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by John Lewis

I bathed and, dressed in my best out-of-fashion clothing, took another proud look at the sumptuous variety of delicious eatables and beverages; then I went to stand at the gate to welcome my family home. Upon the arrival of my family, today was to be declared the official opening of my residence and farm. I patted Emily on the shoulder; I couldn’t have done it without her.

I had sent my family to her mother’s home while I battled the elements; cleared the jungle; fertilized the soil; defended my crops and livestock against man, ants, deer, foxes, tapir and hawks. Now I could boast that I possessed a thriving farm. Now my wife would see the manifestation of our daily prayers in the past for independence from wage slavery and poverty. She will be proud of her husband. Together, we’ll lift our family to a higher level.

The sun was setting, but no sign of my family yet. My legs became tired, so I sat at the roadside and began to recall the hints my sister had thrown.

“You think your wife would leave her mother’s house in town to take her children to live in the bush?”

Somehow, I knew at that moment that I’d lost my family. I saw then that my wife expected me to fail, and be forced to return to the town; to slave and pray daily for independence, in the town; not where it was practical for a penniless man to obtain land … A hand touched my shoulder like a falling leaf. It was Emily.

Emily was an Amerindian woman, twenty years younger than me, who insisted on visiting occasionally to assist especially with the household chores. She was the mother of one boy child. She’d been brought up in a Missionary village, and had been trained as a cook, to serve the foreign missionaries. She had class — I mean in everything I knew about her. Yet I’d never allowed myself to be lured by the obvious love in her eyes. I’d always reminded her that I was a married man. I looked up into her eyes; and, believe me, she was crying!

I was deeply hurt by my family’s reaction, but I couldn’t find tears. As soon as we entered the house, Emily clung to me, and squeezed out the pain and loneliness. I hesitated for a few seconds, then I lifted my arms and took her into my life. From that moment, the memory of my wife began to fade into forgetfulness.

The next day I sent Emily, the new mistress of the home, to gather her relatives and bring them to feast upon what should have been my family’s bread. Her village was about three miles from my farm.

Hours later, as I watched them in their merriment, it occurred to me that my family’s bread which they were eating was but a symbol of the hands into which my legacy was destined to fall.

John S. Lewis is an African Guyanese short story writer who has published over forty short stories via newspapers and magazines. He has also published a novella, The Nine Lives Of Livingstone Crandon. John loves reading, writing, songs that tell stories, fishing, hiking through untamed regions, and observing Man and the rest of nature.