It will cost sixty cows to wed Filagot. She is a worthy bride.
I am good at counting. I once had forty cows, and Gabra (who is not good at counting) had eighty. Now we both have sixty cows and we both want to wed Filagot and Gabra's father has accused me of theft. It is time to fight.
“Tamrat," the rainmaker said. "Tamrat, you have been foolish. Tamrat, you will lose this fight. You will do this, or I will send you away."
But I will not lose this fight. I am tired of Gabra and his boasting. I am tired of Gabra and his stupidity and his wealth. I will fight Gabra as I want to, as I will, as I am able. And I will win.
Filagot will be my bride.
Gabra practices in the open, allowing all to see him. He shows Filagot the force of his blows against the ground, and she delights in the sound his sticks make. She smiles at the clods of dirt that fly in his face. She runs to him when he stands victorious over his partners. Gabra bears many scars which he says are from battle, which I know are not. They are too precise, too convenient, too perfect.
Scars won from battle are not perfect; they are not like the raindrops Filagot wears on her arm. Scars won from battle are haphazard, accidental, inconvenient. Gabra’s scars are like my father’s scars.
I study Gabra as he practices. I study how he flinches before he parries. I study how he scuffles instead of dances. I study when in the fight he exposes his belly so easily. This is how I will beat him. This is how I will win my bride.
I will show Filagot that I, too, am fierce.
The fight is crowded. I count fifty people surrounding us. I see Filagot and her raindrop scars. I see my father. I see the rainmaker. I see Gabra--his arms and chest painted white, his belly dark and brown and rounded, calling out to me like a drum. I practiced in the darkness, when I was sure Gabra could not see me. When I was sure he could not see the grace of my steps or hear the sound of my stick striking the naked air. The crowd loves the confidence of Gabra: his paint, his scars, his posture.
But they cannot anticipate what is to come.
The fight starts. Gabra feints left and I bring my stick down right. It screams through the air like a hawk: swift, precise, sudden. I am proud of this. I am proud of my foresight and my intelligence. I watch my stick as it comes down. I watch it echo through the air, leaving traces of itself behind. I watch it as it moves like liquid, striking nothing.
I stand facing away from Gabra. My song is fierce. My beat fiercer. The crowd crows with excitement, with me, at me, for me. All this is mine. It is not Gabra's. It is mine. It will be Filagot's; I will give it to her, I have shown it to her. It will be ours.
Gabra's gunshot sounds faraway at first. But the pain makes it mine.
My body kisses the ground, first my blood, then the rest of me.
Filagot rushes to me, is crying over me, is touching my face. Her concern is mine. I cherish this. I cherish this as Gabra is grabbed by his painted arms and forced down. I cherish this as Gabra is crying out. His screams fade into Filagot’s smile. I do not hear them. Her smile is all I want. It is all I will ever want.
© Jordan Kurella, 2017