African Whisperings

This week's Fiction Friday prompt is: "Shhh… did you hear that?” See what I've made of it below. And if you want, you can even cast your vote in the comments. Who knows it may appear in a subsequent Fiction Friday or in the African Whisperings Anthology.

"The radio's still dead. I've no idea if our message got through."

Djembé looked into Zara’s eyes trying to read what they were saying.

"How ironic!" he sighed.

He didn't need to say more. She understood perfectly. Together they made their way through the copse where their hut stood and looked up out over the river. The sun was already beginning to lean towards the horizon. Just another hour or so and its rays would transform the water into a river of blood. By then it would be too late. They didn’t call for the plane often. Just three times in the seven months they had served this small, backwoods community. But each time, a life had been saved.

They embraced as they looked up into nowhere, willing the small black speck into being, praying for the miracle that would give new life to their own daughter.

Zara began her lament. Her hope had gone.

Djembé turned his back. It was more than he could stand. Then…

“Shhh… did you hear that?”

* * *

Ben placed the phone back on its hook and turned to Seymour.

“I’m afraid they don’t know what will happen. The plane didn’t land this morning because of the fighting to the north. The pilot was afraid the rebels might launch an attack on the plane. It should be back some time this evening. But whether they will risk landing…”

Ben placed an arm round Seymour. He understood. And yet, he couldn’t understand. Seymour had given up the whole of his holiday for that year to come and help the clinic. He’d first cajoled then bullied his bosses into giving him the four weeks at a stretch. His wife had spent the first week helping organise the pharmacy. Then malaria got her and she’d had to return to the capital. And now this. If the plane didn’t land today, Seymour would not be back in time for work Monday morning. Then he’d be out of a job. Why was the world so unfair?

The dinner party was meant to be a joyous occasion; a chance to thank Seymour for what he’d done for them all. They got together anyway, trying to make a go of it. They were well into a new round of Blitz when Ben’s wife yelled:

“Shhh… did you hear that?”

* * *

Passah counted the weeks on the calendar again. 13! Far too long for a man to be without wife and child. He didn’t even know if he’d recognise his child; they change so quickly. But his precious Becca, how could he ever fail to recognise her. Her smile was enough to guide even a blind man. He glanced up at the clock. It could be hours yet. He closed the photo album and got up to go into the store room. There was work to be done. He wanted to have everything ready when they arrived.

Outside, a few of the villagers were already gathering, drums at the ready. No other woman had ever commanded such respect that the whole village ensemble turned out; proof that he didn’t need that she was one special woman. One or two of them had already started woman up. Others called out “Bema” as he appeared. He went into the store room and unpacked the child’s seat from its box, recalling the tears he had shed that evening when they had had to leave. He’d taken quite well until arriving home. But seeing that empty chair set the fountains in motion and he couldn’t stop. As he screwed the chair to the table the tears started again; this time they were tears of joy, or they soon would be.

Picking up his calabash he went out to buy the beignets he had ordered especially. It took him a lot longer than he had planned. Neither of the women sitting on the corner of the street would take his money. It was their contribution to the little ceremony. He argued and bargained to no avail. Everyone wanted to share in his joy. Was that making him just a little jealous?

Back at his concession the drummers were getting into full swing. Some of the women had even started dancing. The village enchantress waddled her way towards him in that typical style of hers and pulled him over to the others. That’s when he thought he heard…

“Shhh… did you hear that?”

* * *

Athous laid down his pen, still not completely satisfied with his effort. Badda came and wrapped herself round him. Her gentle fingers closed his eyelids.

“Are you still not finished?”

“I suppose so. But it could be so much better. I want it to be so much better. This could be my big break.”

“Emergent Publishing African Writer’s Prize. African’s greatest writer!”

“Well, it’s not quite that, you know. It’s just a prize for new writers. But it’ll give people a chance to read me, get me known. If only…”

“Well, there’ll be no if onlys, if you don’t get your act together quick. What is it you’re supposed to be writing anyway. Well, they want to me write a number of different story openings. And then, if I’m chosen I get to develop one of those into a full blown story which they promise to publish. They did the same a few years ago for Chinese writers. And now it’s the turn of us Africans.”

“Well, you’ll better get your manuscript packed and ready. The plane’s coming early this week.”

“What! Athous looked devastated. But it can’t. I’m not ready yet. I mean, there’s still so much to revise. I can’t possibly send it off now.”

“Well, you can go and complain to the President tomorrow. It’s his fault their sending the post plane today. He’s off to visit another one of his African cronies tomorrow. But first, make sure you get that package ready.”

““Shhh, you two… did you hear that?”

Athous and Badda looked up into the blue sky as the silver bird descended. Hovering somewhere between yearning and despair they watched their destiny fly in.


I love what you've made of the prompt! And of course it's tie-in to Chinese Whisperings... you've created and woven elegant stories together into something wonderful to read. They're each a great glimpse into these people's worlds.

One line that caught me: "Her smile was enough to guide even a blind man." It's a poetic idea but it doesn't make sense to me.

Thanks for sharing this.

26 March 2010 at 17:04  

Beautiful use of the prompt. The vignettes were wonderfully realised and intriguing snapshots.
Loved it.

27 March 2010 at 00:07  

Newer Post Older Post Home

Blogger Template by Blogcrowds