‘The Sacrifice’

The humid breeze was almost refreshing that Sunday morning. We hurried down the street, anticipating our encounter with him like a child anticipates Christmas, hoping he’d be ready when we knocked his door.

The slum’s avenue was paved with dust and mud, dirt compacted by the feet of a thousand passers-by. The narrow road permitted no cars. The poor couldn’t afford them anyway. Their brick shacks had no garages; their pockets had no money. Tiny girls of three or four ran shirtless in the street, skirts swinging as they raced. Boys played soccer barefoot in shorts with revealing rips.

I clapped. His thin figure materialized in the door way.

“Hey, Joseph. Are you ready to go to church?”

“You bet! Just a second…let me grab my shirt.”

He limped from the house wearing blue jeans and a checkered T-shirt, supporting his weight on two steel braces insecurely gripped. Joseph was a fisherman before he was a cripple. He’d ignored his back pain, kept working until it was too late. The doctors said brisk ocean waters were to blame, though, had Joseph had money, the cause might have been rheumatoid arthritis or spinal injury.

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