The story

Aunty May was an elder. Whenever she visited children gathered round for a story.

‘There were a group of children,’ she began, ‘playing by a lagoon. The eldest was Armit, a boastful boy.

‘The target of Armit’s bragging was Balla, a girl nearly as old as he, but wiser, who he hoped, one day, to marry.

‘She became tired of his skiting. “Be quiet, Armit. Why do you think you’re better?”

‘”Because I’m faster, stronger and cleverer.”

‘”Yes, you’re strong,” said Balla, “but I am fast.” She challenged him to a race. If not for Armit’s pride she would have won it too.

‘Then another voice spoke. Harl, the crocodile, had disguised himself as a boy. “A swimming race would be a better test.”

‘”To the other side, then, and back,” called Armit leaping in. “Ha. I’m in front, where I like to be.”

‘”And I am behind,” said Harl, diving in and snapping him up.’

The children gasped.

‘What does the story tell us?’ asked Aunty May.

‘It’s wrong to be boastful,’ said a small girl.

Aunty rose and waved the children away. Then she joined the old women who’d been listening. ‘The moral of that story,’ she said, ‘is if you love a woman you do what she says.’ They laughed together, teeth glistening in the midday sun.


2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (


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