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.