The leaf had the colour of late autumn but the brittleness of mid-winter.
She crumbled it.
Let the pieces drift.
She knelt on the blanket of dry leaves. They rippled in an indecisive breeze, danced along and settled on the tiny heaped grave.
Maybe if she prayed…
Hands clasped together. Eyes unblinking on the dusty horizon. Heart hardened against the pleas of her mind. Her eternal battle of dogma against truth.
The words fell heavily. Familiar in her ears yet foreign on her tongue.
“I have forgotten how to pray.”
She coughed. Looked skywards. As if help came from the dry branches spreading a skeleton hand over her and the small grave.
“And I cannot understand how a single prayer can end a drought.”
She licked her chapped lips, hoping to ease the words to follow.
“This is a plea for the savage land that called my husband to serve in Your mission.”
A hard swallow took the bitter thoughts with it. There was no space for self-centred sentiments now, she knew.
“This is a prayer for the animals and the frontier farmers trying to survive. Not for the unbreakable drought in my heart.”
A sob shuddered through her. She brushed dried grass and leaves aside. Stared at the raw-earth heap next to her.
“If I pray will you send the rain? If I pray will you make this country livable?”
She bent her head and closed her eyes. Tears, squashed from between her eyelids, left streaks on her cheeks.
“Will You fill the rivers to wash away the heaps of skeletons? Will You clad the veld and make seeds spring up to fatten the remaining cattle? If I pray, will You?”
She wiped her nose and face with her once white apron.
“I beg of You. Please send the rain. Please make the people happy and let the children live.”
The unpolished wooden cross leaned toward the prevailing wind. She left it askew. There was a symbolism in the crooked angle she could not yet grasp.
“Please take the diseases away and quench the thirst of the earth.”
The sound of hoofs drew her eyes to beyond the yard where a cloud of dust snaked along the road.
“Your humble servant in prayer.”
She unclasped her hands.
In one movement she straightened and dusted her dress. Her face became passive, blank, hiding her shriveled heart and torn soul as she headed towards the kitchen.
Drought wore no masks, but it had many faces.
Annalie Kleinloog is a born, bred, educated and retired South African dentist.
Married with 4 children and living in KZN Midlands.
When she isn’t visiting grandchildren, she keeps busy with independent investigative research involving Gong Rocks, Prehistory and Archaeology which fortunately involves many hikes and enough outdoor time.