Posted in Africa, Nature, Nonfiction, Photography

A Bucket Shower

photograph by Cheryl Merrill
photograph by Cheryl Merrill

 

A metal pail hangs over my head, fixed by a rope and pulley to the limb of a tree.  The bottom of the pail has a showerhead with a spigot to control water flow.  I stand on sand within a rectangle of stones while a loose, slat-sided fence protects my modesty.  Vines climb up and around and through the slats.  Sunlight filters through the overhanging tree while the sky above it snaps blue, blue, blue with the upbeat tempo of a jazzy song.

Naked, my skin softens as buttery light melts into my pores. Naked, I create my own breezes as I wash. Naked, I smell saltish, metallic, as if newly risen from the sea. Naked, I am clothed in myself.

Cool water the color of weak tea trickles down my neck and across the landscape of my body. Each sluice takes a different path: one rivulet down an arm, another makes it all the way to my ankle. The water becomes darker and turns into rivers full of dust as it washes away islands of soap. A small puddle gathers around my feet and sinks immediately into the sand.

As I dry off insect noise boils shrill as a teapot.  I dress and step around the edge of the fence.

The afternoon hunkers down and sits on its heels – occasionally fanning itself with a short breeze,perfumed with the faint scent of hot, dry wood.  Faint whisperings rustle through the grass, prayers for rain.  If there were clouds I would lie on my back and watch them.

I sip hot oxygen in tiny gulps, panting.

Life, perishable life, rests in the shade, its thin legs tucked under, safe for the moment, waiting, even-eyed, for the predators of the dark to awaken.

Author:

Cheryl Merrill’s essays have been published in Fourth Genre, Pilgrimage, Brevity, Seems, South Loop Review, Ghoti, Alaska Quarterly Review, Adventum and Isotope. “Singing Like Yma Sumac” was selected for the Best of Brevity 2005 and Creative Nonfiction #27. It was also included in the anthology Short Takes: Model Essays for Composition, 10th Edition. Another essay, “Trunk,” was chosen for Special Mention in Pushcart 2008. She is currently working on a book about elephants: Larger than Life: Living in the Shadows of Elephants.

6 thoughts on “A Bucket Shower

      1. Yes I have read it! Very scary – mambas not to be trifled with. Living on the edge of Lake Kariba quite some time ago, our loo was a long drop just a short way from the kitchen door down the garden path. It was built from mud bricks and with a thatched roof. Over time the mud had eroded somewhat and so one could sit comfortably and occupy oneself looking out through the cracks. One day I suddenly had to sit very, very still as a snake entered through one of the holes, and began winding its way slowly and inquisitively up to the thatch. Thankfully it wasn’t a mamba, but only a striped sand snake, which I managed to determine after my panic had subsided!

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