Rudd looks around at the expectant faces in the room, and he sees that Tonderai is no longer the assistant manager. Now he is the storyteller, the hypnotist, gleaming in the firelight, his long plastic mackintosh reaching to the top of his boots. He watches him turn to hold his hands out over the flames, silence sparking in the fire basket. He spreads his fingers wide, then he rubs his palms together and begins again.
“These young men, these women, these Youth, they struggle beneath the Table. If they stop to listen, they hear, high up above them, Grandpa’s tales of war from a time they do not know. And they hear the Favourites beside Grandpa, jingling gold and diamonds. Jingling up there. And these Youth, they grow impatient. Their stomachs are empty. Their families have no future. They do not want to hear this jingling. And anyway they cannot stand still. For some are leaving. And some are staying. And all are working working. Always working. Many jobs. Little jobs. Any jobs. And they are hungry. Always hungry. So hungry sometimes they are stealing. Stealing from me. Stealing from you. Fighting for scraps that fall from the Table.”
Thunder rolls outside. In a grey stutter of lightning Rudd sees Tonderai turn towards Marybelle, a finger on his lips. “But!” he says, the word heavy with stones, “But … there is one person, a small person, who does not get scraps from the Table. No. Not even one taste. For this person, always waiting, always helping, always most obedient, is Girl. She is told always to wait. To serve the others. To fetch and carry. And then, perhaps then, these others will honour her with enough to survive. For that is how it is for this small person. This Girl.”
Tonderai, pull his shoulders back, and moves away from the fire. “This Girl …” he says, his voice smiling, “this Girl, maiwe!” He shakes his head. “She is veeery clever. And the gogo told us, that this Girl is clever for she has Ancestors of Fire in her blood. Ancestors who know a thing or two. Ancestors who will not let her be pushed this way or that. Or bossed by those who think they are mighty. No. This person, Girl, she has power. Plenty power. Power from those who came before. The power of her Ancestors. It is they who show her what is right and what is wrong. And they will not let her be still. She is strong, very strong, this Girl. But …” Tonderai turns slowly, his eyes finding Simi, “most do not see this, for Girl is only a girl.”
Rudd feels the word ‘girl’ settle between them. It holds the room, calm and present, but not for long, for the storm comes bashing in at the door, snuffing the story out like a candle. Rudd waits, and the room waits, waits for the noise and the rain to ease enough for Tonderai to drag the story back to the surface.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023