Many years ago I saw a picture in a newspaper of a small boy in some distant country, standing in the middle of a road wearing only a ragged t-shirt. I never knew anything about him but that picture haunted me, so when I saw the writing topic “Natural Disaster” I decided to write about him.
The small boy stands in the pool of water in the middle of the road, oblivious to his surroundings, his fingers in his mouth, his eyes squeezed shut as his mud streaked face contorts into an infant wail. His only piece of clothing, a tattered t-shirt, reaches almost to his knees. He does not know that a typhoon has stuck his country, that his village has been wiped out and that thousands of people are dead or missing. He is not thinking about food or shelter or what will happen to his family. He just wants to be comforted, to have somebody familiar pick him up and hug him.
The journalist leans against an uprooted tree: all that is left of the village. He bends his head and talks quietly into the microphone inside his shirt, recording all that he sees, trying to get as much information as he can before he is discovered and removed. It is too dangerous for a camera man so he snaps stills from a small digital camera hidden in his top pocket: a woman wailing near a pile of bricks, a man moving tree branches, one by one, from a corner of a field; the small boy crying in the road.
A truck lurches into view along what was once the road. The man and the woman turn, move towards the truck and hold their arms extended, hoping to receive something, anything, for their anguish. But the soldiers sitting in the back of the truck do not look around them as they are jolted past the scenes of misery. Soon the truck is gone, along with the small spark of hope it had ignited.
The small boy still stands in the middle of the road. He no longer cries, probably through exhaustion. He takes a couple of steps forward, through the mud, falters and falls down on his bottom. His mouth opens once more in a small cry of helplessness.
The journalist snaps one more image then turns away.