Not the Whale: Folktale on the Blyde River
If there ever was a time for a laundress and a lamb, the time 
is right now.  This minute!
 
A sangoma flutters her fan like a flying fish over orange 
water.  Across the river, a construction worker’s sons are 
eating clams. They wait for their sister to heal.  Three days 
at the most.  The youngest son, the one who is building 
castles just this side of the muck, swallows a shard of 
clamshell.  His hands dig down to clay.
 
Their father has gone inside to run a wet rag and an ostrich 
feather over the girl’s neck.  She secretly wishes she could 
fly, but knows prayers can’t save them. Her stitches burn 
into his hands, the strings of his wife’s mandolin.  But the 
instrument is dead.  The oldest son destroyed it with an 
obsidian sphere, as tight as the sangoma’s bun.  
 
She fans the water, rife with persimmon skins, to the
choking son, clamshell tearing, blood beginning to run 
marine from his nose.  A wave builds, then, twelve flying 
fish leap at the boy, cave in his chest like a mandolin—not 
the one the eldest destroyed, but the one the wife still plays, 
far from all water in West Phoenix, where her clothes are 
always clean, and for dinner, always lamb.
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