“Give me my money,” the girl says. She is identical to all the other girls with her green primary school uniform and her close cropped hair. You have probably walked past her dozens of times. On other days she may even have greeted you in the exact same way. On other days you may have even returned the greeting with a smile and shrug.
On other, sunnier days.
“What?” You stop walking and look at her. Her legs are ashy. Her feet are shoeless. A thin crust of dried snot hovers just below her nostrils. On other days you would have kept walking. On other days you would not have said anything.
It took me a few days to notice that Mr Steak had disappeared from school.
“I have not seen our friend for a while,” I say to Mr Jerry in the elliptical vernacular that is common in this part of the world. He looks at me quizzically. “That one,” I say, motioning in the direction of Steak’s desk.
“Oh. He has gone to get a transcript,” Jerry says, “In Mzuzu.” Thyolo is in the South of Malawi. Mzuzu is in the North. Nothing unusual about the journey taking a few days.
Malawi has a new president. It took a week and a half. During that time there were fears and accusations. Threats and counter-threats. Injunctions and injunctions to block injunctions. The Overlords kept us all on high alert. They feared violence, recriminations and general apocalyptic destruction. Told us to stay vigilant. Stay put. Stay safe.
It is Becky’s special day, so she gets to choose what we do. She could have chosen anything. She chose the zoo. We see the turtles, a giraffe, the elephants (of course), and a mountain lion that probably hasn’t spent a single day of his life anywhere near a mountain. But it isn’t the menagerie of birds or the countless exotic fish she wants to see.
“Monkeys!” she says, her too pale face lighting up as she races to the railing.
“Honey, don’t get too close,” Her mother says trying to keep up.
There are five of them in the grotto. One walks around the perimeter, shaking branches. The others take refuge in a rapidly shrinking area of shade underneath a large climbing rock. It rained earlier but as the afternoon wears on, the temperature soars. The heat threatens to reignite the dying embers of an early morning headache. My shirt is damp from the humidity.
Apologies and such for my recent absence. The Overlords called me away for meetings and then I did some traveling.
Spent a little time at the Lake. Spent a little time in space. Celebrated Christmas with a migraine pulsing through my eye socket and a chicken hopping on my back. Celebrated New Year’s with the usual mix of fear and optimism. It was good. And now I am back.
I hope all of you had a joyful holiday season. Best wishes for the new year and all those things.
And now we return you to our regularly scheduled programming…