I first wrote At the Heart of War as a personal essay many years ago. Since then I rewrote it many times, and even tried to fictionalize it. I decided to go with the true story as much as possible.
Morsby (name changed) was a character from my childhood who seemed like the most malicious person in the world and was very scary to me as a child. He was always angry and cursing us; always attempting some spell to harm us. That said, children can be just as malicious, especially to someone like Morsby, who was alone. A large group of children and their friends being mischievous can be just as intimidating. That's the reason I decided to make the protagonists We against Morsby. I wanted to show the imbalance in terms of number.
A couple instances in the story: "We let our legs dangle over the verandah ledge..." and the almost encounter in the garden was really supposed to be He, my brother.
And the scene where: "We ran outside and hurled two rocks..." should also be He, my brother. That did happen, but we did not all collectively hurl rocks. We were too busy cowering in a corner.
So some of it was embellished for the sake of the story, but I also left out a section that was in the original essay. That was a memory of Morsby right after Hurricane Gilbert, which struck Jamaica in 1988. I was eight years old and this was after my siblings and I had already had many adventurous encounters with Morsby. Here is an excerpt from the end of my original essay:
Parts of our roof had been blown off, one wall had a large crack that ran from the ceiling down to the floor, and water was everywhere. My father, the carpenter, did the repairs on our house and my grandmother’s, and after a few weeks we were beginning to get things back together.
But Morsby had no one. I remember seeing him trying to do as much as he could to help himself. He had lost just as much as anyone else, but he had to try to put his life back together alone. Almost his entire roof was gone. The interior of his house was in disarray and had been flooded. I don’t know how it happened --- if he asked or not --- but one day while we were experiencing a brilliant after the storm sunshine, I went outside and saw my father on top of Morsby’s roof, repairing it for him. I found it strange that he was helping this long established enemy of ours. In fact, I didn’t understand it at all at the time. But I also didn’t see any evil in Morsby that day. He was busy offering advice and assisting my father, flinging foot as he passed up supplies. They worked together like they were old friends, my father hammering and nailing and sawing, with Morsby flinging and dragging and reaching.
Read the final version of At the Heart of War here.