September 13, 2013

13. The Important Guest

The Unfinished Song: Initiate


“Shining Porcelain” by Lisalein


…laughter and cheers from her family. She’d never stopped dancing; they’d stopped cheering. By the time she was five, the same aunties who had praised her grace and dedication complained of her clumsiness and laziness. Little girls should keep the platform white washed, and cover it with fresh reed mats, not dance there.

The members of the clan had seated themselves in a rough rectangle around the edge of the platform, smallest children on laps.
Hands passed back and forth the communal bowls of food. The clay bowls and platters held flat triangular bread, bean mash, goat cheese melted to a gooey sauce and bowls of crushed chili peppers and lemon juice to be added for flavor. Family members used their hands to make pishas by wrapping the beans and cheese in the bread. The warriors sat nearest the door, the maidens nearest the ovens. Great Aunt Sullana and Mama and the other aunts sat against the wall, the matriarchs an isle of dignified manners amidst the chaos. Only matriarchs knew the secret of eating pishas full of melted cheese without getting sticky fingers.
Zavaedi Abiono, the leader of the Tavaedi troop, sat in the place of honor, between the warriors and the aunties. He nodded to Dindi. Her heart drummed faster.
“Why, here’s Lost Swan Clan’s very own lost cygnet!” cried Papa. He was a big, wry man with a spreading belly. Papa and Uncle Lubo led the others in cheers and whistles. Dindi blushed.
“There you are at last, girl,” said Great Aunt Sullana. “Your hair looks as though beavers had abandoned a dam there. Your face is smudged. Did you spend the morning rolling in dust? Never mind, Zavaedi Abiono is doing us the great honor of a visit. Comb your hair and wash your face before you join us. This is a kitchen, not a den of bears.”
Flustered, Dindi took her basket of soap to where deep clay pots had been sunk as a cistern in the earth. This was the darkest corner of the kitchen, smelling of dirt hardened with aurochs dung and the memory of pools in ancient caverns. A single Blue nixie floated on his back in the depths of one of the jugs. He winked up at Dindi. Puddlepaws extended a tiny paw to reach him and almost fell in the water.
She took out a lump of soap, splashed water on her face and rubbed up a quick lather. The soap did not lather well, but rather than struggle with it, she rinsed her face again, dragged her fingers through her wild hair and hurried to the platform where everyone else sat.
She shoved herself between her female cousins, Jensi and Tibi. Dindi peeked curiously at Aunt Sullana, at Zavaedi Abiono, at Mama, at Papa, hoping for a clue to the real reason behind their visitor’s purpose.
They stared back at her in amazement.
“Yes, I can see why you were asking about Dindi,” Papa said to Zavaedi Abiono.



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Tara Maya

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