A memory of Africa
|Okay, I Admit I Had a Childhood
It rained in the night. Heavy, African rain that drummed on the roof and tapped on the windows, filling the world with sound. Lightning flashed for seconds on end and made glowing squares of the drawn curtains, the darkness even blacker in the aftermath. Thunder rattled the window frames.
The boy in the bed slept soundly through it all. And, by his side, the red dog snored softly to himself.
In the morning, the bright, sharp morning, two streams still ran along the upper arms of the U-shaped dirt driveway, meeting in a bow lake where the drive widened before the house. The boy ran out to the new, damp morning.
The lake was as it always was, its shape etched in his memory, the maps he'd drawn confirming once again this miracle of the first rains, the rebirth of his faraway country. Slowly he followed the southern shore of the lake, savoring the delight of favorite inlets, memorized bays and villages nestling in the surrounding uplands. Out on the open water tiny ships and boats moved soundlessly across the lake, trading, traveling, trawling. The sun beat down on the boy's back as he crouched to see more.
Here at the southeastern edge of the lake, a river flowed out across the stones and mud of the driveway. And, in an inlet close by, a town dipped its feet in the water and drew the traffic of the lake to its welcome. Smaller boats set out to brave the rough waters of the river in its stony passage to the south.
The boy traced the route of the river now, noting each twist of its course as it battled through rocks and rapids. Through the carport it ran, hurrying now as the slope urged it on. Out through the gap in the wall the river continued and then suddenly slowed, a new country opening before it. Here it skirted the open plain of the back lawn and arrived, at last, at the ford.
The ford was a magical place. The river broadened and became sluggish, its bed rough with tiny stones. And here it was possible to cross on foot or on horseback. Here too the boats that had braved the rapids were forced to stop and unload their cargoes. And so a small town had grown up at this meeting of the ways, where water and highway clasped hands.
The road went west from here, over the grassy plains, to disappear in the mountains of Back Door. On the other side of the ford it climbed up to the rocky slopes of the Eastern Hills, then bent northward to come in the end to the lake.
Beyond the ford the river continued, quickly at first, but gradually slowing, until it lost itself in the swamps of the orchard. Here, under the dripping trees, lay the land of eternal rain, the land of unknown tribes, glimpsed sometimes in the fog and humidity that lay always thick upon the face of that country.
The boy turned and followed the river back to the lake, followed one of its feeder streams to the road, and left the land, the grim chore of school now uppermost in his mind. But the rains had come. For two months now they would feed the land, keeping the lake full and the rivers flowing. And the map in the boy's head would grow daily as he etched in new details, new lands, new peoples.
The red dog still snored peacefully on the boy's bed.
Word Count: 595