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  • Writer's pictureGeorgie Davis

Rice-A Reason to Fight, Part 2 of 2

Part 1 can be found HERE

While chaos ravaged the city, our household hummed with domestic activity. Caught up in our usual Saturday routine.

In the back bedroom, Daddy sat at the small desk he shared with Mommy. After all these years, I can still hear the keys' rapid "click, click, click" and the screech from the sliding of the return handle on the old manual typewriter. Daddy's Underwood served its purpose. It rolled out countless pages of lessons for Bible college students and delivered our family's latest news on blue stationery to loved ones and supporters in America.

Our house helper had "conveniently" taken the day off, so Bertie and I were left to complete the chores Mommy had scribbled on tiny bits of paper—chores that felt like a never-ending marathon as we scrubbed, folded, and dusted our way through the morning.

At seven, Shawnna’s duties consisted of freeing her bedroom floor of toys and smoothing out her flowery bed covers. Mommy gave her a bottle of formula every few hours to feed our six-month-old sister, Sharminna. To spare herself from Daddy's impassioned lectures on animal cruelty, she needed to remember to feed Blackie. Our shy, chocolate-colored dog proved useless in the face of robbers. Once, when a rogue broke in, he cowered under the bed in fear.

At midday, Bertie and I transformed the back porch into a small-scale production line, washing buckets brimming with oranges and limes. Pesky parasites lurked on the surface of fresh produce, invisible to the naked eye. Even bananas required sanitization. The sun bore down on us, and beads of sweat rolled from our arms into the soapy water.

My mouth normally watered at the thought of her homemade limeade.

Periodically, Mommy gathered the sanitized fruit, extracted the juice with a hand-held juicer, and poured the liquids into ice cube trays. My mouth normally watered at the thought of her homemade limeade, made with those juice-filled cubes she kept in the freezer. But I had reached my limit. I was sick of looking at the countless number of green and orange balls still needing to be washed.

My stomach growled.

I stood, dried my hands on my dress, and announced to Bertie, "I'm hungry."

Not a moment too soon, Mommy called us in for dinner. She had forgotten to set the timer and burned the rice, so our usual two o'clock mealtime had been delayed by an hour.

I plopped onto my designated chair at the dining table. Daddy led in prayer before we all dug into the rice and greens with orange slices on the side.

After dinner, Shawnna snuggled with Sharminna on the couch. I glanced at them with envy. Their chests rose and fell in a peaceful rhythm while they napped.

large sacks of rice sold in stores

Bertie and I stood side by side at the kitchen sink, bathed in the warmth of the afternoon sun streaming through the window. We scrubbed pots and pans while Mommy arranged dishes in our new-to-us portable dishwasher. Just when we settled into a rhythm, a knock at the front door interrupted our concentration. Our chatter ceased.

We trailed behind Mommy as she led the way. Water dripped on the floor in our wake. She hesitated at the end of the kitchen counter bar before turning the corner. I spotted Nathaniel, a classmate, through the paneled glass door with his nose pressed against the panes. His chest heaved, and sweat glistened on his forehead.

We had been friends since grade school. We shared a beach in first grade. He always gushed over my coloring abilities. I chuckled when he told his tall tales.

"Monrovia's on fire. Monrovia's on fire."

Mommy opened the door, and Nathaniel burst through with an urgent announcement.

"Monrovia's on fire. Monrovia's on fire."

A frown tugged at the corners of Mommy's mouth. Hands on her hips. Bertie bolted through the open doorway, and I found myself hot on her heels. Blades of grass tickled my bare feet while I sprinted across the yard. I skid to a stop behind Bertie.

We stood on the north end of the carpenter shop and faced the pathway leading to King Gray Village. Mammoth-sized pythons live in the heavy brush below. We played it safe and stayed at the path’s entrance.

Our eyes scanned the sky for any sign of smoke coming from the city ten miles away. I should have known better than to believe Nathaniel. The only smoke on the horizon rose from kitchen fires that puffed above thatched rooftops where the tall palm trees nestled.

I sat on the ground and let out a sign. “Why Nathaniel always got to lie, so?"

Bertie gathered the hem of her dress. "Don't mind him," she called out over her shoulder before she dashed back towards the house.

I took a longer route on the dirt road, kicking up small clouds of dust with every step. When I finally arrived home, Bertie greeted me at the door. "Nathaniel's gone. He's carried his lies to the single ladies' house."

Windows shattered, shelves overturned.

We soon learned Nathaniel's fire story wasn't so far-fetched. The aftermath of the Rice Riots had left a path of destruction that swept through the city like a bubbling volcano. Storefronts lay in ruins. Windows shattered, shelves overturned. Warehouses stood empty, having been stripped of all their contents. The damage to personal and commercial property was immense, with losses totaling more than 35 million dollars.

On Easter Sunday, the day after the riots, President Tolbert took to the airways. "I'm deeply hurt and grieved by this national tragedy..."

He stated the issue could not be blamed on the proposed rice price because discussions were still ongoing. "If the government had not exercised restraint," he said, "there would have been even more casualties." He welcomed suggestions from the public and offered his condolences to the affected families.

In the days that followed, government officials rounded up the dead bodies scattered on the streets and disposed of the corpses in a communal grave. Dozens of political opponents were arrested and charged with treason.

After further outrage, the president reversed his decision to raise the price of rice and released those he had jailed. But his efforts only served as a band-aid trying to cover a gaping wound.

Days stretched into the remainder of the year, the tension and discontentment simmering beneath the surface settled into a quiet calm.

“The "Country People" are biding their time,” Daddy said. “Patiently waiting for the next opportunity to strike.”

Still, Bertie and I paid little attention.

Part 1 can be found HERE


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