She wore a wooden bowl on her head, which made her feel ridiculous. However, it had saved her life. She was collecting juvia early in the season. The pods fell from the tops of the trees 150-200ft above. They were the size of a small coconut, and could easily spatter your brains everywhere. It was safest to wait until the pods had stopped dropping, but this year the wet season had been devastating. She couldn’t wait if she wanted her children and her village to survive.
She held her machete in her right hand and her pallana in the left. The pallana was for picking up juvia pods. Snakes hid in the leaf litter, and their poison was deadly. The pallana couldn’t die from a snake bite. She made the pallana by splitting bamboo canes into three sections so that the pods could be jammed into the spread sections. She then lifted the pallana to the basket on her back, and knocked the juvia into the basket. This had been her husband’s job, in the seasons before the last wet season.
The shrubs about ten feet away on her left rustled. She expected her husband to limp out. Instead a tapir came out, snout to the ground snuffling for it’s dinner. No husband. She still expected him. And she expected him to be leading the others that had washed away in the late night flood. They were all gone along with half the shabonos. They had rebuilt the shabonos. Other things, not so much.
She walked backed to the small clearing where she kept her bags of juvia. She dropped her basket and sat next to it. Her oldest son was still alive because her husband had pulled him from the rushing water. The roiling waters then sucked in and carried him away forever. She put her face in her hands as the heartache washed over her and overwhelmed her. An intense wave of gratitude rolled over her and she wept for joy that her son lived.
She heard snuffling in the undergrowth, and realized that the tapirs were coming out. It was late and darkness would come soon. She must head for home now. She’d used up her food in the past three days. It had been a productive three days. She had a large collection of juvia to bring home to feed her village and trade with others. She must get it home. The juvia would be heavy, and the ground was soft from the rains and floods. Could she get it all home?
She sliced open the pods with her machete and dumped the juvia nuts into her last bag. She had started out fumbling with the process, but was now quick and efficient. She was bringing home as many juvia as her husband. She tied her pallana to her belt – her husband’s belt – and loaded herself up with the bags.
Machete in her right hand, she took a step. She teetered as her bare foot sunk into the rain-soft soil up to her ankle. She kept her balance and took another step. This time she placed her foot on a fallen tree. She walked on the tree as far as she could, then slogged through the mud.
Carrying her burden, she put one foot in front of the other. She walked out of the deep forest ever closer to the path that led to the shabonos. She reached the path and when she set foot on it, mud squeezing up through her toes. The firmness felt strange and her knees wobbly. Her loose legs gave way, and she slumped in the middle of the path.
She’d rest here for a few minutes. It wasn’t dark yet. She could wait a bit and let her legs rest. She started awake when a young tapir snuffled her face curiously. He ran off at her startled gasp. She looked at the sky in concern and the shadows of the trees. She’d only slept for a few minutes. She tried standing, but couldn’t do it under the weight of the juvia. She took off all the bags, stood, and loaded herself up again.
Her pace was quicker on the packed-earth path. It was a tapir path, and led to the main path from the shabonos. Most of the paths they used were animal paths. Animals know how to get through the forest best, so why not use their ways? She trudged, her feet slipping now and then in the mud. She didn’t fall and she was proud of that, and in that instant, her foot slid straight out from under her before she had even finished a breath. She laid flat on her back staring at the branches above. Water started to drop on her face.
Once again she shed the bags, stood, and donned the bags. The path was slippery in the rain, and she cursed the water rushing down on her head and sliding into her eyes. She didn’t miss the connection to the path to the shabonos. This path was was even firmer and less slippery. Her step was now confidant.
The rain stopped and the sun appeared. Long shadows crossed the path. It was getting late. The sun would be down soon. She kept trudging and the shadows disappeared because the sun was going down. The world was in the blue twilight time. The dark leaves were indigo and the path was a dusty azure. She didn’t want to be walking in the forest at night. She might draw the attention of a jaguar or an angry peccary. She looked ahead on the path and saw the wall and entrance to the shabonos.
She sobbed in relief. She walked into the oval village structure, and across the open middle space of the shabonos. Lamps were lit all around the shabonos and felt like a circle of welcome. She heard her oldest son’s shout and voices all around the shabonos replied.
Within the shelter of the shabonos and her family, she dropped her burden. The sudden release made her feel like she had floated up to the ceiling.
juvia = Brazil nuts
Today’s prompt is to write something usual doing something unusual.