Friday, July 10, 2009

The Chicken and the Buffalo (excerpt)

She stood still, mildly horrified, as the bird - a chicken with a long graceful neck like an egret - came near her, a slight malice in its eye. She stood still, and she was small, a child. The bird came right up to her, at a fast wobble, awkward the way chickens are, and she put out her hand to shield her face. The thing pecked at her hand, leaving a mildly deep and bloody wound. She looked at her hand and felt fear, and then felt really, really angry.

She grabbed its neck, and at first just squeezed, but then she twisted at its scrawny muscles, until she felt a definitive snapping, and she let it on the ground, blood spilling neatly from the break, the body lifeless. She was a curious mix of elation and shame, and she ran from the spot, around a corner and down a sandy hill, a sand dune with no living thing on it but her.

She fell to the bottom and she covered herself to hide because there was a buffalo at the top of the hill, and she felt it looking for her and she was afraid. She was afraid, and she certainly couldn't strangle a buffalo like she could strangle a chicken. So she covered herself with sand, burrowing under, scooping the sand from above her over her body, and she lay still.

The buffalo moved on and two little girls, sisters, came down the hill looking for her. She remained hidden, because she wasn't sure where the buffalo was or why they wanted her. One of the girls saw just a bit of Child of the Desert, and was just a little frightened at first because she wasn't sure what was under the sand. So she raised her right hand up out of the sand and waved at the girl, like a secret handshake, and the girl laughed and they all got up and went back to the village.

Faced with an elder, she tried to explain what happened. He looked at her with kind eyes, wrinkles crinkling in his face, the sun behind him. He looked at her with compassion, and said nothing, only listened to her story.