My Short Stories

5.

South Africa in Winter .                                Charlie Dimech.

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The earth beneath us shook like a rattle in the hands of  some giant child. The volcano was situated, we judged, some hundred miles inland in a northerly direction. Ash began to fill the sky. For four months ash turned day into semi night. Evacuees moved closer by and we traded a few items which were luxuries for us. Cherrinne became friends with a couple of the women.
 
Items traded included fruit trees, vegetable seeds, rabbits, two goats, a dog, cat.
In exchange we offered tortise shell, furs musical instruments, necklaces,spears, bows and arrows and an abundance of fish., including crayfish. The former of which were accepted graciously if yet condescendingly.
 
A group of natives from the forest made their appearance. Apparently they came every two years to the ocean. A hundred mile trip. They preferred living inland because of the abundance of wild game as well as fish but to our surprise they were excellent swimmers and spearfishermen.
 
They came up from the bay on foot after several hours, having drifted with the tide after swimming out some two to three hundred yards from the beach. Their catches were strung out on long lines including as well as fish, - crayfish, crabs and small turtles. They camped on the beach for three weeks before returning inland and we joined them occasionally for feasting and Cherrinne gave them some necklaces for their wives before they left.
 
We continued in this existence for five  years more bringing the total to eight years for myself and seven for Cherrinne. Charlie Juniour was now six, and Cherrinne began to educate him in the three R's using sandy beaches, bark and even skins as a blackboard, sticks, dyes and ochres found in the jungle, for chalk.
 
We explained to him the existence and the Supreme Goodness of God and naturally he saw all about him evidence of His great Power and Majesty. Maybe he had another teacher for he seemed to understand these things at least as well as we did.
 
His mother took him into the creek to bathe and taught him how to swim. Before long he was diving into the ocean, body surfing "long - lining" and catching crayfish but always under his mothers supervision who was a stong swimmer. The currents had to be watched closely  and carefully and she was there every moment to ensure he did not get into any difficulty. It was at these times that extreme caution was exercised not so much in the bay where the current were not so strong but in the open beach.
 
I learnt that the dangers of the beach were far more unpredictable and the dangers of the forest were like a picnic by comparison.
Once a large whale beached itself up on our beach. We dried and salted the flesh and boiled the fat down from which we made candles which burned for many weeks at a time much to our pleasure. the meat was good and we had not had night light except that from the fire for years.
 
Frolicking in the water my wife and child made a beautiful picture and it was my pleasure just to watch them. I never tired of her face. Her eyes had a love in them that was gifted with power and this is what made her attractive to me and the dynamo that moulded us into oneness. I cannot for the life in me see what she saw in me. I loved her, sure, but so what?
 
Maybe she had similar thoughts. Who knows? I had lived with women before, but I had never been married, and I wondered now whether or not we were really married. Sure we had made a commitment but who was there? and wasn' there supposed to be at least one third party? We invited our friends to a real wedding and we asked the husband of the couple to act as minister. His power as a married partner we thought might help.
His wife asked and was accepted as  'maid of honour': the other girl, second bridesmaid; and the other two men, groomsman. My son insisted on being best man.
 
After the ceremony we sat down to a specially prepared banquet on the beach. It consisted of a long table made out of bundles of dry grass and supported on logs, covered over with clean skins.
The banquet consisted of roast pork, vegetables, coconut, coconut milk, rabbit and melons - fried fish, lobster and prawns which were caught especially for the feast.
 
The missing ingredient in our diet was wheat. For with it we could make flour and then bread, of a sort.  Everything else we missed but not as much as that one cereal. There was nothing like it in any part of our habitat.
 
 

6.


" The times, they are a'changin'! "