Charles pulled the largest kitchen knife from his box of utensils and laid it on the trestle table. No point dwelling on what was out there – he had a job to do. He kicked around in the Serengeti dirt until he found four flat stones.
He cupped the stones in the palm of his hands as if they would slip through his fingers like water; then laid them out on the ground like an offering, the smallest first. He thought of Panya, his mouse. The second, rougher and larger, made him think of Mbita, born on a cold night. The third, pocked and dimpled, of Masika, born in the rainy season, his eldest child. And the last stone round as the full moon, Kamara, their mother.
Yes, no point dwelling on what was so far away – he had a job to do. Charles set to work, building a brushwood and log fire in the bush camp. While the wood burned, he prepared and poured a mixture into his battered crock. When the flames had died back and the wood glowed white, Charles held a calloused hand over the fire, pulling back sharply: It was time to set up the Dutch oven. He laid the stones on a metal ring and set the crock on top. Then using tongs, he placed a wall of logs all around the crock and over the top, building an oven, log by log; building a life, stone by stone.
As the sky haemorrhaged light, the overlanders returned to the chapattis Charles had cooked for them, charred and smoky from the campfire. Githeri too, the stewed beans and potatoes steaming. And last of all, the mango cake Charles had cooked on the Dutch oven for the English boy with his hair of flame and skin pale as the moon. Four years on the earth this day- like Mbita.
No point dwelling on what he couldn’t have – he had a job to do. He tidied the Dutch oven away and washed out the crock. He washed the stones too and wrapped them in cloth, placing them in his kitchen box to take on into the journey.