short-short story by Anitra L. Freeman


Last week, the news reported on a man named Bala Reesh, who had lived in Cleveland Ohio for thirty-seven years, since he came with his parents from Somalia when he was four years old. Somalia has been in the news a lot lately. Fighting, and famine, and the UN is there but it doesn't seem to help, and who knows when it will end.

One day Bala walked out of his house, and kept walking. He headed in the general direction of Somalia.

After a few days, the police tracked him down on a missing-persons report. They asked him where he was going. He said, "Somalia". They asked him how the ____ he expected to get there walking. He just looked at them.

The police went back to his family and told them Bala was an adult and there was nothing they could do to stop him if he wanted to up and walk to Somalia.

When the media asked them later why they gave up so easy, one police officer said, "You should have seen his eyes."

It got a growing amount of attention. Finally a TV news camera tracked him down (he'd almost made it to Illinois by then) and the camera focused on his face as the reporter asked "What are you going to do in Somalia? How do you think you can help? Why not charter a plane with a cargo of food? How are you going to GET there?"

He looked straight into the camera. He just looked.

You should have seen his eyes.

The news says there are people walking out of California, going to Brazil. People walking from Cincinnati in the direction of Cambodia. Walking from Maine toward Mexico. And it's spreading. They're walking out of Paris toward Africa. Leaving Moscow on foot for Afghanistan.

I met a woman on the street today. She had those eyes. I stood in front of her and asked where she was going.


"They'll eat you up there! If you are going to go, why don't you buy a plane ticket; with a return fare just in case?"

She just looked at me.

"What are you going to DO there?"

She looked at me.

I moved aside. She walked on down the street.

It's upsetting everybody. You look at the crowds on the sidewalk, everybody looks the same as always, and you ask yourself, "Which of them are Walking somewhere?"

Why do they do it? What does it mean? "Millennium Fever"? "Lemming Syndrome"?

I don't know.

Maybe, finally, you just have to do Something.

Written in 1996 © Anitra L. Freeman

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