Shakwe dropped from his perch, wings a thrumming of urgent beats to stay aloft snatching the spicy fritter being offered at the end of Aazim's outstretched arm. The toe of one web-foot hooked the red and black bracelet Aazim had tied around his wrist sending a scattering of beans and seeds that bounced and skipped about the stone porch and into the house and into the street and into the smooth grey flow of the rough stone gutter.

Aazim stared at the naked threads ...but I am fearless ...then his thoughts were interrupted, words for Shakwe caught in his throat, enchanting verses of adhan from the Riyadha mosque forced recollection. ...it's time, the market ...and as he loaded the wooden barrow and secured the ill-fitting harness to Punda's ever-nodding head, Aazim's aunt knowing the young man, reminded him well.

“...go straight ...market ...no stopping ...feeding ...and make sure ...Aazim are you! ...and to school ...no.“

But the words that reached Aazim were not his aunt's, but the weighty caw of the crow that then gently swelled full to a siren's song. Head full of dreams he had already set sail in his own secret world where he was Shah Rukh Khan, a flamboyant hero, a dramatic sea rescue, some long-lost archipelago showered in song, dance and colour.

Their musky odor left a mark and the acrid fragrance of urine hung in the spaces between the stone walls that separated earth and sky leading from one end of the maze to the other. Some three thousand donkeys lived and worked on the island and now Punda joined the caravan of carts and flat-bed wagons in a stream of early morning commerce, a life's blood that lead to the heart of Lamu. Aazim knew most of them on sight, had fed the tired and neglected with fresh produce from the back of his own family cart, but of the striped legs of the ass before him now he had no recollection.

Shakwe followed closely behind hopping lightly from rooftop to rooftop collecting more of the grey and white gulls along the way, knowing and patient, and it was Aazim's aunt that prepared his meals for the day and today he had a pouch of warm bajia, ripe mangoes and fish that would feed them all and the insistent cat, ripe with kittens, that mewed and weaved between his feet.

From day-to-day and how the story would change and no one knew the truth of it, or how long she had been there, but she was always there and she always called out from the depths of her rags and always begged and always moaned in pain. She was old and she lay there on her side in the dirt on the stone steps leading from the edge of the square to the artfully carved wooden doors that opened in upon the fort.

“Here mama,” and the shillings he had received from the sale of the mangrove poles now rested in the palm of the old lady's hand leaving Aazim's pockets empty and his dream for another day.

Aazim observed the striped-legged donkey, this time in the shifting shade of an ancient maembe tree as it scrounged through a pile of cracked coconut shells stripped clean of their flesh, when the beast turned its head locking eyes with Aazim and with a bright wink and a bristle lipped smile shocked Aazim off his course and his cart hit a rut, that dislodged a wheel and set Punda free, slipping his harness and bolting en route for the freedom of the sea.

“Punda... aaeeyyy... oh no ...wait ...comeback!”

...follow Aazim as he tails after Punda August 5th, 2016

Published by Maremma Gee