The last time I saw Mama, she had clutched my little hand as we made our way back from Garza- Kunira. The sun was a beautiful sleeping orange, painting the clouds and threatening to drown the blue skies. The village was in a drowsed stupor.
In the distance, coming towards us, we saw some men, probably farmers, making their way back from the farms. The sun had warmed the ground and my new rubber slippers made the heat bearable. They were a tad big but I struggled to keep my feet in them as I flip-flopped happily through the village.
Mama and I had left our stall at the market earlier than usual because Papa was returning from the Dan-Kabir Camel race in the desert. My Papa always won his races and the best part of his winnings was the dried horse meat he got. The huge packets wrapped in leaves in his leather pouch were delicious. I always went giddy with joy whenever I saw him strut into our large hut, huge and blackened, after his trips.
We walked in silence; Mama, smelling of Fura and sweat and me scratching my sweaty bum and trying to keep up. Her beautiful long neck balanced the clay pot which held the dregs of her trade. I usually stole some of the left over Fura when I thought she wasn’t looking. She would smile, smack me playfully and say “I do not see you, but I smell you”.
Drawing closer to the village square, the men loomed ahead, shouting and debating in loud tones; three able bodied men leading a hyena. Guns, black turbans and little lizard skulls adorning their hands, heads and necks. Bathed in dust and smelling of Burukutu, even I knew they were not farmers. The man leading the hyena had a sunken shriveled eye. He stared at us with his one eye as we passed and whispered something.
The men, they did not look like any of the men from our village and I could hear a quiver in Mama’s voice as she greeted them in a low tone. Turning, as we walked by, they laughed raucously and spoke loud words in a foreign language. I tried to turn so I could get a better look at the little skulls and the huge one eyed man. They were an interesting lot. Mama’s sweaty grip tightened on my hand and I squirmed for release.
“Mama, you are hurting me!”
“Shhhhh child!”, she whispered with an urgency as she walked faster, dragging me along with her. I ran to keep up. I was thirsty.
“Mamaaa, I’m thirs-” A loud bang interrupted me. In pain and wondering why I was lying on the red earth, I realized Mama was on the ground, my little hand still in hers. I heard laughter; maniac, shameless, manly laughter. Panic spread through me as urine spread on my cream and now browned Jalabiya. Prying her fingers open, I looked up into the butt of a Dane gun.
“Take us to your father Abu!”
That was the last day I saw Papa too.
ArwenEvenstar16. (2006). African Painting [Painting]. Retrieved from http://arwenevenstar16.deviantart.com/art/African-painting-42382667