Drumbeats of the Heart – A short story by Bill Peacock

Her feet touched the ground in an explosion of dust and joy. Crow black hair, long and straight, cascaded past her shoulders waving as she twirled and leaped to the beat of the drums. It was her day; it would be her dance.

Earlier, in the mist of the morning, Old Joe spoke to her. She did not know how he came to be standing outside of the door. He only appeared this way if a grave misdeed happened in the village, or if it was a time of deep sorrow. Sensing this, he spoke to her of her loss. The husband who had just left for the city, quietly, in the middle of the night, leaving only a chaste note that said good-bye. He had taken with him his guitar, and a younger, new woman. He left behind a young wife and a broken heart. The old man knew of the midnight departure, the growl of the motor and tires spinning in haste over a corrugated road. He knew the different sounds of good-bye and abandonment.

“You must be brave now, strong for the young one inside you,” he said. “You must not waste or hurt yourself.” She knew he was thinking of the suicides in the village. His eyes, soft and brown, crinkled in wisdom, caressed the coldness she was feeling, warming her instantly. “Today is Powwow. You must dance, not for the past, but for the new life in your belly. You must dance with joy till the child within you hears the beat of the drums. And someday, many years from now, they will remember the day that you danced just for them.”

She twirled and leaped as a ballerina, majestically, and with joy as the drums reached ad thunderous crescendo. The sun sparkled her eyes as they lit on an older man watching her. He gazed at her as though captivated, while his thoughts raced back to a time long ago; to a woman that he was separated from early in life. To a mother he never knew.

He smiled widely as the dancer spun before him. The drums softened, hauntingly, becoming a whisper as the man’s ile sagged. Unleashed emotions and memories of a child’s loneliness flooded his face in a rush of tears. He did not know his Mother, he could only imagine her beauty, but he knew there was a day that she had danced with the world around her and insider her. The day that she had danced with pure joy “just for him” and had imbued his small body with the beat of the drums. The drumbeats of the heart.