Copyright Â© 2015 Trevor Stubbs
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This book is dedicated to those for whom there is no justice:
those who are trampled on,
exploited, abused, deprived of freedom and opportunity, never consulted, or simply ignoredâ¦
“When a country decides to invest in arms, rather than in education, housing, the environment, and health services for its people, it is depriving a whole generation of its right to prosperity and happiness. We have produced one firearm for every ten inhabitants of this planet, and yet we have not bothered to end hunger when such a feat is well within our reach. Our international regulations allow almost three-quarters of all global arms sales to pour into the developing world with no binding international guidelines whatsoever. Our regulations do not hold countries accountable for what is done with the weapons they sell, even when the probable use of such weapons is obvious.”
Oscar Arias Sanchez,
Former President of Costa Rica
The Kicking Tree
WYSIWYG Christianity: Young People and
Faith in the Twenty-First Century
“Sis! What're you looking at?”
Kakko Smith was standing perfectly still, her feet firmly planted on the hard sand, hands on hips, her hair blowing gently in the warm sea breeze. She appeared to be staring intently at something so far away that the slightest movement might make it vanish from her sight. Her brother Shaun, two years her junior, followed her gaze but could see nothing. When she did not reply he shouted louder so that even his parents, Jalli and Jack, and his grandmother, Matilda, sitting in the shade of the palms further up the beach, could hear him.
“Kakko are you playing?”
Still she did not move. Her mind was closed to all but what she was studying. Shaun gave up and continued to juggle his football by himself. He had been selected to play in the local reserve team the following week. He was happy but wanted some practice. Kakko was a natural footballer. Their mother and grandmother watched them.
“Kakko needs an adventure,” said Jalli. “Look at her.”
“What's she staring at?” asked Matilda.
“The horizon, she's longing to look beyond it.”
Jack couldn't see his daughter (he had never seen her because he had been blind since before she was born) but knew that his wife was right. “I've felt it coming on for a month or two,” he agreed.
“What do you mean?” asked Matilda, balancing her folding chair as it settled a little in the hot dry sand.
“The things she says, but especially the little noises she makes as she moves around. The way she sits down and stands up, and the slight change in her voiceâ¦ ”
“I know,” said Jalli. “I've noticed that too. But what are we going to do with her?”
“Nothing,” said Jack. “She is eighteen. It is right that she should seek to leave the nest and test her wings. If she stares at the horizon long enough, one day she's bound to set out for it.”
“You're right, butâ¦”
were only seventeen, Jalli, when you started your adventures,” reminded Matilda.
“That was a kind of accident. I mean, intended by the Creator but not necessarily by me. The Creator wanted it that way, arranged it like that,” said her daughter-in-law.
“And I whisked you off your feet before you knew what was happening!” added Jack.
“Quite so, before either of us knew it. And you were my âkind sir' and I couldn't resist you!” Jalli jabbed Jack playfully in the side.
“Now how could I have helped being anything other than that? I was just so utterly perfectâ¦! Or not,” he added quickly as he heard Jalli prepare to cuff him.
Matilda was still thinking about Kakko. “What about her boyfriend? He seems very keen on her and she has been dating him for years.”
“Tam? He's too safe,” said Jalli.
“Safe!” exclaimed her mother-in-law. “He drags her up mountains and dangles her on the end of a rope!”
“No, not mountains,” said Jack. “It's only a climbing wall in the gym, and s
there, and, sadly for him, it is she who is dangling him â on a metaphorical rope as well as an actual one. He follows her everywhere and will do anything to please her, but I doubt he can give her the adventures she craves. She's never been serious about him.”
“But he's such a nice boy. Why can't she see how lucky she is and just settle down?”
“Like her parents?” smiled Jack. “We settled, but only after we had zoomed across the universe and back. She needs to fly, and I'm sure the Creator will give her the opportunity some day.”
Kakko had ceased to stare out to sea and had begun playing football again with her brother. He might have been selected for the reserve team, but his sister was every bit his equal. She was as tall as him, sturdily built and strong for a young woman. She was quite unlike her mother who was a slight woman, slight enough for Jack to have â“swept her up'” when he was eighteen. But Kakko was going to have to find someone much bigger than her father if she was to be swept up in someone's arms. Yet that wasn't anything that appealed to her; she wasn't a romantic at heart. She was as agile as a monkey and would climb up the outside of the house to her bedroom instead of using the front door (the windowsills and lintels made excellent holds). When she wasn't climbing or playing football she was driving tractors and harvesters, and anything she could get her hands on. As a child she had delighted in the farm machinery that operated in the fields beside their house and was now training as an agricultural engineer at the agricultural college; yet her heart was set for adventure and she was just beginning to realise it.
Kakko was physically strong, but she was also attractive. She didn't lack confidence â at least outwardly â and that had made her popular among both sexes. The problem was that the Smith family lived on Planet Joh with its beauty and order and with none of the hardships that both Jack and Jalli had had to contend with in the years before they met as teenagers. The people of Planet Joh would have to leave their home for dramatic adventures, and unless they were part of a crew on an interplanetary spaceship (which was not so much of an adventure as an endurance) it depended on whether they were privileged to be called through the very occasional portals that the Creator provided. Planet Joh was light years away (literally) from any other civilization.
Jalli and Jack, together with Matilda and Jalli's grandmother, Momori, had been led to Joh through a white gate, a portal from their own worlds. Jack and Matilda were from Britain on Earth One, while Jalli and Momori were natives of Wanulka, a country on Planet Raika in the Elbib galaxy (or Andromeda to give it its Earth One name). All three planets (Joh, Earth One and Raika) were different from each other, but bore many similarities. They were all populated by human beings with a common DNA and were within comparable cultural development periods. Some of the other inhabitants of Joh had found their way through a similar system of portals. Both Jack and Jalli hoped and prayed that this was the way Kakko was going to travel one day too. They knew she would not be truly fulfilled unless she went beyond the horizon, beyond the limitations of a peaceful planet with a small, mostly rural, population. So far, though, nothing had occurred. Kakko was doing all she could to find adventure at home by learning to climb, swim and play football in the women's team where she was quite a star as a forward.
Shaun, at sixteen, might have been a footballer too, but was otherwise rather different from his sister. Unlike Kakko he was not so practical. He hoped to specialise in language and communication and was earnestly hoping to go to the university on Joh.
The youngest sibling, Bandi, aged fourteen, loved computing and reading. He was rather reserved and didn't care for a lot of fuss and wished his sister was a little less âvisible'. Even now, as he sat under a tree behind the beach with a book, he was conscious of the way Kakko was the centre of everyone's attention.
All three of Jack and Jalli's children, in their different ways, took life seriously. None of them were laid back. Their grandparents, Matilda and Momori, put it down to being born to naturally reflective parents â a trait which they traced back to their own, rather tough, childhoods.
Just then, Jack's phone rang in his pocket. In all the years since arriving on Joh he had changed his phone a number of times but never the ring tone, which was still the tune of
Be Not Afraid
that he had had soon after arriving. He pulled it out and put it to his ear.
“It's Grandma,” he said, “she wants to know what time we think we'll be home so she can put some beans on to cook.”
Jalli took the phone. “Don't worry Grandma, you don't have to go to the trouble of doing any cooking.” Momori had not come with them because she hadn't felt well. “Oh, all right then,” continued Jalli, “but don't do more than you feel likeâ¦ yes, put the dried ones on now, they'll take a couple of hours.”
“I'm worried about her,” said Jalli after she had hung up. “She isn't well. She's not herself. Let's not be too late back.”
“Agreed,” said Jack.
Matilda echoed Jalli's concern. “I think there's something she's not telling us. Something's wrong.”
“We can give them another half hour and then we must be off,” said Jack. Their home, White Gates Cottage, was in Woodglade, a tiny group of houses in the countryside several kilometres out of Joh City, the primary centre of population on the planet. There was a bus every hour which would take them the whole way.
Bandi was trying to ignore his siblings who kept âaccidentally' kicking the ball in his direction. He was determined not to join in and pretended to read his book, but it had become rather impossible. When finally the ball landed fairly and squarely in his lap scattering book, glasses and his dignity, he kicked the ball back so hard that it flew over his sister's head where it landed in the surf. In an instant, she had plunged in after it, clothes and all, to rescue it before the current took it. If it had been Shaun, Jalli would have been worried that he might have been taken by the current too, but Kakko was fast and seemingly unimpeded by her shorts and T-shirt. The ball was rescued and Kakko shouted a rather unsavoury remark in the direction of her little brother. “Kakko!” exclaimed Jalli, who had walked down the beach to the water's edge. “That'll do!” While this girl remained at home, Jalli resolved, she was going to have to curb her exuberance.
When they got home, Kakko was in her swim-suit covered in a towel because her clothes were still wet. Jack would not hear of staying until they dried out because they had been anxious about Momori. However, they were relieved to find her much better than when they had left that morning.