The Shiny Star

By Michael Moreschi, Jr

Another day I look out through the hole in a boarded up window to the death and destruction on the streets I call home. Where I live wasn’t a nice building to begin with but since the bombings began it has become much worse. The front door is no more, as are the first two stairs at the entrance. You must come to the side of the pile of stone and pull yourself up by clutching the remains of a door frame to gain entrance to what was a modest three story walk up. Although I’m on the top floor most times the dust and sand mixed with the smell of burning wood, rubber, and the strong, distinct, pungent odor of decaying flesh makes its way in off the street and into my lungs. These were my friends and neighbors left in the rubble of their destroyed homes; I have to do all I can to keep from vomiting and adding to the stench. We’re considered the lucky ones because we still have a home, running water and our lives. When I say we I refer to me and Demal, my ward, so to speak.Demal is a six year old child with the brightest eyes and biggest smile you can ever imagine. He was left orphaned by his people and homeless by the mortar shells of our saviors, each thinking they are doing the right thing. I knew his family well, so I took him in and cared for him as my own. There were no stable organizations left for this purpose. The police force had run off and most of the larger government buildings are now used as make shift hospitals for the soon to be dead or headquarters for the soon to be leaving. It seems children, the sick and the elderly are just in the way when it comes to war.This war doesn’t just kill the body, it kills the souls of the living as well. Many nights Demal would wake screaming for his Mommy, tears and sweat covering his trembling little body. I’d cradle him in my arms rocking back and forth, his tears now mixing with my own, telling him his Mommy will be there soon, she’ll be there soon. What else could I say? How do you tell a six year old his father was killed by a crazed suicide bomber while riding a bus to get to his meager job, two weeks later he was left orphaned by a band of roaming soldiers who raped and tortured his mother before beating her to death with the butt of their rifles? How do you tell a six year old this was all done for a better future for him?

Demal would soon be home from school. The school is actually the basement room of one of the teachers, who still carried on her classes for anyone who showed up, sometimes more scavenging rats than children. As he came running home into the room a smile stretched from ear to ear as he proudly showed me his gold star pinned on his shirt. “How wonderful”, I proclaimed, “how did you earn that”? “Teacher had a math problem and I’m the only one who got it right.” He then hung his head. “What’s the matter,” I asked. “Well, I told her my mommy showed me how to do it” Demal confessed. “You know it’s not nice to tell fibs Demal,” I said, then I kissed his cheek and said “it’s OK”. This was our way of dealing with the horrors that have become our lives. Often he would tell me he saw his mommy on the corner, or his daddy helped him reach the high shelf where, when available, I’d keep a cookie as a special treat but he’d climb and get it on his own knowing it was for him anyway. Whenever he told a little fib like that I would tell him it’s not nice but still kiss him on the cheek to show that he is still very loved no matter what. “Well that’s a beautiful star”, I continued, “and you should be very proud and take very good care of it”.

 

 

Take care of it he did. He loved that star. He didn’t have any toys; the bombs on his home took care of that last year. The few stores that were left now only carried items necessary for survival, toys were unheard of. This star was the first thing he ever really had of his own in a long time that he could remember. He wore it every day. Showing it to everyone he met. Wiping it clean what seemed like every half hour, looking at it shining on his shirt, putting it under his pillow at night. Clutching it tight those nights he cried.

I was setting the table for dinner one day, as I knew Demal would be coming home from school soon and be hungry, when I felt a huge explosion rock the building. The missiles again. It shook me across the room, the plates falling to the floor. It was close. Too close, then I heard the screams. I ran down the stairs stumbling into the street. I had to fan my arms in front of my face to get through the smoke and dust. I followed the crying, the all too familiar crying. As the smoke lifted, there in the street, surrounded by smoldering debris, lay Demal. His tiny frame was twisted and lay face down in the dirt. I rushed to his side, he was breathing, and I could see some movement. Thank God he’s alive I screamed. As I turned him over, that’s when I saw it. From the explosion a huge piece of metal had pierced and was sticking out of his little stomach. Blood was pumping out uncontrolled. The whole front of his body was now covered deep red as the wound kept squirting and squirting blood in rhythm like someone turning a faucet on and off. Demal looked at me through glazed eyes. He was surely dying but had only one concern. “My star, my star is getting all dirty” he sobbed. I held him in my arms, tears gushing from my red swollen eyes, rocking him as I so often did; my hands and clothes now covered red in his innocent blood. I said “You hang on Demal. Don’t you worry Demal; don’t worry because I have a surprise. When we get you home, Mommy is there and she will fix it for you. Did you hear me, Mommy is there waiting, she’ll clean it, please lets go home. Please Demal. Please lets go home!” With that a strained smile came to Demal through the pain. He lifted his little face toward mine and gave me a soft kiss on my cheek, whispering in his final breath, before closing his teary eyes for the last time, “It’s not nice to fib, but it’s ok.”

 

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Born in NYC, I now reside in a quiet suburb of New Jersey. My heart stills beats for NY. I spent 30 years in the fast paced life of Printing and was for a number of years a retail entrepreneur. Ten years ago I opted for the quieter life – and am now a Licenced Massage Therapist. I have always written short stories and poems and now am excited about sharing them.


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