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For Michael

I opened the door slowly and tiptoed in. Pearl was giving away a light snore. Crouching on the floor with a powerful camping flash light switched on was Michael, reading the ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The Long Haul’. He was so engrossed in the reading that he didn’t hear the door creep open, neither did he hear my breathing as I stood still, watching him.

I tapped him on the shoulder. He jumped.

“Michael go to bed now, we have a long journey later in the day.”

“I know, I just want to finish this chapter before I go to sleep.”

Can I kill such an enthusiasm?

On the 25th of December, Michael serenaded us with his skills on the recorder as he rendered ‘My true love said to me’.

He was quite a big strong lad for his age of eight. He looked like a wrestler at first glance, but an interaction with him revealed a gentility that would not hurt a fly.

Anytime he came to spend holidays with us, I loved it because I knew he would be the right kind of influence for my son.

We rode the toboggan together, cycled together and played footie together. We had great fun together.

Michael was a very spiritual young man. He loved God with all of his heart and would do anything to please Him.

I remember one evening with him. I was going for my evening walk and he asked “Uncle can I come with you?”

I paused for a moment and then replied “sure.”

He was a little puzzled by my hesitation.

He jumped into his pair of trainers and came along with me.

“Uncle, why is it that the world is getting worse?”

“What do you mean Michael?”

“Well, anytime you listen to the news, it’s always something bad happening somewhere. Either a plane has crashed, or some disaster, or shooting?”

“You know buddy, you are correct. But I am not too sure why these evils. Maybe because people have forsaken God. They don’t have the fear of God anymore and they now do bad stuff.”

“Really. How can these things be stopped?”

“I don’t know Michael to be honest with you.”

“Do you think, it’s going to get better by any chance?”

“I don’t think so buddy.”

“ You know I watched one time on the internet how people went into a big forest to cut down so many trees and how the animals who used to rely on these trees for habitat were made to be homeless and killed indirectly. My teacher also told us that these trees breathe out oxygen for us to breathe in. So if they keep cutting down these trees, that means we will not have enough oxygen to breathe in.”

“Michael, you are very smart. What you have said is true.”

“But why?”

“Again Michael I am sorry to disappoint you with my answer, that’s the way man is.”

“Really? So, man is uncaring?”

“So, it appears. Otherwise what else would make man to act so wickedly?”

“Uncle what can be done to ameliorate the situation?”

“Michael I do not know. By the way, where did you learn that word ‘ameliorate’ from? All the laws have been put in place. Countries have signed up to these laws to agree to end these evil practices, yet it still rages on.”

“I learnt the word from a conservation website.”

We went on and on for about thirty two minutes.

By this time, we had completed one circuit of 3.5km. I wished we could go for another round but I needed a break to give further consideration to my discourse with Michael.

My son Mekobong, loved Michael a great deal. They played together, ate together and slept together. They delighted in throwing banters about how much they knew and could reason. By the time the holiday was over, it was very sad to see Michael go.

All the nice memories we had, kept us going. Every now and again, I would bring out the photos of the last holidays and we would reminisce over it.

As the next holiday season drew nearer, I was on the circuit with my son for a walk when the much dreaded question arrived.

“Dad, Is Michael coming over this coming holiday?”

Tears rolled down my eyes. I tried to hide the tears from him. It was nighttime.

The whole drama re-enacted before me when I first learnt of the news. I couldn’t take it. The disbelief and the wishes I had on my mind. For once I wished it was a bad dream that I would wake up from. Far from it, it was real. I had come to terms with it. I thought about Mekobong and how I would pass this news to him.

“Dad, you have not answered my question.”

I put my hand over his shoulders and said “son, we are not going to see Michael again. He has gone home to be with the Lord.”

“You mean he is dead?

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25 Comments

  • Abe Posted June 7, 2020 6:39 pm

    Wow For Michael is such a deeply moving story. Such healthy curiosity from the young lad. His brilliance absolutely shone when he juxtaposed “ameliorate” which he found on a conservation website into a sentence. Thin slicing that interaction gives you a window into the beautiful mind of the lad.

    Such a wonderful kid . . . We each in our little ways seek to influence “Michael’s” so as reap the benefits of their unique perspectives and insights.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 19, 2020 11:17 am

      Thanks Abe. That’s our desire – to influence “Michaels”…

  • HANiel Jnr Posted June 7, 2020 12:25 am

    For me … what worked well was the writer’s ability to place a foreground of different topics into one short story .. and still express for the reader to understand. The suspense is great, leaving question marks in a few paragraphs, keeping the reader hooked.

    What I liked the most was the fact that Michael at the age of eight was compassionate, empathic, enlightened, already on top of current affairs, knew how to use the internet and could use words as well.

    What caught my attention was the book he was reading “Diary of a wimpy kid”. I read a few growing up but I never got to read “the long haul”.

    What could have worked well .. I think the writer could have given us a hint on where and what the uncle’s son Mekobong was doing at the time Michael alone followed he’s uncle for a walk.
    And there could have been a hint somewhere in the story what may have possibly led to Michael’s untimely death. I think it doesn’t sit well to leave a question mark like that at the end of a story like this. We’ll never know what killed Michael .. If Michael was asthmatic, we could try to guess what killed him.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 19, 2020 11:19 am

      Thanks Haniel for your response. Your response is very incisive. Keep reading, keep writing.

  • Lilian Eseme Posted June 7, 2020 12:14 am

    This story has just made me believe the saying that”life is so short, I believe everything worked out well in this story because, Michael lived a righteous and exampled life before his friends and family. He was indeed a soldier of the Cross.

    I like the aspect of his life that he was humble and generous, he is a matured man in form of a eight years old boy.he thinks like man and also speak like a man.

    What caught my attention the most was that at the age of eight,he was so intelligent that he could wish to the world would get better and not worse.image a person like him is the president of our country the world would have been taking a better shape by now.

    I believe it was the will of God for Michael to go home. God needs him more than you do, and I believe some Sweet Day you are going to see him again in a sweet by and by where you will tell the story of how you overcame this sinful and wicked world.

    I think the writer should have told his son earlier before that time but at the other hand, I think the writer was scared of how his little boy would take it, loosing his only best friend in the world.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 19, 2020 12:28 pm

      Thank you Lilian for your response. Your response has a lot of spiritual undertone to it. Keep reading, keep writing.

  • Marcus-Philemon Omotayo Posted June 6, 2020 11:09 pm

    What really worked well in the story was the fact that, Michael was a boy who was focused, intelligent and most of all a dedicated Christian,he was generous,loving and caring.
    I was Amazed at his level of understanding about life at his age.
    The most striking thing was that was that such a promising life was cut short,but God alone knows. I believe he went to be with the Lord.
    The writer should have told us, how Michael passed on, and the cause of his death also how his immediate family and friends took it.Most of all how did the writer’s son take the sad news.
    I be

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 19, 2020 12:29 pm

      Thank you Marcus. Yes, maybe the writer should have told his son, how Michael passed on. Keep reading and keep writing.

  • Joel-Levi Omotayo Posted June 6, 2020 10:52 pm

    The fact that what the writer was trying to bring out about the boy in the story who was a kind hearted and generous soul the interesting talk about the ways of men was quite compelling that the world is a wicked place.
    The sudden death of the young boy was quite heart breaking and the difficult way of telling someone the person you love is gone.
    The sudden ending of the story wasn’t very filling the story should have further contained the reaction of the characters son how the funeral of the boy was arranged and how the family carried the burden

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 19, 2020 12:32 pm

      Thank you Joel for your response. Your comments are well noted. Maybe the writer should have filled in more details on how the family handled the bereavement of Michael’s transition. Keep reading, keep writing.

  • Yemi Adebiyi Posted June 6, 2020 10:45 pm

    FOR MICHAEL is an exceptional tribute or elegy crafted in story form..A gifted eight years old with all the qualies of a genius. The author brought out the sadness in the young mind over the chaos violence, wickedness around him and the deliberate causing of environmental degradation by by man..Michaels giant appearance with a gentle mien is a plus for a writer who built created this intelligent or precocious child.. Michaels intensity of his dislike for disorderly word was well developed that his death, though shocking to Mekobong and Dad gave the emotional edge that could not as been as impactful were he to grow to adulthood. I love the story because a good reader could become a writer, unconsciously, by taking the story further.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 19, 2020 12:33 pm

      Thank you Yemi for your insightful and incisive comment. Keep reading and keep writing.

  • Aimée Posted June 5, 2020 10:18 pm

    What worked well in the story was how the writer exposed how unfair and short this life really is. One moment you’re with someone, the next moment, he’s gone. Such was the case with Michael. Not knowing that was going to be his last vacation with his friend and family. He had questions about this world and hopes that it would change for the better. The writer showed the inquisitive mind of an innocent child; wondering why bad things happen and why man could be so uncaring.

    The story also expressed the strong bond Michael and Mekobong shared; they literally did everything together and the thought and feeling of losing someone dear to him, at such a young age; one can only imagine what could be going on in his mind; the questions he would have, the pain he would be feeling. Breaking the news of Michael’s death to him was clearly a hard thing for his dad.

    Looking at pictures to reminisce memories shared with Michael is only reminder that when we lose a loved one, we only have the memories to hold unto, hoping that one day, we’d get to see them again. Just like Michael, we can’t understand why things happen in life and we have lots of questions left unanswered. The story depicts the value of relationships and how we all need to cherish every moment spent with our loved ones because it may just be the last. Rest on Michael. He was loved by all, indeed, this is a great loss for Mekobong and his family.

    The writer could have told us what happened afterwards, how Mekobong handled the news of losing his dear friend.

    A very emotional and relatable piece!

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 19, 2020 12:36 pm

      Thank you Aimee for your response. Yes, it is a very emotional piece and is relatable to a lot of folks because we have all lost someone somehow in life and it’s never fun. Keep reading and keep writing.

  • Bamidele Mary Posted June 5, 2020 5:12 pm

    It is really disturbing to know that our little ones cannot enjoy the luxury of living in a safe environment due to the evil being perpetrated around them, they read about these appalling incidents in books, movies, and adults talk about it all the time, there is no escaping it; Michael, as young as he was, was already acquainted with the ills going on in the world.

    He was a young prodigy who died prematurely, unable to fulfil his ambitions, and for his loved ones? All they can hold on to is the wonderful memories they shared together.

    We are only comforted by the fact that Michael “has gone to the Lord”, safe from the evil and troubles of this world.

    This story is timely, considering the current ongoings.

    Kudos to the writer.

    I really hope we all can take up the cause of saving the world, and making it a better place for all the Michaels out there; let’s help them enjoy childhood and grow into adulthood, without the dark cloud of man’s nefarious acts stunting their growth.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 19, 2020 12:37 pm

      Thanks Mary for your comment. Keep reading and keep writing.

  • Yemi Adebiyi Posted June 5, 2020 5:06 pm

    This is the story of precocious, God-fearing and highly observance eight years old Michael who adults see as role model for other kids.Always welcome for holidays by his friend, Mekobong and his parents. His dialogue with his host is mind blowing and deep as they take a walk. It takes a great mind in a child to observe and discuss as he did; the wickedness and chaos and destruction of humans, properties, animals and environment. Michael possess the empathy of a genius, a special breed.One expects promising Michael to grow to stardom, but his sudden death came to the family as a shock. I like the suddeeness of his death from the viewpoint of the boy on the wickedness of human beings.A reader with creative mind could develop a bestseller long story from this.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 19, 2020 12:39 pm

      Thank you Yemi for your comments that holds a lot of prospect. Yes I agree with you. A reader with a creative mind can develop a bestseller longer story from this. I specialize in short stories.

  • Joel Kalu Posted June 4, 2020 8:48 am

    Wow.. Michael’s death leaves me stunned. He seemed so relatable, as I too used to crouch under a blanket, torch in hand, combing through storybooks at night as a kid. A smart and gifted child with a lot of questions, he seemed to be one who wished to change the world. Sadly, he couldn’t. I feel for his friend Mekobong, who now has to live with the pain of losing a caring and close friend at such a young age. We should all learn to cherish the times we share with our friends and loved ones because we don’t know when the cruel hands of death shall snatch them away from us. #formichael ✊🏾

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 19, 2020 12:42 pm

      Thanks Joel for your comment. It is quite touching, seeing a part of you in the story, as in, how you used to read with a torch as a child…keep reading, keep writing.

  • John Asiedet Posted June 4, 2020 5:45 am

    Oh! No, Michael deserves even more. The story puts back this rhetorical question of why do the good ones leave so early?.
    Michael was really a companion anyone could have – while he wondered why man was so cruel, he was snatched by the Mr. Cruelty himself – death.
    The writer has carefully placed in our minds the picture of having a dear one with all memories but loose him to death.
    Indeed the write up is For Michael to keep memories Alive because as he responded to his son “Son, we are not going to see Michael again” Michael is gone but let his memories live on.

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 19, 2020 12:44 pm

      Thanks John for your response. It is quite a summative one. Keep reading, keep writing.

  • John Asiedet Posted June 4, 2020 5:42 am

    Oh! No, Michael deserves even more. The story puts back this rhetorical question of why do the good ones leave so early?.
    Michael was really a companion anyone could have – while he wondered why man was so cruel, he was snatched by the Mr. Cruelty himself – death.
    The writer has carefully placed in our minds the picture of having a dear one with all memories but loose him to death.
    Indeed the write up is For Michael to keep memories Alive because as he responded to his son “Son, we are not going to see Michael again” Michael is gone but let his memories live on.

  • Gideon Posted June 2, 2020 4:14 pm

    So emotional, what a situation!

    • Uwem Mbot Umana Posted June 19, 2020 12:44 pm

      Thanks Gideon. Yes I agree with you. The tale is so emotional.

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