Leader In The Mud

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Our raft was built poorly so it broke. We plopped right into the lake, screaming and splashing around in surprise. A good thing for our life jackets. We swam back to shore. However, 'shore' was muddy and crowded with mangroves, their roots pointed upwards on the surface like needles.

Yes, everyone was fine. They fussed over one another. Except me. I stood alone, ankles deep in mud, cold and shock by the new experience.

"Hey, hey, you ok?" He touched me on the wrist. I looked up to a worried handsome face.

"Come on, we gotta go." He pulled me closer.

I had seen him around at school. He always had a crowd with him. They were attentive when he talked, boisterous when he laughed and sombre when he scolded. I had been too shy then to be near him. Yet he had held my hand.

"Can you walk?" He asked.

"Maybe I should take my shoes off. I can walk faster." I said.

"No, keep them on. You'll get hurt if you do that."

Of course I was slowing him down. I kept sinking into the mud. Yet he never let me go. Even when it started pouring again, he spoke to us with confidence that we'd be fine. He knew the way. Just follow him. Slowly, oh so slowly, we trudged into the mud until finally back to camp. And then, just like that, he left me, left us.

I watched him go, not thanking him. None of us did. We were only fifteen then.

"But I knew he'd make a great leader."

"Doesn't look like it now, grandma." Hassan turned the TV volume up.

"I have broken your trust. I am sorry," said the former Prime Minister.

The leader I had met in the mangrove mud, was now older, hunched and tired. He looked straight at me like he did before but his smile was remorseful now. After a slow bow, he was ushered away into the police van.

"A great leader." I repeated.


The End

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