This is a story about a crocodile, deadly snakes and a little girl called Precious.
Precious lives in Zimbabwe. Her house is at the top of a mountain and it is full to the brim with her family – parents, little sisters, grandparents – ten of them all living together.
Precious loves being the oldest sister because it means she’s the boss. But it also means she has heavy burdens, like collecting water every single day.
See, they don’t have a tap in Precious’ house – or even a tap outside the house. Precious puts on her blue shoes and picks up her huge yellow bucket and sets off to the nearest tap. Which isn’t even a tap – it’s a huge river, far away at the bottom of the valley.
Every morning and every night, Precious walks along the dirt track from her house.
Her greatest fear is that she is not alone.
Precious listens out for rustling in the tall grass and spiny shrubs. She is terrified of snakes and is on edge for the whole journey, ready to run.
"I can sense when a snake is around me by its smell when it's in a tree and by its noise when it's on the ground."
And then she arrives at the river.
Her fear returns.
This time, she is anxiously looking for signs of an even bigger monster: tell-tale swirls or bubbles in the water; large footprints in the slippery mud bank.
Signs of a crocodile.
The crocodiles can be double the size of nine-year-old Precious, and she knows that people from her village have been attacked here before.
She plunges the bucket into the water, filling it to the brim. She can’t see the bottom of the yellow bucket anymore – the water is thick with dirt and sometimes little black worms.