Hello, it's me again!
And Taylor's gone and done the thing.
Remember the story I posted a couple weeks ago?
The one that was going to be edited?
It's been edited.
And here it is!
Now I need to know more about this world of Doudi and Bah and his parents and this quiet new servant.
A Servant's Prayer
A richly dressed man is walking through our front gate, leading a younger man, a poorer man, by a rope. I see Papa come out of the house from where I sit on my swing. Mama comes out too, in her pretty blue dress, and walks towards me.
"Come inside, dear." she says, hurriedly.
I pause, considering my question carefully. If I make it too long, I might not get it out. I take a deep breath.
"Why?" I ask, jumping from the swing.
She pauses, as if considering her next words. As she does. I look to Papa, who is speaking with the men. The one with the rope around his wrists stays silent. He stares at the ground like I do when I get blocked on a sound or a word. I watch them. I listen closely.
"How much is he?" asks Papa in his stern tone.
"Five thousand." says the man holding the rope.
"Hmm," Papa grumbles. "Don't look like there's much to him."
"Oh he is very strong, I assure you. He will be the most loyal servant you will ever own."
I never knew you could buy a person. Mama takes me by the hand and begins to lead me across the yard. My eyes aren't on the flower beds that line the house or the big maple tree that sits in the center of the yard. They are on the thin man, no, the boy just a few years older than me, that Papa is eyeing up and down. There's a change in Mama's walk. Her pace slows and she squeezes my hand.
"That's our new servant, my love," she says in her gentle manner.
I smile up at her. She'd known the question that was sitting in my mind. She knew that I waa afraid to say, "Who is that, Mama?" In fear I'd get caught on one of the words. I swallow. My next words escape in a single breath, making my chest tighten.
"Yes," Mama says, looking away. "Yes, my sweets. He's just like Bah."
But he isn't. Bah has fair skin and light eyes, long hair and flabby elbows. This man, our newest servant, is dreadfully skinny with a shaved head and skin that reminds me of the caramel candies that Mama brings me when I'm having a bad day. Bah's eyes are crossed and her right leg is twisted and useless. But this man, this boy, has no deformity that I can see.
Mama stops long enough for her and I both to look at the servant. He risks a glance, his dark eyes darting from Mama and me to the wood chips at his feet. Mama walks to the house so fast that I struggle to keep up with her. She takes me inside and closes the door, then quickly moves to the windows, closing the curtains.
As she moves about the room, I look into the large doorway that leads into the kitchen, where Bah struggles to read the labels on a package of spices. Her hands shake, as do her legs. She isn't as sharp as she used to be, not as young.
Is this why the new servant has come? Is he a replacement for our beloved Bah?
"Doudi," Mama says, disturbing my thoughts. "Why don't you go up to your room and read for a while, hmm?"
I nod. She walks over to me from where she stands by the fireplace and runs her fingers over my hair. As soon as her lips touch my head, I dash up the stairs to my bedroom.
There's a tall dresser below my window. I open the middle drawer and climb onto it to look out into the front yard. My eyes find Papa, the well dressed man and the servant at once. Carefully, I open the window just a bit and strain my ears to hear what they are saying.
"He's a quiet one," says the suited man. "But the quiet ones are the best, wouldn't you say? Won't need to fret about him talking back now, will you?"
The servant stands as still as stone, his eyes still on his feet.
"I suppose not." Papa says, staring at the servant's downcast face.
Papa then inspects the young man, looking at his teeth and gums, lifting each leg, examining his sandaled feet, and even peering into the boy's ears. I'd seen Papa do this sort of thorough inspection before with our horses.
"Seems healthy enough." Papa says, removing his whipping cane, the cane he uses on me, from his belt. "But is he obedient?"
He uses the curved end of the cane to lift the servant's chin so that their eyes meet. The servant nods in a quick, panicked sort of way. The same way I nod when Papa asks me something in his harsh tone.
"Oh yes, he'll do anything you want him to do and more, eh boy?" says the suited man
He gives the servant's chest a backhanded slap, smiling brightly. Papa stays quiet for a long time, so long that I'm convinced they're all frozen, then he says, "Very well, I'll take him."
Money is exchanged. As soon as the servant's wrists are untied, the seller leaves with a tip of his hat. Papa puts his hand to the servant's back, leading him to the back of the house where the horses are kept. The servant flinches and follows Papa's lead, silent and submissive.