Sung Home: Chapter Fifty Eight. {fiction}


A little later there was a knock on Kate’s front door. It was Frank, letting us know that the men were at the river.

Frank would escort Ching Shih down to where Gary waited and give her away. The rest of us filtered out the door, down the winding pathway to a place where the river curved dramatically enough to form a pool deep enough to swim in. Cottonwoods, leaves now gold and russet, towered along the bank, forming a decorative, protective canopy over the small clearing where we gathered.

Gary stood next to Grandpa Joe, with Victorio, Beto and Patricio lined up beside him, all dressed in dark, clean, pants, dress shirts and suit coats that had miraculously been mined from Grandpa Joe’s and Frank’s closets.

Kate, Hallie and Olga stood on the other side, each clad in a pretty blue dress of some kind. Patricio and Devon carried Ben in a sling they had constructed, and set him in a chair with the rest of us.

With so many of the parents in the wedding party, the rest of us each held the hands of the younger children, Ruby, Obsidian and Uma. The older children, Thomas, Zoe and Walter, elbowed and shushed one another as we all took our places.

Yazmin, who had been smudging everyone with a stick of burning sage as we arrived, began to sing a light, lyrical, enchanting song in a language I had never heard before, Mayan perhaps, since that was her ancestry.

Ching Shih emerged from a stand of ponderosas, taking slow, measured steps, hand tucked inside the crook of Frank’s arm. She looked like a forest goddess out of some mythical past, the cool fall breeze bringing more color to her cheeks than the rouge had. Gary’s face was transfixed as he watched her, his eyes shining with new moisture.

Frank solemnly left Ching Shih next to Gary, joining the audience and taking Jeanne’s hand.

Joe’s voice intoned while Yazmin continued her song quietly in the background.

“Friends, family… we’re all really family now, aren’t we? We are gathered here today to celebrate the joining of Ching Shih Li, and Gary Thompson as husband and wife. They have come together under the most unlikely of circumstances, brought together by a fate that none could have guessed. From across the world Ching Shih came and she became one of us, here, Cave People, in the forest and on the banks of a river called Gila.

Many have been born, married and died in this place. We are as much a part of this place as the jays and piñons, the trout and the rabbits. All our relations, the winged, the four-legged, the serpents and the two-legged, as well as the plant nations, water nation and the mineral nations, witness this joining.”

“Ching Shih and Gary, do you agree to care for one another, to treat each other with kindness and respect, for the rest of your lives? Do you promise to be truthful with one another and to consider each other’s well-being when taking action, big or small?” asked Joe.

Gary and Ching Shih both said Yes simultaneously.

“Gary, do you take Ching Shih, to be your blessed, wedded wife, from this day forward?”

“I do,” said Gary, his voice shaking.

“Ching Shih, do you take Gary, to be your blessed, wedded husband, from this day forward?”

“I do,” said Ching Shih with a wet sniff.

Joe’s eyes lit up mischievously, “Well then, how about a nice big kiss to seal the deal?”

We all laughed as Gary engulfed Ching Shih in his arms and the new spouses kissed for a long time before coming up for air. Ching Shih was laughing and crying at the same time. Gary’s face was red as a beet with happiness, unable to take his eyes from his wife’s face. We all lined up to hug them both, then made our way to Jeanne and Frank’s place for the celebratory meal.

We had a sumptuous fall feast of baked quail and finely sliced grilled elk, roasted fall vegetables tossed in a raspberry vinaigrette sprinkled with toasted pinon nuts. Fresh sliced apples drizzled with a dressing of honey and sweet herbs. Flatbread made from mesquite and sacaton flours topped with Kate’s finest goat cheese.

Jeanne had used some of the precious sugar and wheat flour we had stored to create a three-tiered cake that looked like it had come out of a bride’s magazine from before, with white frosting covered with pink buttercream roses and the last of the fall blooms from the south-facing slopes.

I looked around the room at the people gathered. We had people here from various parts of the world and all over our country. We had old people, small children, artists, scientists, and people with countless practical skills and abilities. We were very lucky to have each other.

A week later, a blizzard came that continued off and on for three days, reminding me of the big snowstorm that kicked off the winter last year as I huddled in my little shed trying to stay warm and hoping I wouldn’t starve before spring.

I told Victorio and Joe about my true friend Burl the burro over dinner, the winds howling outside while we sat snug in our warm nest, bellies full. I still felt guilty that I couldn’t save him.

Victorio gently took my hands in his as Joe nodded, “It’s the worst pain ever, not to be able to save someone you love from harm.”

A year earlier, I couldn’t have imagined I would be where I was now, and with whom. I had the community I had dreamed of on my long journey here, and much more. I had friends and family. We didn’t have to worry about starving or freezing, and winter and isolation would protect us from any Slavers who remained.

Most of us slept more once winter settled in, going to bed earlier and waking up later, a semi-hibernation. I relished going to sleep each night with Victorio’s arms around me, and waking up with my head on his shoulder, as if we became one being while we slumbered, returning to our independent state only during daylight.

Everyone had stocked up on a whole winter’s worth of books so that I wouldn’t have to make trips to the library until the spring, and of course everyone traded books as well, interest piqued by the descriptions of other readers.

Gary continued teaching the older children, but just a couple of hours a day, at Olga and Patricio’s, who devoted themselves to their artwork now that the demands of food production had slackened.

Olga delved into a vivid imaginative series depicting the various communities we had visited that summer — the Forest People, Monks, Makers, Uvies, and a particularly grim one of the Slaver compound. Since she had not traveled to these places herself, her imagery was based on the accounts of those of us who had visited these places.

Patricio had collected clay from the river using the directions my Forest People clay instructor Claude had given me.

Thrilled to have clay to work for the first time since before, he devoted himself to his pottery, alternating between throwing utilitarian pots of various sorts — mugs, bowls, plates and other dishes — and rolling long slabs of clay, cutting them into squares and rectangles, carving their faces with vivid relief images of flowers, trees and local animals, and experimenting with colored slips, and other mixtures for glazes.

When it wasn’t snowing, we also spent time outside, sledding down the hillsides and throwing snowballs at each other, secure in the knowledge that we had warm homes with hot baths into which we could retreat once we had become too cold or tired. I wondered how the Forest People were faring in their tipis and yurts. Firewood had already been stacked high throughout the camp when we had left them.

I read and wrote a lot, filling in my notes from the summer’s adventures. I knew what my purpose was, my job. I needed to record as much as possible about the virus, what happened immediately after it had scoured our land of loved ones, enemies and civilization as it had grown over thousands of years.

Now that we knew that there were far fewer people in the world than we previously assumed, it seemed even more important to document our history as well as possible for future generations.

Since Ching Shih was now living with Gary at the cave he had shared with Tochuku, we all took turns helping Kate with Benjamin. One evening I was helping Kate put him to bed when he made a surprising announcement.

Lying on his back as usual, as we tucked the covers in around him, he stared up at the ceiling as if watching a movie and said, “They’re looking for us.”

“Who is?” asked Kate.

“Those people. In the mountain. They want to know where we are. But they can’t find us. Not here. Not for a long time.” Then he closed his eyes to sleep.

This is the final installment in a series from a fiction novel by Laura Ramnarace. Check out all chapters 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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