Monday, April 22, 2013

"Joby," ..............................A Short Story by Diane Ogden

 



It all started out as one of those adventure junket trips to an island far away for a weekend of something different and exciting. Sort of like the people that check in to the "game" Murder Hotel. Where you have to guess who the murderer is yet it seems so real... everyone dresses in character. This was very similar but on an island off South Viet Nam. We flew in and were escorted to our quarters that were less than I imagined. Lockers with our individual fatigues (interesting name for army outfits huh?) and helmets all put together with explicit detail. In fact one of the guests pulled out an extra helmet and for some reason he looked inside of it where he noticed something odd. He scratched off some crud covering a small area and as he did a name began appearing.....John Jungbluth Holt. What the hell? What? This is too weird! That was my Great Grandfather's name. He passed in World War II. This is supposed to be a fun and exciting little weekend trip including a war game. But come on, this sort of research done by people who merely set it up and gain a small amount of money isn't adding up. Our friend put the ghost helmet on and buckled it. Nothing was making sense and there was no turning back so he pressed on with us. We were given a vehicle several years old to do with what we purposed. Truly there weren't too many viable roads for its use. Danny, a part of our little junket trip, and our friend decided to take on the driving position. Me, I wanted to hit the depth of this adventure and go for the hills.The three of us did just that, with total naitivity in head and hand.
Maybe we forgot to read the fine print because we therefore entered the "fighting zone." Real and frightening, guns and terror. Ditches and dirty holes to protect ourselves in...and we did for an entire day and a half. Believe me we "knew" we had gotten into something way over our heads. Maybe the owners of this junket had stolen our identities and now were having us killed in this mock set up of a war zone. And we walked right into it. Oh God no one will ever find us.
The shooting had stopped long enough for us to feel safe to move on. To where? Survival had stepped in now and we just moved forward. Only to pass through a long terrifying cave and come out the other side to the old vehicle setting there in the middle of a field. Danny ran like a scared rabbit all the way to the car. I am screaming for him to stop as it might be wired to blow. He was out of control, ears and brain shut down...as was our other friends. Both youthful, and still long legged boys turned into men, (not quite.) Danny caught himself just as he reached for the handle...he backed up and grabbed a rock, threw it at the car several times. Nothing happened. He looked back at us as if to say, this is it no matter what. He reached for the door handle, opened it and got in. We ran quickly to our new found metal box. We drove across potholes and poor dirt paths when we came to what appeared to be a refugee camp. Tall fences, gates, one large building, and several tents. No guards. We drove into this complex as if we owned it. Definitely a change of attitude from our past couple days. Not to say there was no fear riding with us because there was. We reluctantly got out and left our metal refuge to enter one more possible refuge, or was it? Inside this building were many rooms of interest. A city inside a city. Very few people wandered about. Some seemed quite normal as if walking from home to school, or home to work... one women was babbling incoherently as she walked with two children. If she was part of "the game" she was a bad actor. She was saying "ga ga goo goo" and then say a couple rational words. I looked over at another woman who seemed quite normal to get some sort of reassurance, but when she caught my glance she exit-ed to what seemed no where. Were they secret passages, holes in the floor or what? We actually decided to leave because it was a to no where building. We ended up in a field, Danny sitting quietly in the car. I had discovered his ability to play this game we paid for wasn't his best quality in life. And I understood because "The Game" seemed out of touch with reality. But then wasn't it supposed to be? I suppose, but the danger we sensed did not appear to be in our imagination, rather real and intense. Suddenly I see a small figure of a human and I follow it. It is a child. A small boy child. He is dirty and sad and lost and dear God what sort of game is this? I pick him up into my arms and cradle him gently so as not to frighten him. Where is he from? Who would leave him out here alone? This is no game! I find I have wandered too far off from the guys... I carry "Joby," the name I called him, a long distance when I come to a ridge. The ridge is made of cardboard boxes and I have to climb it to get back to the car which I see in the distance. I must have gone the opposite direction in my adrenalin state after finding Joby, but at least it brought me full circle and almost back to the metal refuge. I sat Joby down and told him to stay I would be right back. I needed some help to get both of us through the maze of boxes. I ran to the car while continually looking back to make sure Joby was there. I screamed for Danny....I told him about Joby as quickly as I could. I said, "I want to take him home Danny." Danny sank in the seat as he turned his baseball cap to the side which told me he was still that long legged boy and not a man. I turned from him in my usual independent manner and sought after Joby on my own. When I reached the ridge Joby was gone. Once again a "man" had influenced me and I lost. I decided right then and there no man would ever again hurt my children or I. I was going to find little Joby and give him a home and love God willing I get out of this so called game and God willing Joby is real. There he is! He walking all alone in the field just beyond the ridge. I cried out for him, "Joby, wait, wait baby, Mama's coming."
Somehow I just knew he had no family. One of those Motherly instincts that kick in somewhere on an island off South Viet Nam. God if you get us out of this so called game I will never do this again...deal?" I scooped that little guy up and ran back to the ridge through weeds and bugs and dirt. We looked a mess and bloody at that. I climbed that cardboard barrier with all the force of a Mother saving her child from the rapids. Each step I took we fell back two or three. But again the adrenalin heaped onto me and from me gave nothing a chance for failure.
Then the fight was over. There was the metal refuge with the two scared little men sitting in it waiting for Ms. Warrior to appear. Surely they had no idea what had just transpired....no one did or so I thought. I placed Joby in the back seat center and then I climbed in myself. I told Danny to find us a way out of here now! He started to drive when a voice came over our radio and filled the car. It said, "Game is over, time up, you won the prize. Follow the road you are on 1.3 miles and then take the brown boulder cave to the exit ramps. Be careful as you cross the suspended bridge as it sways with the winds. Leave the car at the exit ramp. See you on the other side."
Now was that another frightening experience to experience? Or was it real? We had no choice, we followed the instructions. The suspension bridge was no picnic but we made it. I carried Joby all the way clutching him securely. He seemed like another part of me, attached at the heart we were. God forbid what was coming next? They would take him away wouldn't they? He was part of the game. Damn......
We arrived at the gates to a crowd of cheering people. What was this? Talk about Naive...I took the first prize for it that day. We found out "The Game" was all about Joby, a three year old boy who needed a home in America. The Game was about who would fight for this little man....and I won. I was crying at first out of fear and pain knowing deep down I couldn't take Joby home, he was part of "The Game." Then I was crying because I found out I could take him home. He was The First Prize and what a prize he is to this day. By the way, the name on the helmet? We were all researched by an adoption team from Europe so this game would seem more than real and even confusing. To see how we would operate under great pressure and even under what we presumed as dangerous conditions. I won....Determination and tenacity have always gotten me through this life, and now it gave me a new life. Joby.
 
photo compliment of carf at www.flickr.com
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