Silence is Betrayal, Pay it Forward
I got my first short story published this week! I am incredibly grateful and excited for this, especially as I feel the message is important. If you would like to read my published story, tip or rate me, please follow the link to my story. As the story is about paying it forward, I do split my tips and proceeds with community charitable needs, and if you love it too, please leave a tip. Currently, the charity I have chosen with this story is to help pay rent and utilities for those who are behind and who have been affected by COVID-19, in the Twin Cities community. https://vocal.media/stories/a-new-day-6z1m2p0cwq.
Thank you so much! I am excited that this was published and grateful for the opportunity that this brings.
By: Gina Bonelli, 2021 Gallery Bonelli Copyright
This morning was different for Cora, as she walked to her second job at the neighborhood bookstore. Just a few weeks ago, her normal walking route through her neighborhood in Minneapolis was filled with familiar sounds of birds, cars, and pedestrians. Now, the streets are filled with people. People everywhere, stretched for miles. Some businesses still smoldering hot ash from fires set to them by outsiders who attempted to fuel hatred towards her community. Other businesses are mere remnants of their former selves, and now reflect the pain felt by her and so many people. Another person lost his life to inhumane cruelty at the hand of some who are filled with hate. The air is filled with an energy of change. Although Cora’s walk was somber from the loss of another community member, another racial injustice done, she could not help but also feel that this time might be different. Change is on the horizon, she said to herself. She paused briefly, kneeled down, smiled at the woman who slept on the cold bench on this side of the street, and placed her last five dollars in the woman’s soiled yet beautiful hands.
Cora arrived at the remains of the bookstore she has worked at for the past several years. With sadness in her heart, she eyed the rubble of burned books, soot-filled rubble and scattered glass. “Wait…,” she thought as she starred in disbelief at a little black book, which appeared left undamaged. She swiftly climbed over the pile of ashes to the book, grabbed it off of the ground and began to examine it. The black notebook pages were empty. There was a pocket folder on the end of it and the hardcover very simply had “Silence is Betrayal” typed on it in white font. “Silence is Betrayal,” what an intriguing phrase, Cora thought as she remembered a similar message spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She held the Moleskin journal in her hands and wondered what she could do to help break the silence. Then she turned, taking the journal with her, walked to the curb and sat down. Staring off at the crowd of protestors she thought about that day. May 25th, 2020 was the day George Floyd died by the very hands of those employed to protect and serve her community. The flood of anger, sadness, frustration and hopelessness filled her mind. She heard the chants, the cries of outrage, and shuffling of feet all around her. “Justice for Floyd,” the protestors yelled. She wondered if her family members or friends might become the next victims. “Skin color, really would they have done this if George Floyd had been a white man,” she questioned in her head. Feeling even more feverish with rage and grief, she looked down at her new journal again. While she stared at the journal, she remembered seeing an advertisement about a writing competition on social media. “I can break the silence there,” she thought. She stood up, dusted off her jeans and walked back towards her apartment.
Cora knew she only had a few hours to write, before the submission was due. She sat for moment, composing her ideas, then she opened her new journal and began to write, “To all my brothers and sisters, pain is a human experience, but it can be lessened. We can show one another compassion. We can learn to connect and bond. We can do all of this and more, but we need to drop the barriers of hate.” From there the words began to pour out of her pen. Page after page she poured her thoughts, emotions, and her account of what happened to Mr. Floyd, while finding ways to relate the experience to people who grew up differently from her. Love and compassion were at the heart of her written words. Two hours had passed, and she dabbed the last period of the last page of her story on the journal. She still had enough time to scan the pages with her phone and upload it to the competition website. When she completed her submission, she opened back up her Moleskin journal and was happy to discover that she still had many blank pages left to fill. For now, she took the attached elastic band and bound the journal shut. She placed the journal in her bag, grabbed her keys and walked towards the mailbox in the lobby area. Cora was always hesitant about checking her mail. It rarely ever seemed to be good news received. She cringed as she turned the key in her box, then opened the little door. A thick letter size envelope was inside. That is odd, she thought as she searched her mind for any bills that might require that much paperwork. While pulling the envelope out of her mailbox she could feel that it seemed to be about an inch thick. It was addressed to her, but there was no forwarding address from the sender. She turned the envelope over and typed on the back were the words, “Silence is Betrayal.” Chills ran up her arms. “Even the font is the same as that typed on her moleskin journal,” she thought. She held the envelope for a bit, gazing at the phrase. For a moment she wondered if there was a camera somewhere, like a spoof video show or joke someone was playing on her. “Be bold Cora,” she whispered to herself. She opened the envelope and froze.
Cora lost her father at the age of six. He was incarcerated for theft and died in prison after another inmate stabbed him several times, just because of the color of his skin. Her mother worked three jobs to pay the rent and buy necessities. Although Cora and her mom struggled and did not have much, she knew she was not alone in the struggle. Her community was full of stories just like hers. Single parents, low-income households, and needing assistance was the norm for many kids who grew up in her neighborhood. Her community remained strong and tight through hard times and times of celebration though. This is what helped Cora through the dark times. Cora worked two jobs to afford her living necessities. She budgeted five dollars a day for her breakfast and lunch needs. Needless to say, she is often very hungry come dinner time, but she makes do. She always figured, what did not kill her made her stronger. She walks to her jobs, both in the summer and in the harsh Minnesota winters. Sometimes on her walks she daydreams about what she would do to help her community more, if she had the money to do so. She loves to sing at church every Sunday, and often signs up to help her community out, whether it be to clean up litter or collect and hand out supplies. Cora lives with her cat, Jack, in her modest one-bedroom apartment, and takes a night off each week to hang out with her girlfriends. Up until now, she has generally stayed silent on political, religious, and social injustice topics. She does not like the confrontation and energy such arguments can bring. May 25th changed her perspective on that. As she walked to the bookstore that day, she saw police vehicles, a crowd of people gathered and heard cries of injustice. She peered her head towards the front of the crowd to see what was going on, when she saw a man laying lifeless on the ground next to a police vehicle. Her heart sank as she stepped away from the crowd. She fell to the ground, grabbed her head with her hands and shook in disbelief. When she had enough strength, she stood herself up, and walked to the bookstore. The bookstore was a family owned favorite. They carried mainly used books, which Cora found to be priceless gems. She loved to read all types of literature, fiction, fantasy, self-help, classics, poetry, and more. The job was her favorite, as she got to spend her time talking up the newest books she discovered, while filling the shelves with history as books were brought in for trade. But, on this day, the day of the death of George Floyd, she could think of nothing else. Nothing filled her heart with joy that day. She sank into a sort of depression. She thought about the loss of her dad, the loss of several friends she grew up with and now another man lost his life in her community. Pain is all she could feel on May 25th.
Cora slid one of her nails across the edge of the glued down lip of the thick envelope. She lifted up the flap, and her heart raced. Inside was money, cash money and a lot of it. She carefully flipped through the bills, looking for an explanation of some kind. Toward the end of the cash, she saw what appeared to be a check. Quickly she closed the envelope and ran back up to her apartment. “Who would send me money, how can this be, what is this, is it a scam, is it a trick, what is going on here,” she thought frantically. Cora took a moment to breathe. After she calmed her mind down a bit, she pulled the contents of the envelope out and laid it on her kitchen counter. As she sorted the contents, she found one hundred one-hundred-dollar bills, a cashier’s check written to her in the amount of ten thousand dollars and a small post-it note with the words “pay it forward and break the silence” on it. She sat quickly down at her breakfast bar, and her whole world just opened up right before her eyes. There in front of her was an unexplainable twenty-thousand dollars and a message connecting both the money and the Moleskin journal. With no idea who was behind this amazing gift, she knew what she had to do.
That night Cora researched different ways she could make the best impact on her community with the gift she received. She wants to help rebuild when things calmed down. She wants to help the family of the victims of racial injustice. She wants to help the women who sleeps on the bench. She wants to rebuild the bookstore. So many things she wants to do, but she has to budget and prioritize. The next day, Cora contacted her community leaders and asked them to help break the silence. She had a long discussion on how to maximize the money she received to pay it forward. Knowing it was going to be a hot and long summer of protests, while in a pandemic, the leaders suggested that she use part of it to help the community with supplies, another portion to go towards getting the word out about racial injustice, and the rest can go towards the rebuild efforts. Cora decided to use the money, spending nothing on herself, on paying it forward and spreading the word. Later that evening, Cora received an email regarding her writing submission. The email read, “Dear Cora, we were so touched by your submission. Your story is essential to all of us as we are of one race, the human race. We have so much to learn from one another, and so much to gain. There is a lot of work ahead for all of us. We hope you continue to speak out, as your voice is one of love and compassion. Congratulations Cora, you are the winner of this writing competition! The announcement will be made shortly on our webpage, and one of our representatives will be contacting you within the hour to formally congratulate you. Thank you for your wonderful submission!” Cora smiled, and knows exactly how she will spend the prize money; pay it forward, silence is betrayal.
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