Her spirit had nothing to do. It became restless, so she gave it work to do, too.

shallow water

Her spirit learned that the wind smelled one way when it blew from the stream.

Nhamo could recognize the footprints of everyone in the village.

Nhamo didn’t know why she had learned this. It was simply a way to calm her spirit. Her body worked all day planting, weeding, baby-sitting, washing – oh, so many chores! – but her spirit had nothing to do. It became restless, so she gave it work to do, too.

It learned how the Matabele ants carried their young at the center of a line when the soldiers ran along the outside. It learned that when Uncle Kufa pursed his lips as he was eating, he was angry at Aunt Chipo. It learned that the wind smelled one way when it blew from the stream and another when it came from the forest.

Nhamo’s spirit had to be kept very busy to keep her from losing her temper.

The other girls in the village never felt restless. Nhamo was like a pot of boiling water. “I want…I want…,” she whispered to herself, but she didn’t know what she wanted and so she had no idea how to find it.

by Nancy Farmer (born 1941)
from A Girl Named Disaster, 1997 Newbery Honor book

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