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Special Needs Characters shine in "The Gold of Mansa Musa"

Updated on December 28, 2012
Mansa Musa
Mansa Musa | Source

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…

With words.

Art from the "Gold of Mansa Musa"
Art from the "Gold of Mansa Musa" | Source
Mansa Musa
Mansa Musa | Source

Chapter Thirteen

Saudi Arabia

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….


Gold of Mansa Musa is availalble at

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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      A really great article. I enjoyed reading it. Hopefully I can grab a copy of your book during my next trip to the book store! Thanks!

    • Reynold Jay profile imageAUTHOR

      Reynold Jay 

      8 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Shades of Timbuktu! We gotta keep in touch...

    • tinigenie profile image


      8 years ago from New Jersey

      I,m lovin it! What a pleasure to read!

    • Reynold Jay profile imageAUTHOR

      Reynold Jay 

      9 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Wow--great comments from everyone! Hubs did not inform me all these comments were pouring in so I gotta catch up today.

      Sue Swan--Hosni was a giant leap in my writing proficiency and you are one of few to read those wonderful chapters.

      Teylinha--it was the culture clash that made the story. Take a pampered young 22 year old and send her to the wildest parts of Egypt and Libya facing uncertain death at every turn and let her discover what she was really made of. Thank you to all for the comments this week.

    • CASE1WORKER profile image


      9 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      I really enjoyed this extract, you have another fan!

    • Teylina profile image


      9 years ago

      Thnx for the input, Sueswan. I'll track it down.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Hosni was a sweet loving and innocent soul. Shows how inhumane humans can be.

      I read Mansa Munsa. Great writing. I highly recommend it.

    • Teylina profile image


      9 years ago

      Artist and writer you are, kind sir. Love both. Interesting read; having a friend who has in the past worked closely with special needs on several levels, and I have some experience along these lines, but not a pro or a fave; had not thought about the differences in cultures--interesting point. Thanks.

    • Cogerson profile image


      9 years ago from Virginia

      Very nicely done, I enjoyed reading your hub. It gets the imagination going. Voted up and interesting. Wishing you continued success with your books.

    • Daniels24 profile image


      9 years ago from UK

      Interesting read, will be looking out for your work and thankyou for the follow too. Didn't know this new part of Hubs, maybe i missed it last time when i first joined, just got back again. Have a great week.

    • Selestika profile image


      9 years ago from Bay Area, CA

      I am forever hooked! I love the story (will definitely be purchasing the book), the way you market yourself...brilliant! As an aspiring novelist I find you inspirational, and I'm glad I crossed paths with your work.

    • PoweroftheCross profile image


      9 years ago from Above and Beyond...

      Reynald Jay, I just bought Seeds of Heaven from mashable. I would have bought the book but I've had a few problems with Amazon, and not receiving books. I like your work. I don't have much time for reading, and it was Frank Atanacio's posts that got me into reading fiction again. I'm hooked on Franks work. Franks one heck of a writer. Now I find you and got lost on Mashable reading excerpts. I love your story lines and will spend time this evening reading " Seeds". I see it's a series. I would like all five books but need to clear up my troubles with Amazon first.

      You've got a great imagination! I love all so far. God bless!

    • Reynold Jay profile imageAUTHOR

      Reynold Jay 

      9 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      PoweroftheCross--Keep in touch as you read, please. Thank you for your purchase. Your HUBS are right up my alley, too.

    • Reynold Jay profile imageAUTHOR

      Reynold Jay 

      9 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Christopher--It is always so wonderful that you read EVERYTHING I do. And you are a major talent, not merely a visitor. My reason for writing anything at all is to bring this very point to the readers. We live in a frightening world and history tells us we must be alert or perish. Watchdogg brings this point to the forefront and the final installment of Seeds from Heaven does the same. In Gold of Mansa Musa, the main character is Ci Lancaster and she is a pampered young lady until she gets out in the world and sees what is going on. It is a journey that transforms her and she emerges as a very different person in the final chapter. Readers don't love her in the first chapters and then love her when they reach the mid-chapters as she begins to evolve.

    • Reynold Jay profile imageAUTHOR

      Reynold Jay 

      9 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      hassan5041--I followed the link and did see it written in a foreign language and I cannot read it. I do go on the interent each week for updates to an English site and this is my connection to Somalia. I'm going to jump over to your HUBS and write you comments today.

    • Reynold Jay profile imageAUTHOR

      Reynold Jay 

      9 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Gypsy Rose-- I'm going to begin sending out my books to people connected with the film industry and maybe I can find some interest. All of my novels lend themselves well to becoming movies. I always had movies in mind when I did the novels and made sure the plots were fascinating.

    • PoweroftheCross profile image


      9 years ago from Above and Beyond...

      My son is fifteen and my heart weeps for that boy trapped with bombs. This one tragic event stopped me from reading your post closely. Yet, I love what I have read so far. I don't like installments, to me it's like watching soap opera's and an awful tease. I'm buying your book today. Your doing a bang up job of marketing.

    • hassan5041 profile image


      9 years ago from Saudi Arabia, Jeddah

    • profile image

      Hassan AL-Ghamdi 

      9 years ago

      Thank you for this hup, I wish you success

      Please enter on this link and you will find a lot about the habits and life of the Arabian Peninsula

      But the site is written in Arabic and try to find a translation, and I hope that you find the site a lot and a lot about the habits of the Arabs, past and present and it will help you to write

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 

      9 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Thanks RJ for your insight and understanding. It's hard to think that such things happen anywhere in the world today. Most of us lead lives that are too sheltered.

    • vidhimayur profile image


      9 years ago

      Hey RJ, very interesting hub. It totally captured my attention. You write so magically that I was almost imagining the story as it moved further.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 

      9 years ago from Daytona Beach, Florida

      Fascinating reading. Ever thought about writing for the film industry? There is a serious lack of really captivating movies out there. I prefer the classic ones.

    • Reynold Jay profile imageAUTHOR

      Reynold Jay 

      9 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Thank you Angie, Masmasika, and jmacnash for taking time to make the commnents. It's amazing how we can come together from around the globe and share our writing and thoughts so effotlessly.

    • jmacnash profile image


      9 years ago from Nashville, TN

      Nicely done. Writing what you know about always gives you a headstart.

      Loved seeing the intro with the background on how you found your inspiration.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      great story. I must say you do have an interesting background which makes your story more interesting.

    • angie ashbourne profile image

      angie ashbourne 

      9 years ago

      Hi! Reynold Thank you..found the typo. Angie

    • Reynold Jay profile imageAUTHOR

      Reynold Jay 

      9 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Asp52-- thanks for the observation and comments. Shader007--Thank you.

      Stormyone- I worked with the impaired for 33 years and those experiences are providing a wealth of writng material- most notably "Lean against the Wind" which is set in a school for the impaired.

      To read a bit more about this use this link--

    • stormyone profile image


      9 years ago from Nebraska

      Wow, how interesting and wonderful. How long have you worked with disabled individuals? I have an older brother who is disabled. It's very inspiring to see what he and his friends do despite what they were told they could, then go back 50 years where they would have been hidden in institutions.

    • Shaders007 profile image


      9 years ago from Pakistan

      great :)

    • Asp52 profile image

      Andrew Stewart 

      9 years ago from England

      Hey RJ just read this hub and i find your style and intelligence really flow out of what you have written. I do find that as a society we don't really base any of our main characters in popular fiction as suffering any physical or mental impairment. Today a lot of the characters are copies of one and other. For someone who has a physical or mental condition, there is a lack of positive role models.

      Thank you again for an engaging and thoughtful hub.

    • Reynold Jay profile imageAUTHOR

      Reynold Jay 

      9 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Check for a typo on the header on your Asperger HUB. You'll wonder how you ever missed it. Thanks for being the first to stop by today.

    • angie ashbourne profile image

      angie ashbourne 

      9 years ago

      Hi! Reynold Interesting Hub! Angie


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