Excerpt from The Plentiful Harvest

Jack stayed up after the first rooster started and went out to the well for a bucket of bathwater. Always one for long hot showers where he could sing Beatles' songs, Jack was surprised by how much he enjoyed a Sudanese bucket bath. There was nothing like the feeling he got when dousing his hot, dusty self with the cold water. It was invigorating, and he thought of incorporating the ritual when he got back to the states. Imagine how great it would feel, he thought, after a game of summer playground basketball with Chumbley and Lenny.

He set out with a bag over his shoulder and the creation Ahmed had helped him fashion under his right arm. It was still very dark so he grabbed his headband flashlight and set out to find the school. He had a general idea of where it was but wanted to give himself enough time in case he couldn't find it right away.

The marketplace was peaceful and Jack liked the calmness that he was feeling. It was that rare, small window of night where there were no dogs yelping, no roosters screeching, and no buses or cars driving through with mufflers from the 1950s.

He found the small campus with little trouble and entered the courtyard with a white statue of St. Jude at the center. The statue, nearly looking as if it belonged in the middle of an old Italian cemetery, looked as if it was new or had been freshly painted. The tall, bearded figure wore long flowing robes, as if he was in a hurry, held a large coin or medallion, and had a flame atop his head.

Jack stared for a moment, not quite sure what to make of it then placed his attention back on what he had carried to the campus.

It was perfect. Jack placed his creation on the ground and placed his bag on a bench and opened it. Then he got to work nailing the backboard and basketball hoop, or rather basket, up on the side of a tree alone in a small clearing to the left of St. Jude. After he was done, Jack bounced the basketball a few times and was quite satisfied with the job the bicycle pump had accomplished.

He spent the next hour shooting free throws as the sun rose slowly to reveal the perfection of the newly minted St. Jude's Catholic School basketball court.

By the time Jenelle arrived at 6:45, there were four children playing basketball with Jack. She stopped near the statue of St. Jude and smiled. She was beautiful and the skin on her face was smooth and shiny and her large round eyes seemed piercing set against the purple flowers on her sun dress.

Jack smiled back.

"Ok, now, remember what I've taught you," he reminded the children. "There is really no defending a pull-up jump shot. If the defender is sticking too close then you just keep driving to the basket and take him to the hole. If he's playing off of you then just stop dead in your tracks, pull up and take the short jump shot."

He demonstrated the move several times and the kids marveled at how many times he was able to get the ball in the dried pepper basket with the bottom cut out. They fought each other to retrieve the ball every time he made a shot.

"I see you found our humble little school, Mr. Hop - Jack. I can't thank you enough this wonderful surprise. The children will love it. I mean, they already love it."

"I was hoping they would. I know how much we looked forward to shooting some hoops, playing basketball at recess when I was in school."

"OK, children. Please put down the basketball and find your places inside. I will be in momentarily," she called out.

"Wow, that is a good group," he said. "I don't think we ever listened to our teacher and obeyed as quickly as that. Of course we never had a teacher who looked like you either." Jack wanted to die as the words escaped his mouth, knowing what a blunder he had just committed.