A flash fiction

Here’s a flash fiction I wrote recently. Enjoy!

***

SHAME

A trickle of sweat picked its way down the side of Jacob Mweli’s face. The stifling air pressed in on the man as he shifted on the old chair. A fly buzzed around his eyes and he waved it away, only for it to come back a few seconds later.

Jacob’s thoughts began to wander as he batted away the fly again. Looking down, his eyes landed on his prized possession, a worn Polaroid picture of his daughter when she was just a few months old. It was the only picture he had, and he carried it everywhere. Her mother smiled that big, beautiful smile of hers as she held their baby. He smiled back at her, and shooed the persistent fly.

He looked back up. The rhino had edged closer. He studied the size of the beast, and felt the right corner of his mouth curl up into another smile as he watched. He had loved animals since he was a young boy, as far back as he could remember. His mother told him that when he was little, he would take a stick and draw pictures of lions or gazelles in the dirt when the other boys might be playing football.

He suddenly remembered a vivid dream he had when he was a boy. He had dreamed that he was a game warden, with a handsome uniform and his very own Jeep. He had driven all around his park, watching for poachers, and watching his animals. The morning after that dream, he proclaimed to his mother that he would be a warden when he grew up. Another trickle of sweat fell.

The rhino snuffled closer. It was an immense creature, fast as a horse, deadly as a lion. Yet to Jacob, there was something so helpless and innocent about those little black eyes. Unaware of being watched, the rhino blinked as it grazed, its pendulum tail swishing away against its great gray haunches.

Jacob became lost in his thoughts again as he watched the rhino. He recalled that day of his youth when he felt shame for the first time. After school, Jacob had come upon a few of his classmates gathered around something beside the road outside their village in Tanzania. Jacob joined them to see what was going on. The ringleader, a bully who often teased Jacob, had found a very young baboon and had tied it to a rock. His friends hung back, watching silently as the bully threw stones and used a stick to poke the poor creature. He laughed cruelly as the helpless baby cringed and screeched in pain and terror. It had strained so hard to escape its tormentor that the string that held it gouged into its leg.

Filled with rage at the torture, Jacob had rushed the older boy and tackled him to the ground. He managed to land one or two punches before the older boys started to pummel him. He remembered their laughter as they left him and the terrified animal alone together under the sun. His father had been the one to go looking for him, and as he was carried home, bloodied and bruised, he remembered that he had cried in shame. His father’s strong, deep voice flooded back to him. “Jacob, you have no reason to be ashamed. You should never be ashamed to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.”

Jacob shifted again as his mind came back to the present. He thought of his sick baby girl, and his dead wife. His little girl needed medicine he had no money for. Money was money, the others had told him. Jacob lifted his old rifle and slipped a round into the chamber. He propped the barrel on the edge of the window of the blind, firmed the wooden stock against the meat of his shoulder, and leaned his head over to sight down the barrel. Jacob Mweli once again felt the burning wash of shame as he gently, gently squeezed the trigger.

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