Benjamin awakens to the sounds of dishes rattling in the kitchen. He sits up and rubs his eyes and yawns. Suddenly he remembers what day it is. The first day of school.
He throws back the covers and mosquito net and leaps from his bed. Quickly, he dresses and heads for the kitchen where his mother is putting hot cereal in a bowl for him. She tells him good morning and rubs the top of his head as he takes his place at the table Benjamin wolfs down his breakfast, scarcely noticing the frown of disapproval on his mother's face. The frown turns to a smile and she shakes her head and turns away, wondering why he is so excited.
Breakfast finished, he slides on the strap of his backpack and heads for the door, but his mother steps in front of him and blocks his path, then reminds him to be careful and kisses him on top of the head before shooing him out the door.
The sun is up and warm and the day couldn't be more perfect! He skips along, hopping over puddles with a smile on his face and thoughts racing through his mind.
Suddenly, he stops and takes his backpack off and feels for something. Yes! It is in there. The round shape of a soccer ball! Soccer is his favorite sport and he hopes to play on the school team. He figures if he shows off a few of his moves he will make the team for sure.
It's quite a hike to school, but Benjamin makes it in less than twenty minutes. Heads turn as he arrives on the grounds and friends rush over to talk about their time off from school...all is as it should be.
Benjamin wakes up from his dream with a smile on his face. He lays there for a few minutes thinking about his dream and wishing it were true...any of it. Well, one part was true, it is a school day and he loves school!
He can hear dishes rattling in the kitchen...
He pulls back the blanket that is covering him and struggles to his feet, hobbles to the wall, dragging his left foot behind him. He winces at the pain, but he has grown used to it. He wraps his fingers around his makeshift walking stick and takes the weight off his left leg. The pain in his hip subsides a bit.
He hobbles towards the kitchen, just a few feet away from where his bed is. His grandmothers is there., old and frail, putting a spoonful of cereal on a plate for him. She turns as he enters the room and hobbles over to the table and pulls the chair out for him. " Good morning Benjamin, I am sorry, but there is not much to eat today. I will try to make it to the market later. I earned a little money cleaning, so tomorrow there will be more."
He looks up at his grandmother with a smile on his face. "It's okay, I'm not really that hungry", he lies. "Besides, there will be food at the school."
His grandmother smiles back at him and pats him on the head. He is such a good boy. It has been so hard for them both since his parents left...just left one day without a word...and never came back.
Then when Benjamin was six, there was the accident, Benjamin on his bicycle..the car...he barely survived. He had broken bones and his hip was out of place. She had taken care of him the best she could, but she had no money for doctors, for proper care.
So Benjamin healed that way, with his hip out of place, one leg shorter than the other. It gives him an awkward gait and it causes him much pain. He is such a brave boy, she thinks.
Benjamin finish his breakfast, grabs his backpack and struggles to balance while he adjusts it on his shoulders. He shakes it into place and grabs his walking stick and hobbles to the door. His grandmothers kisses him on the head and tells him to be careful.
It is a long walk to school. It normally takes him about an hour, although it should take half that time.
Benjamin knows how the day will go. He is behind in school because his injury prevented him from starting at the right age. So, he will sit and learn with the younger children.
He will arrive late, after all the children are already seated and class will have begun. He will enter the room hot and sweaty, his clothes covered in mud from the numbers of falls he will take on the way there.
The children will stare at him and complain about the way that he smells... some of them will make fun of him for the way he walks...like an old man.
During the breaks, he will stand and watch the other children kick the soccer ball. Oh how he wishes he could join them. But, his stick...it would flail around...he would fall. He can't stand on one leg and balance to kick the ball with the other.
But, he has a few friends. They will stand with him and watch the others. They will even protect him when the bullies come to make fun of him and push him to the ground...well, at least they try.
As Benjamin makes his way around a puddle, he is lost in his thoughts. he thinks about his dream...the one he woke from that very morning.
Oh, how he wishes it could be true...how wonderful that would be. He knows his mother and father will likely never return and that saddens him...but the rest of it could come true!
Just to walk without the stick... to run like the wind, jumping the puddles with ease. To run and play with the children at school...and to play soccer!
That is his dream; to dodge left and right, skillfully passing the ball from one foot to the other, then suddenly breaking for the goal as his friends cheer him on!
That is his dream, to arrive at his school on time, barely even breathing hard and sit and talk with friends while they wait for school to start.
That is his dream, to place the old walking stick in the corner and never use it again until he is an old man. Yes! That would be wonderful...and perhaps because he dreams such things, they really could come true, he thinks.
The thought puts a smile on his face and he jabs his walking stick into the ground with greater vigor and renewed hope, a smile on his face and determination in his eyes.
Tonight, when he closes his eyes, he will try to start that dream again, right where he left off, he thinks. And perhaps the more times it is dreamt, the closer it will be to coming true!
His thoughts have eaten up the time, and he can now see the school up ahead in the distance. This day will be a good day, for he has a dream to hold on to. It is a simple dream, and to most people, it might not seem like much...but to him, it is everything...it is Benjamin's dream.