I am bored, a whole day indoors, no one to talk to and no cat to play with. I am not interested in making friends in our new neighborhood. Dad says its good for my social life. But oh well. I already lack one. My father is a merchant who owns a fleet of ships at the sea. I do collectibles at my own free time, but then again its hard to have ‘me times’ these days. Ever since ‘Lady Cruel-la’ appeared, from Lord knows where, life sucked. I am the second born of three, only girl in a family infested with boys (not that it is a bad thing, I love my two brothers). Raised on the road with a ever busy father, I turned out just fine. A silent, rebellious girl, who looked like a boy, with short hair that had no specific colour (black with specs of a dirty brown – gold rusty finish), full round cheek bones that penetrate from the skin, ‘a clear indication that you do not eat well’… some say. We live with our grandmother, my father’s mother. She is amiable and easy going, quick to love and of ripe age. I do not know her real age because we do not discuss it. My brothers, Josh and Komu, are my cartoons, full of energy and hard to contain in one place. Josh is the eldest with Komu right behind me ( he chases after me fast, or so father says everyday. This is because he is getting taller than me as the years go by proving father’s point of my wanting diet). The two are busy helping workers at the barn which I cannot tell, they love keeping secrets from me but I love them still.
There is a loud commotion at the barn so I drag my body off the bed to peep through the wooden window. Father is busy trying to talk to a tall, dark, giant of a man in hushed voices. I cannot quite make out their words. My father is a 5’9 stalwart man with broad shoulders and a ponytail( he does not shave his hair. Says mother liked it that way). He has a deep, rough, throaty but very strong voice which can be quite loud if he wants to be heard. I ran down the stairs ignoring the creaking sounds emanating from the wooden steps as if they are threatening to let go and break from the amount of ‘bad treatment’ they have suffered since time immemorial and the tragic unrest from my ungrateful thumping. They give way and my foot digs deep into the hole beneath the steps. A sharp sound full of pain and surprise leave my mouth and I scoot to check if my skin has broken. Blood slowly drips from my wound but I quickly wipe it off and despite the pain, try to speed out to eaves drop my fathers’ conversation.
‘It is too risky. No ship is in business. we have run out.’ The stranger shrugs and announces that the business is closed. People start shouting and throwing down their tools cursing softly at the economy. I am confused. ‘ What is going on papa?’ … no reply. I get more confused. People are starting to leave the compound but my father stops them reassuring them and urging them back to the barn. What happens inside there is a mystery, only my brothers are allowed in… me? well father says the business is for boys.
Night approaches and it is upon me to prepare supper. All the workers are still around warming themselves around small fires they have created in the compound, just silent probably thinking of the what misfortune the devil has struck them with. Lady Cruel-la is seated some distance from where I am cooking, trying to warm herself. I dislike her. She sneers a lot and makes negative sentiments about the results of my work but makes no attempt to work. That makes her lazy. I look at her and she gives me a disapproving glare. I sigh and look down, when will she leave?.
Grandma is seated next to me warming herself and suddenly starts to sing worried man blues by Woody Guthrie. She has taken everyone by surprise. She continues to sing and everyone starts to slowly gather around us and chip in one by one singing following her pace. In no time the place is filled with the sound of everyone’s voice singing ‘the worried man blues’. I smile. Father comes towards us with followed by my cartoons behind him playing catch using a hardly round, dirty looking cloth that seems to be filled with sand? I am not sure. I leave the pot on the fire and run to the house to take bowls to serve the soup. I grab a large wooden basin like thing full of bread and hurry back the outside gathering.
The soup is more than enough but the bread is not, so grandma cuts them into smaller pieces hoping they will be enough for everyone. One worker misses a piece of bread. I feel bad. It should have been enough. One piece for each of us. I look around thinking thinking of this misfortune and extend my hand to him. ‘You can have mine,’ I say smiling. I would not eat bread, just drink soup. I knew i would still be hungry whilst going to bed and I felt tears start to form. It had been a hard season. There was no food in the market and the little that was sold was so expensive not everyone could afford. My father was a good man. He tried to make sure the workers got something small to eat before they called it a day because they would probably sleep hungry. We were not rich but we managed and father made good every cent he made from his shipping business but now their was no market for his business. The economy is a devil they said. Tomorrow maybe a good day they hopped, but it was always the same, ‘no business person is shipping their merchandise frank!’ they lamented. His business was going off the rails so he decided to try selling timber and even make beds, tables and seats but it had no guarantee of success. I notice Lady Cruel-la trying to hide a second piece of bread between two piles of wood and quickly snatch it and sneer at her. ‘Thank you!’ I retort and quickly down it with my soup and stomp off the gathering. ‘A fiery one that one!’ I hear someone exclaim.