Tonderai speaks, drumming his words into the dark.
“These days Grandpa wears bright shirts. Shirts with his picture on them, many, many times, so that the People may see him from wherever they stand. Or fall. Of course, all the Favourites at the Table wear the selfie-shirts too. Now all anyone can see is Grandpa.”
Then Tonderai lowers his chin, and the drum beat softens.
“So that is how it goes. Every day, high at the Table, Grandpa sits and fills the window. Every day he is in his shirts that are full of his crocodile eyes. And every day, down below, Girl writes more stories. Every day she flies them up and out into the world, up so high that even she cannot see where they travel.
But these stories are only writing.
Now Girl does something different.”
The story pauses and Tonderai begins to pace, hands behind his back. When he speaks again his tone is quieter.
“Now Girl tells new stories, and these are not written down. These are stories that Girl tells in a loud voice to entertain the People. The stories are of brave adventures against horrible monsters. They are thrilling stories that nobody wants to miss. Not even Snake … for that is how Girl has planned it.
On the first day only one or two come to listen, but soon the news spreads. The People hear that Girl’s stories are of such excitement that all should be present.
On day three, Snake sends his Wife to see if this is true, to tell him if these tales are as excellent as the Women say.
On day four, Girl sees Snake’s Wife at the back of the crowd and she calls out to her. ‘Come closer Wife of Snake. You are an important lady and should be near the front.’
Girl sees Wife of Snake smirk. She sees her push past the Women and the Workers, to come closer. No one is happy, for it is Wife of Snake who scolds them when they cannot find cooking oil. It is Wife of Snake who chases them when they wail too loud if their children die. The Women do not like Wife of Snake one bit. Nor do they like Snake.
Girl hears the Women and the Workers grumble, but she does not mind, for she knows that this must be done if her plan is to work.
So every night Girl tells stories of magic and danger, and after each night every listener knows that they must come again to hear who wins or loses. They must be there to learn who will be champion. Who will live to fight on. And so they come, again and again, and Snake too comes every night when the moon rises. He too listens, and while he listens Uncle quietly, quietly does his work. Uncle, who nobody notices, is getting things done.
So that is what happens.”
Now Tonderai walks his gumboot walk into the far corner of the billiard room. All Simi can see of him is his dark height. But she can hear him clearly for his voice is loud, and the wind has vanished.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023