fiction

Sung Home: Chapter Thirty Nine. {fiction}

That night as we just were getting up off of the couch from our evening reading, Victorio asked, “How about if you and I go next time?”

My stomach tightened at the thought. “I don’t know…”

“I’ll be with you,” he said softly.

“I know… it’s just that… well, I’m scared. I know it doesn’t make sense since there isn’t hardly anyone for a long way away as far as we know, but, well, what if the slavers pick right then to come this far, looking for new workers?”

“I’ll be with you,” he repeated, “and so would Frank.” Either Frank or Ching Shih went on every trip there so far, to keep the others safe.

“I’ll think about it.”

And I did think about it. I realized that if I didn’t take the chance of leaving our little nest, it would get harder to do as time went on. I hoped to have a long life, and I didn’t want to think of myself as someone who was afraid of something as simple as traveling a few miles away, for the rest of my life. I would go with Victorio and Frank on the next visit.

Yazmin, Devon and Ching Shih returned with stories of seed-trading, more building and some martial arts demonstrations by Ching Shih. One of the Forest People was especially skilled at flint knapping and the three had engaged in some lessons, with varied results, which each displayed for our admiration or pity, depending.

They also returned with three visitors: the leader, Barbara, a tall muscular son of hers, Daniel, and a young midwife, Sarah. All of them stayed at our place, at Joe’s, since we had the most unused bedrooms.

At first our visitors stared around our cave homes as if they had stumbled into a fairy land. Not surprisingly, they liked the hot running water the best, showering or taking long soaks every day. Victorio, Joe and I either rose extra early or stayed up a little late in order to get our own baths. During their stay, we all met for dinners inside the hill and the three seemed to enjoy the banter and fun.

We pressed our new friends for stories of their lives in the forest, and they obliged readily. They had plenty of questions for us as well.

Our guests spent their days visiting with each household and learning about our way of living.

Sarah and Jeanne talked a lot about herbs, healing and midwifery. Sarah volunteered to teach midwifery to anyone who wanted to learn, an offer which Olga, Jeanne and Kate enthusiastically accepted. Daniel exhibited a strong affinity for plants and spoke at length with Devon, Gary and Jeanne. Gary took him on short field trips to introduce him to more plants and their useful properties.

Daniel also pointed out some that we didn’t know how to use, so the education was mutual. Barbara frequently gravitated towards Grandpa Joe, plying him for traditional Apache knowledge about living in this area — how to predict the weather, coexist with predators, and how to build a sturdy wickiup, among other things.

In the evenings, our guests sang for us. They knew a lot of different kinds of music, but somehow Frank convinced them to do a long round of Irish ballads one of the nights. Several of us accompanied them by rhythmically pounding on the tables with our hands. Another night they sang folk and country western songs.

The day after that, Hallie came to me surreptitiously. Her face was like a lamp that had been lit from within, shining with pure inspiration.

“Do you have any books on how to make instruments?”

“It seems like I might have seen something like that in the music section.”

“You know, we’ve never really made music here. Noah had played guitar before, and I played the flute, and I’m pretty sure others played other instruments too,” she shook her head in confusion, “I don’t know how we could’ve completely lost that. How could we have gone so long without music?”

I didn’t have an answer to that question, but I could look for books that might help us to bring music back into our lives. And sure enough, I found a couple. One on making guitars and violins, another on making wind instruments. It would be a start. Hallie was a master woodworker. If anyone could bring music to our little hamlet, it was she.

Noah had also returned with our visitors, but to our surprise, not for long. The night before Victorio, Frank and I were to escort them back home, he called for our attention.

“Good evening, everyone,” he said, standing at the head of the table where he had eaten, “I have something to tell you.” Murmurs and furrowed brows traveled through the group. “I have decided to live with the Forest People.”

Astonished sounds emanated from around the tables. Jeanne stared stricken and Hallie looked at her lap.

“I… you know I love you all,” Noah’s voice grew rough, “I know you know I met someone, but that’s not the main reason I’m moving. The main reason I’m leaving is that I see that this community is starting to head in a direction I don’t really believe in. A direction I don’t want to go. I believe in living with less technology, and I know you’re working on developing more.”

Tochuku said quietly, looking at down at the ground, “Fire is technology, my friend. So are bows and arrows.”

“I know that, Tochuku, but the occasional forest fire never caused our entire planet to heat up. We didn’t cause thousands of entire species to go extinct by using bows and arrows.”

“Yes,” nodded Tochuku, “you have a point. So maybe it’s not technology exactly, but what kinds of technology and how we use it.”

Noah continued, with a nod to Tochuku, “Maybe. It’s just that we can’t always calculate the potential effects of our newer technologies. That’s what happened. The smartest people around at the time created petroleum-based vehicles which in the just a few decades directly or indirectly poisoned our air, water and soil, and caused a frenzy of resource extraction of every kind.

Not because the scientists who developed all those new gadgets planned it that way, but because it didn’t even occur to them that would happen, or that it would become a problem big enough to threaten our survivial.”

“Look, it’s not that I don’t understand why you want radios, solar electricity, and stuff made from 3-D printers, it’s just that I believe that our world was on a bad track before the virus, with pollution, climate change, and extinctions which almost included us! And that had everything to do with the technology that required that we mine, log, destroy habitat and the rest.

Thanks to some reading I’ve done,” he looked away from me, as if afraid he’d slip and give away my secret to our guests, “and things that Yazmin has told us, I know that people who live more simply, and don’t try to accumulate a lot stuff, don’t do as much harm the world, to other people, animals, plants, soil, air, water.

Look, I don’t want to argue about all this. It just comes down to the fact that the Forest People live the way I want to live. I promise to come visit. And of course, I want you to keep visiting there.” Noah looked down at the ground, chest heaving as if struggling for breath. “I don’t want to lose you…” his voice cracked, “I just want to live in a way I really believe in.” Pause. “That’s all.”

Noah sat down, staring blindly at the remaining food on his plate.

Silence sat atop the dinner party like an invisible boulder, pressing us into the ground.

Frank turned towards Barbara. “I guess then that this has been approved by the Forest People?”

Barbara stood. “Yes, Juan Carlos brought the idea to our regular meeting, and after much discussion, it was agreed unanimously that Noah would be welcome to live with us.” Looking at Jeanne kindly, she continued, “He’s a good man, and he has skills that would benefit us quite a lot. We don’t want you to feel that we are stealing him from you because I’m sure you value him as well. But we are happy to have him.

I hope that this does not create bad feelings from you towards us. We are glad to have you as our neighbors.” Barbara took her seat.

Grandpa Joe rose, chin up, clearing his throat before addressing Noah, “Each person must live in a way that fits with their deepest beliefs, or those beliefs turn to poison in their soul and in their flesh. Life without integrity will ruin one. I am not happy to see you leave, but I would feel less happy to see you stay, knowing how you feel. That is all.” Joe sat down.

Beto stood next, eyes sparkling with mischief, “So our going to meet the Forest People wasn’t such a bad idea after all, eh?”

“I was wrong before, and I’ll probably be wrong again someday,” Noah said, grin lifting one side of his mouth.

Jeanne stayed seated, but gazed at Noah with red-rimmed eyes. Seeing this, Noah swept from his seat and over to her in one quick motion, wrapping his arms around her. She wept silently into his neck for a few long moments as he rubbed her back and murmured reassurances into her hair. Next, Noah went to Hallie, who stood to hug him long and hard.

One by one, each of us Cave People stood and walked to Noah, forming a line, hugging him. Some stayed silent, and some spoke quietly into his ear. Some shed tears and some stayed dry-eyed, but we all held sorrow in our hearts.

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

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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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