FREE short story by Colin Devonshire
We Need Rain!
“Get up! What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Puyai shouts as he shakes his daughter.
“Dad, it is hot, what do you want me to do?” Manao ducks as a stick whistles over her head.
“This farm will die if you don’t help me.” This time the stick clipped her above the ear. Blood dripped. She ducked and ran for the shed.
“What can I do? We have no water and no seeds. Stupid old man,” Manao regretted she had said that. Then wiping away the blood, she regretted nothing.
“Come out of there, let me teach you a proper lesson.”
Puyai banged on the battered, rusting shed, he moved around looking for a broken panel.
“Go away. Leave me alone,” Manao said, croaking back tears.
“If only your sister was here, she’d show you how to respect her elders. And,” he quaked, “She’d have this place running properly.”
Manao’s tongue ran across her teeth until it jarred on the gap. A year ago Puyai punched her, knocking out her front tooth.
“Won’t someone marry me? Take me away from here.”
At seventeen, her chances were slim to meet a decent man. The boys in the neighbouring farms were like her father, but quicker, stronger, and nastier. She had to escape. She wiped away a tear with rough and scarred fingers.
She thought about her sister, Pi Nang. Two years ago she left. Sold to a foreigner, the money would have saved the farm. Lao Khao, cheap alcohol, and gambling debts swallowed it all.
“If you can’t grow any crops, at least make my food,” her father called at the door, before shuffling to their home.
Manao sat on the dusty floor for a short time, before judging it safe to go back. Hens scuttled across her path, cackling angrily.
“Ah, at least that means there will be eggs,” Manao said to herself, bending to a battered and dry flower pot, sure enough, there were two eggs. She took them to the outside kitchen. Two cups full of rice were added to water and boiled, scavenged vegetables boiled in a separate pan, then chillies popped in to complete their next feast.
Most people would jump at the sight of a krait snake. Manao knew better. The creature was lazy in the daytime heat, her chickens were safe until the evening gets cooler. She picked up both venomous reptiles and placed them away from her chicks.
She grinned at the thought, “At least I won’t get fat!” she laughed, weighing the underweight eggs in her palms.
“What’s that?” groaned her father, looking at the flat light yellow offering.
“That is all we’ve got. In case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve had no rain for weeks. No rain, no pond fish, no crops!”
Her father slammed his palm on the table, Manao kept the battered table between them. She noticed a birthday card on the floor.
“That’s mine. You have no right opening my mail.”
“I’m your father, I do what I feel in my house.”
Manao bent and picked up a colourful card.
“Where’s the envelope?”
“You think I stole some money from it? Well, bad luck, there was nothing.”
“My sister is not stupid enough to let you get it,” said Manao, reading the message.
Her father swung at her but failed to reach her. The note said in Thai, ‘Happy Birthday, little sis.’
Manao turned the card front and back. Nothing more. “That’s odd?” she mumbled.
“Haven’t you got work to do?” growled her father.
Manao stood the card on a shelf, cheering the room with its brightness. She grabbed a broom and went outside.
She crept back in quietly, not wanting to wake her father. Deciding to look at her card. The day’s heat had caused a slight separation of the stiff paper. She peeled it more. Her sister had spray-glued the sheets together.
‘Tomorrow at 7 pm!’ was handwritten in English inside.
Her father stirred, she quickly stashed her card from sight, rushing to her room.
“Pi Nang knows I can’t read English? Ah, it is in case he tore open the card!”
Her bookshelf only boasted ten volumes, all battered and torn. One, she’d owned since school days. An English-Thai, Thai-English dictionary, small, fat and green, she loved it, not knowing why. But, today, it would come in useful.
“Prung nii, nung toom. Seven tomorrow? What does she mean?”
Manao went to bed, sleep was hard to find, the number seven rattled around her head, unanswered questions kept her awake.
Until “Get up you lazy bitch. Is my breakfast going to cook itself?”
“Sorry, dad.” She scuttled outside to hunt for eggs.
Rubbing her eyes, the question reappeared.
“Just wait for tonight, silly girl,” she told herself.
Her father was in a foul temper, she couldn’t do anything without being shouted at.
“What do you call this, it’s filthy!” He screamed at her.
Manao turned and glared at him. Pushing his shirt sleeves up his arm, he stormed after her. Grabbing her by the throat, “Don’t you dare look at me like that. You have a lot of your mother in you.”
“Yeah, rather her than you,” she stood her ground. He lashed out like a boxer, cutting her lips, making her nose bleed. She stared at him through droplets of blood but, keeping her arms at her sides, her eyes burnt him.
Turning away, “And clean up that mess!” he shouted, storming to his chair.
She washed her face, touching the tender broken nose, she silently wept.
The fight had tired him; he snored. It was six pm.
Manao went outside, she picked up a stout stick and scraped the dirt with it.
“Come on, you little devils,” she whispered.
The stick was struck at, the Krait also didn’t enjoy being disturbed. Manao was too quick, she grabbed it by the tail; she felt its strength; it writhed and wriggled as it was poked into a sack. Soon, a second joined it in the dark.
She crept up to her father; he coughed in his sleep and stirred. Manao jumped back.
Gently she moved closer again, opening her sack as she closed to the sleeping man.
She held the top of his shirt open and tipped in the Kraits. Holding the shirt’s neck in place, she poked and pushed at the reptiles. Her father’s eyes opened, fear silenced him as the first snap of flesh ripping. The snake injected its lethal fluid. Her father’s ashen skin shocked her, his normal coffee colour faded away for seconds to be blood red as bite after bite drew its prize.
She stood straight as the sound of thunder cracked above the roof, lightning suddenly brightened the gloom. She smiled as she ran for her small holdall. She went out in the rain, arms stretched wide, she beamed and soaked up the heavy drops.
A BMW tooted and flashed its lights on the driveway. It was seven o’clock.