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Claywoman

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A GHOSTLY TALE…PART V

When he turned away and left, he didn't know where he was going, his mind was confused. It had been months since he could do more then sit outside her door, first the pregnancy and then the birth and bleeding time. Now when he could see her, hold her, and bond with his baby, his dreams were shattered when he saw it. This light-skinned child couldn't be his and she didn't have the look of someone who was going to tell him why, so all he had were his feelings. People turned and looked at him, he forced himself to talk, to tell them of the baby, how fat she was, how sturdy, and how healthy. He forced joy into his voice while all along his heart was breaking deep within his chest. He told everyone he wanted to hunt, to find something special to celebrate the life of his child. But deep within his heart he knew there would be no celebration for his family just unanswered questions.

When he made his rounds pretending everything was fine, he made his way down the ladders and out into the fields. He was going in a random direction, his mind racing as fast as his legs. If those he greeted had thought, they'd have realized for a warrior who was going hunting, he didn't take any bow or arrow to hunt with, how was he going to take down any game? The beating of his feet mirrored the beating of his heart and he ran because to stop he'd have to think and right now he didn't want to think. From the distance his feet raised puffs of dried earth much as the hooves of the animals that roamed the desert in search of water and grass.

The canyon, barren to most, was the home of many differing animals; those that crawled, slithered, and some who went across the earth lightly trying to keep their feet from burning and those crossing the desert in search of greener grasses. Many coming long after the exodus wondered how anyone lived in this dry, barren valley. They didn't see it as it once was, a land caught between the lushness of what was and the turning of the weather to what it is today. Today only a handful of people realize the beauty that is and was in the past. This canyon of purple, tans, burnt orange, and reds in the summer gave way to lush greens, browns, and grays of the rainy season. They don't see this land giving birth every spring; frogs springing up in puddles, aroused from their sleep to burst into the air after hibernation. This is the land where he ran and ran until he couldn't run any longer. He stopped from exhaustion his face dripped with perspiration when he could no longer go forward. He raised his arms to Father Sky and screamed with all the strength he had left; he screamed with a primal scream from the depths of his soul. His screams echoed off the walls of the canyon terrifying all animals within earshot. While those screams still echoed he dropped to his knees and threw up. He gagged and threw up some more. When there was nothing left, he still retched.

His body trembled with his exertions, he was spent, and thus, he laid his body down in the gritty sand and prickly ground cover. He felt nothing. He then rolled over and cried, cried as he'd never done before in his life.

******************************************************************************

In the village the young wife moved her belongings back to the home of her mother, back to the bed of her childhood with her own child. She kept herself busy so she also didn't have to think for she knew if she let herself think she'd realize her life was over. There was no way he'd ever forgive her, how could he, she could never forgive herself! She gathered fresh straw for both herself and her child making ready the bed that would hold them both and supposedly her husband. Her mother was not around during this time she was off helping others in more desperate need. She understood that but she also needed the comfort of her mother, she needed someone she could tell her story. She needed someone to forgive her for she could not do that for herself. She wanted to go back in time to erase that one mistake. Those still well wanted to see the baby so anticipated but didn’t go to the adobe for fear of giving the disease so prevalent to the young child and the mother. The village was dying and the People within did not know how to stop this death. Without women to care for the hides, those living would go cold, without the women to tend the fields of corn, the warriors could not go into the desert to bring back meat, and without women, there were no children to comfort them in their old age and keep the village going. The village was dying and there was nothing anyone could do.

Evening was coming and so was the time for cooking. What women were left gathered together at a communal oven for the baking of the evening bread. During the day most had pots cooking of a soup with small game, venison, roots gathered, and herbs found and washed. All cooked enough for their families and the families of those families without women. It looked normal but if you looked closely, you saw no children playing, the talk was short as if it was too much effort to talk. Everyone looked around just in case they could see the evil that hit their village. All was not normal nor would it ever be again. The young mother quickly made her bread and left soon after. She didn't want to answer questions about the abrupt departure of her husband, she didn't want the others to see her sorrow.

******************************************************************************

After he finished his retching, he laid face down on his bed of dirt and plants and listened to his voice within. He'd lost so much yet the voices told him to listen to his heart, to listen to their voice. This strangely calmed him. He was used to the voices for they often told him where the best hunting was or where he might find shelter when enemies marched his way. He remembered the first time the voices spoke to him on his vision quest. He'd been without food or drink for over a week, his lips and body parched, he heard the voice from deep within telling him to climb the rocks and he'd find water. He heeded that little voice from within and found the cool, refreshing liquid and slowly drank his fill. Then he saw the sign that remained with him for life; an eagle soared overhead and then swooped down to almost touch his up stretched hand. Then the eagle spoke with great words of wisdom.

The eagle told him the old stories, the stories to pass on to his tribe, his People; of how the earth came to be and where it was going. He foretold of many dangers to him and his People and he told of a great sorrow that would touch his life. The eagle also whispered his secret name, the name he'd use when crossing over to his new journey. The eagle also provided him with food for his quest was finally ended. The remembrance of this was what he was remembering now. The wise eagle had foretold his sorrow but also gave him hope for the future. Then the young man drifted into a dreamless sleep, a sleep of forgiving and knowledge that all would be good on the morrow.

While the young man slept, the moon kept him safe throughout the night. The night prowlers roamed but didn't pick up his scent, thus his body was safe from their fangs, and the snakes slithered around him but didn't stop to taste his scent and bite. He was held in safety for his family of both his wife and his daughter, for she was now his daughter forever.

******************************************************************************

The next morning before the sun rose, the young mother took her sleeping child in her arms and carried her down the ladder and walked to the bluff just beyond the stream. The child fussed in her sleep but snuggled in the encircling arms that protected her. Climbing the bluff to the top of the mesa was an effort for her with a child in her arms, but this was done with a purpose and she didn't really feel the exertion. She knew what she must do and she knew it was done for eons by others in her clan. She was going to dedicate her daughter to the sun as it rose, this wasn't a naming; it was giving her daughter to the sun for his protection. She held her daughter in the manner taught to her and her clan for eons past. As the sun rose above the horizon, and in the first rays to touch the hills, she held her child above her as an offering. Singing the prayers four times for the four directions, she turned and sang the song again to appease the Gods. She stretched higher and sang again the four time, and then bent low and placed her sleepy child on the ground and again sang the songs. Thus she dedicated this child to not only the East, South, West, and North, but to the Sun and the Gods below from where her tribe came into this third world.

The sun's rays streaked through the dusky sky as though absorbing each particle as it passed on its way to the rest of the day. Satisfied the Gods accepted her offering, she again picked up the child who was now awake, and carried her down the slippery, crumbling rocky surface. Her feet slipped now and then threatening to send both she and her child downward but she managed to keep her footing. Walking carefully, she managed to carry the child safely while her mind remembered things she wanted to forget…the touch of her husbands' hand, and the look in his eyes as he left. Tears threatened her eyes but she resolved not to shed them. Making her way back to the cliff dwellings, she knew she had to get there before the rest awoke so they would not see her daughter.

Arriving at her home, she laid her again sleeping babe on her bed and glanced over to her mother who was just rousing from her sleep. Her mother moaned softly as if in small pain. The young mother resolved to let her mother sleep while she got the morning meal for them and for others. Her hands did the tasks at hand without conscience, without deliberate thought which freed her mind to remember sweet things now past. She wondered if things would ever be the same for her ever again.

******************************************************************************

He rose from his slumber aching and sore but with a new resolve. This child is not of his seed but his wife was the most precious thing in his life and he still loved her. Their time together was short but he knew he'd never love anyone else as deeply as he loved her, nor would he want anyone as much as he did her. So for the rest of his life he would no longer speak of the child's difference, he would lay claim to her as his own and fight anyone who would say any different. He remembered what he'd told everyone his purpose in leaving was so he set about thinking of how he was going to hunt something special without anything to bring down large game. He was lucky in one respect, he had his knife of obsidian brought to this land by another clan of tribesmen. He'd traded some fine furs for this treasure and it stayed at his side always unless he was sleeping at home. Getting his bearings, he realized he wasn't far from a small canyon where deer and sometimes larger game came to water. Leading into this canyon was a narrow place with supple willows. Clutching his knife by its shaft, he formulated a plan of hunting without his bow and arrows.

He used the supple willow branches and secured his knife on a thicker branch about waist high, pointing the tip of his knife outward as a sharp arrow. He then took that branch in the midst of the tree and pulled it back to where he hid and waited for some walking creature to walk close to the tree. This area was the only watering place for miles so the animals that required water all congregated there at different times to drink their fill. He'd smeared his body with mud to hide his scent and waited patiently. As the sun rose higher and burned brighter, he waited knowing the heat would drive the animals to drink and he hopefully would get his prey.

By what we would later call two o'clock, he heard the sounds of hooves on rocky ground. He crouched down flatter so as not to be seen and waited. The herd of antelope drew closer, soon they were within the bottle-neck canyon and entered by two's and three's, then came the bucks with their racks of antlers. One came to the exact spot he needed and he let go of the branch which projected forward with great force driving the knife into the chest of the big buck. The big male dropped as if shot with a rifle as the knife found his heart and stopped its beating forever. Then the young man came out of his hiding place and walked to the fallen form. He grasped the shaft and pulled out the knife slippery with blood. He raised it to the heavens and then bowed to the fallen animal and gave a prayer thanking him for his sacrifice so his family would have meat. Then he took out some cornmeal from his pouch, he sprinkled the cornmeal on the nose of the antelope to give him food to eat on his journey. Then he picked up the carcass and slung it over his shoulder for his long journey home.

******************************************************************************

Her day's work over, she had time to spend with her daughter in play. How could anyone not love this child, she never cried or fussed and she looked so sweet. The child looking up at her mother smiled with her first smile of recognition. To the young mother it was as if the heaven's opened and the Creator smiled with his blessings. She leaned over this small person and nuzzled her little tummy. This brought a new sound to the home, the sound of a child's laughter. This child so ill conceived was chortling and cooing with the sheer joy of life. The older mother sitting across the room smiled at the scene so remembrance of her own daughter's babyhood. Her own husband was away on a long hunt and hadn't seen his grandchild yet. She was afraid of what his reaction would be once he saw the baby; would he decide disown them or worse yet, throw them out into the desert to die? With that thought, a frown crossed her brow.

Eventually, the night came to an end and they all made ready for sleep. The young mother settled down with her child to again sleep alone. Both curled close to one another and each obtained comfort from the presence of the other. Across the room came the sounds of soft coughing.

The night animals once more roamed the earth while those of the day found refuge where they could. The only sound heard was the soft padding of moccasins tattooing the night as a long warrior ran carrying his heavy load.

Continued in Part VI


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Reviewed by Judith Bailey 6/17/2003
I like the way you've filled in the story.
Reviewed by m j hollingshead 6/16/2003
i like this
Reviewed by Amor Sabor 6/30/2002
On to the next part...the continuity is excellent
Reviewed by Poop Monkey 5/30/2002
There are some great passages in this part, particularly at the beginning. I patiently await part VI.
Reviewed by Nickolaus Pacione 5/29/2002
This is quite good. I
Reviewed by James Samdavid1 4/3/2002
Such a wonderful story. I can't wait until Part VI. Good job. SD1

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