Mickey, the young mantis, poked his head out of the bougainvillea bush. There she was, the lovely Marula, sunning herself on the trellis by the stoep. He watched her in admiration as she stretched out her plump olive-skinned limbs. His ardour was rising. She was a gorgeous creature. If only he could get her to notice him.
He crawled down to the windowsill where Gerald the Gecko was snapping at flies. Gerald followed Mickey’s gaze. ‘That mantis-lady’s a tough cookie, Mickey. You should steer clear of her.’
‘She’s too old for you, Mickey.’
Charlie the Chameleon slowly made his way up the lavender bush, his colour changing from a dusty grey to jade green. ‘I couldn’t help overhearing you two,’ Charlie said, rolling his eyes so that one fell on Marula and the other fixed on Mickey. ‘Don’t grow up too fast, Mickey, she’ll eat you for breakfast.’
She at one time
could have held
the whole world in her hands.
The wide oceans and the high mountains, the hills, the valleys and the lakes; the mighty forests and sweetly painted flowers; she encompassed all of her bounty. The beasts both wild and gentle roamed across all the fertile earth, free and fruitful. It was paradise. But then Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve were unleashed. They grew wise and strong; their numbers swelled. They spread. And as their knowledge grew, so did their ambition. Their need to abuse, oppress and exploit. She slapped them down like the wicked children they were. She sent earthquakes and tidal waves; war, famine and disease. But still they persisted. She tries to cling on, keeping it together for the good of the world. But the children of the world press harder, mine deeper, defile and destroy. And when she can no longer hold on to us? What then? What will become of us?
Here are the rules: Write a story about the picture you’re given. Select 3 nominees. Give them a new picture.
So, the story which, although prompted by the photo, is also a homage to my little old rooster who gave his last cock-a-doodle at the weekend.
The little rooster is first to awake, greeting the pre-dawn with his joyful call. Young squirrels start their chatter and mama guinea fowl calls from the fence top like a loud rusty gate.
The little rooster calls again; the hens shift about on their perches. He hops down and struts about, pecking at the floor of the hen-house, waiting for the day to begin.
The side gate opens. The hens hop down and jostle for position, peering through the chicken wire. Food arrives and with it, freedom. Pecking soon done, they all file out across the yard.
The little rooster rounds the corner of the house and sees mama sparrow tugging at the earth. Out pops a fat green caterpillar. She takes off and lands on the edge of her nest, offering it to the first new-born chick to raise its beak.
Then, a flash of yellow as a black-masked bird swoops in. The little rooster watches as he plucks another long strand of bamboo leaf and flies up to the high, high branch which sways over the pond, to weave it deftly into his beautifully-crafted nest.
Then the little rooster sees his favourite little black hen settled in the shade of the myrtle bush. He shuffles in beside her. He’ll take another stroll later; there’s no hurry.
“It had all been going so well,” said the Lilac Breasted Roller to his mate. “Everyone thought we were the National Bird of Botswana. Even though there’d never actually been one.” The bright coloured little bird sighed heavily. “It was such a PR triumph just letting all those safari visitors think that.”
“I know,” replied the female. Her wings drooped.
“But now the Kori Bustard’s been given the title. It’s official.”
“That bird’s not nearly as pretty and charming as us,” she said flapping her bright turquoise wings.
The male sighed again. “You may as well close our Twitter account.”
The sun is low in the sky, but the baked-on heat of the day throbs out of the concrete stoep. The bush sings with insects. I sip my sundowner slowly, the sharp, grassy taste lingering on my tongue, the liquid cool in my throat. Condensation beads on the glass and drips drops of fine rain on my bare knees. Wood-smoke from someone’s early evening braai wrinkles my nose.
The thicket rustles and a tiny antelope appears in the small clearing beyond the stoep. He sees me and freezes. I keep still-still not wanting to frighten him. We stare at each other. I hardly dare breathe. He is so close, so wild and timid. Motionless, our eyes locked together, a minute passes, two…
‘Top up?’ a large hand holding a green bottle accompanies the question. The little animal starts and skips off into the bush. The spell is broken.