The drought season is coming soon, the boy thinks to himself as brittle twigs and dry orange and red leaves crack and crumble beneath his bare feet. His time is almost up, but he isn’t worried.
Sent from his village months ago by the elders, he’s learned to feed, clothe, and tend the land that he has claimed as his own.
His native village believes boys are men at a young age, and the boy had rose to their challenge without a second thought, completely satisfied with the deadline to prove he was truly a man. He’s a survivor, witty and cunning. And he has a plan.
His only chance of going home to open arms was to show his worth, and he has every intention of returning a victor in the eyes of the elders and those he deeply loves, but not the traditional way.
This evening, on his long journey back from the land he tends, he dangles the fruits of his labor over his shoulder. The cotton sways against his back, and he grins, mischievous.
Most boys sent on this journey of discovery end a life – an animal, an enemy – anything to display their strength. But the boy refuses to end a life to begin his.
Every night, after nursing blisters from a day’s hard labor, the boy gathered his cotton, stretched and pulled, weaved with fumbling fingers, and colored and sewed with a needle and dye he made himself. He wants to show the village that worth isn’t in the blood dripping from hands, it isn’t combat. It’s the callouses along the skin, the push of the body, and the determination of the mind. Worth is the work done to survive another day, to provide and thrive in the harshest of elements. Tomorrow, he’ll return home with cloths of detailed and intricate design. The elders, though fraught they will be, can trade his cloths for food and fresh water to nourish the entire village during the drought months, and each member will be cared for because of his worth. None will want.
The boy whistles as he disappears into the trees, his last night in his makeshift home a delightful thought.
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