the short story project


Awbrey Collins

White Soles, Little Black Boy

The warm, warmed ground, stomped down by tribal feet, one pair clothed. They had circle here; before, where should they lie down in green pasture, shall recognize lion kings. Sending to scramble in the winds, women’s chants. Chanting, the call and response; it is not a song. The music of the call, which brings the youth from the wise and the mind of knowing. The difference is losing the innocence because it is necessary, it seems created. “They stomped the dirt,” the men sing as the jazzy-bass-line; but, the women intervene, “…until it flows like a river.” The circle of life, strung like a drum, is easy to rhythm, easy to comprehend. Between the drumbeats is easily sieve singing stories, sing-song and leisure of the hard work. Losing their feet into the dirt like quicksand, losing their rhythm to the fleshing of life. The green pasture a meadow, but the mind meddling, with the darmah of hard work. Measuring to the Eastern premonition, the border of the Republic of Central Africa. The distant walk no more than another rhythm. Certainly, another story which scrambles to the winds, like women’s chants.

Like women’s chants, they flew through the grass as a child does, forgetting the wise which guides. The guidance of travel the same to gather, rather empty vessels for sale or barter in the bazaar. The women’s chants had been harvested; and, although they were ready to either be filled with the laughter of younglings, or the chatter between the wise, the earth trembled at the celebration. It is from here they say that you could see the Devil Tongues of red, Sarasin banners that fly to represent the safety of the city. The water flows into the red, and the yellow grows green, again as it dazzles of gold and silver. The trades flow like the tides, without marks of money. Once to the east, they now return west with their faces and folklore for conversation. A good conversation is a good pence towards something beyond what was money after a coming flood. The waters of Anuket were washing into the kingdom, the true kingdom of consciousness which being wise was learned. The Damascan eyes too were emptied, and it will learn the coming trades headed east would pass the dunes, through headed to Central Africa’s Republic. The nation would know the songs as a blessing, the omen being the farmers of Isis, Osiris before Hathor!

Chimeric counting stories, remembering Osiris are the ones sung, coveted, the ones women are not allowed to chant. The rhythm becomes the drumbeat which carried as the young become men, the tradition of passing language comes by name, and is intended to tell a thief from a king. It is beheading to travel in the safties of trades to trade the gratuities of slavery, not to mention such a long distance. A commoner is easily spotted in the energy it takes to frown, in the harvest light of course it is easier to spot the dark spots under pharaoh eyes. The makeup of the kingdom was a bazaar surrounded by small mercantile villages. Where they would trade, the lies of Damascus do not make, nor the comedy of Thebes litter the streets. Before he was of age to converse Kevin was to meet the population for telling stories, while learning to tell only of ancestors of the stars and the trust of the ram head. Malik, his cousin, has become of age and ventured wide, becoming a leader to the trusty, drum circle. He did not waste time, and spent the pulse of curiosity learning some of whats he couldn’t represent around the cape. Spreading the fundamentals of earth work, and a blessing every time he would return to their village. “Until it flows like a river,” the women could chant, buttressing fixtures of the story like the plentiful flood’s waters receding.

Far off where the red banners fly, “… East…” Malik explained. Kevin did never travel with the women and the family. He understood the dangers of losing your feet. His years he had spent with the men in the village showed, the many songs that had been spun, then gone. The many songs which had burned, then embered. As does the stars, things should be exact, but where they would be is something that couldn’t be explained, only learned. The long silences were different, revealing. To Kevin, he was used to the hum of the land, the ringing residing within and the cold of chastisement within the rigid air, left behind the trade winds. In between the crosstalk between mothers and young women, and the gentle chant from memory, “… until it flows like a river,” Kevin learned first of the loneliness of thought. The importance of the song sung not a story, it strengthens before the floods come from understandings and is spun of trades, coming from north and through to the Republic of Central Africa. “Rivers do not spread like the Nile, the cape a rush into the horn!” Kevin was told to pick up his feet. “What I learn is not about drumming. We do talk you know? They say if you listen, you hear the beatles wing beat, beat against the hot air, before the mischief of the helion,” told Malik. 

Malik talking about the short dessert twisters that danced upon the dune caps were not helion, but comforting his cousin’s discomfort about his firsts on their way to the Republic of Central Africa. The girls giggled as they had been already many travels before. “They say the magi protect the city, and the Sarasins pay them taxes. They try to learn your face but don’t let a single one stare you down. It is only an outpost, and mostly everything headed north never sings the same in their lands, completely safe!” exclaimed Malik. The shorter version for a walk without words is better napped within the distant talk that stories of Kevin’s usually added from his youthful mind at conversation. The wise look wakingly before speaking, so eye opening he formally noticed their critiques. He would no-longer notice how often the long trek was made, now, with more time to spend protecting the family’s farm. It was safer. It took preparation before the long travel, but certain supplies from the other side of the river was costly to ferry, and north was becoming more dangerous. The girls giggled becoming women, and he heard less of the song and more of Malik’s rhythmic regressions about how great the different tribes’ music was. He studied with the other tribes because their village had grown, which is rare.

Malik’s vacation was only another song, an unspun story which would become his way with the other tribal circle leaders. He soon would wear the mask of both criticism and fundamentalism, its hypocrisy a strong spurn of learning, and a solitary life to protection of the shaman. Only the rich travel to marry in the Central Republic of Africa, where the song of names is stored. Tazmanian shaman and light worshipers alike were allowed the presence of tamer notions of mannerism, less criticism. The wise were considered the only counsel that could prevent the constant banishments that happened to prevent warfare. Fast changes in the songs spread to the needs of the continent, they break and Kevin’s family is more known to the north. Malik, being critical, seemed to seed the same tensions Kevin’s silence would eventually break with the tribe. Its karmah is the same protection the girls learned in the faces of the Sarasins. The girls were supposed to detract Kevin for the adventure because Malik was told to break Kevin’s silence, or return him to the tall grass for a pouncing lesson. He was too old to continue telling the child’s stories of the stars lost boys found hunted by the pride, outside the protection of the tribe.

Kevin briefly remembers the advice, to turn no bird tails of rainbow fright. Some traders traded with diamonds, something he had not seen before. Vessels filled to the top, and entertainers. Alley ways that ran like gutters from the cities, and lepers with clothes to protect them in their long hours of begging beneath the sun. Three story houses, with fruit markets out front, and stables for horses, and more. Kevin had not seen a horse, only camels, ox and donkey. Malik asked if Kevin could touch the horse loins, then he giggled and blushed under the majesty of the horse. “The horse made a funny noise,” said Kevin. The shoulder and forearm were soft for his farm hand. The metropolis was filled in the annals like the loins of a pig, the buildings almost emptied to the streets. At the end of the bazaar was a long, three part tent with all red cloth for its shade. Men with swords were conversing in the two long connected tents, the first part of the tent slightly separated where a line was formed and the person in the front was constantly arguing with the only seated figure. These men did seem to have the attention of the market.

By comparison, most of the men Kevin encountered looked lost in a mirage of bright sun and hot wind. Their eyes like balances, their constant gesturing without hand signs not attract the attention of good trades. “A THEIF,” a brown skinned man yelled. He grabbed a small black skinned boy in tattered rags by the wrist. Another man approached drawing his sword before stabbing the boy in the stomach. His blood poured out into the African ground like the corpse would be fed to the buzzards. “TAKE THIS INCEST AWAY FROM MY SHOP,” the brown skinned man yelled at the two attendants. Neither of them had clothing on their upper torso, but their faces were mostly covered. Kevin was more locked eyes with a fully clothed man staring at him. It froze him in the probucation. Kevin tried to stare the man off, like he was told. He couldn’t. He could not hold the man’s gaze and looked instead where he was going. Alone he wandered to a gypsy woman. Her shop had smoking incense around it, and a weird set of solid metal pipes that twinkled with the wind. The gypsy woman had much lighter skin, her lips were purple painted with gold beneath her eyes. From her chair, she monitored him closely. Much closer, he noticed she was beautiful! Stunned, he pointed at a trinket. She waited, and then a smile appeared on her face and she nodded.


Malik saw the trinket. “Your name is now Ratimbo, you are no longer Kevin.” Kevin looked at the silver trinket in his hand. It was like the one the gypsy woman had hanging for the wind, and Kevin thought of his mother. Just then he wandered into another shop, some of the girls from his village had gathered. They had circled him like buzzards, long enough for him to know. The important trinket in his grasp protected him, its magic like the dazzle of their eyes. He was still known here in the Republic, not for his kingdom name, but because his new name was being sung, ‘Ratimbo’. He did not care what it meant, the girls were keeping his attention for the time being. He tripped over a plate that’s contents poured into the streets. Other beggars sped by, hastily grabbing scraps and disappearing into wasteland alleys. They laughed, and the shopkeeper shooed him, trying not to yell after the beggar had been slaughtered by Sarasins.

This time, Malik was impressed about his cousin’s inability to keep himself, “You cause more a scene and this market might become another Nubian shooting range, arrows pouring down. Nice job! I think you impressed them,” he laughed, noticing that the girls were still watching his every molting of his exoskeleton. Again, he thought of his mother, about the continent. He looked above another building. This building had domes, four foursquare rectangles pointed high. Its entrance did not have the enticing tattered cloth in the door that was danger. He had not seen one like it, only on the western most hemisphere it had as small moon sliver shape atop it, and a small look-out that seemed like a perch for larger birds. Captivated by its flag at the center dome, where a black flag reigned with a star and again the crescent shape. While he looked, Malik explained, “That is the flag of the magi. They, too, worship Osiris, but to Isis, it is different. The only thing they seem to know is murder, Nubian trash,” he said then spat. Kevin too spat into the dirt where blood, today, had been shed. He had seen murder before, or whatever had taken place.

“The magi believe that magic enchants them, makes them strong against Sarasin magics,” one of the girls repeated. She was becoming a tribal sage, though for a neighboring village.

“I heard the magi were nothing more than book reading, lazy, fat farts without names who eat bugs,” said another. They laughed together as it was time for Kevin’s freedom to come to an end. The travels home would be weary with idea, strong with its creative darkness, and warmed by the thoughts of bringing home the trinket he had traded all of his name’s saving grace for. He thought about the pretty woman with the purple painted lips and her gold makeup. He tried to remember the face of the beggar who had been slain, before quickly discarding the memory. In the dark skies, Kevin rose and sank like clouds, washing out the tiredness in his walking legs. His working legs were as work fields beneath the flood, but they soon became the same. Kevin knew how to swim. Malik helped Kevin gather fruits with the women from various shops, Malik doing most of their trading. Malik did not seem, when speaking, business like. It was easy for Kevin to tell that future harvests, his responsibility, would account among conversations Malik had with tribal leaders. Kevin knew Malik was gifted with his drumming. Kevin was not so good. He still had drummed with Malik before. Sometimes they would practice the song of women, laughing about the girls, who knew so little.

The road east was not any-longer the thistle and thorns of rains. It had been stomped, where not desert; and, the road as he remembered it was a road, not a path. The way returning to village farmland was brisk with travelers he did not previously see, camels and even another horse. Kevin’s village responsibility as an elder is complicated because he is not an eldest. The wiseman Kevin convened singing of spun stories were village elders. Understanding is a respect, not a manner. The common thought Malik was banished was a mutual trust of silence Kevin’s mother bartered with village elders for, had been shared with Kevin before Malik had returned from vacation. No-longer a child, he had reached the next level responsibilities the rest of the tribe would help him acquire. The trader’s of north would not know Malik had named him, and his mask was good that it was a joke. His sage responsibilities were to be the markets, their women in the Central Republic of Africa would lobby through story and song. Some of the girls left for the Republic but never returned. Their songs were like little rain drops sent from Shamash, when you realize that from north, the hasty return to the Sarasin’s Republic was apart of the circle of the continent.

Kevin went over his berber and trade. Malik traded stories from the continent for advice about how best to impress the young sage of the near village. “Maybe someday it will be me, a Tazmanian shaman. The true bass line and circle leader.”

“You would have to marry,” replied Kevin.

“The sage?”

“But you’re not from Tazmania,” cried Kevin.



“You speak of the Cerulean cities of the East as if they were heaven, like the waters that surround Madagascar make the Silver City!” Kevin replied to Malik, laughing. In the room next to where they had been sitting in a center circle for drumming, Kevin could hear the entertainment the trinket had brought his mother. 

“You mean Memphis?” replied Malik. 

“Yes! Well, you speak to the Harem as your rescue. You have not even the face to put eyes on that which is afoot, affront you. They once said in Harlem that the problems come from within, but within you…”

Malik had to stop for a second, noticing how far back-through-time they had to travel, to unravel the mysteries of life. It seemed ages since he’d walked. It did not make sense to still farm the Nile. Kevin had so much more thoughts to be schooled from his raveled mind. Walking is the only thing to protect from deism, and the only thing that would silence the theocratic Gods of self-worship. “Come on,” said Malik, “let me show you how to restring your drum.”

“Here, give me your drum so we can unstrung it and put it back together.” Malik showed Kevin the sound the drum makes when you pop the string. “And, then when you cut it, it makes a pop, the sound of the drum.” [Pop!] He cut the tight lacings which hold the shell to the head. The worn skin quickly shriveled, where it contacts the rim, it shredded. Together Malik showed Kevin how to string his drum, so he would know how to tune it correctly, and be able to do the entire process on his own.


As they sat and restrung his drum, Malik shared some common knowledge. “It comes as a wave, completely unexpectedly, washing over you. And everything that surrounds you. Sometimes it sweeps you up and away, before you can call for help from those you teach. A fast torrent as becomes the Nile, to know better. And better to know; then, suddenly, it is gone.” Kevin felt his drum by sliding his hands over the skin to listen to any new sounds it made. Malik told him to do so in this fashion everytime after restringing his drum. That helps build the solo of his family name among the circle, by including these new sounds as apart of the story as a whole. Malik becomes Elder! But, it he is told to return to the Republic of South Africa.

There is the sounds of machinery coming. Loud. Diesel. Kevin walks to the edge of the homestead where the road goes by. “You’re not going to walk 500 miles!” he translated from one of the bombastic voices. Heavy laughter is heard coming from the machine as it pulled up and stopped in front of his homestead.

“There are few things worth, walking, five hundred miles,” Kevin asked in his village’s dialect.

“Where is your mother?” one of the men on the half track yelled.

“The Harem stole my mother.”

“Come on,” one of the other very black men had said, “obviously he is not a soldier.”


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