Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Small Feet of Korah

Small feet of a little child patter and splash out of the shack. They leave tracks in the mud. The child runs down an alley row by row of shelters just like his. Card board and rags tied on sticks…the endless maze of makeshift homes. The rags flap in the breeze like lonesome flags hoisted on abandoned ships. The little feet run in the direction of the dump. Perhaps there’s food there.

Child passes a crazed man, skinny, with one leg. A wild look in his eyes and an eerie, one-tooth smile. Lines on his face are thin and many from long years of malnutrition. He lost his leg to leprosy. The child keeps trotting along…

He passes a woman. She looks sick to the child. He knows that men visit her from time to time. She must have a lot of friends. But she looks very sick now. Maybe her man friends will help her.

The rain comes. It’s the season for it now. Giant drops as big as a bowl and pouring streams empty from the sky. The trail is thick, oozing mud. The child swamps his way toward the dump. Perhaps there’s clothing there.

Boys and girls from the chasm flitter out from the maze to follow the child. A mangy dog with wet hair in the shape of spikes side winds his way with tongue hanging low. His eyes are dim, too.

The child steps out of the swarming hoards of makeshift shelters to the edge of a hill. He slides down to the River. It is brown, and flows as slow as a lazy dream. There’s white foam puffs floating along, and pieces of stuff: the cliché is real—one man’s garbage is another’s treasure.

The child washes his feet and legs. He cups his hands and drinks dirty water from the river bank. He stands up, half bent, arms dangling straight down, and looks along the river. There’s a hill. He climbs it, slipping and falling his way to the top. At the edge there is a wasteland of refuse, as big as the shanty land where he lives. This is the dump. There are people walking about, bending over and picking things up, inspecting them. Is it good to keep?

A man in a bulldozer smooths out the rubbish. Someone grabs an old, dirty, wet blanket. It smells bad, you can tell by the look on her face.

The child roams around and spots something. He cups his hands and brings them to his mouth. This time not to drink, but to eat.

He turns and runs, his feet leaving tracks in the mud. He returns to his shanty. His mother is sick. She used to have a lot of man friends. But now they don’t come around anymore.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's hard to believe that people have to live that way. Great story, excellent!

Jonathan Erdman said...

Thank you for this reflection, Chris. My prayers go out, with yours, to all those who live in shanty towns, to those who live in ghettos, in rural poverty, in prisons and confinement, and in slums. We are very fortunate, and I hope that gratitude turns into action on behalf of those who are unfortunate.

chris van allsburg said...

thanks you two.

I'm heading to Korah on July 12 to help raise awareness of this place.

Just imagine if people sold their 2nd or 3rd home and used that money to build orphanages!