Animals too Have Stories to Tell (Part V)

Welcome to the stunning conclusion of Animals too Have Stories to Tell.

It ends here.

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Indy and Jade – Google Search Image

Like her mother would have done before she too had quieted down, before she took instructions from Carl who was now in the habit of talking to the school’s custodian – doing his best to keep her in check as long as it was time for women to get a handle on things.

For Carl a handle had meant that they had come to some agreement of which family members to invite, while for her it meant deciding to live together without kids and still making the best of it.

Something she hadn’t quite understood before the doctors made the arrangement – either because they hadn’t taken the time to think things through or else because neither of them wanted to disappoint their parents.

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Mr. & Mrs. Drummer – Google Search Image

And to some extent, she had always felt strange about it. As though, although she was a grown woman – she would find herself looking towards her mother and father, hoping that they would give her direction. Or affirmation. As though she didn’t have a brain of her own and couldn’t think for herself.

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Carl – Google Search Image

Sometimes when Carl asked her about it, she would tell him how her father was astute. Or else how her mother had helped to bring up her siblings – each of them now – grown men and women who still had good jobs.

And she had seen him smile, even though they had never really spoken about it. Never told him that with a father on the Board of Education he was one or two steps higher than her on the totem pole even though ever since they met – he had tried to prove that the distance meant nothing to him.

Except she had seen the looks from the other men and women in the village. Looks that meant that she was lucky. That she was getting away with something.

And she had tried to prove those stares untrue because deep down she knew that everyone was worth something. Then she lost her father, and after that she had had a still birth. Little by little she was starting to feel like life wasn’t worth anything.

But she kept those thoughts to herself because if she said anything, a man like Carl would start to look at her more closely. Would start to suspect something. And she didn’t want to give him any reason to start seeing things from a negative perspective – because she had plans for her life – wanted it to mean something.

In the end.

Maybe that was why she had picked up the petition for Indy and Jade – because although they might have been responsible for what had happened to her father – in the end she couldn’t, didn’t want to blame them for everything.

So she took her posters and placards to the streets. Had even gotten shoppers in the grocery store and the mall to back her, until the police had stopped her mutinous group and the papers had started to condemn her as though she was some sixteenth century heretic.

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Google Search Image

Asking what it was that she was teaching their kids. Whether someone like that was fit to be employed at such an illustrious institution.

That was when the head teacher and the principal had gotten on board. Preaching their fire and brimstone ethics as though she was the one who had gotten things wrong.

Each time she had tried to convince them that Indy and Jade were not the bad ones. Not the problem, because they were not the ones who had started to encroach on state land, but then the politicians had had to put in their two cents, because without their suggestions they feared that the people would remain either poised to act or inactive. As if they could not sort out the taxes by themselves, or check to see why the debris on the side of the roads hadn’t been cleared. Or else why the students were not taking advantage of every opportunity that was being presented to them by the government.

And she had only held onto her head – to prevent herself from bawling – because in the end, she had started to feel as though she was back at square one – and just like Chicken Little she looked up and all she could see was that the sky was falling.

The little boy with the crooked teeth held out his hand, and took a hold of hers. “Don’t worry, Mrs. Drummer,” he said, with a weak smile, “I won’t let those unruly politicians take Indy and Jade away from you.”

Then the other children said, “Yes. Neither will we.”

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Google Search Image

And she squeezed his hand, all the while wiping away tears that she didn’t know had fallen, trying to keep her head above water, because that’s what a drummer did. When they saw reason and acknowledged the call. To action.

Even as the world around them changed.

They would open their hearts and minds and then head out.

She did that now, watching them with their bus tickets in their hand and opened the door.

“Let’s go, children,” she said, laying down the newspaper. Glad that they had gotten permission to see Indira and Jadoo before all of this had come to a head. It would be wise to go, she could hear her father whispering, before the world started to spin and everything changed.

She remembered her father then, propped up on pillows in that faint light, right before the doctor had tried to stitch him back together. His hand on her head. “Do you remember when you were little,” he said looking through the window. “And your mother and I would have to read to you, to keep you from fidgeting. Sometimes we would take you to the zoo, and you would prop yourself down in front of the lion’s cage. And you would sit there for hours as though watching them you would find something awe-inspiring.” He wiped his face with his good hand.”We could never tear you away.”

She had nodded then, as though she knew that it meant the world to him. Watching him, she could always see the lions. As they pranced about their cage, eating food and cradling their young. That had always been their special time together. She turned away from that memory now.

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She watched them go… – Google Search Image

Watched the children go.

Imagining that she was their mother. That this was where everything began and ended – and then she saw herself standing up to the school board, and the principal and then eventually winning.

Then she remembered the first thing he had said to when, when he had introduced her to the lions so many years ago, “Never forget darling, that animals too have stories to tell.”

And then everything else began to fade away.

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Fading – Google Search Image

I hope you’ve enjoyed, Animals too Have Stories to Tell. I’ve enjoyed going through the story again and making a couple of edits.

As always, do keep reading and writing. They are like good friends, they always go hand in hand.

Thanks again for stopping by and do come again.

Animals too Have Stories to Tell (Part II)

The stories continues here. Do enjoy.

Part 2 starts now…

In either case, she uses her props. Continues her story.

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Baby cubs – Google Search Image

At home, though, her mother had glared at them, asking her if like her father, she wasn’t afraid of courting disaster. But Mrs. Drummer had felt emboldened by her hasty departure from her job and the dismantling of her life with Carl, so to her all this had just seemed like another step in the right direction. So with her mother she simply feigned indifference, because unlike her father, she could tell where one thought ended and another began. She held no vapid illusions. And furthermore had never been someone who would take risks. After all her engagement to Carl had been going on for more than seven years. Even though many times, he had tried to get her to elope. Or to set a date. With her, there was no budging from any one position, until ultimately she was ready for it.

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Man in Hospital – Google Search Image

With her father in the hospital, everything became perilous. Up in the air. Like a man on stilts or else everyone holding their breath after a figure skater had executed a risky motion, and everyone else was waiting for her to fall back upright on solid ground. Like that figure skater Mrs. Drummer felt certain that she was about to fall. Something she kept hidden from Carl because he was supposed to have been her rock. Her comforter. Her man of the hour.

One or two boys in the back of the room got up and started to throw the small, furry creatures to one another, and Mrs. Drummer got up to stop them, when she was accosted by one of the smaller boys. His hand on her sleeve as though it was common for him to question adults.

“Miss Drummer,” the boy with the crooked teeth said, looking up at her, “Do you like tigers?”

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Tigers are magnificent creatures. – Google Search Image

“Yes, of course John,” she said, trying not to get too distracted by the unsightly shape of his teeth, and as he removed his hand, she wondered if she was lying to him outright or if her response was something more autonomic, the response of a little girl who had once looked just like them.

“Tigers are the most magnificent creatures in the world,” she said, pointing to the two boys in the back, indicating to them, that it was time for their throwing to come to a stop. She saw the guilt ease across their face, while John’s face showed pride, as though he was happy that there was one more person in the room who would stand up for the tigers just like him.

Watching them now, Mrs. Drummer knew that it was a marked improvement, like their behaviour because at the start of the week according to their chart the tigers had been dead last, after the ostriches, who had been given a better rank on account of their long legs, and curiously black plumage. By all accounts Mrs. Drummer would have felt pleased too, knowing that in some small way, she had been a/the cause of all of this.

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African Animals – Google Search Image

How in the space of seven days, the tiger had not only bypassed the giraffe but also the gazelle to make their way straight to the top of the class rankings. These other creatures of course at one point or another had also held her interest. But up until twenty-five years ago, there would never have been a habitat exchange. If it hadn’t been for her father, and the local zookeeper, and some of the other men in the village who realized that because of poaching their once distinguished habitat was no longer thriving. That was when the Bengali tigers had been introduced into the region. The time when getting to know your local and international creatures, was like stepping outside your door, extending a hand to greet your neighbour.

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People greeting each other – Google Search Image

To be continued on Saturday…

Hope you are enjoying the story, do come again.

Animals too Have Stories to Tell

By Melissa Hazelwood

In Ghana, Mrs. Drummer will wash her clothes by the river, like her ancestors had done centuries before, and hang them out on rocks, but not because she is poor, and cannot afford a washer. Instead it is because hers has broken down; and it will take five days for the parts to arrive from Kenya. At night, she placates herself by looking out of windows, fascinated by stars that appear to remain constant. While the nebulas and planets are shifting around them. A primary school teacher, she lives in a small hut with her bedridden mother, whose ailment was never properly diagnosed, even though almost everyone is certain about when her illness had first appeared – twenty four hours after her husband’s body was committed to the ground.

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Map of Africa – Google Search Image

Mrs. Drummer’s father was a hunter, who also liked to tell stories. His favorites always included lions and tigers and bears. A passion he shared with his daughter, who now shares it with her students, who attend All Saints Primary School. Usually, she is called upon to supervise the first years, but today being her last day, she feels privileged to be among those in standard one. Children who come from the neighboring villages, who she has grown accustomed to seeing whenever she is out, buying groceries.

“Today,” she says slowly, trying to make eye contact with each of them, “we will be crafting stories.” She says softly as though her intention is not to frighten them, her eyes searching for unnecessary movement. Something her father never did. Because what she is looking for is something innocuous, that may later prove deadly, like a cobra’s venomous sting. Anything which at this stage of their development may even seem amiss.

In the front of the room, she hands a sharpener to a boy with crooked teeth and makes a turning motion, so that he will know to add a point to a headless pencil. A farmer’s son, she smiles at him, assumes that he has many ideas about the soil and its creatures to fill various books.

“When I was your age,” she says, holding her breath as he does what she has requested, her mind going back to two months earlier and her hospital visit to see her father. “My father used to tell me these strange stories about tigers.” She watches as one or two of them pushes their books aside, and raises their heads eagerly, as though she is some puppet master, their faces attuned to hearing something pleasant. To receiving stories. While she rests her hands on the desk and holds up the latest episode of The Guardian, with its two page spread of a pair of Bengali tigers. The same tigers that have been scheduled to be executed for biting off a part of a man’s hand.

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Bengali Tigers – Google Search Image

Watching them, she ignores the small picture of the man, someone who should have been familiar to her, but now is missed in her foray of words. “In his stories, my father told me how tigers are proud and majestic creatures,” she says, passing the image around for them to stare at it. Because on her desk there are at least five or six copies, a necessary sacrifice, she had told her mother, as though she was the one who needed to come face to face with the things she most feared and once also desired. The woman had only shook her head, as though it was beneath her to be condescending towards her own daughter. As though she had felt that it was time for the past to just remain the past while the two of them continued living.

The younger woman now just sits down and takes a sip of her water, greedily watching the children, envying their rapt attention. And then she passes out the two stuffed tigers, perfect replicas, for them to peer at because at one time her father had also mentioned something about young children needing something like a simulacra to feed their imagination to dream. Or was it to prolong the story?

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Primary School children in Ghana – Google Search Image

The story continues on Friday. Do stop by again…

And thanks for reading.