The Protected Ones

The Protected Ones

A Chapter by MeratheRestless

Misir took a seat with his step-cousin facing his stepfather without invitation. He had learned a fair amount of Korean from the man he called Papa over the past 18 years. Though it was wise to stay out of Papa's way when he initially returned home in the wee hours of morning, he was usually kinder when he started to sober up and never rough when his nephew and niece were around. He held his breath as Papa glanced over at him, at his audacity. Who did he think he was? When Papa drank some of his chifir and resumed talking, he knew it was alright to stay, as long as he didn't make a nuisance of himself.

The Protected Ones. That was the name Misir had given to his step-cousins when they were all young children. It was out of jealously that he had noticed how obsessed everyone seemed to be with Joon and his younger sister, Ara. There were innumerable incidents from childhood for which he'd caught hell for.

The Alamedin river, one of Kyrgyzstan's abundant natural attractions, ran through Bishkek as well as through Tien Shan mountains towering over the city. Summer temperatures rested comfortably in the high 80s-90s soaring at times to +100F. In a poor land, nature tends to be man's best friend.

It had been a typical hot summer day when Misir was about 7 years old. 9 year old Joon and 7 1/2 Ara had come over to the apartment early in the morning after being fed breakfast by their grandmother. The back room of the grandparents' apartment doubled as a sewing shop where both Grandmother and Second Uncle worked from sunrise to sunset, no place for restless children. Papa didn't work, not legally at least, and so the task of looking after the children often fell to him. Hungover, he'd reluctantly gotten up and taken the children Joon, Ara, Misir, and his own daughter 4 year old Semira to the river to play and swim.

Clad only in their underpants, clothes left on the shore, the children had rushed into the nippy water along Chuy Avenue. Papa made himself comfortable on the bank using some of the children's discarded clothes as a pillow. Every now and then he would raise his head some and check on how the children were doing though their childish giggles and splashing told him, even with his eyes closed and half-asleep from the hangover, that the children hadn't gone anywhere.

Energetic and lively Joon had been the first one in his class to teach himself how to swim. Without fear he sliced through the churning water, almost halfway across the river while Misir was only beginning to get his legs wet. He lingered there keeping himself afloat in the middle of the river, his head tilting and turning to take in the sights and sounds of one of the city's busiest streets.

"Hey," Misir called out to him after checking to make sure Papa was asleep and would not hear. "Why did you stop, you stupid monkey? Go across and back if you're so tough!"

Joon turned to look at him not seeming to have heard exactly what was said. Then suddenly Joon yelped like a wounded dog and Misir looked up to find him no longer there in the middle of the river. This didn't bother Misir in the least however. He recalled not caring at all what had happened.

If not for meddling Ara, who had started to cry and struggled out of the water to rouse Papa. To Misir's utter dismay, Papa had risen immediately and unhesitatingly entered the water, clothes and all. "You killed my brother!" The little girl screamed.

How Misir hated to see Joon's limp body in Papa's arms, blood pouring from a deep wound on the sole of his right foot. He hated how Papa beat on his back to force the water out of his lungs, removed his own shirt to make a temporary bandage for the wound, and carried a delirious Joon all the way back to their block to be doted on even more by Grandmother. It was his fault, Ara informed everyone. Misir's fault for picking a fight with Joon, causing him to slip off the rock he had been standing on in the river, and gashing open his foot.

With strong slaps and many blows on the legs given by a rod, a Korean specialty for disobedient children, Misir had been beaten while Joon was pampered and Ara praised. His body had ached from the inflicted bruises and cuts for days while he bitterly watched Grandmother rub Joon's body to warm it, attend to his injured foot with traditional medicine, and tenderly nurse him back to full health. Joon had been able to step outside into the courtyard to play with other children or come to their apartment a mere four days after he was injured while Misir had been confined in the apartment for a full two weeks.

It was only the first of many such incidents as Misir's resentment grew and festered.

Poor Joon. Poor Ara. Their half-breed father and his n****r w***e did not want them, so they must be worshipped and coddled by other children's parents. Papa brushed him off with cold ease and indifference more often than not, yet each and every time his step-cousins came they were welcomed.

Yes Misir knew he was overstepping boundaries by inviting himself to listen to the story, nonetheless he absolutely had to know the secret.

What or who had made these two mongrels so special?

"Before I tell you this part of the story." Third Uncle stopped abruptly and looked Joon square in the eyes. "No, don't look away." He added remembering the much loathed and outdated cultural constraints his mother had imposed on her grandchildren as well. "I need for you to make a few promises first and I need to know that you aren't lying." 

Joon continued to tip his chiffir and casually held his uncle's gaze. Cultural and social restraints aside, they had always had a close relationship and even if things got a little serious, their bond kept him at ease. "What's up, man?"

Misir sucked his breath and held it as if he himself had spoken those words and awaited the unpleasant albeit expected reaction. Instantly he felt like an idiot though and hid his chagrin behind his own cup. If he wanted to stick around long enough to get answers to his questions he would have to consciously work at keeping a low profile.

"What's up man?" Third Uncle echoed and chuckled reaching forward to pat his nephew's head. "What's up, is if you do not want your entire reality to be fucked up, then you must tell me now." Confusion clouded Joon's hazel eyes, which had been inheritted from Seok himself. Hyuk patted his nephew's head two, three times more and then settled back against the wall. He wished there was an easier way to go about the matter, but seeing none, continued. "If you say that you don't want to know any more then I will continue to protect your innocent mind same as I always have." 

The story was different this time. Joon knew his family history and knew it well since the story was always the exact same regardless of which of his relatives did the telling. It had never occured to him to question the narrative and he did not know why his uncle was attempting to play mind games now.

Tell him, you miserable reject! Misir grew impatient as Joon sat ignorantly staring off into space. Quckly before he changes his mind!

Finally Joon took a mouthful of chiffir to loosen his throat and rasped. "Like I don't already know that I'm as safe as I ever will be whenever I am here where I belong. You can say anything and it'll be okay with me. It's all okay with me when I'm here with you. You're my best uncle and you love me."

Hyuk dropped his shoulders and sighed. 

"And at one point, believe it or not, your parents loved you too.....regardless of what your granny says."

© 2017 MeratheRestless

Author's Note

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Added on July 26, 2017
Last Updated on August 3, 2017




Really there's not much to tell. I study in university, work a part time job, go to Kingdom Hall twice a week, out preaching at least twice per month, and spend the rest of my time at home. Don't like.. more..