’s broken. We must hurry,” he said apprehensively as he took off his backpack and laid it on the ground.

  Shelly closed her eyes again, Someone to help me at last, she thought greatly relieved.

  As he bound her head wound, he said to Shelly, “I’m a nurse practitioner at the compound. I have to set your arm before we go. It will be too painful to move you, otherwise.”

  He turned to the warriors and said something in Swahili, their native tongue. The men came over and helped Shelly sit up. One sat down behind her, back-to-back, so she could lean against him. Another helped to hold her down, while Benjamin got ready to set the arm. The third man took off a leather strap from his Shuka.

  “Put this in your mouth and try not to make a sound,” Benjamin said. “We are still in a battlefield and the smoke is starting to dissipate. We’ve got to get out of here now,” he said forcefully as Shelly accepted the strap in between her teeth. She took a deep breath, said a quick prayer and closed her eyes, biting hard on the leather.

  Benjamin pulled, strong and firm for a few seconds. It snapped into place. A deep moan escaped her, but the sound didn’t carry far. Benjamin took out an Ace bandage and gently wrapped her arm against her body to keep it immobile.

  “I’m sorry, but we’ll fix your arm properly, back at the clinic.” he said quietly.

  Shelly was weak from the loss of blood and pain. One of the men took his Shuka off his shoulders. They tied both ends of the long garment into secure knots, and then placed two spears through the loops. They helped her gently to her feet and had her sit in the sling, while two of the warriors held it upon their shoulders.

  Benjamin bent down to picked up Faith. She started to protest and squirmed in his arms. Tom quickly said, “You need to let him carry you. We have to get away from here fast.”

  But, she didn’t want him to carry her. Tom said in firm tones, “Okay, you can stay here… alone! If you can’t be good, we can’t take you with us!” he said resolutely, though he really didn’t mean it. “We have to go fast. He must carry you. He must!” Tom said forcefully.

  Faith was about to cry and make a fuss. This day had been too much for her. She was tired, sick, sore, and had been scared out of her wits.

  Shelly pulled on the back of Benjamin’s shirt. He turned with the child struggling in his arms and starting to cry. Shelly reached up for Faith with her good arm and said softly, “She can ride with me. Put her on my good side, okay?”

  With relief Benjamin complied. The little girl snuggled into her cozy nest with the woman she was coming to trust and d
epend on.

  In this way, Shelly and Faith were carried for miles away from the battlefield. The men walked in long smooth strides that covered the ground at a great speed. Tom trotted alongside the men, trying to keep up, as they departed the scene of war as quickly as possible. The heavy smoke from the fires had moved on, but a smoggy haze remained.

  Suddenly, the sound of jets flying low over the hills roared into the air above them. They took cover by the nearest trees that had been missed by the fire. The jets screamed over the scene of the battle and flew out of sight.

  “Stay low and still, they will come back,” said Benjamin with apprehension.

  The jets were streaking back as he spoke. As they reappeared, rocket launchers from the ground somewhere to the south were fired at the flying machines of death. Booms could be heard in the north once more as the shells were launched overhead. The sounds of bombs, gunfire and shelling started all over again, as the war continued. The jets fired rockets into the enemy nearby with loud, forceful explosions, sending dirt and debris into the air. They disappeared over the mountains with a screeching roar.

  Quickly, the small group left their cover and continued east. The sound of battle subsided, faded, and then was gone entirely as they made rapid progress over the grasslands.

  Faith snuggled onto Shelly whimpering. Shelly tried to hush her, providing comfort by softly praising her for being so good. Faith eventually slept. Shelly didn’t see much of the trip that day, either. She endured her rescue, with her eyes closed, being sick to her stomach, weak, and her head aching as the pain ran down her jaw and into her body.

  Hours later, they arrived at a Maasai village, late in the day. Shelly opened her eyes and watched as the group entered an enclosure made of brush with long ugly thorns. She later learned that it was called an Enkang and was made out of acacia tree branches that possessed 3 to 6 inch long thorns. The whole village, along with their herds of cattle and goats, were kept inside this thorny enclosure to protect them from predators and thieves. Once inside the enclosure, she could see small round mud huts with thick, thatched roofs to one side of the village. Smoke rose from cooking fires into the evening sky.

  Shelly learned many things about the Maasai from Benjamin, that night. It seemed strange to her that a Maasai man would consider it a sign of wealth to have as many wives and cattle as he could acquire. They believed that God had given them all the cattle in the world and it was their duty to take them wherever they found them, whether wild or owned by someone else. Each wife of a Maasai warrior, built her own mud hut, called a Boma, for herself and her children. This was done over and over again as the village picked up and moved to greener pastures. It was also a surprise that the men normally slept outside together.

  What a peculiar people. Yet courage, fortitude and strength seem to be an integral part of the Maasai.

  Shelly was assisted from the sling and helped to a wooden bench next to a Boma. Faith crawled up next to her and sat quietly, watching the activity of the village around her with interest.

  A beautiful tall woman with large warm eyes came up to Benjamin. He spoke to her in Swahili and then he turned to Tom and said, “Tom, this is Nalangu, the youngest wife of Sironka. That is Sironka there,” he said as he pointed out one of the Maasai that had helped them. His hair was graying at the temples through the red ocher coloring, but he looked strong and wise.

  “Nalangu is going to take you and Faith into her home tonight. As soon as I finish here with Mrs. Ferguson, she’ll join you there. I’ll sleep with the men. But before you go, I have asked her to help you and Faith wash up and give you something to eat. Would that be okay?” he asked the boy.

  “Yes, please,” said Tom with gratitude. “I’ll help my sister.”

  “Good,” said Benjamin with satisfaction.

  As Tom walked over to take his sister from Shelly, Faith started to protest.

  Shelly turned to the child and said tenderly, “Sweetheart, you go with your brother now, get washed up and have something to eat. There is going to be a soft bed for you to sleep on tonight and I’ll be there in just a few minutes, okay?”

  Faith sniffed a couple of times and wiped the tears from her dirty face. A tired, hurt and exhausted little girl got off the bench to walk beside her brother in silence as she held onto his hand. Shelly had a lump in her throat as she watched the two parentless children walk away together, so young and alone in this world.

  I wonder what will happen to them? I hope their grandmother can take care of them all right. I wish I could be there to see what life has in store for them. Suddenly, she wanted to. I do want to be part of it, somehow, if I can. That thought took her by surprise, but took root in her heart.

  Benjamin carefully took the crusty bandage off and looked at the wound, which started to bleed again. Earlier that day, he had taken time to set stiches in the worst of her wounds. Now, he gently washed them out with antiseptic, applied antiseptic powder and then applied sterile gauze strips to them again. Shelly’s face was turning a dark color on her forehead, around her left eye, and onto her cheek, where the blood seeped under the skin from her head wound.

  “I don’t think your wounds are very bad, they just look ugly and like to bleed. Still, we’ll take x-rays when we reach the clinic tomorrow. You’re very lucky it wasn’t worse. There’s a large knot on the back of your head where you hit something or something hit you. That’s what knocked you out. Your pupils aren’t dilated so I think the blow to your head isn’t severe, but I’ll keep an eye on you tonight. We’ll check you out thoroughly at the hospital,” he concluded.

  Then Tom came back with a container of water and part of their towel.

  “May I help you wash?” he asked the tired, wounded woman sitting on the bench.

  Shelly was touched by his compassion. I’m becoming very fond of you Thomas. She beamed a large smile of gratitude and then let the boy gently wash her face, neck and her good arm.

  Oh, how I would love a good, long, hot bath and soak, then a big soft bed to sleep in for a week. And Jim… tears filled her eyes. How she missed him, her husband and partner. Her need to find him, to know he was alright, to get him back was always close to her thoughts. How often had a prayer been expressed for him in the last few days, how hard it was not knowing… not knowing if he was hurt, scared or even alive in this world of war. Shelly sighed. She could do nothing, nothing but wait and continue north, as soon as it was possible for her to travel.

  Tom brought her a bowl of Ugali. Shelly looked at him with a quizzical look. “It’s a type of mush made of maize and water,” he told her. He helped her eat the mush and then gave her a cup of fresh goat’s milk. Shelly was surprised and delighted how good everything tasted. She felt so much better after eating. Her head still throbbed and her arm ached, but she was glad to be with people who were willing to help. Benjamin gave her some medication to help with the pain and then disappeared to tend to his own needs.

  Shelly leaned her head against the Boma and closed her eyes. The sun had left for the night, illuminating the stars by the millions, while the moon rose, large and brilliant into the nocturnal sky.

  Another night in the African wilderness, but not alone this time. No, not alone… Thank you Lord.


  Enguli Compound

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