The Soles of Her Feet

The Iowa Review - - NEWS - Amy wid­moyer han­son

When Lila thought of that morn­ing, her mother’s voice was clear­est in her mind. The way she raised it a lit­tle higher when speak­ing with some­one she had just met, how it dipped down when she tucked her chin and smiled. Even at age eight, Lila no­ticed her charm. Her voice that sang like the birds crowd­ing the trees out­side their hut as the sun came up. The strange man spoke in Bemba. “Njikala ku Lusaka,” he had said. “I am from Lusaka.” “Ah, Lusaka,” her mother had said, im­pressed. The baby was tied to her front with a col­or­ful chitenge cloth and Lila’s lit­tle brother played in the dirt at her feet. “The city is full of op­por­tu­nity, yes?” He groaned in agree­ment. “The schools are like noth­ing that can be found up here in the bush.” “It would be so good for her to go to school.” “And all I would ex­pect would be a lit­tle help as my maid.” “She is very good with the mthiko cook­ing stick. You shall see. Please, come and sit,” her mother said. She walked over to the hut where Lila stood be­side her mat, where she had gone to get her only pair of shoes for the walk to the well. The mat was one of six shared be­tween her par­ents and nine sib­lings. She al­ways slept next to Bupe. They would curl their young bod­ies in a way that fit them both on one mat, their soles pressed to­gether, in a way that they never felt alone. Her mother peeked her head into the door­way, the baby hid­den in her chest be­neath the cloth. “Lila, please come. There is some­one I would like you to meet.” Lila came out shyly, the morn­ing’s light fall­ing first on her red shoes with holes ex­pos­ing her lit­tle toes, then her chitenge, and then her hands and arms. At last she felt it on her face and squint­ing eyes, blinded by the morn­ing. He was sit­ting on her father’s carved stump just out­side the cook­ing hut. She had never seen any­one else sit on it. Her father had gone out to work the tem­per­a­men­tal field af­ter break­fast. The one that not long ago had yielded noth­ing, leav­ing the fam­ily to for­age for fallen fruit be­side the road and use their few kwacha to buy a bag of mealie meal. Once that ran out, they ate green mealie meal, even­tu­ally the seed, just to sa­ti­ate their rum­bling bel­lies.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.