Family History, Preserved in a Hole in the Ground

“Missing Things,” a short story by Edwin Madu

Family History, Preserved in a Hole in the Ground

Things go missing all the time in our house. It is evening when we sit on the bench behind the house facing the field of tall grass that extends for a number of miles ahead of us. It is just me and my little brother Kaito and the smell of dinner is heavy in the air around us. Our mother would be calling us in for supper soon but we have to finish our game, this game we play every other evening.

The rules of the game are simple; grab something and throw it as far as possible into the bush in front of us. We observe the trajectory of the projectile and in turn determine the winner. This has been the only rule until this evening. The things we throw are usually the things we do not like seeing in the house anymore, like the cane my father used on us, or the cigarette packets my mother hid in her panties drawer. This is the reason things go missing all the time in our house. As we stand there, throwing all we can lay our hands on, I think Kaito gets carried away. I do not see it before he throws it but as soon as I look up to note the trajectory of his missile and declare myself winner — because I always win, he has weak arms and doesn’t throw so well — I notice that his missile is my Russian nesting doll. A gift from my father, from a time when he used to travel, a time before he lost his job and started drinking and beating me and our mother, a time before Kaito could speak.

“Why did you throw it?” The rage in my voice is not the shy type, it feels hot in my throat.

“But you said I could throw anything…” The confusion on his face tells me that he too does not understand why I am angry, because I had not mentioned it in the rules.

“Go and pick it right now, go into the bush,” I say to him as I point my index finger in the direction of the tall grass.

I watch him walk toward the grass slowly and soon I do not see him again, his bright red cap and orange jacket are swallowed in the green and brown of the swaying tall grass.

“Rumi, there is a hole,” he starts. “The things we’ve thrown are all here. Come see.” His words are laced with glee.

I hesitate but soon I start to move in the direction of his voice, he is giggling now as I draw closer. I get to the place where I am certain his voice had been and there is a clearing where no grass grows. I look around for him because I start to hear my mother call for us. I call his name and hear a faint response. It is coming from the clearing, from a small hole in the ground.

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