Arbo Lives Again

Chapter One

“Fire!”


The rain had fallen heavily the day before in the little village of Somerset. Every villager, with the exception of Jonathan, the town drunk, had prayed for rain. Their prayers were answered with heavy showers that broke the drought that had lingered in the village for over six months.

I wish that some of the rain had fallen in Mr. Brown’s shop. I was with some other plants and we were dying slowly for we had not been given any water for two weeks. I remember well the conversation between Mr. Brown and his assistant James.

“James.” Mr. Brown had called. “When was the last time you watered these plants?”

“Only yesterday, sir. You see how green they are?” Only yesterday. I could almost scream. James was lying and he knew it.

We loved Mr. Brown for he always treated us well. I remember the day he picked me up and cradled me gently in his arms as if I was an adoring child. He had even kissed me. He had placed me in a special spot by myself as if to make sure that I got special care. But James had other ideas. He removed me and placed me in a corner between two taller trees. I could hardly breathe. There was no water and life had become unbearable.

I didn’t blame Mr. Brown. He was a very busy man and recently he seemed to have a lot of things on his mind. There were times when he talked to himself. I once heard him muttering that he was going to close the business, as plants were not selling because of the long drought. He had even shouted at his wife and she never returned to the shop after that day. He owed some important people money and there were ugly conversations about some outstanding bills. But I wish he could hear my scream. I was slowly dying in the corner.

“Fire!” Fire!” James was yelling at the top of his voice. “Mr. Brown, the shop is on fire!” he screamed.

Mr. Brown was at the cash register when he saw the hysterical look on James’ face. He knew that something was gravely wrong. He rammed the register shut and darted after James who was now sprinting towards the back of the building. In his rush he stumbled over a bucket of water that one of his workers had carelessly left on the pavement. He crashed to the floor but was not hurt. He quickly picked himself up and hurried outside. The fire had turned into a terrible blaze. The flames had grown taller and more menacing, with almost a third of the store engulfed by it. The building burned quickly as the hungry flames ate gladly into the dry timber frames from which the shop was built. Only a miracle could save it from being burnt completely to the ground. I felt the searing heat as the flames entered our section of the building. There was nothing we could do but sit helplessly in the corner.

I saw the flames devour some plants in the distance and wondered when my time would come. I had never felt so much fear before. It wouldn’t be long before the flames reached us. They were already coming mercilessly toward me. I stood amazed as they ate into the willing roof directly above. A burning piece of rafter fell heavily beside me. It was getting hotter and hotter by the minute. Death could not be far off.

Then I heard the sirens of the fire truck in the distance. It was a welcome sound that cheered me. Soon I felt the very sweet touch of water. The showers for which I had waited these many weeks descended soothingly upon my parched body.

Our section of the building was showered first. Wherever the water went, the flames were put out immediately. As I looked around me I saw that all the other trees were burned to a crisp. The two that I was standing between were not badly burnt. It was then that it dawned upon me that they had saved my life. I also realized that James had saved me. Thank you James, thank you for placing me in the corner. I wanted to scream my thanks to James but he was nowhere to be seen. I then passed out.

About the Author

The Rev. Dr. Raulston Nembhard is a priest in the Episcopal Church. He has earned degrees from the University of the West Indies, Yale Divinity School and the Reformed Theological Seminary. He has also a trained Marriage, Couples and Family Therapist and is presently a Registered Intern in the State of Florida and a Supreme Court certified family and county mediator.

He is the author of two other books: You and your Neighbor in a Broken World and Muslim Rage and Christian Arrogance: A Time for Reason, Repentance and Dialogue.

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