With our clothes already off, we are racing each other to the river: Yasin and Salim and Khalif and Gambo and me. Yasin is bigger than us all but a slow runner. He uses his strength to push down anyone on his way to get to the water first. I do not like to struggle so I let him pass me. Gambo is the fastest amongst us and Yasin cannot overtake him. So he kicks his legs against each other and Gambo falls terribly. I see Gambo’s eyes red with tears. He doesn’t even dust the sand off the bruises at the back of his arms and elbow. He stands, wishing death on Yasin with his eyes. We cannot complain. We cannot tell on Yasin, cause then we would have to explain what we were doing at the river when I’m meant to be attending my Quranic classes, when Khalif and Gambo are meant to be hawking their groundnuts. We are here now and there is nothing to do other than quietly hate Yasin and try to enjoy the water.
Yasin is dark, very dark. His face is stiff and scary because one eye has a scar over it and so it’s always twitching and never as open as the other eye. His ears are like they are about to leave the sides of his head. He is bulky and has an amulet wrapped around his arm. The scars on his body tell stories about violence that none of us have ever seen. He doesn’t like to talk about them so we never ask.
Sometimes we hate Yasin, sometimes we like him. He is always slapping us. No one ever complained in front of him. His palm is like sandpaper. Still, he beat up anyone who beats or tries to bully any of us.
The water is refreshing as always. It was here I had my first swim. Yasin taught me. He is a better swimmer than all of us so when we come to the river together, we do not leave his side.
The water is soft. I am still learning. I splash and blow bubbles all around but I never go far into the river. My arms and legs are moving in funny directions but I do not care. This is my way of flying like the birds do in the sky. The water is my cloud and it caresses me. After a while, I move to the sand to sit and watch the bigger boys perform acrobatic moves.
There’s this lanky boy whose moves always make everyone stop and watch. His arms are long and he walks like he is sixty-five years old, his back all bent. Each day has its own routine moves. He goes into the water chest first and goes quiet. Next, he comes out and does a somersault. Other times he does a backstroke and other manoeuvres which I enjoy but cannot fully describe. You need to be there to see it and fall in love.
Today, he climbs a rock and has done a lot of somersaults. I look at him with envy. I will be this good someday, I promise myself. He attempts a back flip and goes into the water with finesse. We all grow silent waiting for his return. It takes longer than usual. Everyone is standing and watching and waiting. My heart is beating fast in a bad way. Nothing. No more whooshing sounds. Peace is returning to the river now. Someone brave enough goes after him. I watch as he is dragged out of the water… Want more? To finish the story, please download complete anthology HERE
Author: Jonathan Duruguma is the winner of prose category for Okike Prize Anthology 2017. Please leave a review or a comment.
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