Telling Tales 66
Yes, I will join you. You are gracious to make such invitation without knowing me or my history.
Where I am from, innocence and generosity are not always rewarded. There was a man in our village, Nukamboka, he found an orphan and brought it home. He raised it and cared for it and when it came time for the youngling to become a man, he emerged from Nukamboka’s hut singing, “Nukamboka, I am coming for you. I am a monster. You took me from the lowlands. Nukamboka, I am coming for you.” He killed that man. Then he came for the rest of the village.
I escaped because generosity may be rewarded when wedded with caution.
Years before, I had been hunting in the forest when I heard a sound, a voice singing, “Help me, help me,” over and over. I found the source, and it was a cricket caught in a spider’s web. “Help me, brother,” it said. One must help family, so I removed it from the web without tearing a single thread and the cricket said to me, “Some day I may help you,” and went along his way.
My hunt was going poorly. The animals knew where I was before I knew myself. Jackal came to me one night by the fire. I was cooking the last of my food but one day and I did not how I would get home. He said, “I am so hungry, brother. Will you share your food with me?” It was the last of my food, but one must help family, so I gave him what I had. He said, “I am a mighty hunter, too. Game is bad in these parts. Come with me and I will show you where it is plentiful.”
I followed Jackal to a well. “There are fish in that well, so many fish that they will jump into your hands. All you need to do is bathe in its waters, you will see.” I had taken no more than five steps when I was stuck fast, caught by the claws of Crab, who would neither explain to me what I had done nor why he had trapped me. The other animals arrived and they said I had polluted their water, bathed in it, eaten their fish, and they had finally caught the thief. They tied me to a tree and left me there for the night. They promised to eat me in the morning.
Cheetah came upon the tree. I knew I was finished, because the animals had taken my weapons. I was as simple prey for Cheetah as anything you could see. “You are tied to a tree,” said she. She has very long teeth and in the moonlight they looked very white. “Your friend Cricket tells me that you saved him from Spider.”
“That is true,” I said.
“Do you know why Hyena is lame in her hind legs?”
I did not.
“It is because of Jackal, who likes playing to play tricks. Hyena did me a good turn once,” and Cheetah looked at her paws at that. “I will free you because Cricket did me a good turn. You will hunt Jackal to pay back my debt to Hyena.”
“I have no weapons,” said I.
“I will loan you my legs and my paws and you will have my speed,” said Cheetah, and she was as good as her word.
She gave me this, too, this spiked red flower. Hyena stole it from Jackal, who stole it from who knows where.
I am Haraka.