Tall Tales

Two Little Bodies

As the light began to wane, an eagle flew overhead spotting two figures down below. Swooping down to take a closer look, it perched itself on a branch, observing the scene incomprehensible, unfold.

Two children, not yet five years in this world, lay face down in the dust. From time-to-time they would cry out, alternating between a gentle moan and a weak cry; a rhythm consistent, a song of death. They had not eaten for days. They lay there half-naked, their little bottoms and legs shrivelled, burnt brown. Their mottled skin drawn over their bones brittle, depleted, like a body-bag: poliomyelitis, paralysed.

The wind blew gently, covering their bodies with a thin layer of dust. The older of the two boys lifted his head. The taste of dry dirt settled on his tongue as he took a sudden deep breath, in an attempt to fill his empty belly. He slowly moved his head from side-to-side, surveying his surroundings. As he looked around a gust of wind settled a red and white wrapper only a few metres away. Spotting it, the older child gazed at it with curiosity, wondering what it concealed. An insistent rumbling called out from his inner cavities in response. The wind, it seems, passed through his empty belly, howling, crying out in desperation, urging him to move.

The hapless child mustered all of his strength to drag his broken body along the earth, towards the wrapper. His younger brother, lying only a few feet away, began to make little noises; tiny bursts of encouragement. The eagle watched as the boy moved slowly and painfully. After ten excruciating minutes the child was close enough to reach out and touch it. Extending his hand, eyes wide open, hopeful… desperate… he slid his arm along the ground so that the wrapper settled between his middle and index fingers. He took a deep breath, inhaling another mouthful of dust and drew his fingers together. As his fingers converged, he felt the wrapper cave-in on itself . It was empty.

Releasing the wrapper from his clutches, he lay his head face-down on the ground in resignation, inhaling dirt into his mouth parched, coughing and spluttering. His younger brother began to whimper. The eagle contemplated whether he should serve the babies a visitation from on high, but was cut short when he heard a determined shuffling coming from the bushes. An older girl emerged carrying a tub filled with water. The boys’ sister was determined not to abandon them; their bodies riddled with a curse to be avoided at all costs. She walked towards her youngest brother, bent over, put her arms around his waist and dragged him towards the tub. She laid him down and began to wash him, removing the thick layer or dirt, sweat and blood that covered his helpless, broken corpse. As she washed his head he began to cry, discharging the little bit of life he had yet left within.

She cleaned their little bodies, depleted, exhausted; but she could not fill their bellies.


The eagle departed

and a kite flew overhead.







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