The Night Closes In

Part 9: War Footing

Extract from Chapter 1: The Night Closes In

The children were in the kitchen listening to the cricket that for the last few evenings had kept itself warm under the fridge, chirping away all night long. Their mother’s sweeping broom had failed to reach it, luckily, and it was still croaking away. They crouched down to see where it might be, but it went silent on them. Bedtime was some way off, and this interval of time before pyjamas was precious. The adults were too busy clearing away the remains of the day to notice them.

“Let’s go on the verandah and watch the dark,” said Nizar. “We could have our supper there. No one would mind. You might see your cat and I could hunt the chameleon.”

“My cat would chase the chameleon,” said Neda. “Would that be a good thing or is it bad? Some people say the chameleon is a bad animal. Is that true?”

“No, they are wrong. People sometimes say silly things, Neda. Don’t believe everything people say. Chameleons are good for the garden and especially the grapes since they eat the bugs. Daddy told me that, the first time I saw a chameleon. He said his grandfather told him. And he should know. He was a farmer.”

“Is it a bad idea then to let the cat chase the chameleon?”

“I’ve never seen a cat do that. I don’t think we need to worry about it.”

“Let’s find out, then.”

And they both went hunting, through the kitchen garden where the herbs gave off a pungent smell, into the orchard which smelt of over-ripened fruit. On the way they discovered the bean patch. It was looking rather wilted now, so they got the hose and sprinkled the amount left inside it. Neda decided she would give them more water first thing in the morning. She plucked some leaves to keep as a reminder, and left them on the veranda wall.

Whilst the children played in the orchard, the adults sat in the television lounge and watched the news. Sally sensed her father-in-law was tense, and Fathia too fussed around him, offering tea and savouries which he refused. Fathia returned to the kitchen where she could keep an eye on the children as she prepared supper. She switched on the verandah light in the hope it would spread its beam into the orchard. But she was sure they were safe since she could hear their voices ringing out under the dark blue sky.

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