house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Back Path

There's this back path that takes us to the nearest market. It's dusty and narrow, it goes up and down, it winds between piles of rubbish, it's anything-can-happen land. Today, for example:

Someone lit a fire in the rubbish. Having to devour dense and ancient landfill, the fire choked and left behind small puckered mouths that spew black smoke. Relentless this smoke, and stinking, it curls inside the nostrils like toxic treasure...

... sought by the children who squat on the next rubbish heap and sift through. What can they possibly find in this mess to keep, sell, consume? Their faces are closed and clouded...

... like that rodent - between rat and squirrel - that creeps out of a ditch, just behind them. That coarse fur, the pink claws, the pointed face. Cute? Shiver. What are they called? Starts with 's'?... Stoat? Solenodon? Shrew? As we pass it shrinks away...

...from us and from the next path-dweller. A man, relieving himself next to the rubbish. Not that you'd know. He squats with acrobatic poise, every inch of skin covered by his kurta, his head high. Meditation could look like this. The impression that there's nothing else he'd rather do, that in fact he could be doing THIS forever. At least now I know enough NOT to greet him with a merry 'As-salamu Alaikum'...

... as I call out at the checkpoint. Two slabs of concrete, staggered, and a plasterboard booth, guarded by two retired soldiers holding guns. Real guns! I can't get over it, especially when their faces melt into smile as Kira hops and skips along, chirping out some school gossip. The guns are propped against the wall today. One of the guards makes tea behind the booth. The other kneels on a small red mat praying, looking into that unclear distance where gods dwell. He recites in measured, musical tones...

... drowned by a Britney Spears hit from the building site next door. Bwooof-bwooof-tchhh-tchhh-bwoof - goes the rhythm inside my steps, under each brick laid in the wall, behind Kira's bouncing bag, then in the red dust flying from the rooftops...

... where a raven cocks his head, curious, soars down, steps closer...

... only to be scared away by a motorbike. They shouldn't be riding along this path, motorbikes, but they do. Cars would too, if there were enough space to squeeze through. We jump out of the way, breathless and twirled on the spot like spinning tops. Two more dizzy steps...

... and we're there. We've survived the Back Path, now for the Market! ('Start with a smoothie?' Kira quips and Never have I heard a finer idea, Darling Duck!)

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