Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Prompt: Old Baba On the River

“Old Baba! Old Baba is here!”

She saw the boy jump up and down, waving his arms and calling out to her, calling out to his village. The children always came first. She leaned on her pole for a moment and let the current carry her as she waved up to him. She didn’t have breath to answer his greetings, so she resumed the rhythm of pushing and pulling the pole against the river bottom to move her small rowboat toward the shore.

The children ran down the muddy banks and jumped in the water to grab her boat’s sides and pull it out of the water. They sang out her name, called greetings and shouted their stories in her favorite chorus. She drank in every word.

Some of the adults had started to arrive by the time the children pulled her two goats off the little boat, urging them up the riverbank with promises of sweet grasses and fresh water. The women slowed their steps so Chief Joseph would be the first to welcome her to their village. He grasped her outstretched hands and bowed over them.

“Old Baba, welcome! We have missed you. Come, come, we have shade and fresh water and food for you. Come!” He helped her climb out of the boat and the women clustered around, singing their own greetings and drawing up the riverbank. She drew in their words with every breath. Chief Joseph left her with the women, and they led her to a central hut with open sides and a thatched grass roof for shade. The women laughed as they settled her onto pillows and brought fresh water, spicy sesame flatbread, sweet pojama fruits, and a bathing basin to wash her face and hands and feet.

“Tashina, I see you are with child. How goes it?”

The young woman, a new bride, blushed and the others tittered behind their hands.   

“I feel better now, Old Baba, but I thought I would throw up my entire insides for the first moon.”

One of the other woman called out, “She swore she would never let Joshua touch her again!” The others whooped with laughter, and Tashina’s blush deepened. Old Baba waved her hands and they fell silent. She motioned Tashina closer and put her hands on the young woman’s belly. The woman watched eagerly. Old Baba reached into her little duffel bag and pulled out a small white quartz on a leather strand and tied it around Tishana’s elbow. “This will help you and the baby be healthy and strong until the boy is born.”

Tishana’s face beamed with her smile, and the women all reached out to pat her belly and hair with congratulations. Old Baba was never wrong.

The children brought the goats into the hut, brushed and decorated with flower garlands and ribbons on their delicate horns. “Look, look, Old Baba! We have made them beautiful! Will they give us milk?”

Old Baba exchanged a glance with the goats and then nodded. “Aye, they’re ready. One at time, children. You know you must be gentle and pay attention. They will let you know your turn is done.” The children clustered around the goats and clamored for their turn.

Old Baba said with the slightest sharp tone in her voice, “You disrespect yourselves, each other, and my goats. They will give no milk if they do not feel your love and respect for each other as well as them.” The children looked at each other and began a new chorus of urging each other to go first. Finally they agreed to go in order of age, and the oldest lay down under the larger nanny and reached up to pull her teats in a practiced rhythm. Soon he had drunk his fill and made room for the next child. The youngest children clustered around the smaller goat, and the oldest girls helped them get their drinks, teaching them how to milk the goat’s ever-full udder.

The woman laughed, and one of the mothers said, “Old Baba, we wish you were here all the time, so our children would always behave so well!”

Old Baba nodded serenely, and the women settled around her to share their stories with her. Each one took a turn sitting in front of Old Baba, and she patted each woman’s head, sometimes her body, and pulled something for each woman out of her small bag. She smiled as they wondered aloud how she could always fit so much – and just the perfect things – in her bag for every visit. They would never believe her if she tried to explain it to them.

The children had drunk their fill of fresh goats’ milk. Old Baba rose and walked down to pet her goats. The older nanny bleated, and Old Baba turned to the women. “It’s your turn. I will visit the men, and you may each fill a jug for your hearth.” The women chorused their thanks and shoo’d the children away from the goats. They petted the docile nannies and showered them with praise as they took turns filling the hearth-fired jugs they all used for carrying and storing water and other drinks.

Old Baba waved the children to her as the women surrounded the goats, and let them lead her to where the men were resting in their own open hut. Her mouth watered from the delicious smells of roasting meat. Their recent hunt had been successful, which meant they would be in a relaxed, good mood. They always welcomed Old Baba, but in lean times, the men were too proud to accept her help. It was easier for them to consider her gifts a kind of trade for meat, furs, and other supplies from the savannah. Today, she would be able to sit with each man as she had the women, restoring their bodies and giving them something they would need in the time before her next visit.

I wish I had a source to attribute to this wonderful visual prompt!
Dogs in house:
Houdini, Brindle, Bacon

Chaconne in d minor by J.S.Bach (Arr. John Feeley)

March word count:

1 comment:

  1. I foresee an adventure for one of the children, who decides to find out Old Baba's secrets for himself...