Cera’s Fruit of Life

Dust sifted in a fine cloud covering her forehead.  Cera closed her eyes fast, tasting fine red soil on her lips.  She blinked away dust and continued her climb up the steep cliff.  Fingers grabbed at roots and jutting rocks that felt sturdy enough to hold her.  She wedged her foot into crevices, always reaching.  She climbed up, her muscles straining with effort, ignoring the pain, gritting her teeth, she pushed harder.

Her right hand went up, fingers closed over a thick branch, and she gasped when the Tree-of-life-springbranch broke off.  Her heart slammed against her chest when she slipped, her left hand gripping the rock she held tight.  She flattened her body against the cliff to keep her balance.  Her right hand searching for another hold, she sighed in relief when she held thick roots.

Cera took in a deep breath to calm her beating heart.  Holding on tight, she risked a glance down the cliff.  Her best friend, Jeri, stood in the clearing below.  Beside her, Cera’s little brother lay on a kanga unconscious.  There was no one to fight for him but Cera.  Their parents were long gone.  Cera was Ken’s mother now.

Cera could barely see them below.  The fall down would kill her.  Cera closed her eyes bringing her attention back to the roots she held.  She couldn’t fall to her death here.  She still had so much to do.

Shaking off fear, Cera continued her climb.  Legend was a tree of life grew on top of this cliff.  The tree bore a single fruit each year.  One that stayed ripe for months.  The juices of that fruit brought life to the sick and the dying.  Many had attempted the climb, very few ever made it to the top.  Cera was determined to be one of the few.

Her brother was ill.  The doctors in their village could not help him.  Cera had spent the better part of two years trying to find a cure for Dan with no results.  Now, her brother could barely wake up: he slept too long and she worried that he was slipping away.  She could not bear such a loss.  Being left alone in this world…Cera shook her head refusing such a reality.

So, she climbed.

Not stopping even when her fingers got damaged, and her muscles got weak.  When she felt her strength waning, tears tracking down her dusty face because her arms and legs hurt, she worried she might fall off, she reached up and her fingers found nothing.  She looked up to find clumps of grass and she used them to pull herself up.  Her heart skipped with relief when she came up on a flat plain, green with lush grass.  Unable to stand, she rolled to her back, then crawled to her knees, her gaze on the majestic tree in the middle of the clearing.  A purple fruit grew low on the bottom branches.  Hers to take, hers to give to give to her dear small brother.

This was a short story submitted for a flash fiction thing.  Enjoy it!

Atlantic by Phil Dass

Atlantic

9dmzyieg4oi-frances-gunnReta eased her running, slowing the treadmill, as she let her muscles relax in relief.

Two minutes later, she went to her yoga mat for cool down stretching exercises, nimbly extending her legs and arms as far as she could.  Then she lay flat on her back on the yoga mat, her face and palms glistening with sweat.

When she started her exercises, it had been cold.  So, she dressed appropriately.  She wore a black seamless lurex pullover and high-waist leggings with her feet ensconced in Nike running shoes. She lay for a few minutes savouring the rush of warm blood coursing through her taut veins as her muscles relaxed after a two-hour long onslaught.

Her reverie broke only when she heard her phone buzz for the umpteenth time.  She never picked up the phone when she was working out and all her contacts knew her routine.  She sighed and stood up, walked over to the window sill and picked up the phone.  She looked at the caller’s name and her shoulders arched up.

“Hallo,” she said softly, trying to hide her excitement.

She listened to the caller for a minute and she cut in, “That’s great…”

Her face fell a few minutes later, her glowing pretty face suddenly losing colour, turning into a frown, and then sinking further into a distressed woebegone look.  Her eyes crinkled up.

“Oh,” is all she said, and then continued to repeat herself – inserting an “ok” now and then, in-between the conversation.

“Ok,” she said again, for the final time.

Then the conversation ended with, “Yeah sure! I am getting into it.”

Gone was the exuberance she had felt when she finished her workout.  She felt drained and incapacitated.  She looked through the window and saw the ocean churning a frothy tide.  Some distance away, she could see the other houses by the cliff.  Further way down, a few miles away, she could see the white beach trying to get one over with the sea.  It was still daylight. She turned to look at the other end of the window and could see the wind gaining speed as the shrubs and the few barren trees swayed dangerously.

She looked at the phone again, tempted to make a call, but seemed undecided.  She put the phone down and walked out of the fitness room.  She crossed the living room and into the open kitchen and poured a glass of water from the jar on the table.  She sipped the water slowly, her face still reflecting a numbed feeling.

“What do I do?  Talk to John and end it once for all?” she frowned at the thought.

She had waited long enough.  This was getting ridiculous. After everything, this!  When everything seemed to be going fine!

She was getting agitated and even more upset.

She placed the glass on the table, and left the kitchen.

Damn, this was not the end!

She went into her bedroom, entered her closet and absentmindedly picked the colorful kanga on the edge of a shelf.  She tied it around her waist, then delved through the overflowing wardrobe, pulling out a sleeveless woolen top.  She wore it too, and left the closet.  In her bedroom, she looked out the windows, and shivered involuntarily.  It was going to be cold and windy outside.  Should I? she wondered.  She wanted to go out.  Clear her head.  Do something other than think of the phone call.  She returned to the closet and picked out a cap, wore it and left the bedroom.

She was about to walk out the front door when she froze, midstep.  She smiled wanly at herself, and detoured.  She went to the bedroom across hers, opened the door and peeped in. She sighed with relief and then gently walked to the cradle to check if the baby was breathing.  Assured the baby was fine, she left the bedroom, and hurried to the gym.  She picked up the baby monitor on the yoga mat and put it in her pocket. 

On the way out, she peeked at herself in the large mirror by the back door and saw that she had become pale.  She tried to smile and pinched her cheeks.  She tried to smile again, failed and shook her head at her own naivety and left the house.

She walked slowly, trying to ignore the cold and the wind.  The sun was setting fast, lending to the gloom around her.  The path was rocky, the shrubs and the grass around the area were losing their colour.  She saw nothing of it – her mind still not coming to terms with the new situation.  After a turn here, an upward stride there, she was soon at the edge of the cliff over 300 feet up from the ground.  The rocky cliff itself fell ninety degrees straight into the rocky edges where the Atlantic Ocean met Africa.

stoat
Stoat- Cute deadly creature…^_^

She stood at the edge, the wind whipping her kanga into a frenzy, she looked back at the lights in her house, checking if John was back.  But no, it didn’t look like it.  She took out the baby monitor and held it to her ear, to see if it was working.  It was.  She put it back into her pocket and turned back to stare into the cold Atlantic Ocean that seemed to be frolicking with the wind.  Her kanga fluttered wildly threatening to come loose.  She felt her waist to see if it was tucked in securely.  Her kanga was going wild and it reminded her of the stoat’s so-called ‘dance of death.’ She had watched it on the National Geographic Channel – the stoat– a puny animal that looked like a mix of a rat and a beaver or a weasel.  Her Kanga was behaving like a stoat doing its famed dance:  flapping, swirling around with frenzied leaps, and upward rolls at dizzying speed, creating a psychedelic vision that was at once riveting as well as dizzying.

She looked up and shook her head, clearing her head of the vision of the stoat and her unruly kanga.  The cold was now penetrating her skin.  Her face was going numb but she did not seem to realise it.  There was a lump in her throat and then the tears flooded down her cheeks and she cried loudly.  The howling wind helped her along.

No, she had to do it.  She told herself grimly while trying to control her sobbing.  It was just two feet away.

She took one step forward.  The wind seemed to support her decision.  She paused and then the baby monitor came alive.

“Hey Love!  Where are you? I’m home!” Her husband’s cheery voice broke through the wind.

She stepped back from the edge and turned around to look towards the house.  She had to wait a few seconds before her husband came into view on the porch, with the baby in his arms.  He seemed to be scouting for her but it was getting darker and she doubted he could see her.

She put the monitor away and walked swiftly back to the house.

“There you are!” John kissed her on the cheek while trying not to suffocate the baby.

“Yes,” she replied. “Was by the cliff – Phew it is cold and windy!”

“So, any good news?” John asked as both of them walked back into their warm and cozy living room.

Reta took the baby from him and cooed into her face making baby talk. There was no sign of her gloomy self by the cliff. The light was back in her eyes and her skin glowed in the light of the fireplace.

“Sure is,” Reta replied. “I am being called for another screen test tomorrow.”

“Swell!” John said. “Congrats – and what role is this for?”

“That screenplay we read together…of the love triangle? They offered me the wife’s role. You know – the one who is supposed to be schizophrenic and suicidal…”

“Nice,” John said. “You will surely get the role.”

”Of course, I will. I just had a practice run by the cliff and I was awesome.”

Reta had a flair for dramatics at short notice.

The End

Story by Phil Dass writing for the Prompt: She stood at the edge of a cliff, the wind whipping her kanga into a frenzy, she looked back….

This little gem was written by Phil last week for a writing prompt exercise.  I loved the dancing kanga in the air, colorful, and fighting with the wind like a Stoat.  ^_^ Didn’t even know there was an animal like this.  You learn as you read more!  Tidbit from Phil: – The story is titled Atlantic as Reta’s emotions are turbulent and changing like the Atlantic Ocean.   I look forward to reading more stories by Phil Dass.

 

The Man named Bobby

A Man Named Bobby

There was a man who lived in a not so distant past. I will call him Bobby. Bobby was born into a poor family, the firstimages32 of seven siblings. The one his parents put their faith on, that he would bring good fortune to the family.
Bobby lived as a good son should. He helped his father, and worried for his mother. He worked hard in school. Was smarter than others, and made a life, one that was irrevocably different from his family. Opportunities found Bobby, he traveled the world, enjoyed the pleasures of life as any other would. But this story is not about Bobby’s happy moments, but those profound moments in life that led to a startling future.

Bobby loved three distinct women in his lifetime. I call them distinct because there were other women in Bobby’s life, but these three changed his life in different ways.

The first woman Bobby loved was a hometown girl. Her family knew his family, his family knew her family, and everyone wanted them to end up together. It was expected. This woman, whom I will call Shiku, was wild, and vibrant. She loved life. Loved to dance, sing, drink and have a merry time. Shiku was the life of the party. She and Bobby were good together for a time. Problem was, Shiku loved too much happy, and she had three children, none of whom belonged to Bobby. He loved her enough to take care of them without complaint. Bobby had a great big heart, and when he jumped in, he did so with his all. But things weren’t easy with Shiku. She was compulsive, disruptive, and cared only for the high moment. They fought bitterly, Bobby wanted her to quit drinking and get more serious with life, but Shiku….Shiku wanted more of the highs.

One day, when things were at their most critical, Shiku’s father died. Bobby went with her for the funeral in their hometown. On the night Shiku’s father was to be buried, her brother found Bobby, and warned him to leave town before midnight. Bobby asked why.

“Shiku wants you dead,” her brother said. “She has found ten men. They’ll find you in your bed tonight. You’ll be dead by morning.”

The threat was real. Shiku wanted him dead because she was afraid he was going to leave her. If he left her, she’d decided that no one else could have him.

Shocked and betrayed, Bobby thanked her brother for his kindness, packed a bag, and left in the dark of night. He traveled back to the home they shared alone, and spent the next three days thinking about their life together. When Shiku returned after three days, Bobby asked her to take her children, and anything she wanted in the house, and just like that, their relationship was over.

new life2The second woman Bobby loved was an international girl. She lived in Ottawa. Bobby loved that they shared ideas, she loved that he was so outgoing. And though he’d been burned by love before, Bobby and Carol were happy. Problem was, Carol was from Ottawa, Bobby was from Kenya. Bobby was in Ottawa on a student visa, while they could have married, many at Bobby’s home wanted him to come back to Kenya and live like a Kenyan man. He fought it for a while, but eventually, Bobby returned to Kenya after many intrigues. His love for Carol did not wane. He missed her dearly and when she came to see him in Kenya, they spent weeks holed away together.

With Carol, Bobby got one child, a boy. Bobby did all he could for Carol, even contemplated returning to Ottawa, but he’d found a very good job in the government. Leaving would mean giving up so much, so Carol endured. Bobby and Carol met once in a while, but the visits to Kenya dwindled and Bobby worried. The truth was Carol kept a painful secret. She was sick, you see, with cancer. She died young, leaving her son with her older brother. When Bobby wanted to see his son, take care of him now that the mother was gone, Carol’s brother made a special trip to Kenya. He warned Bobby to stay away. He accused Bobby of having led his sister to an early grave. You see to Carol’s brother, she’d died of a broken heart, more than the cancer that had ravaged her body. Devastated, Bobby agreed to keep his distance from his son. It was a painful decision, and for a while, Bobby was once again hurting because of love.

The third woman Bobby loved was an urbane girl. Lily was a woman who’d worked to build her career. She was a filial daughter and a faithful sister to her siblings. He liked that she listened to him. He loved that she encouraged him, and supported his decisions. He saw a life partner in her, so she was the one he married. Their life wasn’t easy. His side of the family wasn’t so accepting of her, her side of the family loved him  a bit too much. He drank too much; they fought about that a lot. They had three kids, and he was dedicated to them. Did all he could to give them a comfortable life.  When money started coming in, Bobby got restless, with his homey life.  He strayed, numerously.  It hurt his family, numerously.

And so, Bobby died, eleven years after his marriage to Lily. A vicious car accident, in the dead of night, he was drunk, and with another woman in his car.

Bobby left a deep hole in the lives of his family, both extended and immediate. He’d worked all his life to put them together. It was the one thing he’d done with all his heart despite his many pitfalls with love.  The day before his funeral, his siblings, (the people he’d fought to keep together) sat in his living room, and in front of Bobby’s children and wife, they said,

“Bobby is dead. We won’t need to return here after the funeral tomorrow. There’s nothing for us here.”

To a new widow, these words were a stab in the back. To three young children, the words were like a betrayal…as though they weren’t good enough for the extended family.

For sure, none of Bobby’s family crossed the gate to his home after that day, none of them.

Bobby’s life, gone in a blink of an eye, his legacy was left in three children and a woman with a broken heart. You might add on Carol’s son to this list. Perhaps I can add Shiku, who might have truly loved Bobby despite her crazy antics.  The many others remember him fondly, but they were the people he let down at the end.

Why tell this story about this man named Bobby?

He was on my mind today, heavily weighing on my thoughts. Bobby is remembered by many, but I think the people who profoundly miss his presence are the children he never got to know.

Picture Perfect

picture perfect2

This story has taken a lot longer to publish than I thought, but here is an excerpt and hope you all look forward to reading it:

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Eric focused his lens on Beth as she prepared for her wedding. He locked away his emotions, snapping pictures as the woman doing Beth’s make-up ran a brush over her soft brown skin. He shifted angles and concentrated on capturing Beth on the most important day of her life. Her dress was stunning. A white confection of silk and organza, the bodice hugged her chest and waist tightly, then floated to the floor in wide skirts. When she sat down, it looked like a sea of white. Her hair was brushed into a tight ponytail, with a shining clip decorated with tiny diamonds. She smiled at him and he took a picture of it. She was happy, happier than he had ever seen her. That truth stabbed deep inside him, it was obvious he was just going to have a very hard day today.

Two hours later, Eric stood on the sidelines of the altar at the Holy Basilica in Nairobi, his lens focused on Beth and Taylor. With each picture, he captured their smiles, Beth’s teary eyes, happy laughs. His jealous heart was suffering. If the fates had chosen different, he’d be the one holding Beth’s hand, watching her blush when the priest asked her to say her vows. Taylor dried the tears of happiness from her eyes when she slipped a ring on his finger.

When the priest announced them as husband and wife, the cathedral erupted in wild ululations. Women sang, men clapped in jubilation. He documented it all, taking pictures of the happy couple then turning his lens to the happy audience. The cathedral was full with family, friends, distant relatives and work colleagues.

And then, there she was.

Victoria Waina in red. She looked gorgeous, she’d added a red flower clip in her hair on the left side. He smiled taking a series of pictures. He lowered the camera and walked toward her. She’d chosen a bench near the back of the church, and sat on the edge near the aisle. She graced him with a smile when he approached. She moved to make space for him to sit.

“You came,” he said taking her hand. She’d even painted her nails red.

“Yep,” she said, turning to look at him. Her smooth skin was a warm caramel brown. He dropped his gaze to the hem of the silky dress, and followed the curve of her legs to find her feet in delicate red heels and her toenails painted a fire-engine red. She’d gone all out.

He lifted his gaze and met her inquiring one. “I told you red was great on you.”

“I didn’t do it for you,” she said tugging her hand out of his. “Shouldn’t you be taking photographs?”

He pointed to his assistant Linda, who’d taken over the job. She was at the front taking pictures as Beth and Taylor settled into their seats. The priest launched into a short sermon and he slouched on the bench so that he could whisper in Victoria’s ear.

“I’m so happy to see you.”

“This is a church, don’t make noise,” she said clutching her red purse tightly.

“Everyone is making noise, the ceremony is about to end. Stay with me,” he said as the priest finished the ceremony.

“I have to get to the hotel,” she said.

“You’re my date, you can’t abandon me,” he cajoled. “I’ll let you play with my camera.”

She chuckled. “I really doubt that, you hug that thing like it’s a baby.”

So she’d noticed, he thought with a smile. His gaze dropped to the expensive camera resting against his chest.

“It is my baby,” he said grinning at her.

The priest finished his blessing, officially ending the wedding ceremony. He grabbed Victoria’s red purse from her hands and slipped it into his camera bag. He stood and walked up the aisle to take pictures as the bride and groom turned to face the world as newlyweds.

Victoria found him outside the cathedral. She’d slipped on dark glasses because it was very hot. She touched his arm when he finished taking a group photograph of Taylor, Beth and their immediate family.

“Give me back my purse,” she said.

“Nope, you and I are stuck together.”

“I’ll take your camera hostage,” she warned as Taylor’s workmates arranged themselves around the Bride and Groom.

“I’m working, dear. Do you want me to get fired?”

“In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m working too. You’re keeping me from my job. I need to get to the hotel.”

“Grace hasn’t called you, so in truth, I’m saving Grace from an overly concerned boss.”

Victoria laughed. “Are you always this annoying?”

He flashed her a grin. “Only when I want something.”

She folded her arms against her chest and moved closer to watch him align his shot. He rarely had anyone watch him work, but her presence was welcome. She wasn’t intrusive, and he liked the flowery scent of her perfume. She’d changed it from the mint he remembered at the hotel.

When he finished the shot, the group around Beth and Taylor congratulated them on their wedding.

“So, do you only do wedding photography?” she asked as they waited for Beth’s workmates to arrange themselves.

“It depends on the assignment. There are months when I have weddings each weekend. But, during the week, I spent my time in my studio in Hurlingham, or on the road taking shots for assignments out of town.”

“Where in Hurlingham?”

“Will you come to visit?” he asked sliding her a glance.

“Maybe,” she said with a small shrug.

He smiled mesmerized by the elegant motion of her slender shoulders. “My studio is behind the supermarket at the Hurlingham Shopping Center.”

She pointed to the group who were waiting for him to finish. He winked at her and returned his attention to his camera. He spent the next ten minutes answering her questions and taking photographs of Beth and Taylor and their guests. When they were finished, Victoria watched him pack up the tripod.

“Can I have my purse now?” she said. “I should really get to the Savon now.”

“Grace seemed competent to me. She’ll do better without you hovering.”

“Are you going to keep my purse hostage throughout?” she asked.

“If that’s what I have to do, then yes.”

He held the folded tripod in his left hand and waved to Beth and Taylor. “Come on, let’s go on an adventure.”

“Where to?” Victoria asked following him when he started walking toward a black Jeep he used for assignments.

“The wedding pictures are going to be taken at a residence in Upper hill. Taylor’s aunt owns property there, please come with me.”

He handed her the tripod as he unlocked the Jeep. He opened the trunk and took the tripod from her. Placing it gently on the trunk floor, he closed the door and moved to open the front passenger door for her. He urged her in, closed the door firmly and hurried around to the driver’s side. He wanted to reach the venue first so that he could look around for the best places to take wedding photographs.

Starting the car, he drove out of the Basilica parking lot. When he joined traffic on Parliament road, he tuned the radio to a rock station, and lowered the volume to a comfortable level.

Victoria settled in her seat and asked, “So, how did you start doing photography? Did you train in school?”

He chuckled. “Why?”

“Because,” she smiled at him and he wondered at the small punch in the depths of his stomach. It was the way her lips curved just so, her smile was genuine. “Most people just self-train when it comes to Photography. They do it like a hobby, and keep a day job.”

“I actually wanted to do journalism, but changed my mind and decided to do Film Production. I wanted to create movies in Kenya when I was in college. But, my photography career started long before college, so you’re right, it was a hobby first.”

“Have you made any films?” she asked with genuine interest.

“I have done documentaries,” he said. “I have worked with different organizations and institutes, doing environmental and social pieces. I get to see a lot of sides of this country through the different assignments. Some are heartbreaking, others breathtaking, it depends on the topic.”

“Do you like it?” she asked studying him.

“I love it,” he said truthfully. “I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a camera in my hands. Whether it’s a wedding photo shoot, or making a documentary in the slums of the city. I’m just happy to be telling a story.” (to be Continued...)

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Look forward to this e-book, coming soon.

 

Short Stories Week End

A Week in Short Stories

This week has been Short Stories Week on this blog. There are so many short stories, I’m sure this small collection amassed this week is barely a dent. I had a great time getting to see what other writers were up to. Here’s a summary of the stories checked out this week.

1. 21 Days by Dora Okeyo
2. Fatima by Hellen Masido
3. Within An Inch of Heaven by Bunmi
4. The School by Donald Barthelme
5. The Tow Away by Awuor Attyang

Each one of these stories had it’s own unique quality. Here’s to more discoveries in the next Short Stories Week in May.

The Tow Away – Short Stories Week

Happy Friday. Today’s short story is courtesy of Wamathai.com. A story by the name The Tow Away.

The Tow Away
by Awuor Attyang
Hot, stinging tears trickled down her face. She put her hands behind her head and scanned the small crowd that had gathered to witness her predicament. All had been well; a serene afternoon of household shopping at the local supermarket had turned into a nightmare. After two hours of shopping, Atieno walked back to her car accompanied by one of the supermarket’s attendants, only to find it missing. She was a bit startled and maybe attributed a bad memory to the absence of her car. Where could she have left it? The guard, a tall, robust and dark man, who had been manning the vicinity, walked up to her and began to explain himself. He narrated to her how a man of Asian descent facilitated the whole process of having her car towed away. He emphasized on how he unceasingly begged them to at least contact the owner of the motor vehicle. They wouldn’t listen and he was left completely helpless.

Short Story Week Review

A woman sticks to her principles and gets punished for it. There is so much to read into this short story. She’s trying hard to live her life, but there is that one guy who wants to give her a hard time for refusing him. It brings such focus to some of the things women endure in our society. And also brings out the strength of her will.

The School – Short Stories Week

So today, I’m late with the day’s short story, but that’s because I’ve been hanging at NPR.org. in their readings section. So much to read. Today’s short story is called The School by Donald Barthelme.

The School
from
Sixty Stories
by Donald Barthelme

One day, we had a discussion in class. They asked me, where did they go? The trees, the salamander, the tropical fish, Edgar, the poppas and mommas, Matthew and Tony, where did they go? And I said, I don’t know, I don’t know. And they said, who knows? and I said, nobody knows. And they said, is death that which gives meaning to life? And I said no, life is that which gives meaning to life. Then they said, but isn’t death, considered as a fundamental datum, the means by which the taken-for-granted mundanity of the everyday may be transcended in the direction of –
I said, yes, maybe.
They said, we don’t like it.
I said, that’s sound.
They said, it’s a bloody shame!
I said, it is.
They said, will you make love now with Helen (our teaching assistant) so that we can see how it is done? We know you like Helen.
I do like Helen but I said that I would not.
We’ve heard so much about it, they said, but we’ve never seen it.
I said I would be fired and that it was never, or almost never, done as a demonstration. Helen looked out the window.
They said, please, please make love with Helen, we require an assertion of value, we are frightened.

I said that they shouldn’t be frightened (although I am often frightened) and that there was value everywhere. Helen came and embraced me. I kissed her a few times on the brow. We held each other. The children were excited. Then there was a knock on the door, I opened the door, and the new gerbil walked in. The children cheered wildly.

Short Story Week Review

    Why did I choose this story? The quote above is the largest reason why I chose this story. The teacher in this story summarizes the things that happen in the year. All surrounding death or a similar ending, all of it going wrong, and once you read it, the thought is that these guys have bad karma, or something is wrong for it to go so wrong. But then at the end, this teacher is the figure of strength, and reason for the children. The one who must teach them that despite the terrible things, they must go on and keep facing the future. And of course never giving up, as the new gerbil they’re about to take care of, comes into their class. There was a lot of thought in this story, definitely a realistic view of life and the cycle it takes.