Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Krav Maga

"Joy through strength" - Arnold Schwartzenegger

Nothing will make a girl feel more powerful than learning how to defend herself, and here's hoping that she never has to use it. But she'll walk with a swagger, she'll ooze self-confidence and she'll learn young the benefits of having a healthy, fit body.

Krav Maga is an Israeli self-defense program, which will teach young girls very specific ways to defend themselves. Programs are available all over the country - you can get more information by clicking on to this  site -

Krav Maga for Children

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tell Me a Story

Tell Me a Story

"There is no tragedy that you cannot bear, if you put it into a book."

The ability to tell a story does more than entertain a reader. For the writer it leads to greater understanding,  to a sense of hope, a sense of relief, a way to work out insurmountable difficulties. It's a way of communicating - with others and with yourself.

 Finding a notebook and then using this beautiful 24 karat gold plated fountain pen by orly37 will give you an added incentive to write your story

Rose Colored Foutain Pen

Afghan Women's Writing Project believes that "to tell one's story is a human right" - please consider making a donation to bring their voices to the world through their writing.

Join the Freedom to Tell Your Story

Afghan Women Playing Basketball

Saturday, July 23, 2011



"We are all angels with one wing and we can only fly by holding on to one another."

Doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you is a great way to increase your self-confidence and your self-worth. There's an old Chinese saying that "no one's head hurts when he is comforting another" - the internet is a great place to start - googling an organization who is just dying for your expertise - and everyone has something to offer.

For instance - Hope for Haiti is an organization that provides many opportunities to help the Haitian people out of poverty and into productive, useful, hopeful lives -

Hope for Haiti

And if you want to remember what's it like to be an angel, you might want to wear this pendant by rzaleski654 -

Angel Pendant

Thursday, July 21, 2011



"Focus on where you're going - not what you fear." Anthony Robbins

The ability to focus on your desired outcome - the ability to put all other thoughts out of your mind - to keep on your chosen course, regardless of what is happening around you is key to success.

And like everything else, it just needs practice.

I have my students sit in a yoga position for one minute - each month adding another minute. By the end of the school year, they can sit quietly for ten minutes. (The incentive is a Hershey Kiss for every minute that they are quiet).

They learn to focus and more importantly, they learn that when they want to, when the stakes are high enough, they can focus.Without focus, one will only flip flop around,dabbling in this and that, and accomplishing very little. And like everything else, the ability to focus is like a muscle, which must frequently be flexed in order to develop.

This vinyl wall decal from Wordy Bird Studios will remind you just how important it is to keep your eye on the price -
Vinyl Wall Decal

Friday, July 15, 2011

Nothing Is Impossible

Laila Ali

"Impossible isn't a fact - it's an opinion." Laila Ali

You can do anything you want to do but what is difficult is knowing what you want to do.  What is your passion? If you knew you couldn't fail, what would you choose to do? What do you do when no one is watching? When are you happiest? When do you completely lose yourself in an activity? You don't think you could make a living doing this - then remember - there is always a market for the very best.

Wearing this pendant by Charms Maker will  remind you -

The Sky Is The Limit

And now for Chapter Four For of For Such The Angels Go.

                                    Chapter 4
            Jean climbed into the car and slid into the front seat. She glanced at the man, who had turned his attention to the steering wheel. He was younger than Jean had first thought, maybe only in his early twenties. His ragged sweat shirt was stained and there was a wide rip in his jeans around the crouch. Jean averted her eyes and then noticed that he wasn’t wearing shoes.
            The car was thick with an unpleasant odor. A combination of sweat (the man’s, or maybe her own) and tobacco and something else. Something similar to the smell that had permeated her aunt’s hut. But she was dry and safe and in no condition to complain.
            “You’re bleeding on my floor,” the man said, as though Jean could help it. As though she was in a position to bandage herself. She lifted her right foot and wrapped it around her left calf, still holding her blood stained sneaker in her hand.
            “I’m going to Hawa,” he said, “actually I’m going through it. Straight through for about fifty kilometers. I’ll drop you off in the center of town. But I got to make a stop first. You don’t mind, do you?”
            Jean shook her head. “Thank you, sir. And I’ll pray for you.”
            The man seemed to think her remark was comical and he snickered. “You a Muslim?” he asked.
            “Catholic, sir.”
            “I don’t believe in God,” the man said in a hard, bitter voice. “If he’s alive and well, he’s nasty and he don’t give a damn about us.”
            Jean’s first impulse was to argue. If one didn’t believe in God, then one had nothing. Nothing to wish for, nothing that made any sense. But she kept her lips pressed together.
            “Nope, God ain’t been good to me but than again, I ain’t been good to God.” The man gripped the steering wheel with grubby hands. “I ain’t been good to many people neither.”
            “But you’re helping me now.”
            The man shrugged. “Ain’t costing me nothing. Anyway, I appreciate the company. After I drop off the parcel.” He turned around and glanced at the back seat.
            Jean’s eyes followed him. For the first time she noticed a thermos resting on the spilt cushion, wrapped in a filthy tee-shirt. Jean’s throat was dry and parched. She wondered what was in the thermos and, if it were water, whether the man would give her a sip.
            The man must have noticed her staring because he asked if she were thirsty.
            She nodded.
            “And hungry too, I bet?”
            She nodded again.
            “Can’t help you.”
            Jean said nothing.
            “Maybe your uncle will give you something when you get there. The truth is I’m hungry and thirsty too. But that thermos is full of mud. And besides, it don’t belong to me. Gotta give it to the big man.”
            Suddenly the car swerved and headed for a dirt path. Jean released a gasp of surprise as she slumped forward. Maybe this man was right when he claimed that he wasn’t so nice after all. Maybe he had his own plans for her. Maybe he was going to kill her and leave her body in the woods.
            And who would even miss her?
            “Don’t look so scared. I told you I had to make a stop, didn’t I?”
            Jean wanted to know who he was visiting and how long they’d be stuck in the woods. But she didn’t think it was a good idea to ask too many questions. In fact, she thought the less she talked, the better off she’d be.
            The car stopped with a sudden jerk, throwing Jean back in the seat. She was feeling nauseous from the heat and humidity, wishing that she had something, anything to drink. Even muddy water.
            “You wait right here, you understand. Don’t go anywhere.”
            She nodded. She doubted that she could walk even if she wanted to.
            “What’s your name?” he asked suddenly.
            She thought it strange that now he wanted to know who she was but she mumbled, “Jean,” hoping he wasn’t going to ask her last name.    
            “I’m Peter. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
            He slammed the door of the car and walked towards a run down shack which looked deserted from the outside. What if he plans to take me in there, Jean thought, and torture and kill me?
            She began to pray, asking Jesus to forgive her, although she still wasn’t sure what she had done.
            And then she heard voices. Angry voices. She scooted over to the driver’s seat to listen.
            “Where’s the merchandise?” Somebody was asking and not the guy in the car because this voice was different, deeper, raspier.
            “No merchandise until I get the cash,” Peter said.
            “You don’t get it, do you?” a woman insisted. “You owe us money. The last delivery didn’t come in as planned. You didn’t give us everything we paid for.”
            “Yeah, that’s what you say. But why should I believe you? When all is said and done, you’re just a bunch of thieves.”
            There was a long strained silence.
            “Where is it?” the man bellowed.
            “Not until I see my money.”
            Jean had a really bad feeling about all of this. She thought that Peter would be back in the car in no time flat. Only he wouldn’t be in a good mood. And maybe he wouldn’t be going to Hawa anymore. Maybe this was the last stop for her. Where would she go in the middle of the woods with a bleeding foot?
            But Peter wasn’t coming back to the car at all. Because several seconds later, Jean heard a loud explosion which she recognized as gun shots. She had heard enough gun shots when the rebels came marching through her town so she knew now that something terrible had happened.
            And that it wasn’t safe to stay in the car any longer.
            But this time, she wasn’t going without water. In a flash she turned around and grabbed the thermos and the dirty tee-shirt to wrap around her foot. She opened the front door, quietly closed it and hobbled to the nearby wooded area. She couldn’t put any pressure on her injured foot but she managed to go a few feet into the forest. Then she collapsed, hiding under some scrubby brushes.
            At least the rain had stopped although the ground was soaking wet.
            In a few minutes, she heard the front door slam.
            “If he didn’t have them on him, then they have to be in the car. He was planning to give them to us, as soon as we gave him the money.”
            “My guess is the trunk,” the woman said.
            Although Jean couldn’t see them she knew that they were close, too close. Jean could almost smell the woman’s musky perfume. She wanted to get up, to crawl out of her hiding place because surely that would be the sensible thing to do. But if she made a sound, if she moved a muscle, she’d be as dead as poor Peter.
            She could hear them pop open the truck and they were moving some heavy objects. And then the woman cursed under her breath. “Not here,” she finally said.
            “Hey, look at this,” the man was calling the woman. “Fresh blood.”
            Jean’s blood.
            “What happened here?” The woman didn’t seem concerned, just deeply suspicious. “Could he have knocked someone off?”
            “Where’s the body?” the man asked.
            “Where’s the merchandise?” the woman wondered.
            “I’ll tell you where the merchandise is,” the man said with a great deal of authority, as though he knew for certain. “It’s with the person who was bleeding. There was a fight and he took off with it. Is he dead?”
            “I shot him at random. I don’t know.”
            “Well, this is what we’re going to do,” the man said. “We’re going to go inside and hope that he’s still alive. Then we’re going to make that man talk. We’re going to find out what happened in his car. Who he was with and where that person is now. No one does this to me and lives to tell about it. Move!” he bellowed and for one horrible second, Jean thought he was talking to her. “I don’t have to tell you what’s going to happen to us if we don’t get the merchandise to the border by tomorrow. We don’t have anytime to waste.”
            Except it was Jean who had no time to waste. She didn’t know what they were talking about. She didn’t have any merchandise but they’d never believe that. As with Peter, they would shoot her first and ask questions later. She had to move and fast.
            She tore a piece of the dirty, ragged tee-shirt. She wrapped it around her foot, and slipped her foot back into her sneaker. The pain was excoriating. She drew a deep breath, wiped the perspiration off her face and then grabbed the thermos. She could tell by the weight of the bottle that it was full. And then as fast as she could, she stumbled deep into the woods.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Here and Now

Scarlett O'Hara

"If I think about it today, I'll go crazy. I'll think about it tomorrow instead. Tomorrow is another day." Scarlett O'Hara

Strong, powerful women learn to learn to live in the present. They know that if it's not happening now, it's not happening and they'd learn that they should leave tomorrow's problems to tomorrow's strength. It doesn't do much good to worry too much about the future because when the problem occurs, you may have options that you don't have now.

And so when you're worried and fretful, it might help to think of Scarlett O'Hara by wearing this stunning necklace by  Tuckoo and Moo Cow -

Scarlett O'Hara Necklace

And now for Chapter 3 For Such The Angels Go

Chapter 3
            Joseph was true to his word and brought Jean some beans, fresh corn and a small bucket of water. He even managed to give her a threadbare sheet and a blanket, which he suggested that she roll up and use for a pillow. Jean didn’t hide her gratitude.
            “You’re very nice,” she told him. “Why are you doing all this?”
            “I believe that children are everyone’s responsibility,” he said. “And I’m appalled by what is going on in some of the cities. Men convincing uneducated people that witches are responsible for everything from war to AIDS, to dying crops, to sickness, to just bad luck. It doesn’t occur to these people that after tormenting children, things don’t get any better. But the mob, it is a terrible thing.” He cleared his throat and then said in a discouraged tone, “I can’t fight it alone.”
            “As soon as it’s light, I’ll leave,” Jean promised. “This refuge is forty-two kilometers in what direction?”
            Jean had only gone to school until she was eight. Then her mother lost her job as a bathroom attendant in one of the hotels and she couldn’t afford the cost of the uniform and the books. Jean had no idea where southwest was.
            “I could point it out to you,” Joseph said, “but it will be meaningless.”
            “I don’t want to ask. People might know who Sister Mary Jude is. Then they’ll guess that I’m a witch child.”
            “You are not a witch child!”
            Jean nodded. “I am not a witch child,” she repeated solemnly. “But still they might turn me in.”
            “They might. I don’t think the government will look for you very hard and very long, though. They are too many other children to chase after. But you’re right, someone might believe that there’s a reward on your head and, for a few measly francs, they might bring you back to the city. Or,” Joseph hesitated, “they might decide to take matters into their own hands. So, you’re right, it wouldn’t be a good thing to let people know where you’re headed. Tell them you’re going to the small village of Hawa to find your uncle, who is expecting you.”
            Jean nodded as Joseph rose.
            “I’ll never forget you,” Jean promised.
            Joseph smiled with those big, white teeth again. “Someday,” he said, “when you’re in America, you’ll do a kindness for someone there. And, like a little miracle, hope will spread.” He gave her a brief wave and then disappeared into the night.
            Jean drank a bit of water, then tucked the pail in the corner. She’d leave most of it for the morning. If tomorrow was another hot day, she’d need to hydrate herself before continuing. Twenty-six kilometers, she thought. If there are people who can run it in a few hours, perhaps I can do it by afternoon. At least by nightfall. Even walking, I could do it in a day. My legs are strong and I’m young.
            She lay down on the cool white sheet and crunched the blanket into a small pillow. She had never known her father and it was difficult to conjure up a picture of him. But after meeting Joseph, she knew exactly what her father looked like. He would be tall, with kind eyes, and very white teeth.
            Maybe Joseph was her father and he suspected it and that’s why he had been so nice to Jean. Maybe when she was settled, had some money and she was a famous athlete, she’d come back and repay him for the francs. Then he would tell her with pride in his voice that she was his own child.
            With these thoughts whirling in her mind, she fell into a restless sleep.
            She never saw the eyes staring at her from the distance, watching and waiting.   

            Jean woke up to the sound of a soft roar. At first she thought it was part of a dream. Her mother and her baby brother were still alive but they had joined the mob chanting, “Come see the witch child, come see the witch child,” as they threw sticks and stones at her.
            Upon waking Jean was slightly relieved to find herself alone in the abandoned shack. But when she turned her head towards the entrance, she froze with fear.
A lion stood stationary just a few feet away. As the lion glared at her with enormous black eyes, Jean was convinced that the animal was Satan in disguise and somehow her tormentors had sent him.
            I’m never going to get out of this alive, she thought. One way or the other, they will find me and destroy me. Is it better to be devoured by a lion or be burnt alive or be beaten to death?
Jean remained motionless.
            So did the lion.
            Jean’s mother had taught her that there was no need to fear lions because lion mothers teach their young how to hunt and what to eat. Human beings are not on their menu. Lions only attack if they feel threatened, she said.
            But lions are wild animals, Jean reasoned, and wild animals are unpredictable.
            The lion watched Jean, blocking her path to safety.
            If Jean started to scream, would Joseph hear her? Would he come for her?
Or would she just scare the lion into attacking?
            Her mother had also taught Jean that everyone had a guardian angel, who stood behind her and made certain that no harm came to the child. Jean had even named her guardian angel, Michael, because that seemed like a good strong name. Where was Michael now?
The lion moved closer.
            But he was not heading towards Jean. Instead his eyes fell on the bucket of water. With quick and steady footsteps, the lion made his way to the corner. Then he bent down and began to drink, making loud slurping sounds.
            It’s now or never, Jean thought, as she sprang up and tiptoed out of the hut. And then she ran. She ran about a quarter of a mile down the long, dusty road before she drew a deep breath and found the courage to turn around. The lion had not followed her.
            She was safe but she had left her water. The day was already sticky with humidity, although the sky was murky and overcast. In one way that was good, it meant that the sun would not be beating down on her head. But if it should rain –
            So it rains, Jean thought, marathoners run in the rain all the time. The rain can’t hurt me. In fact it might bring some cool air.
            She would run slowly at first, so not to exhaust herself. She could pick up speed towards the end, especially if night was approaching. When she came to a village, she would ask directions.
            She hoped that people would be generous and good.
            And somewhere in the distance, she prayed that her aunt and her mother were looking down from above, guiding her every step.

            In about an hour it started to pour. Big, fat drops fell on Jean soaking her to the bone. She ran anyway, trying to keep an even pace. As she ran, she pictured herself sprinting in a marathon, with people clapping hard on either side of her, and a car, riding with a camera in front of her, filming her every move.
            She had seen a photograph like that once in a newspaper and it was a vision that she clung to. So she wasn’t minding the run at all, even in the blinding rain.
            She passed a pack of wild dogs, who lunged at her, growling and nipping at her heels. She outran them.
            She was doing fine until she stepped on something hard and sharp. An acute pain ripped through her right foot.
            She stopped and stumbled over to the side of the road. Panting, she sank in the mud and turned over her right sneaker. A sharp piece of glass was embedded in the hole of her shoe, piercing the sole of her foot. The gash was about two inches wide. Jean had no recourse but to take off her sneaker and yank the glass out of her skin.
            Jean had always been a bit squeamish and she hated the sight of blood, especially her own. But she could not walk, let alone run with the jagged piece of glass thrust into her flesh.
            She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and pulled. The pain was sharp and swift. And the blood came flowing out.
            Jean had to find a way to stop it. She was wearing a dirty pair of shorts and a tee shirt. She had no underwear on, so taking her shirt off wasn’t an option. She looked around in the field to see if she could find even a piece of paper to hold against her skin. But it was raining so hard, it was difficult to see anything.
            There had been a doctor in Kinshasa, although Jean had never gone to him. But she knew when wounds penetrated deeply they often had to be sewed. She could not sew her own wound and she couldn’t go back to the Kinshasa, even if she wanted to.
            Could she bleed to death from a cut in her foot?
            She pressed two fingers over her wound in a vain attempt to stop the bleeding. A crackle of lightening lit up the sky. Jean had heard that being in the middle of a field during a thunderstorm was dangerous. You were likely to be struck by lightening, electrocuted from the air.
            Funny she was afraid that would have been her punishment if she had stayed in the city. It might happen anyway. God might be sending the storm as she lay bleeding to death in the middle of no where.
            Jean tried to remember her childhood prayers, especially the Act of Contrition, but the words escaped her. Something about being heartily sorry for her sins. The problem was that Jean wasn’t quite sure what her sins were. And hadn’t she already paid her penance?
            A deafening roar of thunder, followed by another crackle of lightening. Then Jean heard another sound, the sound of a car coming down the road. She crawled to the edge and waited. Soon a black sedan crawled into sight. She couldn’t see the driver but it didn’t matter. She popped up and made a weak attempt to jump and wave.
            A crushing pain seared through her. She began to hop.
            The car slowed down. An older man with a brown beard and a head full of chocolate colored tufts stuck his face out the window.
            “Please, sir, can you help me? I need to get home and I’m injured.” She tried to show him her bleeding foot but she couldn’t raise it that high.
            “Where you headed?”
            “To Hawa. I have an uncle there.”
            “What’s his name?”
            Jean was not prepared for this question so she hesitated. The pause raised suspicions in the man’s bloodshot eyes. Even with the whipping rain, Jean could see him squinting.
            “Adam,” she said quickly.
            “Adam who?”
            She was tempted to answer that she didn’t know his last name but surely that would not sound right. If he were indeed her uncle, than she would know. “Nkanka,” she said quickly, the first common name she could think of.
            The problem was that it was the same last name of the pastor who was trying to persecute her. But what did it matter? If she didn’t get out of the field, she would die before her tormentors ever had a chance to locate her.
            The driver nodded and opened the door. Then he looked down at her right foot and released a low whistle.
            “I stepped on a piece of glass,” she explained and, at least, that was the truth.
            “Look like you’re going to need a couple of stitches. Otherwise, you may have trouble walking. You don’t want to have a limp for your whole life, do you?”
            Jean shook her head. How could she be a marathon runner with a limp? How could she get stitches? Would Sister Mary Jude help her? With a ride Jean would be at the refuge within the hour. Suddenly her heart tingled with hope.
            “Well, get in. I don’t have all day.”

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Wizard of Oz

"You have always had the power, my dear, you have always had the power." Wizard of Oz

One of the most powerful female figures in literature is Dagney Taggart - the heroine of Atlas Shrug. Dagny is a business woman who manages to stand up to the shark of the railroad industry.

Dagney from the movie Atlas Shrug

Her brains and her self-confidence make her formidable and wearing this shirt is a reminder -

Atlas Shrugged Tee Shirt

A very worthwhile charity is HTAC, the initials which stands for Help the Afghan Children. This organization builds school and its mission is educating the young citizens. I would love to start a writing program to empower girls in a newly built school -]

Girls School in Afghanistan

And now for Chapter Two of For Such the Angels Go.

Chapter 2
            Jean bent down, shook out her quivering legs, wiggled her toes and walked to the round thatched roof house. She paused before entering and called her aunt’s name.
            There was no answer.
            She stepped into the small structure. Her hopes sank when she climbed over scattered clothes on the dirt floor and saw some hardened yams piled in the center of the room. She almost slid on spilled porridge. A thin sheet, stained and crusted, rested on top of a sagging mattress, crammed in the corner. Jean collapsed on the dirt beside a pile of rags, her heart still hammering in her chest.
            The hut was a mess and that was the first clue that something was wrong. Jean’s Aunt Therese had always been neat and as clean as she could possibly manage. But it wasn’t the disarray which bothered Jean. It was the smell.
            The smell of death. And Jean knew all about that.
            “What are you doing here?” A woman, who couldn’t be more than twenty but whose eyes were old and defeated and whose mouth was set in an eternal frown, stood at the door, waving a stick at Jean. A young boy clung to the woman’s leg and buried his face in her ripped skirt.
            “My name is Jean Mantuidi. I’m looking for my aunt. Her name is Therese Mantuidi. She lives here.” Jean was still panting. “Maybe she went to fetch water -”
            “She’s dead. She died of the virus on Tuesday. I’m sorry.” The woman shrugged her shoulders, not looking the least bit empathetic.
            Jean wondered why she should be surprised, when the virus had taken her mother and her grandmother. But Jean was shocked and saddened and found herself crying uncontrollably.
            “Did she suffer?” Jean asked between her sobs, because she could not rid herself of the vision of her mother, a mere skeleton, covered with sores, crying in pain, and begging the Blessed Virgin to take her –
            The woman shrugged again and then asked in a totally disinterested tone of voice, “Are you sick too?”
            Jean shook her head.
            “Why are you breathing so hard and heavy then?”
            “I’m running away,” Jean said.
            The woman took a step backward, almost as though Jean were infected with a disease that could spread in the air. “Are you a thief?”
            Again Jean shook her head.
            “What then?”
            The little boy had started to wail. A soft mewl like a cat in pain.
            “I didn’t do it.” Jean sprang up.
            The woman looked at Jean, her eyes squinting with suspicion.
            “I was working for this family,” Jean said, “washing the clothes and cooking the porridge and caring for the baby and the mother, she got sick. Something happened to her heart.”
            “Did you give her food?”
            “No.” Jean would have smiled at the absurdity of it. Her giving the mistress food? She would have smiled. If she didn’t know where the question was leading.
            “I took chocolate from a stranger,” Jean lowered her eyes. “This American, she came into our village, she bought candy -”
            The woman let out a shriek, which startled the small boy, who began to wail.
            “But I didn’t know that the candy had a spell on it. I didn’t know!” Jean was weeping too, she and the boy together, but the boy had his mother to hide behind, while Jean had – no one.
            The woman stepped back again, only this time she had moved so far away, outside the house. Now Jean could not see her. But she could plainly hear the woman screaming, “Witch Child! Witch Child!”
            “I am not a witch child!” Jean insisted, only she wasn’t sure if she were a witch child or not. Would she know if she were a witch child? Would she know if she had caused the mistress’s death just by entering the house? Had she somehow killed her aunt also because her wickedness had blown like a warm breeze through the Congo?
            If Jean could make people sick could she make them well?
            Could she be a good witch child?
            Then Jean heard another voice, the voice of a man. “What’s the problem?” he demanded from outside and then he stepped into the hut.
Suddenly the hut seemed smaller and Jean wanted to run away from this enormous man, who looked like a giant. She had never seen anyone quite so tall. In a country where people were stick thin, this man had flesh on his body. He could scoop her up with his long, lanky arms and bring her back to the city to face the angry mob, who by now would realize that Jean was missing.
            “She’s a witch child, Jospeh,” the woman said. “She’s Therese’s niece and they’re looking for her. She ran away to bring her evil here.”
            The man approached her and Jean shrank back.
            “We can’t help her,” the woman said. “She’ll cast a spell on us. We’ll get sick and starve. She’ll turn our little boy into a witch child and they’ll come for him.”
            Jean looked into Joseph’s eyes and found to her astonishment that they were full of compassion.
            He turned his back to Jean. “Go home!” he shouted to the woman.
            “We can’t keep her, Joseph! She will destroy us!”
            “Go home!” he bellowed.
            Jean hid her wet face in her hands. She was exhausted and confused. She wondered if this man was another devil, trying to tempt her. Maybe he was working for the village. Maybe he would have his own way of ridding evil spirits from Jean.
            A fight had broken out in a French dialect that Jean didn’t understand. She wished that she could sneak by the man and the woman and the terrified child (although it was unclear to her what the boy had to be frightened of, except of course, Jean) and keep on running. Except where would she go now?
            The man must have won the argument because the woman stepped into the hut, glared at Jean, hoisted the little boy into her arms, and hurried away.
            “You have to forgive my wife,” the man spoke softly. “She doesn’t mean you any harm.”
            “I suppose she’s scared,” Jean said, “because she thinks I’m a witch child. I don’t remember becoming a witch child.” Jean sniffled. “Wouldn’t I remember something like that? Although once I had this bad dream about Lucifer. Do you think that’s when he came to me?”
            “I am a Roman Catholic,” the man said. “We do not believe in witches.”
            Jean was Catholic also. At least that’s what her mother had always told her, although Jean wasn’t sure what it meant to be a Catholic. She had never been inside of a church, nor had she ever been blessed by a Catholic priest. But she knew some prayers and her mother had told her stories about Jesus and how he loved children and all about saints who had suffered and died horrible and bloody deaths.
            Had a saint sent this kind man?
            “I can’t keep you here,” he said simply. “My wife, she wouldn’t allow it. She’s superstitious and she talks. She will tell one neighbor, who will tell another. Someone from the city will come for you.”
            Jean rose, feeling rather unsteady. She was so thirsty she found it difficult to speak. She wondered if the man would give her some water.
            “Do you have someplace else to go?” he asked
            Jean wiped her tears with the back of her hand and wished that she had a rag so she could blow her nose.
            “Your father?”
            “I never met him. My mother said that he made a lot of babies and he couldn’t care for them all. They call me a cibalabala. I can’t go back there,” Jean whispered. “Please don’t send me back there. They’ll kill me. I saw once,” Jean gulped, “a little boy who limped. Mama said that he was born that way, but just because he was different they thought the devil got to him. They threw stones at him until he died. He was only six.”
            “I said I don’t believe in witches,” the man said. “That’s true. But I do believe in evil. And those people, they’re bad. They’re evil and they’re stupid, which is a dangerous combination.” He shook his head. “I won’t send you back.”
            “But where will I go?” It was beginning to get dark and Jean had never been alone in the dark. In the city there were other street children to bond with, street children living in the central market, the post office or the railway station. Here she was in the middle of the woods. Jean didn’t like the forest. All kinds of unspeakable things could happen in the woods.
            “There’s a refuge for children like yourself, children accused of sorcery. Sister Mary Jude runs it. She’ll take care of you, at least temporarily.”
            A glimmer of hope flashed through her. No one had taken care of Jean since her mother died.
And that was months ago.
            “Will I be able to go to school?” she asked. “Will I get a uniform and books and some paper and pens?”
            The man gave a half-hearted shrug. “You’ll be safe,” he said simply. “That’s all I can promise. But -”
            It was the but that made Jean’s stomach leap. “But?” She swallowed hard, her throat dry and sore.
            “But the refuge is far away. And I don’t know how you can get there, except by foot. It will take a few days, and you’ll have to go through the woods. If you stay on the main roads, you’ll run into road blocks. And while the soldiers aren’t looking for you,” the man paused, “sometimes it doesn’t matter who they’re looking for.”
            “How far is this refuge?”
            “About forty-two kilometers.”
            “Forty-two kilometers?” Jean repeated. “That’s not far at all. That’s less than a marathon.”
            The man smiled and Jean noticed that he had perfect teeth, so white, they were dazzling. Most people in her country had lost them from malnutrition or chewing on hard, inedible food.
            “There are Africans who can run a marathon in less than four hours. Did you know that?” Jean questioned proudly.
            “I’ve heard of such things,” the man said.
            “In America.”
            The man drew a deep breath. “In America things are different. There is enough food and the runners wear shoes,” he looked down at her dirty, ripped sneakers, not even noticing the whole in the bottom of the right foot, “and they are not escaping wild animals and superstitious people. Everyone has water and water is free, in stores and in the streets. They don’t have to worry about land mines.” He shook his shaven head sadly. “This is not America.”
            “But someday I’m going to go there,” Jean said.
            “Maybe. But right now, we have to get you to the refuge.” The man walked to the front of the hut and gazed into the fading light. He turned around. “You can’t go in the dark, that’s for sure. There is an abandoned shack about a half mile up the road. You can spend the night there. But you have to be gone by daylight. If my wife should find out, I’m helping you -”
            “I’ll leave. I promise.”
            The man nodded. “Go now and later on when things are quiet, I’ll come and bring you some food and some water.” He dug into his pocket and took out five francs. “Here, take it.”
            Jean shook her head. “I can’t accept money from a stranger.”
            “Don’t be silly. It might buy your freedom.” He put the coin into Jean’s sweaty hands. Then he walked to the door of the hut and pointed the direction to Jean.
            She left the hut, thankful that the night air bought with it a little coolness.
Only forty-two kilometers, she thought, I can do that. But Joseph who had been good and kind was not optimistic.
            Devil or no devil, Jean thought as she walked slowly toward the deserted shack, I’m going to survive.