The sun sets over open dry grasslands.
Several miles from the eastern border sits a newly painted house. Mud-walled and bandaged with overgrown bamboo trees, blue gums, Nandi flames, pine trees, acacias, jacarandas and bottle-brushes. Just short of twenty metres from the windows, they form a tangled perimeter. Branches overlap like patterns on a snowflake. The colours, greens and blues and browns, soften like wood shavings.
A woman bends by an outdoor tap. The water splashes off a glass pitcher and onto her shins. She rinses out the lime pulp and then glides to a bench, refilling it with more fresh lime pulp.
The woman recalls how years ago her palms would tire from squeezing the tough rinds. But the thought of it prickles her now.
Her eye stings. A drop of lime juice has jumped into her judgment.
Guarding the well with mossy bark and boil-afflicted leaves are the ten-foot tall lime tree. It began to produce fruit just after the rains. Its fruits can grow to the size of her fist if the local children don't visit for a time. And they did. They didn't.
The rains kept her neighbours indoors for most of the season. Quiet and troublesome, loud and grateful. Their absence creating dispersions were, instead, rain collected along with the chocolate powder soil. Rainwater swept away saliva and fruit juice labels and shattered liquor bottles; while years-old polythene paper bags pinned under thick dirt continued to sit like a strand of hair in your mouth, far from the concerns of the Ministry of Environment or the practised eyes of eco-friendly groups toting picks or the rainwater that precipitates to penetrate humus and topsoil and will certainly not.
The woman leaves the pitcher full and on the veranda. She walks inside her home jutting out her jaw, stretching the muscles under her deaf ear. Her hand massages the tendon with quiet masochism. She steps into her bedroom to retrieve her yellow khanga.
Outside, the woman sits before shrieking yellow weaver birds. The birds dance on the branches and the leaves clang. She estimates there to be over two-hundred of them, calling her attention to a message they have brought for her. A joke. Seemingly eternal in their tickles. Their joy replenishes her.
The bamboo leaves make the most static. They irritate her these days. They sound like holding your stomach from expired githeri and it scratches her scalp from inside her head.
The weaver birds are weaving new two-door homes and for that, most of them settle upon the bamboo branches. Branches that their small claws can wrap around while they fly to-and-from resources.
Birds eat wild berries from a shrub below a jacaranda.
The woman's home is at the centre of this feathered arena. Squawking. Piping. Chirruping. Chipping. Squeaking. Chirping. Tweeting. Whistling. Cawing. Twittering. Cheeping. Singing.
Mother Earth provides seeds and joy. The males build nests together. Seven to a branch like a cul-de-sac. They don't live inside each other like sociable weavers. No, village weavers live beside each other. To the left and right of each other, setting clear boundaries that require an invitation to span. So how could anyone have done anything when they heard the cries of the children?
She always loved blue waxbills and red-cheeked cordon-bleu finches. The latter for their cheeks, the former for their trickery. She could never tell them apart so she studied them. On the warmest days, she would look for the males, listen for their songs. Search near trees for the militant females, trees on the fringes of the forest. Spy between tall grasses for those Nokia-sized finches. She would keep an eye out for pin-tailed whydahs who would make sure her birds were not around. She would look in bushes and low-lying plants, and in thatches for their homes. On her way to school, she would challenge herself to locate the finches. She became obsessed. It kept her mind off her legs.
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