Little-Brother’s tummy rumbled so loud, it woke me up and I could not return to my dreams. My mind started to roam. Things in life happen for a reason – I was thinking, people often say this. No one ever asked me what I think for I too have some wisdom to impart.
As a matter of fact, I have a lot to say about many things.
For instance, the heat was oppressive some days back. Our throats were scratchy all the time. Tongues curled up in our dry little mouths and Little-Brother kept emitting shrill cries deep into the night. Others in the neighborhood were crying too. The night air was filled with many such cries, still each time Little-Brother cried Mama would pull him underneath her.
“Hush,” she would chirp. “They’ll hear you.” She would nose him gently while he suckled her dry teat.
Then it got sultry. Like this morning was sultry. We learned quickly to grab the dew to quench our thirst. Sweet fragrances swamped the air this morning. Huddled in our nest under a canopy of spry bougainvillea branches, I had taken to stretching my neck and drinking them through my nose. Ah, if only scents could fill the tummy!
Dadda did not return with the food last night. Everyone was hungry. Everyone is not as many anymore. Time was when we were many more – as many as my digits could count. Huddled together, we completely filled the space under our canopied nest. And now, as Little-Brother lies crawled under Mama, I get my choice of the side I want to huddle on and the instant I bury myself into Mama’s arms, she starts grooming me and I gaze into her lovely face full of meanings. I see the world.
This morning she was worried. I could read it on her face. Why did Dadda not return?
“Take care of the brood. Don’t step out,” she instructed me as she left for food.
I looked at us. Little-Brother and I – two lonesome brothers – form the brood.
On other days, Mama stayed with us. Through the night, we – of the brood – would play fight. We would jump, chase and tumble. We would go for each other’s necks and emit cries – “Hoi!” “La!” Mama would tell us to hush, and we would laugh even more. Like this, the night would pass, we would slip off to sleep and doze through the day.
Now the brood has shrunk. With almost no play, nor fight, we slept all night. I cannot sleep any more. I huddle tightly with Little-Brother and think of Dadda. Each time he returned, he gave Mama the food, found his quiet corner and watched us play, rough-and-tumble; groomed himself as he watched and slowly settled to sleep. I remember again that he did not return last night, sigh and start missing his low, contented booms. Little-Brother is breathing rapidly. He is sound asleep. I rise and decide that I must see the world.
Magnificent is the blue spread of the world beneath me. Separating two sprigs of the bougainvillea, I am viewing it stealthily for Mama has taught us to remain hushed whenever we can. It’s a dazzling world. Why are we kept from seeing it?
I ogle with delight at the festoons of grapes dangling like dozens of juicy teats. Down below, a black cat is walking her lordly walk. A dog lazes in the glorious sun. Envy – I feel envy.
Flowers sway their heads. I sway my head along! Is there music in the air? I stretch up and hear just cries – plaintive and of laughter. A man is blowing the leaves noisily on the far side of the garden.
Gazing down from between the sprigs, I am filled with glee and I grind my teeth until they chatter uncontrollably. A woman, holding a little bag, emerges from the door. She calls out and sits on a step. Pebbly things roll out from the bag, fall onto her palm. The dog springs to life as the cat squats to her feet.
“This is for you,” the woman places a pebble on the ground under the dog’s muzzle. Then one under the cat’s mouth, “And this is for you.” One moment I am sitting with my chin resting on my two fists listening to her fabulously modulated voice, next I am completely bowled over by its sweetness. The pebbles vanish right away and the woman has placed another one for the dog. Again she goes, “This is for you.” To the cat, “This is for you.” Many pebbles make the feast last awfully long. My mouth is working feverishly. I fight the urge to join that happy group, stop looking at the pebbles, and concentrate just on the woman’s voice instead.
We learned quickly to grab the dew to quench our thirst. Sweet fragrances swamped the air this morning. Huddled in our nest under a canopy of spry bougainvillea branches, I had taken to stretching my neck and drinking them through my nose.