I think that time is very strange. Although all our clocks and watches tell us that it is marching ahead with steady steps, I think they must be lying. Because everyone knows that time can move very slowly when you are waiting for something, and go very fast when you are having a good time. How is this possible?
The time went very fast while Merzeneb visited us, and now she is gone. But when we were trying to reach the village with Mother’s medical supplies, and were afraid of robbers, time went much too slowly. Yet in both cases, a clock would tell you it was all the same.
“How much longer?” Dawit asked, at least a dozen times, as we pushed the tired oxen and donkeys forward. “When will we ever get there?”
He said only what I wanted to say, myself—but it was still annoying. “Be quiet!” I hissed. “You are like a parrot, repeating the same words over and over.”
Dawit started to answer back, when we heard shots behind us.
“Those are rifles!” said Berhanu.
“Thieves!” cried Dawit.
“Adamu and Gofa, more likely,” said Father. “Warning shots, maybe. But hurry, children.”
“We’re already hurrying as much as we can,” whined Dawit.
“Hurry some more!” snapped Berhanu.
“Dawit, get up on Kassa with Rahel,” said Father. “Rahel, I want you to take Kassa ahead. Ride to the village as fast as you can.”
“Pastor Mulu Ken will be waiting by the trail to show you the way,” added Tekla.
“You promised me, Rahel. Go,” said Father. He gave Dawit a leg up onto Kassa, pulling off a couple of supply bags as he did, and throwing them over his shoulders.
I knew Kassa was tired, and a tired camel can be grumpy. But I kicked my heel into her side and gave her a little smack with a stick on her behind. She bawled like a calf then broke into a shuffling run. I looked back once, tears in my eyes, at Father’s face. There was the sound of two more shots, louder, and Kassa needed no more urging.
Camels run in a special way. They move both feet on the same side of their body, then move both feet on the other side of their body. It is a bumpy, lumpy ride but they can move very fast, especially for short distances. So Kassa trotted along the trail, then—as it became wider—started to gallop.
The trees rushed by us. Dawit yelled when a branch nearly hit his head. I could do nothing but hold onto her rope and talk to her. Father and the others were soon far behind.
Although it was probably only fifteen minutes, my teeth felt as if they were knocking together for hours by the time we slowed down. See what I mean about time? We had ridden almost eight miles. I pulled on Kassa’s ropes and she began to trot again.
“It’s only a couple more miles to the village, I think,” I told Dawit. “We must look for Pastor Mulu Ken.”
“I want to throw up,” said Dawit.
“Well, don’t,” I told him. “Not until we’re there.”
The sun dried our hair and clothes as we rode. I slowed Kassa to a walk. The land steamed around us. When a man stepped out in front of us, I nearly screamed—but it was the pastor, waving and smiling.
“Where is your Father?” he said.
I told him they were behind us, and about the rifle shots. His smile faded. “Come with me. Do not worry. Adamu and Gofa will help them. It will be alright.” I wanted to believe him, Diary, but I couldn’t. Grownups will say such things to children, even if they don’t really know what will happen.