(I propose posting this story in nibble-sized chunks for a while. The first chunk is here.)
The headman was in a bad mood, and it was steadily becoming worse. ‘Gogo,’ he stormed at the old grandmother, ‘if the women leave their other chores and spend all day at the river, why should it be my concern? Go and fetch them.’
She looked at him reproachfully. ‘You know it that my old bones are no longer strong enough to carry me there; you know it well. I say to you, there is something wrong. They should all be back with the water and the clean clothes long before the middle of the day, and now look where the sun sits.’
He gave a half-hearted kick at a scrawny chicken pecking too near his foot, and looked about him. His eyes fell on a man squatting outside a hut nearby, wearing a doleful expression to go with very little else. ‘Fundani,’ he called. ‘Go to the river and tell the women to come back.’
‘Inkozi, my head hurts,’ Fundani complained.
‘That is because you drank too much beer last night,’ the headman snapped. ‘Now, go!’
As Dengana reached the outskirts of the village he was seen by Mpilo, a brother of the headman, who had come across from the adjoining farm in the 4 X 4 All Terrain Vehicle. The farm had come to be owned by the headman, but he preferred to live the traditional village life and let his brothers (as cousins also are known in the African culture) stay there and run it for him.
Mpilo drew up next to him, and blinked at the village. Not even the old grandmother was to be seen. ‘Where has everyone gone?’ he asked the boy, and then noticed the state he was in. ‘What is the matter?’
It took him some time to make any sense out of what Dengana gabbled out to him between sobs, but then, after shouting in vain for somebody to join him, he decided to see for himself. Dengana utterly refused to go with him, but he forced him into the back, locked the door, and drove off at speed.
From what the boy had said, it could only be leopard. How was that possible? None had been seen in the valley since before The Two Old Frogs, as young ‘frogs’, had hunted them out.
© Colonialist May 2013 (WordPress)