The Corral

The Corral

A Story by Rachid Amrani

You wake up now! Get that lantern and light it. Get moving!

What is it, mom?

The cow is about to give birth. Find the lantern and light it.

Where is the lantern, mom?

Where do you think it is? Of course it's hung on the nail by the window where we hang it every night. Quick, light it and bring it to the corral.

Here it is. But what about the matches, mom?

The matches?

Yes, I can't find the box, mom. Where is it?

Well, it should be on the window ledge, we always put it there unless you did something with it. 

Me, do something with it? I never touch the matches except when you ask me to light the lantern. 

Oh really? What about that time you set your textbook on fire and then threw it on the blankets? 

That was an accident, mom.

An accident? Well, how about the time you rolled that piece of paper, lit it, and slid it between your brother's toes while he slept?

Well, he was just pretending to be asleep. Besides he did it to me first. It was just a game, mom.

Stop blubbering and find the matches. Light that lantern and bring it to the corral. That cow is about to have the baby any time now. I can just tell, I've been counting the days and it's happening tonight. Now, why in the world that cow only gives birth at night.

Does that mean we're going to have milk and butter for the next two months, mom?

We can if you hurry and find those matches and light that lantern so that I can deliver the baby. Hurry up!



Can I drink the first bowl of milk?

You find those matches first and we'll see about that.



Can you heat it up for me like you did last time? You know, until it boils and then I can dip the bread in it.

Now listen, young man, if you don't find those matches the calf might just fall and die. I have to help the cow deliver it and you're gonna hold the lantern like you did before so that I can see what I'm doing. You hear me?

But it's dark and I can't see.

Well, keep looking and once you find them and light that lantern it won't be dark anymore. I swear I put them on the window ledge before we went to bed last night. They should be there unless you did something with them.

I did not touch the matches, mom. Honest, I didn’t.

Well, then keep looking, but you better find them quick.

Now, mom, suppose that cow doesn't have the baby tonight?

Hush! I've never been wrong about the due date. That cow is gonna have the baby tonight. I've been counting the days and it's happening tonight.



I think I found the box…Wait, it's empty.

Empty? How's that possible! Your dad just bought it yesterday. All my life I've never heard of anybody going through a whole box of matches in one day. Make sure the box is closed. You could've have dropped the matches on the floor.

I did not- wait, I think there are two matches left.

Well, you be careful when you strike the match. Sometimes you strike five matches before you get to light the lantern.

I always light it in the first try, mom.

That's what you always say.



 The wick?

What about the wick?

It's burned out.

Didn't I tell you to put a new one when you were using it last night? Didn't I?

 Well, you did, mom, but I sort of forgot.



You're not gonna let the calf have all the milk, are you?

The calf is-

Well, are you, mom?

Now, stop talking and put the new wick in the lantern.

Where is it, mom?

You can find it in the same place where we always keep them.

Where is that, mom?

You don't know or you're just trying to aggravate me?

Honest, mom, I don't know.

On the window ledge. We've always put the matches and wicks together.

 I didn't know that, mom. Honest, I didn't know.



You're not going to save all the butter until uncle and his wife come over to visit us? You know how much I like butter.

How can I forget! That one time you ate half a kilo of butter at once. You kept waking up at night to puke. Why, I had to wash all the blankets the next morning that my hands and shoulders ached for weeks.

I won't do it this time, mom. Honest, I won't. Mom?


Why you always save the good things for uncle?

Hush! He's your uncle and we don't talk about family that way.

But he sold his share of the land to Pop?

So, what's your point?

Well, why he and his wife keep coming to the town then?

Hush! Just because he sold his land to your dad doesn't mean we can't have him and his wife over. He was born and raised in this town just like us. He's welcome to visit any time he wants.



Why did uncle marry that woman?

Why, it never crossed my mind to ask him, why are you asking?

Well, she's not from our town and she doesn't talk like us.

That's because she's from the city. There ain't nothing wrong with the way she talks.

She's lazy, too.


She is, mom. Every time uncle and her come to visit all she does is sit around and work on her makeup and nails. I never saw her help you with anything.

There ain’t nothing wrong with a woman prettying up herself. Besides she's not used to doing our chores. They have different chores in the city than we do here in the country.

But I never see you put make up or do your nails.

Well, now, don’t be silly. Us being country folks I’ve never had use for them smudges.


What now?

Are we poor?

What made you think about such a thing?

Well, last time when uncle and his wife came over I overheard her say to uncle nothing had changed since her first visit, and a poor will always be a poor. Are we really poor, mom?

Well, we're not rich that's for sure but we get by. Your dad labors and sweats so that we have food on the table and so that you and your brother have clothes to wear. Besides, ain't nothing wrong with being poor. We don't have much but we don't beg for food and we sure don't expect your uncle's wife or anybody else to feed us.



Am I going to labor the land just like Pop?

Well, I imagine there ain't nothing wrong with being a peasant but your dad wants you and your brother to do well in school and graduate and make something out of your education.

Does that mean I will get a job and live in the city like uncle?

Why, if you study hard and get good grades and graduate you can do just that.

And does that mean I'll too marry a city girl since I'll be living in the city?

Well, no. When you grow up and the time comes for you to marry it'll be up to you if you want marry a city girl or a country girl.



Why that wife of Uncle didn't give him any kids?

 I don't know, but I reckon they'll have kids when they're ready and-

Is it because she's a barren?

Where in the world did you-

Well, is it mom?

Where did you hear such a thing?

From the neighbor ladies. They were saying last time when Uncle came to visit us that his wife is a barren.

Now, you listen to me, just because the neighbor ladies said it doesn't make it true. We don't know why they haven’t had no kids.

Say, Mom?


You reckon Uncle will ever divorce his wife if she can't give him kids?

Hush! You're not to talk like this, you hear me?

Well, will he, mom?

I told you to hush it. You found that wick yet?

I'm still-yes, I found it, mom.

Well, put it into the lantern and follow me to the corral.


What is it now?

There ain't no kerosene in the lamp.

It had plenty of kerosene in it when I used it last night.

Well, it's empty now.

Get the can then and fill it up. Careful not to spill any kerosene like you did last week.


 I don't know where the can is.

It's in the same place where we always keep it.

Where is that, mom?

That would be by the fig bag at the front door.


You figure you and Pop will have more kids?

Why, I don’t know. There are certain things that only the Lord can control. After all we’re only humans.


Never mind.


What now?

How come Sara didn’t live long?

It was God’s will. He wanted it to happen that way.

But she was still a little girl, mom. I thought only old people die.



Is it true that kids go to Heaven when they die?

Why, yes. Kids are Angels in the Lord’s eyes.


How old was Sara when she died?

Well, let’s see. We were picking the olives when she was born. That would’ve been December. Let’s see now, you’re seven and she was born two years earlier. So she would’ve been nine years-old. I remember everybody was telling me that precious baby of yours was a blessing to the town because the night little Sara was born it started raining really hard. I mean you could hear the rain pounding on the roof and the wind howling outside. For weeks we had waited for rain since it was that time of the year to labor the land. And it rained for- Lord, forgive me if I can’t remember- maybe two weeks. All the roads were muddy and drenched with water. Well, we didn’t pick a single olive in those two weeks which was fine by me since I had to nurse and care for your sister. When the rain finally stopped your dad went on laboring the land and I started to pick the olives. I took your sister with me because I couldn’t find anybody to watch her for me. I had her wrapped in a blanket and I laid her on the ground near me where I could see her while I picked the olives. She slept soundly and now and then she would open her eyes and rub her nose then start crying. And I would pick her up and put her in my lap, nurse her, then she would close her eyes and fall asleep again and then I would put her back on the ground and go back to picking the olives. Well, about three weeks later or so she ran a fever and your dad and I both thought the fever would pass since a lot of babies run fever and they usually come out of it after a few days. I would wet a cloth in cold water and put it on her forehead and watch her. The thing was although she was running fever she only cried when she got hungry. About four days or so later I went to change her and I noticed she wasn’t breathing. I called out to your dad and he came rushing into the room and he lifted her up and held her in his arms, brought her closer to him, and listened for pulse. He was silent for a moment, then he started shaking his head and I just knew from the look on his face that little Sara had-

Are you crying, mom?

It’s just-

I’m sorry, mom. I didn’t mean for you to cry. Honest I didn’t.

It’s just I can’t seem to get over her death even it’s been nine years. Sometimes I wonder if it was somehow my fault. I should’ve taken her to the nurse when the fever started but your dad and I thought the fever was going to pass and your sister would get well. Well, none of that happened and we lost her. I can’t seem to forgive myself for that.



What was Sara like?

Oh! Little Sara was such a doll. The cutest little thing you will ever lay your eyes on. Every time after I nursed her she would twirl her hands and feet like she was dancing and there was always a bright glow about her face like she was happy about something. Of course we all agreed that she looked just like your grandma and your father always said he wished your grandma had lived longer enough to see little Sara. I heard your grandmother tell your pa once, ‘now, son, promise me you’ll give me a granddaughter. It ain’t that I don’t want you to have boys but a house without a girl is like a lantern without a wick.’ Grandma may she rest in peace was just a tiny short woman but she sure had her way with words. It tears me apart to think she didn’t live long enough to see you, kids.”



How come there ain’t any cement around Sara’s grave?

Well, now, son, there are things that are just not meant for kids your age to understand. But I reckon when you grow up a lot of things will start make some sense to you.



I think I hear the cow mooing.

You hear what?

The cow, I hear her mooing. I think she's going to have that baby after all just like you said.

Before the boy could find the wick and before he could replace it and before he could find the can of kerosene and before he could fill the lantern and light it, the cow had given birth to the calf. The mother did it all in the dark. When the boy finally brought the lantern to the corral the woman was sitting on the hard floor with the calf in her lap. She was stroking the calf with her hands, wiping the wetness from its skin. The boy set the lantern on the floor and kneeled over the calf and began to stroke it just like his mother was doing.


© 2020 Rachid Amrani

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Added on February 9, 2020
Last Updated on February 9, 2020


Rachid Amrani
Rachid Amrani

Aspiring writer with a passion for storytelling and reading good books. Writing has been a slow process for me. I lament the fact English wasn't taught to us until high school. I try to read a lot.. more..