Zac 29: Episode 8


Better Nights


Uncle Pat was a companion at the orphanage.

He was assistant to Mistress Ohenewaa.

The orphans loved him because he was not unkind like the other companions, and he certainly was not cruel to them like Mistress Ohenewaa.

He was always good and kind to them, and there had been occasions when Uncle Pat had made his displeasure known with some of the things Mistress Ohenewaa did. Uncle Pat was also exceptionally kind toward Zac because he disliked how Mistress Ohenewaa treated the poor boy.

Uncle Pat, however, was a cripple.

Both his legs were terribly deformed. He had metal braces on both sides of each leg, and he had to wear special shoes that had very thick soles. He also used crutches to walk and always laboured up the staircase.

Uncle Pat the Floor Companion of the ground floor of the dormitories.

He was in charge of the boys on the ground floor. He therefore didn’t have to climb stairs before going to his room.

There was a large corridor, and on both sides were the long halls that served as sleeping quarters for the children and at the end of the corridor was the door that led to Uncle Pat’s room.

After their sumptuous dinner that day, the best any of them had ever had, the children crowded around Zac, asking him if he had magical powers.

They were convinced he was responsible for the amazing food and the way the Ohenewaa Dragon had been humbled, but Zac insisted he had nothing to do with it.

They were still scared, believing the strange chain around Zac’s neck had some magical powers, but he told them it was just a simple chain.

“Go on, touch it!” he said with a smile. “It’s nothing really. Maybe some secret godmothers are dealing with the Ohenewaa Dragon for being so cruel to us. Go on, touch the chain if you want.”

“No one is going to touch that,” Bobo screamed as he sucked marrow from the thigh bone of a chicken, his face still smeared with oil. “Touch that thing, and I’m sure all your teeth would fall out, and maybe your eyes too.”

Araba’s eyes searched Zac’s face frantically.

“Can I touch it, Zac, for real?” she asked with real longing in her wonderful eyes.

“Go ahead, touch it, Araba!” Zac said gently.

Bobo shook his head with sudden alarm.

“Ohhhhhh, somebody is asking for trouble,” he crooned in an ominous voice. “Somebody wants her head torn off her shoulders for real.”

Araba bit her lower lip and extended the little finger of her left hand slowly, slowly, carefully, carefully … and touched the chain of the leaps.

All the children gasped and did double takes as if expecting her to explode into little bits but nothing happened.

Next, she jabbed at the chain with her forefinger.

Jab, jab, jab, jab!

Again nothing happened to her. Then finally she touched the chain and held it.

There was a collective whoop from the children.

One by one many of them touched the chain and when nothing happened, they began to conclude that maybe Zac was not responsible for the strange things that had happened and that maybe, indeed, some friendly spirits were at play at the orphanage now to fight Mistress Ohenewaa’s cruelty.

The eyes of the children became just a little bit brighter with hope, and their faces became just a little bit happier.

The companions, still shaken by what had happened, didn’t scream at them to get inside as usual. They filed past silently, casting strange looks at Zac.

Uncle Pat, as usual, was the last to leave the dining room.

He looked worried as he cast anxious looks at Zac who was walking with his friends. Uncle Pat allowed them to talk and followed them at a little distance.

When they passed through the entrance of the dormitory, he called Zac softly. The boy stopped and immediately ran to his favourite companion.

Uncle Pat leaned his back against the wall of the corridor and rested his arms on the crutches. He looked at Zac with worried eyes.

“I don’t know what is going on, Zachariah,” he said in a worried voice. He was the only one who continued to call him Zachariah, and Zac liked it very much because it made him feel special with Uncle Pat. “What happened this evening has scared a lot of us, and I’m afraid it has made Miss Ohenewaa quite angry, and furious. I’m very concerned for you. You know what she’s capable of when she feels affronted.”

Zac looked at the kind man and smiled sadly.

“I know, Uncle Pat,” he said softly. “We all know she has been very mean to me and my friends. You’re kind, and we all love you. It would be great if she leaves, and you take care of this place.”

Uncle Pat looked around anxiously to make sure no one was around and no one had overheard what Zac said.

“She knows many influential people, Zachariah,” he said softly. “It would not be safe to make her cross. Like I said, I don’t understand what happened, and we’re all more than a little scared because those incidents at the dining hall were beyond our comprehension. Somehow, I’m sure she thinks you’re responsible, and I’m scared for your safety. Please be very careful, Zachariah.”

“I’ll be, Uncle Pat, thank you very much.”

Uncle Pat hesitated for a moment, and then he sighed softly.

“Are you responsible, Zachariah?” he asked finally. “Has it got something to do with that strange chain she tried to take off your neck?”

Zac smiled broadly and shook his head slowly.

“We’ll talk about it later, Uncle Pat,” he said, and the man could see a bubble of excitement on the face of the boy. He marvelled because he had never seen Zac looking so happy.

Uncle Pat began to speak, but just then he heard loud cries of the children coming from the dormitories, and his eyes opened wide with sudden concern.

“Goodness me!” he said, agitated. “What could be the matter?”

He pushed himself off the wall, fixed his crutches under his arm, and moved fast toward the open door of the boys’ dormitory.

Zac followed him slowly, and nobody saw that his lips were fully stretched in the widest, happiest smile the world had ever seen.

Uncle Pat came to a stunned stop just inside the dormitory, unable to understand what he was seeing.

The moth-eaten wooden double beds had changed to shiny, beautifully designed metal beds with firm foam mattresses, beautiful bedspreads, pillows and large covers. The top beds now had four corner posts from which hung white mosquito nets that reached to the ground.

Uncle Pat could see that some of the boys were standing in front of their cubicles, which were narrow wooden panels let into the walls in which they kept their clothes. He could see them holding up new pairs of clothes, shoes and sneakers.

“The friendly spirits are killing us today,” Bobo was saying with a meaningful look aimed at Zac, who was standing behind Uncle Pat.

Uncle Pat had never seen the orphans looking that happy. Their happiness was absolutely genuine, and it brought tears to Uncle Pat’s eyes.

As the Dorm Boss, Kweku Obi had a single bed to himself in the far corner of the dormitory, and he stood watching his old wooden bed. Once again, only his bed had not changed. The look on his face was total abject misery, and his fists were balled fiercely as Zac entered the dorm and made his way to the far end where an elated Bobo was waiting for him.

Uncle Pat waited a while, shook his head with confusion and turned away. His crutches made a konka, konka, konka sound as he moved away, and when he entered his own room he stopped as a huge grin split his face when he realized that not only had his bed changed, but his room now had a few select luxuries as well, including a deep comfortable armchair and a flat-screen television.

“Well, that beats scary!” he said to himself and dropped into the armchair with a sigh of absolute wonder.

And deep in the night, whilst everybody slept, Zac tiptoed to the window overlooking the bare playground and the uncompleted borehole which, once completed, could have provided water for them so that no one would need to trek all the way to the Wailing River to fetch water.

Zac extended his hands, and the pendants on the chain of the leap blazed brightly, and slowly strange things began to appear on the playground.

Zac 29: Episode 9
Zac 29: Episode 7