Sung Home: Chapter Thirty Four. {fiction}

We were all outside, having just enjoyed a dinner of fresh venison fajitas, garden greens, mesquite flatbread and raspberries that had been picked that morning by Devon.

“What about introducing ourselves to the yurt and tipi people before we try another trip into town? They’re close by, and must not be too aggressive, or we would have seen them before now,” said Yazmin.

Shaking his head at the ground, Noah said, “You know, we have a good situation here, just the way it is. We’ve lived here for eight years and been just fine without anyone else, and no one else has caused us any trouble. The only person we even worried about was Lakshmi,” tilting his head my direction. “I’m glad the trip worked out well, but geez, that doesn’t mean we have to stop taking safety into consideration at all!”

“It’s just a matter of time before others come,” sighed Frank, then chiding, added, “And what are you going to do, Noah, stay celibate the rest of your life? Don’t you want a family of your own? How’s that going to happen if we don’t communicate with others?”

Noah scowled, but held his tongue.

Speaking with all the authority of her PhD in anthropology, Yazmin said, “Isolated groups of our size cannot survive. It’s that simple. We will die out if we don’t join up with others. It’s just a matter of when. We don’t have to live with them, but we do have to have friendly relationships with others. Either they come here to meet us, or we go there.

We can let others’ actions determine if, when and how that happens, or we can decide ourselves, and make a plan that minimizes the dangers.” 

No one refuted this.

“What do you propose we do?” asked Gary, “Just march into their camp and say, ‘Hey, you all want to be friends?’”

Grandpa Joe shook his head. “That’d be a great way to get hurt, or captured.”

“No, no, no!” said, Yazmin, waving her arms in the air and stalking into the middle of the group.

“We’re not going to march in there like we’re a bunch of white guys coming from Europe, acting like we own the place!” Yazmin flashed a quick sardonic grin, enjoying stirring the pot, then added in a mock serious tone, “No offense, of course,” nodding to the white guys in the group.

Frank rolled his eyes in feigned annoyance and said sarcastically, “Oh, none taken, of course!”

Victorio repressed a laugh and Beto shook his head, smirking.

“We need to come up with something more creative, clever, more safe!” said Yazmin. She scanned the group. “Who can come up with something that won’t scare any of them, and make a case why we should be friends?”

The whole group was silent for about a minute when I had an idea.

“What if we left them a note?”

“A note?!” said Gary, shaking his head, face crinkling in comic disbelief.

Some laughed outright, some grinned like they thought I was joking, while others were clearly considering the idea.

“Wait, wait, yes, I see…” Devon seemed to be getting the gist. “We write a letter explaining who we are, but not where we live, of course! Maybe we give a day and a place to meet, not at their camp and not here either, somewhere in between… kind of like an old-fashioned parley.”

More thoughtful silence, then Victorio added, “Yeah, we could just ask them to send a few people of theirs to talk to a few people of ours. We could have a few others hang back, out of sight, just in case things get sketchy.”

I ducked back into Joe and Victorio’s place for my notebook and pen, while the others fleshed out the idea.

When I came back, they were talking about what should go into the note, and I wrote it all down. I summarized, “We’ll tell them how many people we have, and general ages. We’ll tell them that we would like to be friends and allies. We would like to trade with them, help them if they need extra help, and get help from them too. We’d also like to socialize once in a while.

We will not tell them about the caves, the solar, the radio, etc.”

I looked around at the group, “That about right?” Nods and assenting murmurs all around. “Okay, I’ll write this up and show you the final version tomorrow.”

I read the following to the group the next evening:

“Dear Neighbors,

Some of us were traveling earlier in the summer and noticed your camp. We are a small group of seventeen adults and eight children. We have been able to live fairly well since the virus, but we believe that we cannot survive as a community for more than a generation unless we enter into a cooperative relationship with others. We also think that we can be of benefit to your group too, for the same reasons.

You also appear to have too few people to sustain yourselves for very long. We know that you have no reason to trust us and that you might think that we are slavers looking for an easy way to bring more captives to a compound. We have seen such places and know that they are to be feared.

To show that we are trustworthy, we would like you to send a few people of your choosing to meet with just three of our people. We will go to the large meadow about five miles downstream from your camp on the day of the next full moon.

It would be a huge loss to our community if we were to lose three adults, so we put our lives in your hands in the hope that we can build a better life for us all.”

We decided not to send others to hide in the forest in case the parley group was ambushed. If these other people were spotted after we had said we would only send three people, then they would reasonably assume it was a trap and the whole plan would backfire.

If we wanted to create a trusting relationship with these people, then we had to be trustworthy ourselves. Even if it meant assuming more risk for ourselves.

Frank and Ching Shih would travel to the tent-dwellers’ location and leave a note where it would easily be found. Frank would hang back some distance while Ching Shih would be the one to place the note. Ching Shih was as stealthy as any of our hunters, plus she had the added advantage of being able to defend herself better than anyone else, including Frank who still consistently lost to her when sparring.

Yazmin also pointed out that if she were caught, Ching Shih would, ironically, register as less of a threat than any man, and so her captors would be less likely to kill or otherwise harm her.

Then we would wait until a few days before the full moon, which would still be two weeks away when Frank and Ching Shih returned from leaving the message. Ching Shih, Victorio and Noah would serve as our representatives in the parley.

Noah insisted on volunteering, saying that if we were determined to endanger the whole group with these overtures to others, then he would at least like to have a part in making sure it went well.

Frank and Ching Shih made the trip to leave the note without incident.

“We had noticed that they came to the spring a lot to haul water, so I built a tall cairn right next to it late in the night. I put the letter in between two of the rocks, sticking out near the top. I don’t think there’s any way they could miss it,” explained Ching Shih.

There was much discussion during the next two weeks, in and out of our regular meetings, of what our relationship with the Forest People, as we had begun to call them, might be like. We seemed to have the advantage in terms of our ability to produce and store food without a doubt. What did they have to offer us?

This is an ongoing series from a forthcoming fiction novel by Laura Ramnarace.
Tune in weekly for the next chapter in ‘Sung Home’.


Laura Ramnarace, M.A. was driven to earn a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution while on her quest to find out why we can’t just all get along. She has published a book on inter-personal conflict, ‘Getting Along: The Wild, Wacky World of Human Relationship’, published a newspaper column also titled ‘Getting Along’, and submits regularly to Rebelle Society. Since 1999, she has provided training to a wide variety of groups on improving personal, working and inter-group relationships. ‘Sung Home’ is a work of eco-fiction set in southwestern New Mexico.


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