Ambe and Sister Sidonee

Written By: Carol Reinsma - Nov• 04•11

Nothing cheered Ambe more than the dances of his little sister, Sidonee. She danced while the water boiled away for her morning tea. Her feet sashayed forward from side to side. She wiggled her bottom. Her arms and hands glided like birds flying back and forth from the trees.

Ambe clapped. “Your dancing is the best,” he said.

Sidonee clapped back in delight. “I wish you could come to school and see me dancing on the stage.”

“I’ll be there,” Ambe said. “The farmer gave me a free day because of your school program.”

Sidonee clicked her heels. “Wonda-ful. You will be proud of me. The teacher said it will be a chair dance. We will dance around the circle of chairs.”

“What else?” Ambe asked.

Sidonee danced around an imaginary circle. “What else? Everyone will see me with my braids pulled up on the top of my head and my feet touching the ground as lightly as feathers.”

“Come sit with me,” Ambe said. “I have a story for you.”

Sidonee’s feet stopped frolicking. “Dancing fills my head, there’s no room for a story.”

Ambe clicked out of the side of his mouth. “The story will help you win the chair dance game.”

Sidonee would not listen. She danced right out the door.

Ambe didn’t chase after her. The only thing he could do was to be there for her when she needed him. At the school, he sat in the first row behind Sidonee’s class.

Chair Dance was second to last on the program. Ambe could see Sidonee’s feet tapping the whole waiting time. Finally, the teacher called the class up to the stage. Fourteen chairs formed a circle for the group of fifteen. As the teacher explained the rules, Sidonee stood to the side with a wiggling body.

Ambe walked over hopping to get Sidonee’s attention. She ignored him. Her eyes were only looking at the chair in the center front.

The music started. Sidonee lost herself in the dance. When the music stopped, all the children scrambled to get a chair. The boy, Jevonte, ran toward the chair Sidonee wanted. She tried to bump him out of the way. He tried to bump her out. Then quick as a wink, the smallest girl in the class slipped onto the chair. Jevonte ran to the last open chair and Sidonee stood without a chair.

The teacher announced that Sidonee was out of the dance. As soon as she walked off the stage, Ambe invited her to sit beside him.

“Do you want to hear the story?” Ambe asked.

Sidonee wiped away her tears and nodded.

“Storytalker says that Orange Feather Chicken and Red Feather Chicken both saw a kernel of corn on the ground. Beak to beak they stood above the kernel. ‘Mine,’ said Orange Feather. ‘Mine,’ said Red Feather. With nips, pokes, and jabs they went after each other. Then quicker than a peck, Brown Feather swooped in and snapped up the kernel.”

Sidonee grinned. “Silly chickens. Silly Sidonee. Now I know why you wanted to tell me a story. Chair Dance is a game about paying attention, not about dancing.”

Ambe nodded. “You are still the best dancer.”

“And you are the best brother,” she said. 

Ambe and Fufu

Written By: Carol Reinsma - Oct• 19•11

Ambe pulled weeds out of the corn field from sun up to sun down. After a week, no nasty weeds grew between the leafy, green, corn plants.

“Beautiful,” the farmer said. “I will pay you with a rabbit just as I promised.”

Every brown rabbit in the farmer’s yard scurried away, but the small white one hopped into Ambe’s hands. He stroked the silky white fur. “I’ll call you Fufu because you are as white as the fufu Mama makes from the white yams.”

“Ah,” said the farmer, “A rabbit that allows itself to be caught will find a way of escaping.”

“No.” Ambe clicked his tongue. “She’ll stay with me, just like I stick around when Mama prepares fufu.”

Ambe ran home with Fufu in his arms. He built a cage out of raffia, put it beside his bed and placed Fufu inside.

In the morning, Fufu was gone. “Fufu, Fufu,” he called. Seconds later, Fufu hopped up to Ambe with garden greens in her mouth. “The farmer was wrong about you escaping from me. You were just hungry,”

Fufu stayed beside Ambe all day long. In the evening, he put Fufu back in the cage.

The next morning, Fufu was gone again. Ambe called and called. He searched and searched. Finally, he found Fufu in the farmer’s field.

“If that rabbit eats from my field again, I’ll eat her,” the farmer said.

When night time came, Ambe stayed awake for hours and hours keeping watch over Fufu. Not once did she poke her nose through the openings between the raffia reeds. “You are a good little rabbit after all.” Ambe closed his eyes and fell asleep.

Once again, Ambe woke to find Fufu missing. He rushed outside. “Fufu, Fufu.” The little white rabbit did not come. Ambe searched the garden and the farmer’s field. Fufu could not be found anywhere.

Sadly, Ambe sat down on a rock pile.

The farmer came by, rubbing his belly. “I had fufu for breakfast,” he said.

Ambe’s mouth fell open before he found the words. “You, ate, Fufu?”

“Yes,” the farmer said.

Ambe ran to the farmer’s house where he saw white balls of fufu in a bowl on the table. “Is that what your husband ate for breakfast?”

“Yes,” she said. “He wanted to eat fufu so that you’d have a scare so big that you’d trust your rabbit. Did you every hear such strange talk?”

Ambe thanked the farmer’s wife and ran home.

There he found Fufu sitting on top of the cage. He rubbed his nose against Fufu’s pink nose. “Storytalker must have told the farmer how to show me that you needed your freedom.”

From that day forward, Ambe never put Fufu in a cage again. Fufu stayed close to Ambe during dark nights, starry nights and moon lit nights. 

Ambe and the Storytalker

Written By: Carol Reinsma - Sep• 28•11

Ambe lived in a hut with his mother, father, and eight brothers and sisters.

“Too many mouths to feed,” Mama said.

Papa said, “Ambe is twelve-years-old now. It’s time for him to find work that brings in food.”

All of Ambe’s brothers and sisters shouted, “No!”

“Ambe feeds us with stories,” the youngest said.

The next said, “we never feel hungry when Ambe tells a tale.”

Mama tipped over an empty dish. “If stories filled bowls, we’d have corn, potatoes and rice flowing like rivers.”

Seeing that Mama was right, Ambe decided he must do something. But what?

He set out in search of food. Perhaps a mango or a banana had fallen from a rich man’s tree. He searched the ground underneath a dozen trees. But the only fruit he saw was what was in the trees. No, he would not become a thief by taking what was not his.

The sun beat down on him. His tongue waggled like a dry leaf. “Sun,” he shouted, “you are very strong. Your heat makes the plants grow. Could you shine on my way to food?”

Giggling voices reached his ears from up in a mango tree. High in the branches, he saw boys with mango juice dripping down their chins.

“Stop eating mangoes that are not yours,” he shouted.

One of the naughty boys threw down a mango stone. “Why would we listen to someone who talks to the sun?”

“Come down out of that tree and I’ll tell you a story. If you don’t you’ll be like Bat and never see the sun again.”

The boys dropped out of the tree faster than overripe mangoes.

Ambe began the story. “Bat had no respect for Sun’s time in the sky. Because Sun did not listen to Bat’s demand to stay out longer, Bat flew into a cave and never came out again when Sun appeared in the sky. And you,” Ambe said in a dark low voice, “will have to hide in damp and musty caves with the bats when the owner catches you eating mangoes.”

The boys covered their ears as if bats attacked them. Then they ran fast and far from the mango tree.

The owner of the trees came running to Ambe. “You have saved my mangoes from the thieves. How did you do it?”

“I just told a story,” Ambe said, “one that Storytalker whispered in my ear.”

The man scratched his head. “That is a humble answer. It deserves a reward. What would you like?”

“Please, just give me work that could earn food for my family.”

“As sure as the corn grows thick in my fields, we have a deal,” the farmer said.

After a noon’s day of work, the farmer gave Ambe a sack of corn.

At home, Mama roasted the corn and Ambe told another story. It was about Sun’s friendship with the corn in the field and the mangoes in the trees.