It’s a small miracle I was able to get any help at all, Chelsi thought to herself, pushing her bicycle towards the road. It was laden with the fine grass that is preferable for roofing. She was alone, transporting the last two bundles of grass home. So alone, never alone, Daisy trotted up beside her.
“Thank you Ba Kennie. Tukamonaangana pa Monday, at the office.” Chelsi shouted back over her shoulder to the tall this man, now standing next to a massive pile of bricks.
“Okay, okay, okay.” He waived her off with a laugh.
The grass bundles shook as she mounted her bike. It’s not far, hopefully it holds. So far the most bundles of grass she had been able to carry at once was five. But it was a gruesome five. Kennie and Austin had help her that day. One bundle was balanced a top her bicycle rack, while two massive bundles were strapped to the frame on either side. The grass was positioned in such way that she struggled to get close enough to the bicycle to maintain momentum and proper control, not to mention, the closer she got to the bike frame the more thin blades of grass stabbed at the back of her calves. I was sure I was going to break out in a rash after that, thinking again about that afternoon.
But I wasn’t suffering alone that day, she started to think back to the previous year. The same time last year she felt she had no friends. It would have been just 53 weeks ago that I was fighting, trying to at least get grass for my roof.
Chelsi was snapped back in to the present when she started to feel her bicycle pull sharply to the left. She started to hop off, squeezing the rear brake, forgetting for the moment it was broken, then sharply squeezing the front one, coming to a jarring halt. Looking behind her she could see that the bundles of grass had started to slide off her bicycle rack. Blades had become tangled in the spokes of her rear wheel. “Shit,” her good mood started dropping precipitously. She had already more time that she wanted to on this task, and for goodness sakes! Kennie spent the better part of an hour strapping it on to begin with!
A few children, unfamiliar to her started to creep out from behind the bushes along the side of the road.
“Muzungu, muzungu,” they muttered between themselves. It was the word despised by all volunteers, Chelsi beat back the urge to tell them to ‘fuck off,’ knowing that they would probably just continue to stand there, only laughing; taunting her more. She pick furiously at the knots of the rope tie the bundles, wishing she was back to last year when she remembered better to do things like carry a knife with her. “Muzungu! Muzungu!” now their comments were directed at her.
Aah, “Iyai!, iyai!” If you can’t beat’em, join’em. “Iyai!” One of the larger boys started over hesitantly, she motioned for him. If you’re going to just stand there you should help me. And it all looked like it was going to be alright, until Daisy trotted up around the front of him to get a better look at the situation.
“MAAMA!” the little boy shouted running back in to the bush at the sight of Chelsi’s dog. Well, at least they won’t just be standing idly by now. She looked grass lying about the ground beside her. In her mind, she couldn’t fathom a way to both hold her bicycle upright and re-strap the grass, which was now unbundled. I should have just let Austin get these two when he offered yesterday, one side of Chelsi’s inner voice whine. Meanwhile the stubborn, proud and independent side of her cried, but who are you? If you’re not going to take some initiative it completing takes for yourself.
Well, I might be able to get one bundle worth on, pile the rest of it by the road and come back for it.
“Ma ’dam? Can I help you?” A voice coming from outside her head caught her by surprise.
“Sure,” she responded gruffly, trying to retie some of the rope to her bicycle rack. She didn’t look at the man while he helped re-bundle the grass and strap it down. Her insides were too busy mixing. She was relieved, and thankful for the help, but her ability to express gratitude was being squashed by the echo of the children’s voices, muzungu, muzungu, and her deep seated angst about having had to fetch grass alone to begin with. Where the hell is my host father! Isn’t this his job? Oh yeah, when he asked me where I was going, and I told him ‘get grass, you should help’ he chuckled and said no… Don’t be angry, be thankful for the help you’ve had. Count yourself luck that you didn’t have to lug all 30 bundles alone. You can handle these last two. You can do it.
When Chelsi finally looked up she could hardly see the multi-colored yarn puff adorning the top of her helper’s hat. “Thank you,” her voice softened.
“Thank you,” he replied. She craned the best she could around the grass to see him off.
She knew her best bet for getting her grass home without it toppling over again to push it. Looking at her watch she sighed, 11:38. It was about an hour walk from where she way. Daisy stood, and rejoined her from where she had been lounging in the shade. She stretched and yawned. “We’d better get started, at least this way the grass won’t be stabbing me the whole time.”