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1812 War of 1812 begins, 1778 British abandon Philadelphia, 1923 Checker Cab produces first taxi at Kalamazoo factory, 1864 Union hero Joshua Chamberlain is wounded at Petersburg, 1979 Carter and Brezhnev sign the SALTII treaty, 1984 A radio host is gunned down for his controversial views, 1972 Mysterious crash at Heathrow, 1815 Napoleon defeated at Waterloo, 1983 First American woman in space, 1942 Film critic Roger Ebert born, 1937 Novelist Gail Godwin is born, 1967 The Monterey Pop Festival reaches its climax, 1847 Alexander Murray departs for the Yukon, 1798 Adams passes first of Alien and Sedition Acts, 1960 Arnold Palmer wins US Open, 1965 SAC B52s are used for the first time in South Vietnam, 1966 Westmoreland requests more troops, 1915 French troops halt fighting in Artois region, 1940 Hitler and Mussolini meet in Munich,


The Boy Who Changed Me

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                       Charlie’s Saloon’s glass window revealed that it wasn’t too crowded inside. Wilson Gilbert entered the saloon and took a seat at the right end. He was happy to spot a boy sitting next to him. His mother, who was sitting beside him, was preparing to leave. She whispered something in his ear before advancing towards the door. The lady’s purse suddenly fell down. A tall man who already had his haircut was standing beside the door. He did not show the courtesy to fetch it for the lady but opened the door and left. The lady fetched the purse herself and left, before the door closed completely.  

Wilson is a kidnapper who abducts children from rich families to earn a good ransom. He had been doing this work for the past 10 years and had kidnapped a total of 17 kids successfully. He took utmost care, not to make bondage with handcuffs. He used to renew his methods each time and did everything in a most secret and unsuspectible fashion. He might have been led into this profession by his memories of a lost childhood.  He was an orphan who grew up with his cruel and selfish uncle. He didn’t love or care Wilson, but scolded and punished him whenever he failed to do the expected work at home or kitchen……

Wilson changed his attention to the boy. The boy seemed to be unpleasant and gloomy. Wilson thought that this is the best situation to intervene.

“Where did your mother go, leaving you alone?”

The boy: She went to the grocer to buy some provisions.

“What is your name young chap?”

The boy: Sam.

“Sam!! My name too is Sam!!!”

This is one professional trick which all kidnappers have tried from the day of advent of the ‘art of abduction’ and which his predecessors have proved to be successful in majority of the cases.

But Wilson was shocked at the boy’s return question.

“Are you a kidnapper?”

Wilson tried to hide his embarrassment and the slight fear which conquered his mind at that moment, and replied.

“No chap… not at all…Why did you feel so?”

Sam: My mother had advised me not to talk with strangers and especially when they are beginning the conversation. She had asked me to be cautious regarding men who show the typical signs of classic kidnapping.

Wilson: And what are those signs?

Sam: Such a person would ask the kid his/her name and if it’s a boy then he would say, ”Yeah, we have been christened with the same name chap!!!” Then they would try to win over the kid’s trust by making them merry through their ‘sweet and lovely’ conversation and would gradually ask whether the kid wants an ice cream or a cup of hot chocolate. Then they would carry out their abduction procedures by taking the poor kid to a park or their secret warehouse. That’s all.

Wilson became shocked at the boy’s reply. He felt that the fear would suddenly eat him up as a whole and that he would lay down his arms before the boy. Wilson felt that he should leave the place. But he reminded himself of the fact that leaving the place would be equivalent to digging his own grave and lying in it. Instead of running away at an adversity, he thought that it is wise to face it bravely.

”Child you’re mistaken!!! I’m not such a man. I only wanted to know whether you were doing well….If you weren’t I wanted to console you.”

Saying this Wilson turned his face, took a news paper from the nearby table, and pretended to read it.

The boy: I am sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I truly wished to mention my attitude towards strangers, if you were really a kidnapper. But you don’t seem to be such a person. I apologise for my rude and impolite exterior shown towards you. Sorry….

Wilson was consoled at this statement and felt sympathetic with the child for his fearful and innocent nature. He then resumed the conversation on a loud note.

“It’s Ok chap. Children can’t be blamed these days for being cautious. They ought to be cautious as the world is not a very safe place today.”

After completing this expression, he noticed that the two other customers in the lounge were staring at him. He realized that he was talking too loud and feared whether the men were staring at him because they knew his intentions. He feared, “Will they break the news to the kid?”

Anyway he made a firm decision that he will not kidnap this particular child. The reason was that he saw in him, his own childhood which he had lived with fear and lethargy.

He then turned his face away and hid it behind the newspaper.

After some time, when Wilson was engrossed in reading the movie reviews’ column, he was startled by the boy’s voice.

The boy: Sam, will you mind if I make a request?

Wilson: No chap, you can ask me anything….anything…

The boy: Can you take me for a walk? In the park?

Wilson: Of course…. But, will your mother wonder if she doesn’t find you here, when she returns?

The boy: No that’s okay.  She won’t come back. She said that she will wait near the church in the evening.

Wilson: Then it’s okay……But what about your haircut?

The boy didn’t answer to that question. Instead he got up from his seat and walked towards the glass window of the parlour. Wilson realised that what the boy really needed was not a haircut, but a change of air!!! A walk in the park would be sufficient to suffice his requirement.

Wilson folded the newspaper and kept it in his jacket’s outer pocket. He then got up and walked towards the door and opened it for the boy. He then left the saloon following the boy.

After a ten minutes’ walk, they reached the City Park’s entrance. There was an Ice Cream vendor there and the boy stopped in front of his wagon.

Wilson asked: Do you want Ice Cream?

The boy replied, "No Thanks…., It’s too cold to eat an Ice cream, I just can’t think about it again in my life!!!”

Wilson was deeply touched by the boy’s innocence in stating that he can’t have an Ice Cream ever in his life, due to winter. He realised that the boy doesn’t know the fact that seasons occur only on a temporary basis and that a particular season does not persist throughout our lives!!!

He then noticed the Ice Cream vendor staring at him. He then felt scared due to the fear of getting caught, although he didn’t have the least intention of kidnapping the child!!!!!

The City Garden, stretching over almost 10 acres, is situated at the heart of the city. It is a huge compound, which has almost all types of classical amusements like slides, merry-go-rounds, swings and see-saws to entertain children and also a pleasant atmosphere. The church and the town hall are situated, nearby the park.

After almost a 15 minutes’ walk round the park, Wilson thought that they needed a break. So he went towards a wooden bench and the boy followed him silently as he too was feeling tired. They sat on the bench and let out deep exhalations. Wilson was surprised to note that in spite of his friendly exterior, the boy never talked to him all throughout the walk. Now he was sitting on the bench, looking silently at the white sky.

“The sky is looking incredibly white and beautiful!!! Isn’t it?”

Wilson: Yes indeed, after all, it’s the winter sky…. It ought to look bright and white and I assure you that once the snow-fall turns intense, the sky will be at its best!!!

As he said this, a snow flake fell gently on his face. He felt a great amount of happiness, which he had never experienced in his life. He felt that Nature was advising him that he should leave his profession in order to live as a human, to enjoy the pleasures of life. He had never been happy or guilty to this extent in his life before. He felt an intense urge to change himself. He spontaneously made a resolution in his mind to this effect.

He felt thankful to the boy, whose request made him come to the park, and take an important decision in his life. His eyes were filled with tears of joy when suddenly the boy began to say something.

The boy: It’s time to leave. Mommy had told me that she would wait in the church at this time. So I have to go.

Wilson: Okay then, we’ll leave. The church is another ten minutes walk from here. I’ll take you there.

The boy: I’ts so kind of you…….Thank you. But I feel that I might bother you if I make you walk with me all the way long. It’s okay Sam, I’ll walk by myself.

Wilson: No… no bother at all. It’s my pleasure. It’s not safe for a boy of your age to walk alone in the park at this hour…. Come we’ll leave before it turns too dark.

Although the boy was reluctant, finally he agreed. Wilson realised that the boy didn’t want to embarrass his mother, with the presence of a stranger with him and that’s why he wanted to leave alone.

After a long walk, they reached the church’s premises. The cemetery behind the small church was visible and it was quite eerie to look at it.

As they neared its entrance, the boy started running towards the church. On his way he turned back, paused for a moment and shouted “Thank you Sam for taking me out for a walk….. Bye and Good Night.” Then he ran and went away from sight. Wilson felt that it was not wise to go inside with him and embarrass his mother with his presence. So he slowly walked back, intending to return to his residence. He was sure that Sam’s mother would have turned up by this time and even if she didn’t, he knew that the church was a safe place for him.

The sky was an orange-brown mix at the time when he reached his room. He removed his boots and jacket, and lazily fell on his bed. He took out the paper, switched on the table lamp and started reading the news. The newspaper was day before yesterday’s, which he realized from the date written on top. He slowly turned the pages after having a detailed look over each news item. Finally he reached the obituary page. A sudden change of expression was then evident on his face which was a mix of fear, grief, tension, shock and realization. His hands were trembling when he put the paper down on the table after reading a particular obituary.

Now he realized why the customers in the saloon and the ice cream vendor stared at him, why the tall man didn’t pick up the lady’s purse, why the boy was sad and sorrowful, why the boy said that he would never eat ice cream again in his life and finally where the mother would have waited for the boy in the church’s premises. Wilson was so shocked that he couldn’t feel himself.

In the paper he read the obituary of a mother and her son named Sam Robert, who came to Charlie’s saloon two days ago, and was left alone by his mother. His mother died after being hit by a car while she was returning to the saloon from the grocer’s shop. The boy died in another accident, while running across the road in a hurry to reach his mother’s corpse, to give her the last kiss. It was the same boy Sam, God’s dearest angel, who was responsible in changing Wilson’s mind and in forcing him make a resolution to lead a good life from now on!!! 



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