A Short Story-(based on recent newspaper articles and personal travel experiences in Europe and beyond). Subjects, the Mediterranean Migrant Crisis, Europe’s Marine Litter Problem. 2098 words.
‘Try me’ by simon owens.
Jake; tired, frustrated, restless and with a fire in him that wanted to help sort world problems.
Yacca, a businessman from a war zone. Does it matter which war zone?
Yacca had with him his wife Roma, his daughter Ethel and his son Ransom.
Jake’s alright. He’s got food. He has somewhere to live. He has family. He is safe. No one is hunting him down.
Yacca has fled for his life, fled for four lives. You could say he has fled for far more. Yacca’s country is in ruins. His home is destroyed. His business is lost. Some of his friends have been killed. His family are spread about neighbouring countries. Some of his family and friends are missing. No one knows where they are. But that’s not true. Someone knows.
Jake had travelled to Asia before. He had travelled around Europe, to the Near East, to America and in luxury to the Caribbean. No visa problems.
Yacca travelled the dangerous route, smuggled through borders, bundles of dollars changing hands in badly lit cafes, in lay-byes, in hotel rooms, always watched by a gun, or two, or more. Stench filled lorries, murderous and calculated boat rides, fear ridden train and taxi journeys.
Yacca had money and prepared his escape well. At almost every possible transit point he had forwarded large sums of his hard earned cash. He had tried to cover as many routes as possible and if his family went a certain way, then there was cash waiting. If for some reason they had to make a detour it wouldn’t be too far away to another carefully selected cash deposit centre. People pay enough money, and they’ll take you to your destination.
Six months on the run and finally Yacca and his family had found some form of safety. They were in Europe, a place they felt would treat them as human beings. Yacca didn’t expect instant cooperation. He didn’t expect food on arrival, beds on arrival, housing and employment on arrival. What Yacca and Roma wished for above all was a safe place to bring their children too. War, loud noises, shrieking, fear and terror ought not to be amongst the growing up experiences of children, nor for that matter in the lives of adults.
So Yacca, Roma, Ethel and Ransom hugged the small area of tent which they had been given and were grateful for the protection, privacy and temporary safety that it gave them. They hoped that this was the beginning of a better life.
Jake raked through the newspapers again. Almost daily now were seen crowded colourful boats, black faces, ashen faces, flip flop-less feet.
“Get on a ferry” he thought. “Just get on a damn ferry. You’ll be able to help somebody. Take your God with you, ask that God to direct you, listen to that God. If it all goes wrong then you got it wrong. You either didn’t listen correctly, you tried too hard, or simply the job is not for you. But try God damn it. Try”.
Yacca was not the only one in a queue that day. There was a queue for the toilets, there was a queue for food, a queue for clothes, a queue for doctors and a queue for asylum applications. Yacca and his family had come far enough. They still had money, yes, but they didn’t want to take anymore risks. If this country would take them in they would accept that offer with gratitude and hope that in time they would be able to repay the opportunity given them. Four hours later and Yacca returned with a piece of paper. Four names, no photographs, just his finger prints as head of family. It was a start.
Jake packed his backpack. It was only a small 20 litre affair, big enough though for the essentials, some clothes, wash stuff, laptop, camera, phone etc. It was an overnight ferry. He slept on the floor, a bit uncomfortable but at least it was warm, and quiet. Not many passengers that crossing.
Life in the camp for Yacca and his family had been tough and three months had passed by. Yacca was forever protecting his loved ones. He developed a pronounced chest and a stance which said almost out loud, “Please don’t mess with my wife or kids-because if you do, I’ll kill you”. Imagine a camp full of people protecting their own, a camp nearly devoid of hope, a camp wanting freedom.
Jake got off the ferry and walked into town. He had been here before so knew his way around. Almost immediately he saw the newspaper photographs for himself, squalor, mistrust, waiting. God, all that waiting.
But things were to speed up. Jake had chosen a good place to visit. There were others he could have gone to and still been appropriate but here, the closest ferry port to his home town immediately things began to open up to him. He walked to the first encampment of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants. They are all human beings.
Yacca had a definite charisma about him. He was a person who believed in himself. He believed there was always some way through all difficulty however hard, however extreme, however seemingly hopeless. And he was very fortunate to have things about him that he hoped could help him and his family, and maybe others too. As long as he was able to hold onto his ID card, or at least be able to keep proving who he was, he could, in time retrieve a great deal of cash that he had spent years accruing back home. He could revisit at least five countries that he had been through on his journey and net himself around one hundred thousand dollars.
Jake surveyed the scene. He had seen similar before so wasn’t shocked, saddened yes, but he wasn’t phased. “Okay Lord”, he said to himself, “Who can I help? How can I help? What shall I do from here?”
“Get yourself a place to stay” came the answer. So he did. He knew there was no need to rush into the throng of problems he saw in front of him. He firmly believed a plan would be made perfectly clear to him. Within reason, if he could be of assistance here, everything would fall into place. He showered, was impressed with the clean bed, the sea view and the silence and then took a stroll around town. Tomorrow would be another day.
Jake had had a specific idea for several years and it made sense to him. The logistics of the idea were huge but he believed it could help two problems to some degree. Perhaps it could not solve them outright but in making the idea happen perhaps it could make way for other initiatives to come along and in turn make huge waves into solving the two problems forever. But would it work, could it work, was it suitable, would it get backing? He still didn’t know if God thought it was a good idea, but secretly he thought he did.
Yacca returned to his wife with a smile on his face. That was different. After three months of waiting he was able to hold up the piece of paper to her eyes. There was a fingerprint, some signatures, four photographs and a funny kind of stamp in the corner. Yacca, Roma, Ethel and Ransom had all been granted five year temporary visas to live in this new borrowed country of theirs. Yacca and Roma were allowed to work-if they could find any. It was a good day, still full of sadness at their past but a day in which just perhaps, little by little, they could start to rebuild their lives and create a much better future for the two children, and in turn for themselves.
The good thing about having accommodation is that Jake could leave his 20 litre in the room. Mobile phone, notebook, pen and some cash were all he needed, and he went out. Hoping to attract the right people Jake walked back to the camp that he had seen the night before. As he stared across the multi coloured canvases a voice rang out.
“Tea Sir? Would you like a cup of tea?” Jake spied the speaker of those eternal words.
“Thank you. Yes I would”, he replied. And they all sat down around the homely fire. Clean cups, budget camping stools, a pallet table, hot sweet tea and five smiles. One was mine. We talked, not in depth talking, not invasive talking, just easy talk. Professions, where do you come from, how long have you been here. It was relaxing. No pressure.
After about half an hour Jake got up to say his thank yous. “Is there any way you think I might be able to help you Yacca?”, he said. Tears welled in Yacca’s eyes. Yacca turned his head, looked far into the distance, took a few steps away from Jake, brushed his right arm across his eyes and turned back.
“Maybe Jake, maybe. Can we meet again tomorrow?”
“Of course”, said Jake. Jake thanked the family for the tea, smiled a double smile at the kids and he and Yacca arranged a meet for the next morning.
As Jake walked slowly around the town he knew something was happening, something good. He had made a correct connection. There was a vibe that woke up when the word help was mentioned. There was no demand from Yacca, no drain of energy felt on Jake’s part that made him feel he was going to be taken for a ride. It felt good.
Jake didn’t come to look for money. He had come to see if he could help, anyone. So what happened next took him by surprise.
They met at the designated time the next day and took a slow walk along the beach both of them knowing that after this conversation events were going to move fast.
“Jake”, said Yacca, “I have money, lots of money. I have worked hard all of my life. I have also spent a lot recently. I have paid a great deal of money to some very difficult and very dangerous people. All I want for the moment Jake is to provide for my family and friends, both here and back home. Jake, can you help me find a house to live in? I can pay the rent but I don’t know the system here. I have permission to stay now. I can also look for work. Can you help me restart my life Jake? You help me, and I will be able to help you too”.
And so the plan unravelled itself. They rented a house on the outskirts of the city, close to the sea. The family moved in. They found a school for the kids. Yacca and Jake travelled to several European cities, (and some places in between) and withdrew his monies. They opened a bank account in Yacca’s name and in a matter of days the account was healthy.
Jake stayed a month with the family, not in the same house but in a room in a hostel close by. He worked as Yacca’s personal assistant and he was very useful. Yacca paid him. Life for Yacca and his family became a great deal easier.
In those weeks together Yacca and Jake talked about many things, one of them being Jake’s idea of beach cleaning. The plastic pollution problem around the world was huge and Yacca loved the idea. Yacca had owned a number of scrap metal companies in his home country so this type of business was a familiar enterprise for him to start on.
They worked hard together, and in the space of just under a year and a half they managed to employ several hundred of his fellow Migrant compatriots-legally. They attracted some great backers, obtained the necessary permits, rented storage spaces, bought machinery, tools and vehicles and managed to clean hundreds of beaches around the European coastline. They recycled a great deal of the plastic but also stored huge quantities of it. They were waiting to find how it could be used in the most efficient way. They didn’t want more trash turning up on the beaches again!
Yacca and Jake had set up a unique business model. It was very successful and they made plans to take it Worldwide.
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