“But I fed him last week,” he whined. “Every single day. It’s her turn!”
“But nothing,” my mother snapped. “You, miss, get out there and feed him this instant!”
“Mom!” I exclaimed.
She thrust a bowl of mash into my hands. “Go on,” she said with a wave of her hand, and I knew my battle was over.
“But I don’t like him,” I grumbled under my breath.
“I don’t care if you dont like him!” She snapped. “We are lucky to have one, and you are going to feed him.”
“Fine,” I pouted. When my mother turned away I stuck my tongue out at my brother, then whisked out the door before he could finish his fresh complaint about me.
The mash sloshed in my hand, and I quickly counter-balanced it. No point in wasting good food on the ground. I approached the tiny hut with its plant-mud walls, my initial fears returning. I don’t care how much my father had paid to get him, or how much good he did our family. He still creeped me out.
A small curl of smoke trickled out the vent hole in the top of the hut, funneled up that way by its curved walls. I’d helped my father build the but, back when it was new, before he arrived.
I walked up to the hut cautiously, eyes fixed on the little window I approached. “Hello,” I called softly. “I brought you your mash.”
I stepped up to the window and peered in to the dark interior. It appeared empty, with nothing but a tiny fire burning in the center, made of a few stray twigs and some straw.
“Thank you, miss,” a voice spoke softly from the interior. I jumped, startled, spilling half of the mash to the ground. I looked down at it, devastated, and then back up at the window.
His face appeared in the window. I stared at him, surprised. Not only had I never heard his voice before, but I hadn’t seen his face since we’d gotten him. His dark hair was considerably longer, because I’m sure he’d not cut it in the past few months, and he had begun growth on a thick, wiry beard that was missing in a few patches. But it was his eyes that got me: a startling blue-green color that seemed to glow from the dark interior of the hut.
He looked down at the spilled mash, then back up at me, his mouth opening to say something.
“I’m so sorry,” I stammered, cutting him off. “I’ll go make some more.”
“No, no,” he said quickly. “It’s all right.” He reached out for the mash, and reflexively I took a step back before I realized what I was doing. Hurriedly I stepped forward again and placed the mash into his outstretched hands.
“I’m sorry,” I stammered again. I wrapped my arms around myself, even though the heat of the day was quickly approaching. I took a few steps back, eyes looking anywhere but his.
“You’re afraid of me?” he asked. He seemed surprised.
I didn’t answer.
“You know that I’m not threating you,” he said. It was a statement, not a question.
I bobbled my head, but still didn’t look up at him. “We’re not supposed to talk to you,” I whispered.
“Who said that?” he asked, surprised.
I shrugged. “Everyone.” I finally peeked a glance back at him. He was still watching me intently, curious, I thought. So I volunteered a bit more of information. “You’re our hermit, after all. We’re not supposed to bother you while you do… hermit stuff.”
He laughed. “Hermit stuff, huh?” He pulled the mash into his hut and bent down to set it on the ground. For a moment, I was sure he wasn’t coming back. And then he did. This time he had something in his fist, which he held out to me.
I looked at him. He smiled kindly. I furtively stepped forward, cupping my hands together, and held them under his fist.
He opened his fist, and small stone fell, landing in my hands. I pulled it back and examined it closely. Solid black, through and through. Rounded oval, smooth, without a single flaw.
“It’s a protection stone,” he explained. “It’ll keep you safe from all harm.”
I smiled, looking up at him once more. “Thank you.”
“Oh, and miss?” he asked.
“You can talk to me sometimes if you want.” He ducked back into the hut with a little wave. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Yes,” I agreed. “See you tomorrow.”
Note: my sister insisted that I let my readers know that this picture looks like that one place in Star Wars. So be it.
Source: This blog series is inspired by the book “Earth from Above: 365 Days” by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. Click here to read more about my Creation365 series.
The top picture is from “Niger. Detail of a village near Tahoua.”
Arthus-Bertrand, Yann, Isabelle Delannoy, and Christian Balmes. 2005. The Earth from above: 365 days. New York: Harry N. Abrams.