MR. WUGIDGEM AND THE FACES OF FREEDOM-EPISODE 1

Welcome to today’s podcast and thanks for tuning in.  As I have been saying for several months, I have been working on Book Five in the Mr. Wugidgem Fantasy Series.   The working title is Mr. Wugidgem And The Faces Of Freedom.  Today I thought I would give you a taste of what is to come by reading Episode 1. Debby and Michael begin the day in Social Studies Class and finish it in a foreign country, several thousand miles away! Direct Link To Episode 1 Mr. Wugidgem And The Faces Of Freedom For this podcast I am including the text, so that you can follow along visually if you would like.

MR. WUGIDGEM AND THE FACES OF FREEDOM 

CHAPTER ONE

“Okay,” Mrs. Hills said, “It’s Friday, and it’s time for Current Events.  What in today’s headlines that has captured your interest and imagination?” Debby shot her hand up, catching their Social Studies teacher’s eye.  “ Yes, Debby,” she said.  “What would you like to share?” “I think it’s awesome what’s going on in Libya.  I mean it’s awful what President Gaddafi is doing to his own people, attacking them and all, but I think it’s really courageous what the regular people are doing.  They’re fighting for their freedom!” “Very good, Debby,” she said, her eyes fixed on Debby.  “Thank you.” Then Mrs. Hills’ eyes scanned around the room at all the other children.  “What do the rest of you think about this fight for freedom?” The children were silent for a few moments, and then finally Michael raised his hand.  “But shouldn’t freedom come from elections?  I mean wasn’t President Gaddafi elected?” “Good questions, Michael.”  She looked around the room again.  “Does anybody know if and when President Gaddafi was elected?” Most of the children turned and looked at Todd, the smartest kid in the class.  Slowly, Todd raised his hand. “Yes, Todd,” Mrs. Hills said. “Kaddafi overthrew the king back in the 1960’s,” Todd replied.  “He was never elected.” “Excellent!” Mrs. Hills exclaimed.  “Yes Colonel Gaddafi staged a military coup and ousted King Idris in 1969.  And he never has held elections to this day, 42 years later.” “Then he should step down, and then let the people decide who should be their leader, just as we do here,” Michael blurted out. “Michael, please raise your hand and be recognized before speaking,” Mrs. Hills said quietly.  “Do you understand?” “Yes, Mrs. Hills,” Michael replied.  “I’m …  I’m sorry,” he added. “Michael does bring up a good point.  We’ll be studying this next semester, but in the 1990’s there was a massive movement against dictatorial rule in the Soviet Union, and the end result was the Soviet Union fell apart and most of its separate parts had free elections, including Russia.” Then Mrs. Hills looked around the room again.  “Does anyone else have anything to share?” Hugo Montana, the new boy from Venezuela raised his hand tentatively.  “Ah, yes, Hugo.  Thank you for participating.  What have you seen in the headlines today that captures your imagination?” “Well,” Hugo began, “It’s not exactly in the headlines, but it is a current event, happening right now.” “If it’s not in the headlines, then how did you learn of it?” Mrs. Hills wanted to know. “On my computer, with Skype,” Hugo replied.  “I was talking with my Uncle Javier who lives in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and he showed me live pictures of what is happening there.” Mrs. Hills’ eyes widened.  “What is happening there, Hugo?” she asked. “He and the other farmers around Maracaibo have driven their tractors onto the road to stop the army from taking over their lands.” “What?” Mrs. Hills said.  “What did you see?” “My Uncle panned his camera in a full circle, and I saw hundreds of tractors blocking the road in one direction, and in the other direction I saw army trucks trying to get past them.  President Trinidad ordered the army to take the land and give it to the poor people.” “Oh, my!” Mrs. Hills exclaimed.  “I had read President Trinidad threatened to take over large parts of the country, but I did not know he was actually doing it.” “Who cares!” a voice rang out.  All heads turned in the direction of the voice to see the other new boy in the class, Rufus rising and heading towards Hugo.  “Who cares about all these foreign countries?  Who cares about farmers!  Why don’t you go back home and fight the army with your farmer friends, you wetback!” Hugo jumped to his feet.  “I am not going to take this!” “Boys!” Mrs. Hills shouted.  “Stop it this instant!”  She rushed towards Hugo and Rufus. Michael could see their teacher wouldn’t reach the boys before they reached each other, so he stuck out his foot just as Rufus passed his desk.  His foot caught Rufus’ trailing leg, and Rufus lost his balance and pitched forward.  He thrust out his hands and arms to break his fall, but he still landed hard and lay in the aisle, stunned. Hugo stopped and stared at Rufus.  “Hugo!” Mrs. Hills screamed, “Turn around and take your seat.” Hugo turned and did as he was told.  By the time Mrs. Hills reached Rufus, he had struggled into a sitting position.  “Who did that?” he growled, looking straight at Michael. “I did,” Michael replied.  “He would have whipped you.” “Says you,” Rufus spat, slowly rising to his feet. “It’s true,” Michael said. Mrs. Hills stared at Rufus.  “Follow me, young man,” she ordered.  You will spend the rest of the period in the principal’s office writing, ‘Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.’  And, Debby please lead the class and continue the Current Events discussion while I am gone.” After school Debby and Michael stopped by to see Mr. Wugidgem at his toy store.   There were several customers in the store, but Mrs. Wugidgem hurried over and greeted them with a wide smile and a big hug for each of them.  “Mr. Wugidgem is in the back office, ordering more Wii’s.  We can’t seem to keep enough of them in stock!” “Thank you, Mrs. Wugidgem,” the children said, and then turned and made their way along the aisles of toys to the door along the back wall which led to the warehouse and Mr. Wugidgem’s office.  Michael opened the door, and then they proceeded to Mr. Wugidgem’s office, which was in the far right hand corner of the warehouse, next to the inbound toy unloading dock.  The office had a large window, so Debby and Michael could see Mr. Wugidgem was on the telephone as they approached.  Mr. Wugidgem saw them and waved them into his office. Debby opened the office door, and as the children entered, Mr. Wugidgem was saying, “Yes, Carib.  I totally understand the urgency of the crisis.  Debby and Michael, the children I was telling you about, just happened to walk in.  We’ll discuss it, and then I’ll get back to you.  Bye for now, Carib.” He hung up the phone, and then motioned to the two chairs in front of his desk.  “This is a pleasant surprise,” he said.  “Please sit.  What brings you here today?” “Well,” Michael began, “there was a fight in Social Studies today, and I wanted to talk to you about it.”  He proceeded to relate the details of the fight between Rufus and Hugo and ended with the question, “I’m wondering if I made a mistake by tripping Rufus.” “Hum…” Mr. Wugidgem said, scratching his chin between his thumb and forefinger.  “That is a difficult issue.  The positive is you did stop the fight, and that is almost always a good thing to do.  If you hadn’t tripped him, there most probably would have been a fight.  It does sound as though Rufus has a lot of prejudices.  He’s going to have to overcome them.  Perhaps his penance in the principal’s office of thinking and writing ‘Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me’ was a start.” “Or perhaps,” Debby suggested, “that penance will just add Mrs. Hills and Michael to Rufus’ prejudice list.” “Perhaps,” Mr. Wugidgem replied.  “Time will tell.  But on balance, Michael, I believe you did the right thing under those circumstances. ‘Speaking of circumstances,” Mr. Wugidgem continued, “that phone call I just received was from my old friend, Carib Conibo, from Venezuela.” “Venezuela?” both Debby and Michael echoed at the same time. “That’s where Hugo is from!” Michael added. “Exactly!” Mr. Wugidgem said. “There’s been nothing on the regular news today about the Army and the Maracaibo Farmer confrontation, so Hugo’s story confirms what Carib just told me.  The Army has pulled back, but Carib is convinced they will try again tomorrow, probably with violence.” “What does your friend have to do with this confrontation?” Debby asked. “Carib and President Trinidad grew up together, and until recently, Carib was a secret advisor to the President; no one knew about this relationship because neither of them wanted any possible outside influences.  But then the President suddenly stopped calling Carib and started taking over everything, from private individuals’ homes to big companies.  And he wouldn’t return any of Carib’s phone calls.” “And now this confrontation has happened, and Carib says the old Caesar – the President- would never have ordered this.  So he called me and asked for help.” “Why would he ask you for help?” Michael wondered aloud. “We’ve been friends a long time,” Mr. Wugidgem answered, “and I’ve helped him before.   You remember Running Bear of the Phoenix Tribe?” Both Michael and Debby nodded yes. “Well, you see, Carib is a shaman just as Running Bear is, and is able to discern who has the gift of magic.  He can also discern who uses white magic and who uses dark magic.   So the first time we met, many moons ago, he knew immediately I was a white magician.” “We’re going to have an adventure!” Debby cried. “I believe we are!” Michael agreed. “Hold on, you youngsters, “ Mr. Wugidgem cautioned them.  “Not so fast.  This could be very dangerous.  We’re going to have to talk to your parents first. “ “Oh, Mr. W,” Debby scoffed, “come on, let’s just go.” “Yea,” Michael said, “we’ve proven we can take care of ourselves in extreme danger.” “Yes, you have,” Mr. Wugidgem agreed.  “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have even thought of you accompanying me.  But your parents may have other ideas, or have genuine concerns that I haven’t thought of.” “Okay,” Debby said, fishing her cell phone out of her pocket.  “I’ll call Mom right now.” Mr. Wugidgem raised his hand, as would a policeman stopping traffic.  “Hold on, young lady,” he said.  “Don’t you think I should be the one to explain the dangers?” “Oh, all right,” Debby agreed, sliding the cell phone back into her pants pocket. “Besides,” Mr. Wugidgem said, picking up the receiver of his desk phone, “you never know who’s out there, picking up cell phone signals.” He dialed their mother’s home office number.  “Hello, Emily,” he said, “It’s James.  The children are here with me at the store.  They’ve been explaining that they’ve learned about a confrontation between the Venezuelan Army and Maracaibo Farmers this morning.”  He went on to describe what happened, and then told her about the phone call from Carib, who asked for help to find a peaceful solution.  He concluded by saying, “So the children want to go with me, but it could be very dangerous.  Anything is liable to happen when citizens stand in the way of the Army.” “I’m inclined to let them go,” Emily began, “because I know you can protect them, to say nothing of them being able to protect themselves, but first I’d like call Mark, discuss it with him, and then call you back.” “We’ll wait for your call,” Mr. Wugidgem replied, and then hung up the phone. Michael pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, and then said, “I’m going to see if there’s anything on Facebook about Venezuela Confrontation.” “Great idea!” Debby exclaimed, retrieving her cell phone again from her pocket.  “I’ll check Twitter.” A short while later Michael whistled low and long.  “There’s a few things in English here, describing what happened today, but look at all the posts in Spanish.”  He handed his cell phone to Mr. Wugidgem.  “What do they say?” Mr. Wugidgem scrolled through the posts for several minutes, saying “unhuh” after finishing each one.  Finally he looked up and said, “This is amazing!  Ninety percent of these posts are saying President Trinidad is wrong.  And many of them are calling for mass demonstrations in Maracaibo tomorrow morning to protest the takeover of all those farms.  It not just the big farms he’s stealing – it’s all the farms, even the small ones!  And a lot of those are calling for him to resign from office for making up his own laws.” “It sounds like what’s happening in a lot of countries right now,” Michael observed. “Not exactly,” Mr. Wugidgem replied, “because President Trinidad is doing it in the name of the poor people, but it’s still abuse of Presidential Power.” Just then Mr. Wugidgem’s desk phone rang.  He handed the cell phone back to Michael, and then turned and answered his desk phone.  “Hello,” he said, and a moment later he continued, “Hold on Emily.  I’ll put you on the speakerphone.” He pressed the hold button, replaced the receiver in its cradle, and then pressed the speaker button.  “Can you hear me, Emily?” he asked. “I hear you well,” Emily’s disembodied voice floated into the room.  “Are you there, children? “We’re here, Mom,” Debby and Michael replied. “Isn’t this exciting?” Debby exclaimed. “We’re living history!” Michael added. “Yes it is exciting,” Emily replied.  “And yes, history is being made right now.  But your father and I do have some reservations about you actually being part of that history.  We don’t want you to become statistics.” “Oh, Mom,” Debby protested, “we’ll be fine.  We promise we’ll be careful.” “I know you will, Sweetie,” Emily replied.  “Your father and I talked about this at length, and his main point was both of you needed protection from the unknown.  So I finally suggested that I go with you so that there would be one adult to look after each of you.” “Cool!”  Debby exclaimed. “Is Dad really okay with you going?” Michael asked. Emily chuckled.  “Well I wouldn’t say he’s really okay. But he thinks it’s wonderful you want to be a part of finding a peaceful solution to this confrontation, so he agreed I should go.” “Good,” Mr. Wugidgem said.  “Then that’s settled.  And it’s also good there’s no school next week, so we have some time to try to bring peace to Venezuela.  I have a few things to wind up here, so children, you go on home and pack your backpacks for a several day trip.   Then Emily, you three head over to the tree house, and I’ll meet you there in about an hour.” Mr. Wugidgem was waiting by the base of the mango tree an hour later as Emily and the children hurried along the beach, backpacks slung over their shoulders.  As usual, the beach was deserted, so they climbed the rope ladder up to the tree house undetected. They stepped onto the front porch of the tree house and then mounted the three steps to the front door. Mr. Wugidgem opened it and they went in.   They gathered in the center of the room.  Emily reached into her slacks pocket, saying, “ I have my crystal.”  She withdrew her hand from her pocket, and then handed the tiny crystal to Mr. Wugidgem. Then Mr. Wugidgem took the marble from Michael’s hand, the strand of Raggedy Ann’s hair from Debby’s, and placed them alongside Emily’s crystal in his right hand. “Thank you.  Now the three of you,” he continued,  “join hands, with Emily in the middle.  And Debby and Michael, each of you hold on to one of my arms and close your eyes.” As Debby and Michael moved alongside Mr. Wugidgem, he placed his right thumb and index finger on the top of the ring on his left ring finger.  “Now we are ready.  Okay.   Close your eyes,” Mr. Wugidgem repeated.  The children and Emily closed their eyes, and then Mr. Wugidgem said, “I’m going to turn the ring three times.  Ready?” They nodded their heads, then Mr. Wugidgem said, “Now take a deep breath…now let it out.  Take another deep breath…let it out.  And another deep breath.  Hold it.  Now let it out slowly….  O.K.  We’re ready.  I’m going to start counting.  And keep your eyes closed.” He began counting, “One,” he said quietly, turning the ring once.  “Two,” he continued, raising his voice a bit and turning the ring again.  “Three!” he exclaimed. Both Debby and Michael felt lightheaded for several seconds.  “It’s O.K.,” Mr. Wugidgem reassured them.  Finally, he said, “Now open your eyes.” When they all opened their eyes, what greeted them was a dazzling display of stars, with a sliver of the moon in the sky above them.  The only other light they saw was in the distance to their left, emanating from what appeared to be a house.  Behind them they heard a steady creaking sound, like a rusty wheel that needs oil. Thanks for listening to the first Episode of Mr. Wugidgem And The Faces Of freedom.  If you would like to hear the first four completed Mr. Wugidgem adventures, please click on the Podcast Archive tab at the top of this Home Page.  Please join me again next week, when I resume podcasting Grandma Chapman’s Poetry.  Thanks again for being with me!

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