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A Second Use for Giraffe’s Tears

The sun went, and it was dark. He sat beside her in the comfortable darkness and they listened, contentedly, to the sounds of Africa settling down for the night. A dog barked somewhere; a car engine raced and then died away; there was a touch of wind, warm dusty wind, redolent of thorn trees.

He looked at her in the darkness, at this woman who was everything to him—mother, Africa, wisdom, understanding, good things to eat, pumpkins, chicken, the smell of sweet cattle breath, the white sky across the endless, endless bush, and the giraffe that cried, giving its tears for women to daub on their baskets; O Botswana, my country, my place.

Those were his thoughts. But how could he say any of that to her? Any time he tried to tell her what was in his heart, the words which came to him seemed so inadequate. A mechanic cannot be a poet, he thought, that is not how things are.

—Alexander McCall Smith, The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

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