Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Magic Tree: Part III

Gonga hurried back home that night, eager to rest and make plans for his adventure. He wanted to time his arrival at the Magic Tree to coincide with darkness, when the lights would be most beautiful. He knew he was a fast walker, and could easily cover ten miles in less than three hours. But it was already past midnight, and he wanted time to plan his route to avoid the highest traffic areas.

He also had a strange desire to walk into the sunset at the beginning of his trek. Somehow, walking into the sunset seemed like it would add just the touch necessary to bring his wishes to fruition. Just maybe something would happen. Just maybe, somehow, he would re-gain contact with his family.

He lay awake for over an hour that night, and when he did sleep, confused images of his family filled his mind.

He spent the morning passing out flyers for work and took off early to pull up maps and plan his route.

The clouds had finally parted, and as he set out, he watched a spectacular red sunset. Gonga smiled to himself. Things had started well. Maybe, just maybe they would end well also. How in the world going to the Magic Tree would help him in his search for his family, he had no idea. But one can always hope. And so he did.

A scant three hours later, he stood in front of the Magic Tree, witnessing its glow for the first time in his life. He watched in awe as the lights faded almost imperceptibly from red to blue, or from blue to green and back again. It was bigger than he had imagined, and more beautiful. He smiled wryly. Few things managed to exceed expectations like that.

Someone tapped him on the shoulder. “You from Congo?” A teenager wearing an Abercrombie and Fitch hoodie regarded him solemnly.

Gonga nodded, wondering how the boy had been able to tell.

“I keep getting these random texts from someone. They think I’m their son or something. Or at least, they did. Till I texted back and told them they had the wrong number. They tried to call too. But I didn’t answer. My phone plan doesn’t cover international calls. No way.”

Gonga felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

“Then they started asking me to contact their son. Said that he was from Congo or something. Anyway, you looked different, so I thought I’d ask.”

Gonga stuttered, “My family in Congo…” then his words failed him.

In the hours of conversation that followed, he finally unraveled the mystery. In his family’s haste to escape the approach of a gorilla band, the notebook with his phone number and other contact information had been forgotten. His youngest brother had insisted that he had Gonga’s number memorized, and so when the family reached one of the major cities, they bought their first cell phone and tried contacting their son. But his brother had unwittingly flipped a couple numbers, and the only responses they received were ignored calls and strange text messages.

Until…Gonga visited the Magic Tree.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Magic Tree: Part II

Gonga kicked at a bottle cap and watched it skitter down the road. He hadn’t heard word from his family in over a month, and he was starting to lose hope.

Gonga’s eyes drifted upward and he paused. Something bright was reflecting off the street just around the corner. He hurried down past ColdStone, staring at the tree in front of Shakespear’s pizza. It was so beautiful!

Someone had wrapped brightly colored strands of Christmas lights around the trunk, around every single limb and all the way out to individual twigs. The tree glowed in brilliant detail.

Gonga stood beneath it, staring up into the branches. Blue, green, yellow, pink, red and every shade in between.

Someone laughed. “You think this is great, you should see the real magic tree.”

Gonga’s heart twisted inside. The Magic Tree? It sounded wonderful.

“Where is it?” Gonga asked, looking at the college student sporting a windbreaker and a black and gold baseball cap.

He jerked his thumb, “Oh, somewhere down in the Cherry Hill shopping center.”

Cherry Hill? That sounded even prettier. “How far…to walk?” Gonga jerked the words out.

“Walk?” the man looked surprised. He guffawed. “You couldn’t walk that! It’s probably ten miles at least.”

“I will go walk,” Gonga breathed. “I must see this Magic Tree.” Visions of his family flickered through his mind. Maybe, just maybe something would happen.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Magic Tree: Part I

Most people refuse to believe in magic. Yet occasionally something happens to make you wonder. There are times when things work out so perfectly or in such an unexpected manner that you can’t help believing. Or perhaps it’s something bigger than magic. Maybe there’s actually a Someone who engineered the whole thing, who planned it out beforehand, and who keeps watch to make sure the world continues on its orbit.

Gonga experienced such a moment not long ago.

Back home in Congo, communication was down. Maybe the towers had been stuck by lightning. Maybe a gorilla force had gone through and taken out the radio operators, or knocked out the internet servers. More likely someone had just decided to rip the copper wiring out of the whole country and sell it to a scrap yard.

Whatever the reason, Gonga hadn’t heard anything from his family in over a month, and the worry was beginning to set in hard. He was so accustomed to his evening Skype chats with his family that now he found himself staring at the computer screen for hours each evening; and vaguely hoped that something would change, that somehow his family would manage to get in touch with him.

This evening Gonga couldn’t take it anymore. He was tired of sitting cramped inside, waiting for nothing to happen, feeling the cold grasp of fear tightening on his heart. What if it was a gorilla band that had wreaked destruction? Had his family survived? Were they OK? Did they manage to escape? If only they had come with him to America when they had the chance so many years ago.

Gonga shambled along Hitt Street, headed towards downtown Columbia. The soles on his shoes flapped aimlessly. They had grown thin and ragged as he saved every cent possible to send back to his family in the Congo. He wanted to give them the best Christmas they had ever experienced. But now what was the point?

To be continued…

Saturday, December 3, 2011

An Artist’s Follies

One would think that being an artist himself, Gonga would know the wiles of the artists and be adept at avoiding them, especially the female artists. Unfortunately, this has proved a false assumption. The simple fact that Gonga is artistic has both blinded him and made him more susceptible in a single blow.

The most recent example happened a week ago. Gogna was sitting near Middlebush, playing his accordion with all his might. A few passers tossed spare change and dollar bills into his suitcase. Between classes, students gathered in a knot around him to observe his playing and enjoy the music.

One girl in particular placed herself squarely opposite him on the ground and listened with rapt attention. Her reddish hair gleamed, and her peasant style shirt fluttered slightly in the breeze. He liked having her watch him. He liked it even more when she threw back her head and laughed at his fumbling, and his exaggerated clownish behavior.

This particular girl with the broad face and rapturous smile sat and watched him for two days in a row. On the third day, she came by a bit earlier in the morning. But this time she had a frown on her face.

Her voice was gently accented when she spoke, “I’m horribly sorry. I feel like such an awful person even asking this.” She paused, “I have no money for the parking meter. And I thought…” her voice trailed off and Gonga watched her eyes drift to the coins lying in his suitcase.

“Take,” he grunted in his gorilla voice, reaching down and catching up a handful of quarters.

“Oh thank you!” she cried, her eyes shining.

And so began a very long habit of the peasantly artistic student using Gogna’s accordion money to fill her parking meter day after day. She sat and watched him occasionally after that. But more and more, she looked rushed. At times she would appear covered in clay or pottery. Other times it was paint. And once her hair even looked as though it might have been dyed purple with wash-out dye, but there hadn’t quite been time to thoroughly get the dye washed out.

Of course, the height of it all occurred the day she, stammering, asked to borrow the textbook someone had just dropped in his accordion case. He planned to sell it at the Textbook Game and make some real money for a change. But she looked so forlorn as she explained that she had that very Physics test in less than four hours and desperately needed to study.

Gonga let her borrow the book.

It wasn’t till that evening when he headed back to The Textbook Game that he realized he had been taken in by a fellow artist. She popped out of the store right as he entered, refusing to make eye contact with him, and rushed on her way. Gonga saw the cashier lifting the book he had just purchased from the girl and putting on the trolley behind him. It was the Physics book.