Now what!? Lesedi desperately tried to remember what his grandfather had told him.
Suddenly from out of the shadows came a voice. “What is the snake thinking?” it said.
Lesedi, although initially startled, recognised the voice. It belonged to Ledimo, his great grandfather, and was probably talking to him either through an animal or a bird. The first time he had heard it, which was only a few months ago, he had been very scared. He had been out with his grandfather collecting herbs a little way away from the village when he became aware of a leopard reclining on the branch of a tree in front of them. He tapped his grandfather on the arm, pointing to the leopard, and was completely dismayed when Lorato walked boldly up to the leopard and started having a conversation with it. He ran to pull him back, thinking he had had too much sun or that he had been experimenting with some of his herbal concoctions. When the leopard answered back Lesedi nearly fainted. He cowered behind his grandfather in absolute terror.
Lesedi knew that geckos could talk to people but not leopards! He had been talking to one particular gecko since he was first able to speak. This gecko’s name was Kgatwe and he lived on Mampharing Island. Come to think of it, it was only Kgatwe that Lesedi had been able to talk to; all the other geckos scuttled hurriedly away when he approached them.
“So this is one of the boys,” said the leopard. “I hope we are not going to have these quivering knees for too long. There are far more formidable things than talking leopards to deal with.”
“He will be fine.” Lorato laughed. “I will explain some things to him later. He is now of age.”
They carried on talking for a while, something about water and bad times ahead. Lesedi was far too awestruck to take much notice of the contents of the words, and then the leopard left. Lesedi, his legs still feeling very wobbly, sat down and leant against the tree.
“What was that?” he asked in a shaky voice.
“That,” said Lorato, “was Ledimo, your great grandfather.”
Great grandfather? What did Lorato mean? Lesedi looked at his hands and then got up and felt behind him. He didn’t have a tail and his hands didn’t look cat like, so how could he be related to a leopard?
Lorato seemed to find this very funny and laughed out loud. “Don’t worry, you are not the great grandchild of a leopard. Ledimo is only using the animal as a means of talking to us from the ancestral world. He will appear in many different guises of animals or birds depending on what suits the moment.”
Lesedi had heard the stories of Ledimo and his control over the weather but he had always regarded them as legends and things of the past. He had also never realised that he was related to him; this had never been discussed. As Lorato believed in doling out information small bits at a time he didn’t tell Lesedi much more than the fact that Ledimo would probably appear to him more frequently now and that he should listen carefully to any advice he offered. He also warned him not to talk to anyone else about this as they would not be able to hear Ledimo and might think him a bit strange.
Ledimo did appear a few more times to Lesedi when he was out in the bush and after a while he had got used to having a conversation with a starling or an impala. The conversations had always been normal “How are you?” types, and it was not until now that Lesedi realised that Ledimo must be keeping an eye on him.
“What’s the snake thinking?” repeated Lesedi. “I don’t know. Snakes don’t think, do they?” He was keeping a wary eye on the snake while trying to establish what guise Ledimo was in now.
“And what makes you think snakes don’t think?” came the amused voice.
“Well…um…I don’t know…” Lesedi tried to think of an answer. It was difficult. Why shouldn’t snakes think?
“I would say they do think. I would say that everything thinks, except maybe sometimes young men. Soooo, what do you think the snake is thinking?” asked Ledimo.
Lesedi looked around the room. He saw a scops owl sitting on the edge of the table. That must be Ledimo. The snake lifted his head, looking at the bird.
“I think this snake thinks that the owl sitting on the table would make a nice meal,” he said, somewhere between alarm and excitement.
“That’s more like it. Snakes eat birds…right? They’re not that keen on you silly humans, so I don’t know why you’re having such a fuss.”
“What if he bites Tshiamo’s bottom?”
“He’ll only do that if she wakes up and gives him a fright.”
Tshiamo started to stir in her sleep. “She is waking up!” Lesedi whispered fiercely, feeling the panic rising up inside him again. The owl flapped his wings and flew in front of the snake. The snake rose up to half its length and struck out at the bird. Missing it, it came crashing down on the floor right next to Lesedi’s leg. This was too much for Lesedi. He had had enough of being big and strong and brave. He let out a yell that immediately woke the others, who all started yelling in unison.
“How am I supposed to concentrate with all this noise?” said Ledimo irritably. “Get everyone out of here.”
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