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A Cry of Strength

by Alexis Wellmaker

By Alexis WellmakerPublished 6 months ago Updated 6 months ago 13 min read
Top Story - August 2023
6
A Cry of Strength
Photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash

Chapter One: It’s Building Up

Unknown

Inside of me, there was always

The melody of a song unheard.

Dancing softly behind my eyes

Were the sad tears that continued to arrive.

The dreams of my heart remained

Silent, like the sound of an unspoken word --

Light of a love -- unknown.

Sad brown eyes surrounded by a sallow face ... Another morning, Silas Baskin thought. He could hardly face himself in the bathroom mirror. People often say that they feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. However, Silas always felt that his world had spiraled tightly around his chest and siphoned every breath. His father always told him that he would never amount to anything. Whenever he caught a glimpse of himself, Silas wanted to weep. Everything he ever did seemed to be criticized: from the English papers that he wrote to…well, everything he did at home. His dad never let up.

After brushing his teeth, showering, and dressing for school, Silas went to open the wooden bathroom door that always stuck. The doorknob fell off as he tried to turn it while the door itself did not budge. Silas spent minutes frantically searching for something to jimmy the door open with. There were no tools in the bathroom – not even under the sink where everything else seemed to be. Then he saw it – the pencil that his little sister must have dropped on the floor. How many times had he told her to stop hogging up the bathroom by doing her homework there? However, Silas was thankful to see that pencil there this morning as he used it to pull back the lever to release the door.

“Great,” Silas muttered to himself as he thought about how late they were going to be for the school bus.

He chose to stop in his sister’s room first, because she always welcomed the morning with more optimism than their brother, Aizach.

“Jorja, it’s time to get up," Silas said as he gently shook her shoulder. She rolled over, smiling, ready to talk.

“Silas, I dreamed that I had a horse named, Mimi-crī. And it could make itself look like anything I wanted it to be!” Jorja giggled, unaware that she had mispronounced the word as she laid her school clothes out on the bed.

“You mean mi-mi-krē with a long e sound; the word is mimicry,” Silas gently corrected his baby sister’s pronunciation as he motioned her to go down the hall for her bathroom time.

Jorja did as she was directed. However, she continued to talk about her dream as she walked down the drafty hallway and entered the bathroom to brush her teeth and wash her face.

“Mimicry played tag with me and my friends … And when the sky got dark, my horse would light up so, so bright. My friend almost caught me, but I was running as fast as I could. Then I jumped onto Mimicry, and we flew away until we went --”

Silas entered the small room he shared with his younger brother, Aizach. Their room contained two twin beds that their mother had gotten from a second-hand consignment store. There was a tall, wooden chest of drawers, which had seen better days, with a cheap digital alarm clock crowning the top. Like the rest of the house, the white walls were bumpy, rough, and bare. There were many times that Silas or his siblings had been pushed into a wall and gotten all scratched up due to the textured material of it.

“ Aizach, wake up, now,” Silas said sharply as he shook his brother’s shoulder, “You know we’ll have to walk if we miss the bus.”

“Just give me two more minutes, bro,” Aizach mumbled groggily from under his covers.

By the time the three siblings were all dressed for school, there was no time for breakfast. If they hurried, they could eat a hot breakfast at school. Just as they came out of the front door, they heard Jorja’s school bus approaching the corner of their street. Silas locked the door and hunched down so that his little sister could ride piggyback as he and Aizach sprinted down the street. Worried that they would all miss their buses and be late for school, the brothers perspired with Jorja laughing all the way. Luckily, they met Jorja’s school bus at the corner. Silas let his sister down to get on the bus. Before turning to get on the bus, she gave her brothers hugs.

“You act like you won’t be seeing us right after school!” Aizach chuckled, rolling his eyes.

“Have a good day,” Silas said as Jorja hugged him tight. The bus driver smiled as she watched Jorja’s daily ritual of hugging her brothers before getting on the bus.

As soon as she got on the bus, the brothers continued their marathon run down the street and around the corner to their bus stop in front of the old church.

Upon approaching his own bus stop, Silas could hear someone protesting adamantly, “You cannot pull off, yet! You always arrive three minutes early, anyway. How can you deny transportation to students who want to come to school? Are you denying students access to their education?!” There was his best buddy, Noble, stalling the bus with one foot on the bus step and one foot on the ground – waiting for Silas and Aizach to come along. Silas did not know what he would do without Noble. All three boys boarded the bus to begin the day’s journey.

Noble, seated next to him began a soliloquy about how the school district made money by busing poor students to rich schools. Rich schools hijacked government funding from poorer schools by busing students across town.

During the long bus ride to school, Silas’ thoughts were preoccupied as he could not help but think about his family. His father, Troy Baskin, worked sporadically. However, he often chose to spend his pay on alcohol and other women. He had a violent and unpredictable temper. Anything could set him off from groceries and money to a toy lying on the floor. Troy and Brenda argued almost every night. Troy hit their mother often. He raised his voice so much that it seemed like the whole house was falling in. He threw things, too. Therefore, the family did not own very much. Whatever they owned was broken. Silas would lie awake at night listening to them argue; wondering if they would ever stop fighting. His brother, Aizach, would be in his twin bed across the room pretending to be asleep. Their baby sister, Jorja, could be heard crying in her room down the hall -- too scared to move. Silas would go sit with her until she went back to sleep; telling her everything would be okay.

Silas thought it was unfair that his dad criticized him for being in a “dummy class” when his father did not even graduate from high school. The people at school probably thought that Silas was just as stupid as his father said he was. Therefore, Silas never put forth too much effort in his classes.

Brenda Baskin worked hard as a waitress to support her children. However, it is never enough. Her husband, Troy, did not contribute much to the family even though his income was fifteen percent more than his wife’s. Brenda provides her children with clothes and food from local charities and churches.

**********************************************************************Another day, Valory thought. Being locked up had done nothing for her - but left her emotionless -- at least that was what she liked to believe. At twenty years old, Silas’ oldest sister, Valory, was serving jail time for possession of drugs and prostitution. She had been cycling in and out of the correctional system since she was sixteen years old. Valory never called her family, and they never called her. No one ever visited her.

**********************************************************************

At fifteen years old, Silas attends a local high school that was eight miles away from his home. Aizach’s middle school stood across the road from the high school. The city of Carrion had recently shuddered its last high school on the other end of town. School officials had decided to shut down all the neighborhood schools to “save taxpayer dollars”. Students from all over town would attend the same middle school and the same high school. The two brand-new buildings featured spectacular architecture. All classrooms were freshly painted with contemporary desks. The restrooms were clean and functional. The cafeteria offered many tasty options from fresh fruits and vegetables to pizza and cheeseburgers. Every semester, the foreign languages department sponsored a cultural food fair where the Spanish churros and German sausages were hot lunch ticket items. The library was stocked with books of various genres from science to classical literature from Shakespeare to Langston Hughes to Maya Angelou. The school touted a state-of-the-art gymnasium where spirited basketball games were hosted. There was also an indoor swimming pool and horse stables near the end of the property.

Unfortunately, Silas struggles through school. School is not doing anything for him. He usually sits in the back of the class -- daydreaming. At times, he wished that his father would die. Maybe he would choke on his liquor or get mugged coming home from the bar…Silas often worries about his younger siblings, Aizach and Jorja. Silas is often responsible for taking care of his siblings while their mother is working. He usually helps them with homework and feeds them. Many times, when there is nothing in the house to eat, his mom leaves some money for them to get food. Even though it may mean that she must walk the two miles to work, instead of catching the bus. Still, it usually wasn’t enough to feed them all. Silas would often end up letting the others have his share -- eating the scraps off their plates as he washed the dishes. Sometimes, their mother would surprise them with leftovers she bought home from the restaurant. They would all eat well on those nights.

One day, Silas’ English teacher announced that the sophomore class would be presenting a curriculum showcase later in the semester. The showcase had been named Spring Bliss. Every student in the sophomore class was expected to participate in the project. Only the very best presentations would be selected for the showcase. Students in the remedial classes would be paired with gifted students. The students were instructed to work together to create a skit, which would demonstrate a literary work. Silas’ partner was the brilliant Shaelyn Jacobs. She was one of the most beautiful and intelligent students in the sophomore class. As the cherished only child of upper-class parents -- the only black architects in town -- Shaelyn had recently celebrated her sixteenth birthday with a gift from her parents – a customized, coral-colored Genesis Coupe.

After working with Silas for a few days, Shaelyn was appalled by his lack of interest in their project. So, she told him so. Silas told her not to pride her “pretty little self” too much. He told her that she was not giving him a chance to work on the project because she was selfish -- she wanted to do it all herself. Shaelyn was angry. The teacher overheard them and told Silas to go see the dean.

At lunchtime, Silas saw Shaelyn standing by her locker and decided to apologize for what he had said to her, “Shaelyn, I want to apologize for what I said. It was not true. I guess that I did not want to share my ideas with you because I figured you’d think that they were stupid.”

“Why would I think that?” Shaelyn inquired.

“Well, you are in the gifted program and all,” Silas replied as he looked down at the freshly waxed floor.

Sensing his uneasiness, Shaelyn digressed. “It’s too bad that you were sent to the dean. I did not mean for you to get into trouble – especially after calling me ‘pretty’ ... You really think I’m pretty?” Shaelyn asked in a teasing way.

“Definitely,” Silas affirmed with a slow smile as he looked up at her.

Shaelyn accepted his apology and invited him for a sundae in the school’s snack bar. They discussed their literature project. Shaelyn suggested that they meet in the library after school to begin researching their project. She had even offered to take him home, but Silas declined because he had to meet his brother and pick up their sister from her bus stop. Silas decided that Shaelyn Jacobs was not so bad. She was truly nice. Shaelyn was still a rich kid. The last thing he wanted was for her to see his family’s small, dull gray house with its door hanging off the hinges.

As it was already March, drafty winter winds dramatically died down as sprigs of spring began to sprout. Students were excited at the thought of summertime on the horizon. At the end of the school day, the school bustled with a collective sigh of relief that another school day was done. The students who had cars were squealing out of the parking lot within five to ten minutes of the final bell. During the wintertime, student bus riders were allowed to wait inside the main foyer of the school. As the weather warmed, students who rode the bus were directed to wait outside the building. The bus arrived about fifteen minutes after the dismissal bell.

The bus ride home lasted about forty-five minutes to an hour. The afternoon route was always livelier than the morning route due to the conversations of the students. The talk of the day ranged from pop quizzes and unpopular teachers to upcoming games and dances. Noble practically talked to everyone from football players and cheerleaders to science nerds -- and sometimes, even foreign exchange students who spoke limited English. Silas never minded, though. He learned much from just observing and listening to others.

As the bus approached the city limits sign, the unincorporated area of town where the families of Silas and Noble lived came into view. One could easily recognize this as an impoverished area by the run-down houses, barren fields, and litter in the streets. Looking out of place, a handful of houses were immaculately maintained. As the bus turned onto the access road, an old church stood as a testament to the area’s history of significance and contemporary commitment to the community. Although Silas’ family had never attended church, their mother often got boxes of food from the church’s food pantry. While his mother often disregarded the church pamphlets and brochures which accompanied the food boxes, Silas found himself collecting them for some reason. At first, the artwork caught his eye. Sometimes, the stories captured his interest.

As Silas got off the bus, he noticed a Bible verse displayed on the sign in front of a church that read:

Haven’t I commanded you; be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

The bright spots in Silas’ life were Jorja and Aizach; his best friend, Noble; the quotes on the church’s marquee that he walked by every day on his way to and from the bus stop; and Silas’ introduction to Shaelyn Jacobs. Silas could not yet realize that these bright spots were the backlights of his distant dreams.

Series
6

About the Creator

Alexis Wellmaker

Wrapped up in Words / Chaser of Dreams / Keeper of stories / Maker of well-written work ... I strive to create positive, uplifting stories for children and adults.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (2)

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  • D. ALEXANDRA PORTER6 months ago

    Silas, Jorja, Aizach and Mama tugged on my heart. You have a talent for creating layered characters. Kudos on a great story! 💙👏💙

  • Novel Allen6 months ago

    Great story Alexis. I thought it would be in Chapters, as it sound like it has a part 2 coming along. I hope you add it to the chapters profile. Silas's distant dreams.

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