The Cherry Lady (aka Cher) wasn’t happy. In fact she was rather peeved at the cleric and his ‘holier than thou’ attitude in response to her request to help the children with their personal problems. Being an qualified child-psychologist and having had extensive experience with ghetto kids in South Los Angeles (among other cities around the world), Cher felt that she would be able to provide a real service to the children in the run-down establishment passing for an orphanage run by a ‘religious’ organization. Her teacher friend at the school the children attended had told her how neglected the children appeared to be and how they were frequently in trouble over disciplinary issues at school, how they didn’t seem able to ‘fit’ with their peers and wondered how this would affect them as they grew older. It was this that prompted Cher to try helping the kids out.

The cleric first questioned her qualifications. Next he asked about her ‘motive’ and then gave the impression that he didn’t believe her when she responded that she found a great deal of satisfaction helping children to get over their problems with negativity and its effects on their collective psyche. He then started an intensive interrogation regarding her personal life. Where was she from? Where did she live at present? Was she ever married? What did she expect from the orphanage? Why did she care? Cher was trying hard to practice all the techniques she knew about how to retain her cool and win over this revolting man with his musty smelling robe and his halitosis, when Java, tired of waiting for her in her car, arrived on the scene.

Heey there Cherry baby, waaas bin keepin yo so long?

The cleric paused in mid-sentence to give Java a bewildered look, wondering how this apparition with its dread-locks, red eyes and spaced-out demeanour manifested, seemingly out of nowhere. Cher was certain that this would be the last straw in what she considered to be her (Java-caused) aborted attempt at social service and was prepared to call it a day after giving the smelly cleric a good piece of her very active mind.

Saaay man, wasssup
? Java to the cleric.

The cleric is dismayed – not entirely sure if this is a spectre that has come to haunt him or if this is some hit-man friend of Cher that has arrived to apply pressure. A trace of what could be passed off as a ‘smile’ accompanied his reply.

Nooo, nothing special you know. I am trying to find out from this kind lady why and how she will help these children. You know, no? Can’t be too careful these days – all kinds of bad people are coming here to use the children. They are trying to get them for servants and for other purposes also. You know, no? Only yesterday the big boss from the Ministry came and wanted two girls for his mother’s aunt, saying that they will be living like princesses there. So what to do? I am giving him and telling the others that they have gone to their aunty’s house to live. What to do? So little money to do this coming from our people, how can I do this? Here, come inside and see will you.

And as he leads them into the dingy interior Cher knows from where the musty smell originated. Java finds it hard to bear as well and stifles a gag. The children peer curiously at them through the gloom, some of them smiling at Cher and most of them intrigued at Java’s appearance. The cleric walks them through the hall and into the rear of the building where the kitchen is situated. Cher is appalled at the unhygenic conditions. Roaches scuttle out of the way as they walk in to see an old crone at the hearth, stirring a large pot of something. Java flashes back to a Disneyesque witch, wart on hooked nose and all. The smell is less than appetising and Cher turns to leave – she’s had enough. And as she turns she sees the little faces of the children peering around the door frame and her heart melts.

As they return to the front of the building, the cleric is less confrontational and asks Cher when she could begin with the children. The Cherry Lady wasn’t expecting this and was very happy to finally get the hell out of the place, but the faces of the children were etched in her memory.

I’ll start tomorrow, she said.

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