Let me tell you a story
Katid was born on the river. In her family’s flat boat that floated softly down stream, rocking gently side to side. Then they’d float upstream again, and the boat would slap against the current.
As a tiny baby she spent her time watching a patch of sky. She saw the sun come up and go down. She saw clouds sailing by. The gentle rocking of the boat soothed her cries. When she was hungry her mother fed her when she needed changing one of her siblings did that. Faces came and went in her patch of blue blue sky. All of them smiled and loved her. None of them stayed long.
Katid gazed in endless wonder as the sky darkened and twinkling stars came out. She gurgled at the moon before drifting to sleep.
Soon enough she could lift her head and her world view widened. On her tummy she could see the boat deck and the sides of her crib. She would be rotated with a tickle through the day as siblings or parents went past. She watched ants with great intensity as they crawled past her nose, going slightly cross eyed when they scuttled back and forth. On her back again she held long conversations with the sky, waving arms and legs for emphasis. The shapes and colours of the clouds were an amazement.
She began to roll over and was frustrated to learn the restrictions of her pen. Often she would beach against the side, wailing her fury. Her scene changed. With her pen on the lower deck she could see her family as they worked. Shoveling wood into the fire to steam upstream. Or paddles and pushes off the side as they went down. Folk from the land called out, shouts exchanged and every now and then they would fetch to a bank to trade and people would put in orders for the next passing.
By the time they reached the mouth of river their boat would be piled high with goods for market. Docking at the jetty, they sold from the boat. Katid could pull herself up by this time and called out, song-singing gobbeley gook to buyers then laughing when they waved or called back to her.
There was so much to see that Katid was exhausted each night. She only had time for a gurgled acknowledgement of the moon before falling asleep. They were at the market so long that the morning she awoke as usual alongside siblings in her pen, she was surprised by the quiet. The river rocked the boat and she fell asleep again.
Life went on. The boat travelled slowly up the river. When Katid was two she was helping with tasks that kept the boat afloat. The benefit of her height meant she was first to notice leaks or gnaws to draw attention for repair. Katid had the important job of helping her five year old brother. He had just become old enough to take water to the workers and with pride handed Katid the ladle. Katid wanted the bucket. It was too heavy until she tipped all the water out. Water that had to be boiled before drunk. She never repeated her mistake and handled the ladle with the seriousness it deserved.
Katid discussed this with the fish that came to nibble at the crumbs of bread she threw for them. They burbled back at her, in perfect accord. It was much easier to talk to fishes. The family learned to understand Katid’s jumbled words and emphatic gestures. The words never quite came out the way she thought them. Katid saw the looks her family shared whenever she spoke and tried harder to make herself understood until her father told her one day not to worry they understood. Katid realised they did so continued her burbling.
By the time she was three, the family reached the source of the river and travelled round to the back waters to stop for awhile and visit with friends not seen since before she was born.
For the first time in Katid’s short life the family relaxed and for the first time ever Katid stood on a deck that barely moved. Katid was scared to step out onto the land. She felt scared of the children who ran to greet her brothers or the loud men and women delighted to see her parents. Katid wanted to go back into the river’s current, where it was quieter. Then she met the Jumbly Man.
The Jumbly Man stood on the bank of the river. She knew he was the Jumbly Man as she had heard her brothers talk of him. Now he was here. Her brothers tumbled off the boat to greet him. Laughter and jumbled greetings were exchanged along with small gifts of sparkling stones that came from copious jumbly pockets. Katid wanted a sparkly stone. Her brothers whooped and ran off to play revelling in the freedom. Katid wanted to run.
Her parents greeted Jumbly as an old friend and with smiling glances over their shoulders at her walked after their sons to meet their village friends.
There was just Katid and the Jumbly Man. Jumbly smiled at her, then took out a sparkly stone and placed it on the ground. He turned and burbled a jumbled up sentence, smiled and wandered away. Katid was alarmed. Everyone was gone. She really wanted a sparkly stone. She really wanted to run. She really really wanted to talk in her mixed up jumbly way with the Jumbly man.
Finally she couldn’t stand it and screwing up her courage, leapt over the side of the boat. The ground was hard and didn’t move. Katid got her balance and picked up the stone.
It was as dark as the night sky and sparkled with stars. Her delighted face of wonder lifted up to the Jumbly man. He jumbled his understanding at her.
Katid laughed and taking Jumbly’s hand skipped after her family, jumbling with Jumbly all the way
and that’s the end of the story