Special Needs Characters shine in "The Gold of Mansa Musa"
Special Needs characters appear in “The Gold of Mansa Musa”
I was just getting started on my writing career. I had written Seeds from Heaven and realized I loved writing. However, I wasn’t very good at it and after months of reading up on how to write a novel, I was ready to tackle something on a professional level. I could come back to “Seeds from Heaven” and rewrite the whole thing after I had some experience.
Above all I was an artist. When I was a kid growing up, I wanted to become an animator for Walt Disney. That soon changed and I was happy to grab an art degree in college. I found myself teaching Special Needs children after that and I used my art and music talents with the children. My wife and I became entrepreneurs and we opened a chain of confections stores and a bridal boutique. The creative side came out in me with advertising layouts and television ads. I was a busy fellow all right. I worked with Special kids the first half of the day and operated my stores the rest of the time.
Now retired from all this hustle and bustle, I came to a point in the Gold of Mansa Musa manuscript where I needed to write about an Arabic young man with Special Needs.
My first thought was that “I cannot possibly do this.” It was a stretch to think that I could pull off a herculean task like this. I had never read anything along this line EVER, and I had done a lot of reading in my lifetime.
I had caught it on the 6:30 news. A fifteen-year-old boy had a bomb strapped to him in downtown Bagdad. He was surrounded by our troops and they had their rifle sights on him while he sat on the pavement crying for help.
He had been forced to do this.
He did not understand how this was happening to him.
It was tragic.
My heart cried out for him. How could anyone take advantage of an impaired boy like that? I do not remember how it turned out. They may have shot him. I think the bomb went off and he was killed instantly. We’ll never know.
I decided I needed a two chapter subplot and this was it. I remember my thought process at the time. It was beyond my expertise to pull it off. On the other hand, who could do it better than me? No one could do it better. I did recall that impaired individuals did appear here and there in various novels I had read and that I wasn’t convinced the writer knew much about these individuals. I had spent a lifetime with impaired individuals and was more equipped to pull this off than anyone else.
I still did not believe that I could pull it off. Like much of my writing, I told myself to start it, and if it was no good, I could throw it away.
I often started a new scene this way. Simply pick a logical place to begin and then begin writing. I told myself that I would probably throw out the first paragraph. In retrospect it was a frame of mind that kept writer’s block from overcoming me. Very seldom did I throw away the first paragraph.
So I wrote the two chapters. When I was done, I found that I had broadened my skills considerably and that I was confident that I could incorporate Special Needs individuals into my manuscripts without giving it a second thought. If anything, it was a highlight.
Perhaps I may be remembered as the writer who tore out the hearts of his readers with these compassionate characters.
I am an artist.
I do my best to paint visions…
A boy scurried homeward from school passing the shops and stalls along the streets of Makkah.
He found his way outward from the jostling Saudi Arabian city past the farmer’s market that sold fish and vegetables brought in by donkey carts that sat beside the stalls. Women carefully covered themselves from head to foot in white hijabs and balanced clay jars on their heads in the oppressive swelter. Further on, he escaped the closeness of the cramped dwellings to find the open spaces of the countryside where children tended chickens and gathered dung patties used for fuel.
His slanted eyes cast downward as once again he recalled the reprimand of his master and had felt the whip several times that afternoon.” Stupid dolt!” cried his teacher cracking the whip across his back when his eyes had lifted from the Qur’an for a brief moment. “Back to work—you worthless idiot!”
“Hosni no read!” he cried, trying as best he could to shield himself from the stinging blows, not fully understanding why he was being punished.
Hosni had a faint glimmer that he was as not as astute as the bullies who stole his lunch and taunted him as being dimwitted most every day. He looked at the blue sky, brushed off the memory as though it had never happened, and hoped the rest of the day would go well. This feeling passed quickly when he entered his house and saw his mother with a disquieting expression on her wrinkled face. She gathered him in her arms and held him close rocking him in her arms. “Allah goes with you!” she cried. “My son what will become of you?”
Hosni could see father in the living room engaged in a discussion with a tall stranger dressed in a white djellaba. His six bothers and sisters sat silent and wide-eyed at the wooden kitchen table watching the spectacle unfold. The dark-haired man handed his father some paper and coins and the two entered the room. Father said, “Hosni, you will go with this man and do as he asks.”
“Do not do this, please!” pleaded his mother, tears streaming from her eyes. “Do not take the boy. He will work harder. He can gather dung patties to sell in the market!” She held Hosni close and he could feel her trembling arms.
“Enough of this!” Father wrenched the boy from her and pushed him into the arms of the stranger. “He is lazy and eats us out of house and home.”
Hosni sensed there was more to this than he was being told. “What is happening?”
“You will not be back…for awhile. Your mother will miss you and she is upset. That is all,” said father trying to give reassurance. “He is taking you to…ah…your uncle. Yes, you will visit your uncle Salah and you will live there for now,” he lied.
“Unca Salah?” wondered Hosni scratching his head with one hand and his butt with the other.
“Uncle Salah will take care of you and you are to work hard for him. Do as he asks, and all will be well.”
Mother held her head in her lap sobbing,” What will become of my boy?”
“Take him and go,” said father as he pushed the boy and the stranger out the door.
Hosni sat in the back of an Avalanche pick-up, equipped with jerry-cans and water canteens. For the next week he traveled around the countryside while the stranger gathered up other unfortunates like himself. They were fed pita and water and stopped only to relieve themselves along the desolate roadside. Whenever they entered a village, a tarp was thrown over them, and they were told to keep quiet. After a week of this, the truck left the highway and meandered westward along long forgotten dunes that wound tortuously into the Sahara through Egypt and into Libya.
“Unca Salah be good to me!” said Hosni to his friends in the back of the truck.
The others laughed, “They lied to you. You have no uncle Salah!”
“I have unca. You will see,” he said as the truck came to a stop. He pulled a blanket over his head and fell asleep….
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