TITLE: Finding Obeno
Samuel watched the faded football arch high into the hot Ugandan sky before dropping in the midst of a group of smiling children, who leapt into the air to meet it. It bounced off the forehead of the tallest, a skinny teenage boy, who sent it soaring across the hard dirt field to the waiting chest of a teammate. The huddle of children squealed with delight and scrambled after the ball, kicking up clouds of red dust with their bare feet.
Sitting in the shade of a low porch that stretched along the front of the Friends of Orphans Center in Pader, Northern Uganda, Samuel reached down and picked at the discolored bandage wound snuggly around his thigh. The doctors said the medicine was working, but his skin was tight with swelling and tender to the touch. A rust colored stain tinged the bone white bandage above the bullet wound, where the infection had taken hold.
Samuel understood infection. In his eleven years, he had seen it burrow deep into the bodies of other children. Their feet. Their legs. Their chests. Their arms. Spreading like brush fire until it consumed them. Biting down on his bottom lip, Samuel pressed hard on his wound with two trembling fingers until he could no longer endure the pain. Letting go, he squeezed his eyes shut until the inferno receded to its normal slow burn. Pain was good. It meant he could still feel. It meant he was alive.