The legend of Joel

The Legend of Joel

 Both arms of orphan Joel were severed by a strong electrical shock when Joel was ten years old. From that day on, ahead of Joel, life was a completely new ball game – he had to eat with his feet, he had to write with his feet and what’s more, he had to make a living with his feet. Joel’s feet started to weave his whole life.

Joel earned a living by chopping wood with an axe after his parents died. Luckily, his neighbors had always been nice to him and took care of him. But Joel shivered when he thought of being disabled, which was equal to being useless in his eyes, feeling like a duck for sale. So after a full recovery, he was seen continuing his relationship with his axe in the woods.

Making a living with a pair of feet is extremely tough. Joel could not remember how many times chopsticks and pens escaped like slippery catfish from his new ‘hands’; how many times he fell when trying to chop with the axe; and how many times the blade bounced back and nearly took his miserable life. But no matter how hard his life was, Joel zipped up his teeth and went on and on. Then he found that his axe was just too much for his feet to hold tight.

As time passed, swelling, bruises, cuts, infection, suppuration and scars gradually became no strangers to Joel.

When he turned 18, his feet, on the one hand, might be the ugliest pair in the world; but on the other hand they were probably the most powerful and flexible pair of feet people had ever seen—one kick, and one tree fell. How amazing! As for the axe that he employed, he would hang it in his house as an adornment. Well, after he was done ‘chopping’, it was much easier to collect and tie his trophies up. He put all branches or trunks together with ropes, sitting on the ground as he coiled and fastened the ropes with his toes. Later, he harnessed his shoulder to the bunch of firewood and dragged his way back to village.

Well, if you ever got the chance to see Joel, I’m sure you would recognize him at first sight. His extra-large-sized legs and feet made him impossible to miss.

Three years later, a wild fire sprang up, devouring everything it could and drove all the villagers away from the land where they had been living for generations.

Ok, now, let’s move our eyes away from Joel’s hometown, over mountains and rivers and sit them on the small city, in which those refugees ended up.

City life did not go easy on those refugees, but the neighbors that had been helping Joel continued to make his life easier. To them, Joel was relation they could never cut out of their lives. Joel felt grateful and he wanted to pay them back. However, the city was not like the countryside, and it was hardly possible for a young man such as Joel to find a job. Joel wanted to pick up his old career, but woods in cities were only for beautification. What’s more, city people did not burn wood; instead, they burned either coal or gas. What should he do?

For a few months, Joel continued wandering and wondering. One night, he was found jumping around in a yard. A close observation revealed that Joel was trimming a bush for a family. Surely he had been practicing in secret and the delicate tools he used were tailor made to fit his toes perfectly? Look, he now swayed with a blade clamped between his toes, then rotated the cutting tool held by his toes, hopped around, rolled on the ground, leapt from side to side or turned summersaults if necessary, still skillfully pruning the bush.

He combined horticulture and artistic performance together to make his own special career and it was a totally extraordinary combination of speed, strength, agility and stamina. As he moved tensely and ceaselessly, leaves, chips of wood and small branches fell around the bush he was sculpting. It was as if he was handling a scalpel with what we call feet but they actually did not function like feet in Joel’s case. The house owner who hired him sighed, ‘Oh, boy, am I at home or in a circus? And you turned so gracefully like a pair of compasses swinging to the North.

In this way he started his business taking the nickname of Dancing Compasses. What a wonderful night!

One sunny day when walking in the street, Joel came across a commotion in which three guys were liberally treating a young man with punches and kicks. It seemed like action movies had failed to satisfy the public appetite for violence at that time, so people would rather see a real fight. It was hard to say whether the fight drew attention or people dragged themselves to the fight. Anyway, the circle of the lookers-on was getting larger and larger.

The poor young man yelled for help, but he surely did not get a grip on the concept of trying to be a looker-on or passer-by. And when push came to shove, he tried to fight back, which really annoyed the trouble-makers. One of them broke a branch from a tree and stood by for a homerun. The other two cooperated by holding tight the hands of their victim.

An amazing thing happened. The branch, a lethal weapon broke into halves before it hit its target. Joel showed up just in time. Joel strode toward the amateur batter without saying a word and then kicked. Then what was more amazing, the tree behind the punk fell. Be aware, the tree was not a little one but one with a trunk as big as a telephone pole. Everyone seeing that was shocked. Suddenly silence became the king of the scene.

Joel turned around and glared at the three punks, his eyes as piercing as a spear. The trio came back to reality with a start, mingled with the crowd, then ran for their lives. However, before the bullied one could give his sincere thanks, his savior had already disappeared.

It was not known that many seemingly impossible things were done by Joel after he found his new course in life. But during his seven-year stay in that city, one of them was accidentally made public and was noticed on a large scale, thus resulting in the exposure of the rest.

Joel was strolling along a street, which was quite a rare situation for him, when there suddenly came a hysterical scream from somewhere. Pedestrians traced the scream and found a woman on the balcony of a high building pointing to a little baby whose clothes were caught by a tree branch. The screaming woman who appeared to be the baby’s careless mother reached out for her daughter, but failed for her baby had fallen ten feet lower.

Because the branch was not strong enough to bear the baby, it bent, bent, bent. The baby was on the verge of taking a twenty-foot fall.

Joel ran for the baby and ran past another guy with a cap covering half of his face who was also running really fast for the same purpose of saving the baby. However, the branch could not wait for anyone to reach the tree and save the day. It lost its bond with the baby girl. Before the hard, cold marble ground could give the baby a fatal hug, Joel threw himself into the air, clamped the baby with his feet, tossed her towards the other rescuer, who carefully caught the baby, and then Joel landed on his feet.

It happened that the guy who owned the cap was a famous sprinter expected to be the next world champion, so the fact that cameras were following him was not such a big surprise. All cameras immediately focused on the crying baby and her temporary babysitter for a close-up. When the cameramen remembered to film the real savior, they found no trace of Joel.

Afterwards, a non-official source claimed that Joel had beaten the future king of sprinters to the baby quite accidentally, and quite easily. Even the honest athlete admitted, ‘He was definitely faster than me back there, I don’t know if he is faster than me on the track, but most important of all, he gave the baby a new life. And it was a great honor for me to be his sidekick . . .’ All this started to stir Joel’s world up.

The media cornered him. People chased him. His image could be seen everywhere, on high buildings, on buses, on television or T-shirts. Strangers he had never met before, rich or poor, powerful or powerless, came from all over the world to meet him. They behaved as if they were old acquaintances as they attempted to get something from him as a souvenir or to ask for a live performance. The unborn were eagerly introduced to him for names. There were even a few people claiming they were his relatives.

This was way too much for Joel to take. Finally, he decided to leave the city. He just wanted to live like a normal person, but suddenly normal people turned wild and made his now-normal life abnormal and impossible.

What are they trying to hew out of a guy who tries so hard to be normal?’ was one of the questions that Joel could not figure out.

 He went back to his hometown and started his life again. Hills and mountains had already put on new suits and the effects of the fire some years ago could barely be seen. Animals lived in the woods again and everything on the land had grown so well.

However, Joel’s peace didn’t last long. Just a couple of days later, Joel’s makeshift residence was surrounded by a crowd of people whose calls penetrated a prolonged and thunderous chorus.

‘Master Joel, teach us your unique skill, or we will never leave here.’ At those words, Joel knotted his eyebrows.

Joel led those people to the woods nearby and replayed the performance he had perfected before he went to the city. Seeing this, those clever people couldn’t wait to stretch their legs and were ready to show their super kicks.

Soon, or sooner than Joel expected, just like firecrackers exploding, screams and cries such as ‘Oh my god, my foot hurts’, ‘Ah, I’ve got a fracture’, ‘Painful’, ‘My foot is bleeding, I need my Mom,’ came from every corner of the woods.

Anger and sadness alike, which were welling up from the bottom of Joel’s heart, made his eyes burn with tears.

Copyright. Peter Li.                               

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