Four boys go to a marshland to hunt for frogs and find something else
The four boys were among the first people out with the sunshine. For three days, their homes had been attacked on all sides by wailing winds and slashing rains. They had huddled beneath their beds, all four of them in their various homes. They had squeezed their eyes shut and covered hands their ears with their hands, afraid the house would fall on their heads, whenever the thunder boomed and shook the sky. After the rains had stopped and their bravery returned, they made their mothers promise not to tell. The boys met at the street corner, passed an old rusted can to each other, dribbling the can with their feet as if it were football. They ran about in the mud, jumped in the puddles at the edges of the road and told tales of how disappointed they were, that there had been no flood. They told of what they would have done, how they would have used things like basins or tables turned upside down like canoes . Fiifi said, he would dive into the water and swim hard to save anyone who was being carried away. He had learned to swim, and mastered his strokes by practicing on land.
It was Kobby who said they should go down to the marshes, to hunt frogs and catch tadpoles, although the rains had not stopped long enough for the eggs to have been laid and the tadpoles hatched. They raced each other, said the last one there was a crab. Just around the bend, a short distance before they reached, Mark run, slam into Big Joe, and they both fell flat on the road. Water seeped into their shorts. Big Joe was with five of his boys, making plans to climb the wall and steal mangoes from the house across the street. He made a fist and advanced towards Mark, no-one- pushes Big Joe down!
Kobby said, “hit him, and we raise the alarm.”
Big Joe stopped, looked at the wall with the mango tree behind, thought of all the fruits probably on the ground after the rains waiting to be picked, looked at Kobby and his friends, shook his fist and let it drop, “Next time”, he looked fierce. Kobby and his friends made faces, hollered and continued their race to the marshes.
At the edge they stopped. There was brown water everywhere and the tops of the grasses waved lightly above the water. There was no way they were going to catch frogs that day.
In the distance they saw Olu the Digger, the strange old man who lived alone by the marshes, digging desperately through the debris. His little hut was gone. It was said, he had killed his family and buried them somewhere in the middle of the marshland. No one knew who started those rumours, because there was nothing to show he had ever had a family. He was always alone, digging, digging, digging. Through rubbish, junk, anything, anywhere, looking for scrap metal.
He was far, but not so far that they could not see that he kept wiping his eyes.
“let’s go home” Nana said.
But Mark was already moving in the direction of the man. The others had no choice, they followed. They didn’t know what they will tell his parents if he didn’t return home. Kobby kicked the mud with his feet and saw something shiny in the ground, but he wouldn’t touch it.
“He’s lost his ring” Mark said, when the others got close. He was already on his knees digging through the mud with Olu.
Kobby, Fiifi and Nana joined them. Mud under his nails and fingers sore, Kobby remembered that shiny thing he had seen earlier. He told Olu about it and tried to trace his steps back to where he had seen it. It must have taken thirty minutes, maybe more. Olu, the boys, everyone was covered in mud from head to toe. Kobby wanted to stop; the sun was going down and they had to go home, when he felt something hard and round. He run and washed it in the brown water and prayed that a snake would not bite him.
It was the ring!
Olu, how he cried, clasped the ring to his chest and kissed it over and over again.
When he looked back at the boys, his eyes were shining.
It had taken him ten years! Seven years selling scrap and saving money to get her dowry. Three more years, to buy the ring. She had waited for him.
She died just a year after they got married. That was forty years ago. But he had never been able to let go of the ring that she had worn so close to her heart. Because you know, the elders say, the ring finger links directly to the heart.
Writer's Cramp (co-winner)