Short Story 1
A NAME FOR A DESERT PUP
Far, far away in a southern African desert, a young female dog with light-brown, short hair is about to give birth to a litter of pups. Little birds chirp happily in the thorn bushes, telling everyone about the latest desert news. They are all very excited and almost forget about the little mouths which they have to feed first thing in the morning. Meanwhile other bush creatures also wake up. They quickly rub sand from their eyes when they hear about the light-brown dog’s news. Her name is Bee-Bee.
A pair of horn-bills and a wax-bill wait anxiously for more news while they perch near a waterhole.
The furry and feathered friends don’t have to wait too long, because Bee-Bee soon gives birth to a litter of five pups. Four of them are light-brown – just like her. Yet, one of Bee-Bee’s pups looks different. He is yellow-brown with two large, black spots on his back and even his left ear is black.
Look at Bee-Bee and her pups in their human family’s kraal. Here they are lying down next to a small fire, waiting for their porridge which their mistress makes in a small black, three-legged iron pot. All the pups sit far from the hot coals, but the yellow-brown pup lies right next to the fire. He likes fires. (I suppose he just does not know yet how hot fires can be if they burn your skin. I hope he does not learn about fires the hard way!)
Bee-Bee belongs to a family who lives in a kraal or a small enclosure stacked with dried-out branches. This makes a strong wooden fence which keeps their cows and goats safe at night. They also keep a few chickens that lay eggs every day. The family loves fresh eggs with their goats’ milk porridge first thing in the morning.
When Bee-Bee’s mistress sees the little puppies for the first time that happy day, she claps her hands and smiles all the time. She kisses each puppy on its nose and gives each one a huge hug. She has a lovely, broad smile and as soon as their eyes open about three weeks later the puppies like her straight away.
Their mistress is called Lera. Her husband is a quiet man who takes his job seriously. He is a tracker and finds bad people who set snares for the animals living in the desert. He hopes that Bee-bee’s pups will become useful working- and sniffer-dogs one day when they are big and strong.
As soon as the puppies are able to walk about, they go outside the kraal’s rickety gate and scramble up the dunes, kicking up sand everywhere. Sometimes the cool wind blows bits of sand against their legs, but their kind mistress always puts small woollen blankets over the pups. They love their warm blankets very much. Every time the pups wear their special blankets, they look like newborn lambs walking on the dunes.
The pups often like to sit next to the fire, snuggling closer to Bee-bee and her mistress, Lera. Many times the yellow-brown pup is too curious to snuggle with the others, but rather tries to catch the sparks. As you might imagine, it’s a very difficult thing for a young, adventurous pup to remember everything he hears and sees. So, he often gets his paws too close to the coals. With loud yaps, he moans and groans, but still forgets about his mother’s barks,”Take care. Be careful. There’s a flame nearby.”
Then his little sister and brothers also yap, “Flame, flame! There’s a flame. Don’t be silly, stop your game.”
Only when Bee-bee barks again and scolds him with firm woofs, he finally gets the message that fires are not safe: “Lie down under the camp chair and leave the flames alone. Just look at your paws. That’s what happens to little puppies that have a lot to learn. But all of you must listen to my barks today. Let me tell you more about fires. Fires keep us warm early in the morning when frost covers the dunes. Our dear humans cook food for us on the fire. And what else do you know about fires?”
The yellow-brown pup is the first to bark, “Fires can burn my paws!”
Bee-Bee looks at him and wags her tail, barking, “That’s right, my little one. All puppies must remember that fires are often useful, but at other times dangerous. That is why our mistress never leaves a fire burning when no one is there to watch it.”
“We must kick sand over the fires. Then it can’t burn puppies or something,” one of the pups yaps, also trying to make his sounds heard.
Another one barks even louder, “But our little yellow brother already looks like a flame. And he keeps burning his paws many times.”
At that moment their kind mistress wants to boil water to make an early cup of coffee. So, she adds more wood to the coals. Suddenly, the fire becomes very hot and the dogs all move away to a safe place. Of course, the yellow pup again seems to have forgotten Bee-Bee’s warnings about the danger of fires. So, he leaps and jumps near the flames, chasing the sparks and having fun. That morning, he nearly fries himself once or twice, even though their mistress shouts warnings at him all the time. “Be careful. Watch out. There’s a flame on the grass – a fla-a-a-me!”
Days become weeks and weeks become months, and the pups get bigger and stronger every day. Yet, the yellow pup still does not understand Humanlang very well. So, with all those calls and warnings about fires, he begins to think that his name must be ‘Flame’. Therefore, whenever he meets new bush creatures on the dunes, he begins his bark with, “My name’s Flame. How do you do?”
Slowly but surely, his furry and feathered friends who share his adventures also begin to call him, ‘Flame’. Flame and his friends receive daily training from their mother, Bee-Bee. One of the first things they must learn is the bush creatures’ first motto:
‘HOPE REMAINS ALIVE AND KEEPS OUR FEARS AT BAY,
‘LET’S KEEP OUR HOPE ALIVE, THROUGHOUT EACH NIGHT AND DAY;
‘FINDING HOPE WILL LEAD THE WAY!’
Look out for Flame’s next story soon! He and a certain stubborn goat with seriously big horns will not see eye to eye and Flame will learn an important lesson the hard way.
Should you wish to read more of Flame and his friends adventures in the meantime, the first book of the series, FAUNA PARK TALES 1, An African Adventure: Flame and Hope is available as an e-book or black-and-white paperback on Amazon. Please click on this link:
Please note: The illustration of the kraal, hut, Lera and her husband surrounded by some of their animals are done by Holly Sellors of Project Lumino.