Kamau wanted to be a long distance
runner. He lived in the Kenyan Desert near the city of Bura and he practiced
running every day.His friend, Abiria, often ran with him.One day, as they were on their way to school,
Kamau said, “I saw the new teacher. He looks mean, and he is missing one leg.”
Abiria’s eyes opened wide. His
mouth was wide open too. “How will he teach us Physical Education without a
leg,” he asked.
Kamau shrugged. “I don’t know, but
we are scheduled for his first class.” The bell rang as the two boys stepped
into the school yard. They hurried to get in line where the new teacher stood.
“Straighten your line,” the new
teacher barked in a loud voice. “March,” he bellowed.
Kamau marched tall and confident.
He was the best marcher in the school. Abiria trembled, but tried to keep in
step with Kamau. When they got to the field for exercise, the new teacher,
“I am your new teacher. You will call me Mr.Johnson. Yes, I have a prosthesis
for my right leg. I have learned to use it for many things.So, don’t try anything.”
After class, Abiria said, “Wow,
Kamau! How did he get us to do all those stunts with one leg!”
Kamau made a face. ‘He scowls at
us. Why can’t he be jolly and laugh once in a while.”
“I don’t know,” Abiria said.“Maybe the leg hurts.”
Next day, Kamau asked the teacher
a question about the exercises? “Sir,” he asked. “Why are we doing this
exercise first?The other teacher did
this one after we practiced running.”
“I am not the other teacher. We
will do it this way,” Mr. Johnson said. Kamau saw the teacher was string t him
and waiting for something. Kamau stood still. The whole class was quiet. Mr
Johnson stared at Kamau.
Then, Mr. Johnson barked, “Yes,
Kamau mumbled, “Yes, Sir.”
“Speak up,”Mr. Johnson barked at Kamau.
Kamau shouted, “Yes, Sir.” Mr.
Johnson continued the class.
On the way home from school, Kamau
complained to his friend. “Abiria, I don’t like that teacher.”
When he reached home, Kamau
announced, “Papa, I am not going to Physical Education class.”
“Yes, you are, Kamau,” his father
“But I don’t want to go while that
new teacher is here. He only has one leg and he’s mean.” Kamau pouted.
His father said, “Kamau, that is
not an intelligent decision. You need to learn the skills of Physical
Education.You don’t hurt the teacher by
skipping class. You hurt yourself.”
Kamau said, “I don’t like him!”
“Kamau, everyone likes to be
liked.Like him and you will see he will
like you.Do you know how he lost his
‘No, and I don’t care,” Kamau
said. But next day, Kamau decided to see if what his father said was true.
During recess Kamau walked over to
Mr. Johnson who stood alone near the school door. Kamau swallowed and tried to
keep his voice steady as he asked, “Sir, How did you lose your leg?”
“It is a long story, young man. I
wanted to be a runner. I did not have a teacher and I ran on a highway.I got hit by a car. Thank you for asking. You
are brave to ask,” the teacher said. He smiled at Kamau.
Kamau got all flustered. He said,
“Yes, Sir.” And ran back to where Abiria waited for him.
“What happened?” Abiria asked.
“He was nice. He didn’t yell,”
“But what did he SAY?” Abiria
“He got it running. He was running
like I do, on the highway,” Kamau said.
Next day, the teacher asked, “Who
wants to be a runner?”
Kamau and four other boys raised
their hands.Mr. Johnson said, “Meet me
After school, Mr. Johnson gave the
boys tips on what would help them to run faster. He taught them how to breathe
effectively, when to stop, and how much water to drink/.
Each day after school, Kamau and
his friends ran. They practiced hard. Mr. Johnson selected Kamau and Abiria to
run in the District Competition.
They practiced everyday. They
could not wait for the day to arrive. “Tomorrow we run,” Abiria said to Kamau
on the eve of the District Competition.”
Kamau said, “Yes, and my father is
going to take us there.”Kamau could
hardly sleep that night with excitement. In the morning, he jumped up, ready to
go to the competition., but his father was very sick. He seemed to have some
acute pain in his right side.
Kamau, s mother said, ‘I am sorry,
but you must stay here to care for your little brothers. I must take your
father to the hospital. “
When Abiria arrived to travel to
the District Competition, Kamau told him to go to the school. He could travel
to the competition with Mr. Johnson and the other boys.Abiria was very sad. He did not want to go
Kamau insisted and Abiria went off
Kamau held back his tears until
his parents had gone to the hospital. He sent his little brothers out to play.
Then, he sat in the doorway watching them. Tears flowed down his cheeks. He did
not weep about not going to the competition.His fear was much deeper.How
could he go on without his father?
When his mother returned, she said
his father would stay in the hospital for a while, but he was going to
recover.“Kamau,” his mother said. “Your
father has pain, but he seems even sadder that you had to miss the competition
because of him.”
Kamau swallowed hard. He said, “Mama,”,
“There will be other competitions. Papa is more important that a race.”
Kamau’s mother patted him on the
head. “Your father will be happy to hear that you said that.”
Next day, Kamau went to class. Mr.
Johnson announced to the whole school that Abiria had done very well in the
competition.“We must practice now for
the National Competition,” he said.
Abiria whispered to Kamau, “I
would not have won, if you had been there. Practice, you can win the National.Kamau slapped Abiria on the back. You are a good runner, Abiria, and YOU
won, but thank you for being such a good friend, too.
The boys continued to run after
school. Mr. Johnson coached them. They won many competitions, and their
friendship endured.When they finished
school, Kamau went on to join and win many races. Abiria became a doctor,
specializing in Sports Medicine. When Kamau competed in a race, Abiria was
always there to cheer for him. Abiria married first. He named his first child
Kamau. When Kamau married he named his first child Abiria. Mr Johnson was
godfather for both children.