A big chunk of fence collapsed into my back yard after several days of heavy rain and wind. It knocked down the life-sized steel giraffe my late husband commissioned for me. He did the painting of her coat himself. The best, most expensive gift he ever gave me. The only expensive gift he ever gave me. The giraffe lies face down in the mud rivers and tributaries, awaiting the handyman who will repair the fence. He and his helpers have the strength to lift the giraffe, bring Bella back to life.
When I lived in Kenya, I tell the story, I drove the national highway to my site in western Kenya among the Abaluyia. The road was newly paved but awash in red soil when the rains came. I slammed my brakes when two giraffes, mother and child, loped across the highway as if chased by a demon. A man with a gun? My truck? My heart was in my throat. I couldn’t move until the car behind me rammed its horn to wake me from my wonder. Magic. Kenya was such a magic place. My husband loved that story, requested I tell it over and over again.
At first, she stood in the fenced garden of our second home just above an apple tree where my husband placed her one Christmas, a red bow around her long neck. But I brought her home here after I had to give that second home to my deceased husbands’ kids. In their 50s, they along with neighbors, claimed my husband had made her made for that property. My neighbors yelled at the man I hired when he loaded her in his truck to bring her to me. They all refused to help me move her so I had no choice but to hire a recommended driver who they mistook as a stranger stealing Bella. And perhaps they were right – I had become a stranger to them, all of them. But my husband had made Bella for me.
My heart breaks to see her face down in the mud. My Bella. She evokes that lovely place with thorn trees, grasslands, red soil, herds of animals, and the beautiful people who allowed me to share their country. Let her stand again, for survival, for hope. Let her lope through my dreams past the highway into the Great Rift Valley – a rift I have come to believe can be cured by magic.
Amanda Noble is a sociologist who, frustrated by the constraints of scientific writing, turned her attention to creative nonfiction writing, especially personal essay and memoir. Her work appeared in Seven Hills Review, Indiana Voice, and Eastern Iowa Review, among other publications. She lives in Davis, California, with her cat, Lucy. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org