Life Of A 'prayerMidu Hadi / Fantasy / Humor
Life Of A 'prayer
Copyright 2014 Midu Hadi
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without written permission of the author.
James hadn’t been eleven for two months when his father died. His mom, a scrap collector like his father, barely made enough so their joint income could feed a family of five. Father tried his best, he thought, he lived for as long as his diseased lungs allowed and then some. In the end, the disease had won. Respiratory illness was nothing new for the denizens of the Lower Quarter. The industrial waste pumped out from the sparkling land of the Uppers poisoned their area day and night. Smog and acid rain had been everyday events for them. But Father had already worked himself to death in the steel mill, he mourned. After losing an arm in an accident, his father had been laid off; the only job left to him was scrounging for scraps of metal and selling them to buy food.
From his place at the head of the table, James glanced at his sisters, Emma & Eliza, sitting on each side of him. Dressed in the latest fashions, they looked radiant. So far removed from the scrawny, half naked girls they had been back then. Men who hadn’t even known they existed now sought their hands in marriage. His mother, a dignified lady with sad sad eyes, resembled nothing of the woman who’d have done anything to keep her children from starving. Now she graced him with a smile. They were Uppers now and they lived in a stately mansion. I did it, Father. I kept us safe, he mused. If he'd only been able to rescue Grace, too. He'd never gotten over the ache of losing his childhood friend.
When his sisters had left the table, off to do whatever ladies did at this time of the day, he braced himself for a "conversation" with his parent. “James, you can't keep hating them forever. Surely, that has occurred to you by now". His mother sounded exasperated. "And will you please stop torturing the man?" Tinges of amusement laced her melodious voice this time. "Emma is so very cross with you for dunking him in the duckweed!" He left his serious contemplation of the tablecloth at that and looked up. Their eyes met and they broke out into muffled giggles-too loud. They would summon Emma who had always been completely capable of getting him back.
"Did you see how.."
"and his breeches..
"but the frog.."
They couldn't stop, as more hilarious parts of the incident kept resurfacing in their memories. Trying his best at sobering up-he was certain that Emma's ears were glued to the door by now-he picked up a scone to distract himself. His mother waited till he had bit into it before observing, "And then he actually presented the amphibian to her," which set them off again. Laughing with her, he picked up his napkin nonchalantly and paused to cough into it. He looked at his mother and knew he hadn't fooled her. Not one bit. He watched the sparkle in her eyes go dim...this woman who had let nothing defeat her was suffering as surely as he was.
"I don't hate th..well him, at least. He's persistent, if nothing else. He did offer to guard the frog, even after he discovered it wasn't a family heirloom." James had hoped she'd smile at this but he was disappointed. He wanted to say something...anything...that would take her sadness away when Emma chose that very moment to rush in. "You're considering him then?" she demanded of her brother. From the corner of his eyes, he saw a flash of red as Elizabeth ducked behind the balustrade. Smiling at the sibling hovering with excitement, he said, "Very seriously." A glance at his watch told him his happy sojourn was almost over. James stood up and hugged his sisters, dropped a kiss on his mother’s cheek. She held him as if he were still eleven years old. Farewells gotten over with, he went up the stairs to grab his luggage.
"Never hold it like this." James demonstrated with the nozzle facing him. Looking around, he saw some senior 'prayers moving among the rows, correcting the stance of the children. Children...I have to stop thinking of them as children, he chided himself. They no longer had that luxury. No playing with dolls for the girls who ended up here. No school for the boys who were sent here. Training occupied every waking hour. They started their training as young as 12 now. Sold by their impoverished families, they were a ticket to easy money. Could he blame the parents? Looking over to the little girl who was trying to balance her breathing tank while keeping hold of her stuffed bunny, he thought, Yes, I can. He reached her before the others. “Hullo!" He pasted a smile on his face when she turned her huge tear-filled orbs in his direction. "Hullo!" He tried again and received only a sniffle in reply. "What seems to be the problem?" He tried not to smile at the ongoing tussle which was the little girl, her toy, and the tank. Unable to keep standing under the combined weights, she let go of both to avoid toppling off the platform. A metallic clunk was heard as the tank hit the ground. James heard her sigh in relief when she saw the toy safely ensconced in his arms.
Third time's the charm, thought James as he ventured yet again. "Hullo!" She did reply this time, but only because he had his priorities right, he gathered. "Bugsy says you have a big head," she stated. James looked from the toy to the little rascal. "Bugsy also says thank you for saving him."
Before Bugsy could deliver more gems of eloquence-James suspected the bear had a lot more to say-James quickly asked the girl if she was all right, to which she replied with a nod. Daring to take the safely tucked Bugsy from her arms, he secured him to her tiny waist with a piece of string. She watched the activity with interest and then raised her arms, silently asking to be picked up. As he set her back down, he mentioned his name. "Ask for me, James, if you...Bugsy needs any help." For a moment or two, he watched her balance the tank, assured that her toy was safe, and then he moved towards the others.
It was good to be back, he thought. James loved visiting his family, but that was all it was- a visit. Donning his protective gear, he glanced at the chit: Duke so and so was having a luncheon at the Magenta Bloom Gardens. Such an important event, he scoffed, simply begged for my expertise. After rechecking all the knots and buckles, he pocketed the address and stepped out. The hallway was swarming with other ‘prayers, as usual. James waved and nodded as acquaintances caught his eye or bellowed out a hullo, how d’you do. The exodus was headed towards the vehicles and he joined the fray.
Halfway to his destination, he was accosted by a seemingly intoxicated person, since he couldn't manage to walk straight and weaved his way through the crowd to James. The man uttered, "She said yes," and fell on the ground next to where James was now standing, openmouthed.
“She did?" James was taken too unawares to keep the incredulity out of his voice. The heap on the ground cracked an eye to glare at him. How Adam managed an honest to god glare with just one eye was beyond James.
“You weren't supposed to be that surprised!” his mate complained, standing up and dusting his clothes. A tremor was visible in his hands as he did so. That told James his friend was as surprised as he was. Placing a hand on Adam's shoulder, he tried to say something that wouldn't have them blubbering like two, wee girls. "Of course, she said yes" was the best he could come up with, but it was sufficient. Adam met his eye and nodded stoically, and that was that. A 'prayer's wedding, Adam's wedding, would be the rarest of events. After all, how often did a dying man marry?