What Could Not Be Untold

 

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Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa (Photo: redcharlie on Unsplash)

 

“Is that where we’re going?” the boy pointed at the road snaking below. He squinted, hoping to see a car. They’ve walked long. He was tired.

“There,” his father’s finger angled higher, at the cliff. Beyond.

The boy scrunched his lips but kept quiet. Time with his ntate oa was precious. Also, at eight, he did not want to be seen as a baby who should’ve been left home with the women.

The father nodded approval. His son was growing to be obedient and mindful. It was good.

“What’s there?” the boy adjusted the Basotho blanket over his shoulder. He hadn’t been  happy to be told to bring it earlier, but was now that the sun hid.

“Rocks. Earth. Bones. Your ancestors’ homes.”

Khotso nodded. His father was a man of few words, and Khotso knew he was being trusted to understand the power of what could not be untold.

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Free State, South Africa

 

 

Up In Smoke

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Minsk (Photo by Anton Rusetsky on Unsplash)

 

“These stacks look like a hand,” Bella rested her chin on the window’s ledge and gazed at the golden hues of sunset over Minsk. It was beautiful.

“A hand with six fingers.”

Bella scowled into the glass. In her mother’s tone she heard challenge, dismissal, and disdain. It stole the luster off the previous moment’s calm. She resented the coldness with which her mother marred everything during this visit. It felt like a smudge she could not wipe.

So she was surprised when her mother came to kneel on the bed by her, close enough to touch. Close enough to feel the trembling. Her mother rarely cried.

“Six fingers for the six millions,” her mother whispered. “And these clouds like burning souls against the evening sky. Everyone my mother had known. Our whole extended family. Burnt. Dead. Gone. This city will never be free of them, Bella. They speak on.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Minsk

 

A Long Walk

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Aosta Valley, Italy (Carl Borg on Unsplash)

 

It had been a misty sunrise. The light rode soft atop the milky white outside.

He thought it was an omen and that she ought to stay in. “You won’t see where you’re going,” he fretted.

She told him the mist would clear. She could read it in the air. She could smell it in the tang of pine. She readied her day-bag and rushed through her chores.

Still he fussed. “What if not?”

She understood. She also knew he hadn’t grown up in these mountains. His roots did not go deep into this land, while her family traced their ancestry to the Ligures. Her people lived in these environs even before the Celts had arrived.

He feared what she did not.

In more ways than one, she realized.

It was another reason that she needed to take a long walk. Exactly so she could see where she was going.

 

 

 

For What Pegman saw: Aosta Valley, Italy

 

 

An Education

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Photo: El Cabildo © Preyes (Wikimedia Commons)

 

“Where are we going, Papi?” Ramon clung to his father’s belt.

“You’ll see.”

“But it’s a school-day, Papi.” If there was something — other than Jesus — that his parents held sacred, it was education. Though poor, his parents always managed to supply what he needed for school. In turn Ramon was expected to learn well and listen to his teachers. Skipping classes went against everything he understood.

“It will still be a day of learning,” Papi pedaled steadily over muddy paths, narrow roads, and into the city.

Ramon held on, in awe of his father’s ability to find his way in the maze.

A grand peach-colored building manifested.

“A palace, Papi?”

“A museum.”

“Of what?”

“Of us.”

Ramon shook his head. Museums are for the dead.

“We’re native Paraguayans, son. El Cabido is dedicated to our heritage. Our music. Our crafts. Today your school is the history of who you are.”

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Asucion, Paraguay

 

 

 

Devilish

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Photo: Steve Bruce on Unsplash

 

“It was the devil made those,” Aunt Beulah’s eyebrows almost met above the bridge of her nose.

“They’re just a form of volcanic rock, cooled down in a specific way …” Jedidiah tried.

“By which you mean, the devil.”

Jedidiah sighed. There was no way to reason with his relative once her mind was set. Science would find its way to be in service of her beliefs, and any fact would somehow be turned into further proof of her conviction.

In some ways, he knew, he was no different, only that his spiritual experiences had more to do with being one with the rock, fingers holding on to crags, feet clinging to the surface, defying gravity, confronting his mortality.

“You go climb the devil’s work,” Aunt Beulah muttered. She’d raised him and saw herself in his stubbornness. “And I’ll be in the church praying for Jesus to keep you from dying.”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Tasmania, Australia

 

 

The Farm

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Photo: Weston MacKinnon on Unsplash; Saskatchewan, Canada

 

“Look Papa!” the boy’s voice rose in excitement.

“I see,” the man replied. His deep voice resonated in the small space.

“You didn’t even move your head,” the young eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“I did not need to.”

The child exhaled and shook his head and the movement reminded the man of a yearling. Impatiently straining at the edge of youth, eager to race headlong into life.

The man eased the pressure on the pedal and moved his foot to the other, stopping the car.

“I am looking now,” he smiled. “Thank you, Son.”

The boy’s eyebrows rose but he asked nothing. They watched the buffalo together, the sun and field and beasts a golden-brown.

“Is this their farm?” the boy finally asked.

“It is their home,” the man replied. “The farm came to live on it.”

The boy nodded, his ancestors evident in his soulful eyes. “They are like us.”

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw

 

 

Upending

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Brugge, Belgium (Photo: Libby Penner on Unsplash)

 

Some call this city “Venice of the North,” but they don’t know the other direction this town goes, and it is not one of the winds.

I know, because I’ve seen it.

Seen what lies beneath the streets, glazed over by blind eyes of tourists snapping photos, dismissed by those who should know better yet still refuse to view.

For the ones beneath need acknowledgement to manifest. Not trust, recognition.

I know, because I don’t trust them. Not one bit. And yet they are there, plain as anything: The Upenders.

They’ve been here before people, and they expect you pay respects. Their mirage is reflected in the still waters of the canals, and when you let yourself go below the floor, beyond the basement, they’ll reveal themselves. If you won’t visit, beware. For when you least expect, they’ll rise to flip yours over, resentful of a willful ignorance of Upending.

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Belgium

 

Tea Time

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Inle Lake, Myanmar (Photo: Julien de Salaberry on Unsplash)

 

Arkar waited. The sky, his namesake, spread gray and calm above him.

Sometimes it took Dachen a little longer to make it. No matter.

Long breaths passed. A dog barked in the distance. Children laughed, and Arkar thought of the first time he’d met Dachen. They were but boys themselves then. Dachen had just come to live with his grandparents, who lived downstream from Arkan’s childhood home. The old folk enfolded the young orphan. “Our great joy, he is, true to his name.”

Dachen was as gregarious as Arkar was shy. They balanced each other. Then and since.

A pat sounded and Arkar lifted his pole in welcome. Dachen neared and expertly swiveled his boat to face Arkar’s.

“Twelve fish today,” Dachen’s face shone. He accepted a cup from Arkar. “Two big ones here for your wife.”

Arkar smiled his thanks. For the fish. For his friend. “Tea time?”

 

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Myanmar

 

 

Land Of Water

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Photo: Guyana, by Joshua Gobin on Unsplash

 

“Have we always been here?”

“‘Always’ is a long-winded word,” Papa’s melodic voice told me a story was coming. “Some people lived here before our ancestors. Some had come after we’d already been here. The land and the water were here before any humans had come. The word ‘always’ does not mean one thing.”

“Moses said we’re not from here. That we were brought here as slaves.”

“Are you a slave?”

“No, Papa.”

“Are you here?”

“Yes, Papa.”

“You and I are Guyana born. Have you worked this land, swam in the Essequibo, witnessed Kiaeteur Falls, walked the savanna, ate manioc?”

“I have.”

“So you have your answer, Son. We’re all children of land and water. All born of wombs filled with water, all depend on water, and will one day become rain and go over the falls. Your ancestors got here. You’re here. Where else would you be from?”

 

 

For What Pegman Saw: Guyana, South America

 

 

Uduru’s Sudan

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Sudan, Khartoum (Photo: Amma Hareib on Pixabay)

 

Uduro held her head high, the wrapped money tucked securely in a fold of her clothing. Only a small amount was in the beaded purse. No need to give pickpockets reason to try and outsmart her. She knew better than most.

The market’s alleys welcomed her, coolly shaded under the roof. The dimmer light was soothing. She inhaled, sated. Shoes. Spices. Food. Clothing. Utensils. Leather goods. Whatever she needed could be hers. She walked slowly as befitting her status, her back straight with pride.

She was back.

No longer the barefooted street urchin, begging for leftovers, scurrying from grabby hands while carrying favors for a scrap and a slap.

She was now the wife of a man who owned three stalls on the Souk’s main road. And a whole house. She was the mother of a boy who was never hungry. Umm Faheem, they called her now, in Uduro’s Sudan.

 

 

 

For the What Pegman Saw challenge: Sudan