Sunday, 2 January 2011

A Short Story

They were two conical hats, stalking from stagnant grass. Sickly odours of saturated fats and revelry drifted from the mess hall. The air wallowed in sound.

“Benite came to us by the sea,” said the first.
“The sea came to us,” said the second. He was the dryer of the pair.
“Do you think Ricardo will have much luck?” said the first.
“Not the sea,” said the second, thoughtfully, “The sea is salty.”
He bent over and picked up some of the sodden earth. It stayed, slouched into his palm and refusing to crumble.
“I said,” said the first, “Do you think that Ricardo will have much luck?”
“The sea is full of life too,” said the second, “Reefs. Plankton. Not this squalid swamp of weeds and gnats.”

They carried on like this for some time, exchanging chatter over the throbbing laughter cascading from the mess-hall. Soon, night was staggering into being, casting long shadows across the turgid earth. The pair moved on, oblivious. Here and there, they lit scented lamps to keep away the flies and snakes.

“How,” said the first, “Have you not acquired trench foot?”
The second shrugged, “Nor has Benite, or many of his closer followers.”
The first stiffened, offended. The buzzing of a swarm of flies, doggedly surging towards the light and smell of the mess hall filled the gap.
“You are not Benite,” said the first finally.
“Listen to that crowd,” said the second, after a while.
“They can be happy,” said the first, “The water is leaving and we can settle again. For you or I though, things will not change.”
“Only after Ricardo left,” said the second.
Then they paused, a full circuit of their slushy stomping ground nearly complete. A row of winking candles on stepping stones marked their path through the mire.
“Why did you not answer me earlier?”
“Benite came to us over the sea,” said the first again, “And the rains were gone. What did Ricardo offer but misery, trench foot and squalor?”
The second said, “Ricardo left to take the rains with him.”
The first said, “He still left.” A beat. “I do not think that he will have much luck at all.”
The second shrugged.
“For us, things will not change.”

They were growing cold. Night’s frozen fingers groped playfully at their necks and moisture was jostling for room with feet on the stepping stones. They lit the final lamps and slumped back to the mess hall, fending away flies as they vanished into the light and the noise.

The next day, after six years of rain the drought started.
Once again, the colony changed for good.

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