Smoking Water

Lured to a devastated nation by a zealous man, young, Ellie Frost, finds longed for family and freedom in the shadows between heaven and hell. Working as a nurse amidst the famine and political unrest of 1974 Ethiopia, her greatest threat comes from the religion that once controlled her life. Pursued across country by Ward Bishop, a man hell-bent on possessing her, she fights for her life, new loves and discovers the faith that lies in her own strength.


The plane spirals, unspooling me like a yellow thread through absolute blue. My existence passes before my eyes; a small, conscripted life. Heavy metal whacks my head, sparking thoughts, like firelflies, there, then gone: It’s my birthday. I’ve never been kissed. I’m thirsty. It ricochets off the window, bashing my ear. Echoes of my brother’s laugh weave through the ringing in my head, If you should die before you wake, you’ll wish you ate the chocolate cake.

The Cessna shuddering down the airstrip restarts my heart.

“Ellie? El? We’re down.” Arms unknot from legs as the pilot pries my fingers from the backseat and steadies me out. Thoughts of cake untangle from the reality that I’ve landed in Wollo, a famine relief camp. Vision blurs… grays… blacks. Knees buckle. I fold on the baked dirt. Wait for the ground to stop writhing. Bugs drop, drop, drop near my hand. I blink and my blood soaking into dry earth comes into focus. I swallow fear. It comes back up.

Ward Bishop crouches. “El, honey, you okay?” He wets his bandana, places it on the back of my neck. “Sit tight. Our ride will be here in a shake.”

A vehicle clunks up the road, stalling on the other side of the plane. “Scottie Saunders, you old sack a sugar. How’s it hangin’?”

“Hey, Kate.”

“Where’s my recruit?”

“Other side.”

“Um, kid. You alive?” A scuffed work boot nudges my knee. “I may be a nun, but you don’t have to kneel at my feet.” She hoists me up. Dusts me off. “Christ help us if you’re the reinforcements. She’s bleedin’ and pukin’. Bishop, you pile of worm shit, what did you do to her?”

Scott holds up a wrench. “Spanner must’ve dinged her. I know I locked it up tight.”

She secures my arm. “Come on, pet.” A door screeches like a caught cat. “Let’s get you out of this sun.”

I glance back to my imprint on the dirt. A wisp rises from the bile, before the sun licks it all up.

Ward opens the driver side. “Toss me the keys. I want to show Eleanor around.”

“Bite m’ arse, you fluthered maggot.”

“Kate. Keys. Please.”

“Want ‘em? Go fetch.” With a hard toss she sends Ward running, jumps in and starts the jeep.

Scott hops in back. “What did you throw?”

“Supply keys.” She snags Ward’s hat as we lurch past. “Here, kid, if you’re going to puke, use this.” She floors it, kicking up a rain of dirt. “Don’t be pissed. I know he’s your boyfriend, but I detest the worm.”

“He… he’s not— I’m not his—I’m Ellie.”

Scott passes me a rag. “Put pressure on that gash. Sorry, Ellie I shouldn’t have rolled like that.”

My lips form quiet words. “I thought we were crashing.”

“Ward said you loved spins.”

I’ve never had the chance to know what I love. I can say now, with certainty, a barrel roll in a rickety plane is not a thing I love. Hurtling toward death with pockets of regret is another.