Rangi Ya Bahari – Six


Nzuri, it’s so beautiful …in the distance, a thin black line where the pale blue sky and the azure of the sea collided bled like spilled ink. The flow forming a fleet of small craft coming into focus powering to the old wooden jetty on the short trip from the airport at Manda. By the time Ativa set foot to the jetty Punda was nowhere to be seen.

“Ativa …this is not the way to market,” …lost in a nimbus of music as soft as new feathers it was the force of the grip of the hand on her shoulder and the familiar stern tone in the words that stirred Ativa and she spun on her heels, spun to her right to break free. Only empty space, not a hand or an owner of a hand where one should be, but the touch and the sound of his voice remained …what games are these …then she saw.

A squared frame of raw beige canvas fronting the sky, reflective under a sheen of moisture, tear-shaped droplets trembling with the smooth adjustments of the tuning slide. An abstraction of slender bronze fingers gripping a knot of brass spirals, bright scarlet lips caressing the mouthpiece, cheeks smooth and then blowing to produce the vibrations.

...it can’t be they’re alive …how is it, it’s my boat ...and that sail …then the wind billowed and extended the sheet and the mermaid side-eyed Ativa over the top of a golden french horn.

Braided cords of burnt orange danced from her head as the mermaid sat on the back of the hump of the whale and her own split fish-tail overlapped in a sheath of diamond-shaped scales. A fine balance of sea marine greys and ocean deep blues set below a fountain of pink hearts as they blew high from the spout of the whale, and a bounty of sea creatures, lobsters, octopus, seahorses, and eels filled out the fringes of the sail.

Striped-legs held in his blunt teeth a thick measure of worn ropy cabling that reached over the seawall to the bow of the vessel. Half on the beach and half in the water the dhow was braced on bent sticks. With a short blast, the whale’s breath filled the lateen and the curved wooden hull slipped away from the sand and striped-legs released the heavy tether. Without hesitation, Ativa lunged for the boat and grabbing the gunwale made a sharp smack, bare-feet landing squarely on the dry deck.

Looking back to the shore dozens of donkeys had gathered that were blinking and braying a fine bon-voyage, and dotting the rooftops massed in all shapes and sizes grey gulls were flocking in hundreds and crying their wishes of fair sailing. Right there beside her, Ativa found Punda, smiling controlling the rudder, and a final Scra-heee from the top of the mast saw the odd crew of three setting course to the north. Ativa reflecting now of the voice and staring at the sail, right with the knowledge that she would not be going to market or school today.


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