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A Series Of White Lies

A Series Of White Lies

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A Series Of White Lies

Länge:
518 Seiten
7 Stunden
Freigegeben:
Nov 1, 2015
ISBN:
9781310074967
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Loosely woven in and around First Peoples’ traditions and lifeviews, the four novellas in A Series of White Lies follow successive generations of an odd patchwork quilt of a family.

Elders, Children, Flying Saucers and fences: In 1492 Christopher Columbus rode the wind. Unwittingly, he set in motion the smearing of European domination onto the Americas. Now, more than 500 years on, an ironic reversal of fortune is taking root. And, slowly, surely for our modern western civilization ... everything is changing.
In a sleepy little prairie town the stilling of the ever-present wind is the first silent signaling.
A quietly defiant boy, Clify, from a privileged family; a whimsical young girl, Windy, from the poor side of town ... the story follows their passages through childhood into adolescence, adulthood and finally into their elder years, in a world spun upside-down.
The story alludes to the ongoing challenges facing many of today’s first peoples. Alas, it comes up flat broke where answers are concerned. Instead, it aims to steer us toward what matters more ...

A Day in the Life: A Day in the Life is the sparse tale of one single day in the life of an old man. For ancient Clify and his granddaughter there’s nothing out of the ordinary today, excepting perhaps that stranger who has shown up in town. Will this be just another everyday or will it turn out to be one like no other?

Circles: It’s no surprise to her. Not the first one anyway. But then another? And fresh on the heels of those two, yet one more? Initially for Rory it’s overwhelming. But quickly he is won over to thrive in the chaos and calamity the three youngsters bring to the once tranquil little blue house. Then one day, almost without warning, two of them are gone.

Expecting To Fly: “Just people.” Her simple words diffuse the escalating tension in a racially charged encounter. And with that, two naïve teenagers, Brigit and her brother, along with an irrelevant old street bum fuse into a formidable force. The three find themselves flying inescapably into a crazy-minded mission to help a broken city mend its ways.

Freigegeben:
Nov 1, 2015
ISBN:
9781310074967
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor


Buchvorschau

A Series Of White Lies - Afri'na Annie Coffman

https://wolfaction.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/wisdom-to-live-by-from-chief-luther-standing-bear-1868-1939%E2%80%93-oglala-sioux

Prologue

God was telling the assemblage how he had piled his stones. He built a wide base and then gradually tapered it inward and ever upward. Higher and higher it pierced his new sky. As it reached a pinnacle God hurried to complete the task as it was now late in Day Six and his sun’s rays were beginning to dip below the horizon. He was especially tired, he told them, from the work on Day Four. That was when he had created Time. And Day Five had dealt with the End of Time and all that would go with the separation of light from dark, right from wrong, good from evil when that event unfolded.

He told how he placed the last stone, wiped his furrowed brow and stood back to admire his glorious edifice.

Definitely deserving of adulation he told them. My flock will surely be impressed. As I have given them dominion over all here they will do my bidding. And this magnificent House will be where they will furnish me with their reports.

Allah had already informed them of how he smoothed the sand mostly into low hillocks. He had few stones to work with …

Creator arranged her stones in a circle. Not perfectly round; nor perfectly smooth; but a fine circle nonetheless. And when she was finished you couldn’t tell where the circle started, nor where the circle ended. There was no one single stone (or gap between stones) to signify an entry point, nor was there one to be an indication of an exit.

Creator smiled then turned and busied herself with a new task. She was making a magpie. It was black and white. Not purely black, nor purely white, but a fine magpie nonetheless.

~

They were all gathered and seated on the bus. There were even delegates (in the back rows of course) from some of the lesser regions, from The Dark Continent and The Orient, and such. All were ready to begin the tour, except for one.

She’s always late.

No sense of time.

And she laughs a lot.

Even laughs at herself when she makes a mistake.

Good thing we assigned her that Empty Land across the sea.

~~~

water

They found her on a bluff above the river, near a lofty rock formation known to the locals as tall bear. The man was the first to spot her. His sharp eyes picked up on the erratic movement of tiny fingers and a flash of yellow …

Wait!

Wait!

Wait!

That isn’t how it all began.

Not really.

It didn’t exactly start when they found her.

Not even when she first showed up.

Her story actually began before she arrived …

Hers is just a little everyday story, not so different from anyone else’s. Not really. Hers is not a big story. We all know those big stories, the ones we are taught. The ones we are trained to hold up high and proud, Our Truth. Those big stories, they are the ones that pervade our consciousness, the ones that shape us, the ones infused into us, stamped onto us, the ones that stifle thought, fables for the herd, groupthink, myths for the masses. Those are boring stories really … grand and sweeping and majestic and essential and patriotic and, well … boring. Really, they are. Her story is little and everyday, more interesting, more intimate, more fun. Really, it is.

Her story began with the ones who found her, and loved her …

There’s no doubt, a rock solid case could be made that her story began even before that. That it began much before that. That it began way back in the long, long ago. Way back, when water was all there was, back when all there was, was water. But doing that, tracing her beginnings all that long way back, back to those early days of only water, water, a few water creatures and some curious, clumsy woman plummeting down through the sky, well, that undertaking while perhaps historically accurate would only serve to throw water on her story – so to speak. Yes indeed, all that biology and DNA, anthropology and archaeology, ethnography and ethnology, and all the whatever other analyses and investigations would accomplish little more than to turn her story into yet another big and boring story. And in such a story she could easily slip away unnoticed, absorbed into a madding crowd, forgotten and nameless, the sweetness in her everyday story squandered.

So?

So, all of this would be pointless really. Oh yes, it might afford the opportunity for many, many words to be spewed out onto many, many pages. But so what? It would almost certainly turn out to be just one more supplementary chapter for History … all lifeless and dreary. And who needs that?

So?

So, it’s settled then.

It’s agreed.

Her story began with the ones who found her, and loved her.

It really did.

The story of the beautiful one began like this…

Coming Back to Life

As he drove, with the radio playing low Lonesome was remembering how much he loved this prairie sky. It was usually at its best in the foothills, in the spring – by day clear and blue, by night ebony black and dripping with stars. He felt again how the sky was high and wide, never-ending, forever. And yet it was so close, enveloping, comforting.

It was home.

Happy to be home was he? Indeed, yes, without a doubt he was glad to be home. It all looked the same. Not a thing had changed. It was, just as it had been way back when, such a comfortable place. It’s true that there was a bigness about the place. Everything was expansive and panoramically grand. At the same time everything was straightforward, uncomplicated. Lonesome felt small under the dome of sky, the unceasing pressure of the wind, the long roll of the hills and the abruptness of the wall of mountains. The place engulfed him in its humbling way. Contentment, comfort, coziness, these were the feelings washing over him now after so many years wasted, off in other worlds. Even the song on the radio was familiar. It was something about someone who had left another someone behind some time ago, some long time ago, some too long a time ago. It was about how, back then, the starlight used to glow in her eyes. It was about how her hair used to hang down so straight and long. It was about a face, that unforgettable face, the one implanted firmly in his noggin. It was about a face that had never strayed far from the surface of his memory, for all that time.

Snap out of it! Pull yourself together he told himself …

He had succeeded in persuading the editor. He would be the magazine’s photographer on the PM’s visit to the quiet region ‘where mountains meet the prairies’.

Once he had secured the gig, he quickly made all the necessary arrangements, unknown to anyone, even to the remnants of his nuclear family. After developing the photos he would mail them in … along with his resignation.

Lonesome was mailing it all in. He would not be returning east …

He pulled to a stop in the rustic little tourist town. The wind whipped up whitecaps on the lake. A doe and her two fawns lay on a lawn, casually staring at him.

He turned off the radio. But that same song played on in his crazy head. Who knows if she’s even still here? She could be riding the moon now for all you know. Think about something else, something else you silly dreamer.

So he tried. Lonesome tried to think of something else. He tried.

The wind blew. And blew. It wasn’t gusty. Or howling. It blew steady. And strong.

Lonesome loved the wind.

The Last Time I Saw Her

"… We didn’t forget them, not really! continued the PM. Look, we’ve engaged in meaningful dialogue; and re-opened treaties to unselfishly offer them a better deal." He paused and peered out over his glasses.

Gracie laughed. And laughed.

Lonesome knew that laugh immediately, even though the short rotund woman was not visible to him in the polite gathering. How often had he imagined hearing that laugh through all these long years?

Well uh look, we had The Apology. And now we’re giving them – money the PM droned on. So that in and of itself is clear evidence that we are inclusive and, you know, willing to help them to become better, to move beyond the past and the outdated old ways insisted the PM. Look uh, our country has opened up to invite them in as full partners in our glowing future.

Lonesome and the stranger standing beside him grinned at each other. Was this guy at the microphone for real or what? Lonesome tried to think of something else. Listen to that robotic, machinelike, insincere, listless and thoroughly weary monotone … b-o-r-i-n-g. Lonesome tried hard. Convince me brother! Lay it all out for us Coyote Man! Beguile us in your spell! People glanced at him when Lonesome snickered out loud. Some smiled, some snickered as well, some looked confused; but the majority of those around him glared reproachfully. Then the speaker’s words slurred into a string of wah-wah-wah-wah-wahs. Lonesome tried hard to think of something, anything, else, anything, else, anything.

The wind blew. Strong and steady.

… The PM summed up. They have no reason left to complain. Look, everything is in front of them now.

The PM flashed his well-practiced look of sincerity and reassurance. At that precise moment a pair of raggedy old magpies flapped awkwardly up onto a nearby tree branch. Once settled, the cranky old birds proceeded to scold the PM in an irritating barrage of noisy staccato squawks.

Gracie stepped out of the crowd and fixed her eyes on Lonesome for the first time in three decades.

They both laughed. And laughed.

Windy

Winona Dylan Yellow Bear was an exceptionally curious child.

Do the trees moving make the wind blow?

Why is the white God always so angry Grandmother?

Grandmother adored the endless questioning. After all, her role as an elder was to instill curiosity and to patiently nourish new young minds with the accumulated knowledge of the elders and ancestors.

Maybe they do Windy! We are always taught that it’s the wind moves the trees. But, hmmm, it’s a good question you ask. I need to think about this some more.

Grandmother continued. Looks to me like The God might be angry because he made some mistakes when he created the white people.

To which the girl further puzzled. And now maybe he’s fusterated because he doesn’t know how to fix them?

Grandmother chuckled.

Windy loved Grandmother’s chuckle. But even more she loved it when Grandmother really laughed. Because it came from way way deep down (in her ‘humerus’ Grandfather had claimed) and was round and whole and real and fun and made her shake all over. And the very best laughs made her clear dark eyes sparkle and the tears stream down her cheeks.

Is it really true that the river speaks to our people?

Who told you? Said Grandmother

Grandfather.

Then it must be so!

He said you have to be very still and calm. He said the ancestors can teach us to be in harmony with the waters, and land, and sky, and animals. He said many of our people have lost the way. He said they are too busy or too upset and can no longer hear the river.

Have you heard it yourself, my little pelican?

Yes, I think so. Said the girl. But does it speak to others too?

I know of only one.

~

"Why did Grandfather go away?"

Grandfather decided it was time for him to return to the land.

Will he come back?

No Windy, he hasn’t gone very far, so he doesn’t need to come back.

So, if I look real hard … at the land, I could see him?

Yes my darling.

So, he will always be with me. Am I right?

Yes my playful otter. Grandfather will always be nearby for his sweet girl.

~

"And in the story, why do they feed magpies?"

Wellll, the story isn’t quite right.

Is that because it was written by a white guy?

Grandmother laughed. And laughed. And shook a little.

Yes my duck. The writer changed one word.

Only one?

Yes.

Why?

Well, to ‘engineer’ the story, to make it more ‘believable’ I suppose.

Not to challenge the magingnation too much, eh? said Windy, nodding very assuredly.

Grandmother laughed.

Yes, I suppose.

I bet you’re thinking I will now ask which word was changed, huh?

Uh huh.

OK, tell me please!!!

feeding.

feeding?

Yes.

feeding magpies?

Yes.

I know! I know! It’s because the correct word would raise too many questions about who they were. exclaimed Windy. Am I right?

Yes, I suppose.

And I bet you’re thinking I will now ask what the correct word is. Am I right?

Grandmother loved Winona Dylan Yellow Bear’s straight black hair; and her soft, smooth skin; and her easy, friendly smile. And her skinny legs. But most of all she cherished the clear sparkling eyes; those inquisitive bottomless dark pools of wonder.

The correct word, my little crow, is making. A tiny grin crossed her lips as she waited for the child’s response.

"And how do you know that they were actually making magpies?" Windy quizzed after a long thoughtful pause.

With that Grandmother smiled broadly.

Because we were there, Said Gracie me and your grandfather.

~

The girl looked perplexed for a time. For a long time. Gracie sometimes felt Windy looking hard at her… pondering, mystified. But she never did actually ask about it again.

Grandmother waited.

Patiently.

Really patiently.

Almost five years.

~

At long last the day came when astonishment ignited the girl’s beautiful dark eyes, now sixteen years old. I think I understand now Grandmother. She looked deeply into Gracie’s eyes, almost as if for the first time. I understand the story of the magpies.

Only then did the woman resume the tale left dangling years earlier. And now my girl it is time for you to hear another story. She hesitated, a few moments, deliberately playing back the memories in her head, making sure she had it straight in her own mind before she continued.

This is the story you have been asking about since you were tiny, the story of where you came from…

Elders, Children, Flying Saucers & Fences

Maka o’wañcha’ya uki’ye.

Pte kiñ ukiye, pte kiñ ukiye,

Translation:

Over the whole earth they are coming.

The buffalo are coming, the buffalo are coming,

a brief selection of lyrics from the Sioux Ghost Dance Song (lyrics originally documented and translated by James Mooney in 1894).

Retrieved from http://www.ghostdance.com/songs/songs-yricssioux.html

They found her on a bluff above the river, near a lofty rock formation known to the locals as tall bear.

The man was the first to spot her. His sharp eyes picked up on the erratic movement of tiny fingers and a flash of yellow as the wind alternately fashioned and concealed an opening in the swaying long grass.

But even before that the woman had told him she sensed a presence …

They approached slowly and carefully.

She was laying on her back crying, but not in fear or discomfort. Instead, it was more a sporadic, restless, fitful cry. It was somewhat low and melancholy, as if she were lonely.

When she first saw their anxious faces hovering above her the little hands began to wave excitedly and the dark eyes lit up and sparkled. Relieved, the man declared that it was as if she recognized them.

The woman smiled.

The only injuries they could find were scratches and scrapes on the top of one foot and a deep, angry bruise on one shoulder.

The woman brushed off the little frilly yellow dress while the baby girl spent her first few comforting moments (the first of many, many to come) up in the tender protection of the man’s arms …

The battered pick-up pitched and tossed and slithered around on the muddy dirt track. The stones in the box rattled and thumped and banged noisily on the biggest bumps.

The wind blew, strong and steady.

Bob Dylan was on the radio. The man sang along … one of his favourite tunes.

The woman and the little one were thoroughly engaged, staring and smiling and gooing and cooing and blinking at each other …

The craft’s nose dipped lazily then abruptly rose up as it spun toward the mountain, waggled, seemingly hitched a ride on a ray of sunlight and vanished out into the blue, up through a crack in the high and billowing snow-white clouds.

Unnoticed by anyone, a boy watched, intrigued …

The old truck dove down through the break in the fence then suddenly bucked up and fishtailed out onto the dry gravel road. As the man accelerated, gooey clumps of slimy brown mud thunked noisily onto the truck’s underside; smaller firmer chunks were jettisoned out behind in twin plumes.

As they reached speed, a cloud of dust began chasing after them. The man had a wide smile as he glanced over at his preoccupied companions.

Viewed from a distance, across the boundless expanse of rolling green prairie and towering blue sky, they were indistinguishable as individuals. The vehicle and its occupants were no more than a long ribbon of dust blowing in the wind …

As they drove through town they occasionally waved to people they knew. But on this day they didn’t stop to chew the fat. Seven year old Clifton Coffman was the only one who was aware that there were not two, but three of them.

~

Bloom was near perfectly circular in shape, nestled into a sweeping round bend in the river to the south and hemmed in by an arc of low steep hills on its north, east and western peripheries. An arrow-straight rail line, shortcutting the big bend, split the town leaving residents of the smaller southern portion temporarily pinned between itself and the river on the increasingly rare occasions when a freight train trundled through or pulled onto the siding to let another train pass.

South Bloom was the location of the original settlement once known as Big Bend Station. The town had grown in the low lands between the railway station and the river. In more recent times Bloom had undergone a short period of prosperity and developed to the north of the tracks. But with the closure and demolition of the old railway station South Bloom had stagnated, its gravel streets and tiny houses slowly slipping into a rather forlorn and neglected state. Indeed, although officially known as Bloom Hills and South Bloom, the locals laughingly referred to the two neighbourhoods as Bloom and Blust.

Contrary to the official town archives which chronicled the original settlement of Big Bend Station in the 1800s, there were some who quietly passed down another story. This narrative (oral and unwritten, therefore ‘unofficial’) told of a time when the land now known as South Bloom was repeatedly occupied by a nomadic people who co-existed with the once mighty bison herds. South Bloom was an incredibly flat piece of ground with a gentle slope down to the river. On the opposite shore the riverbank rose sharply to the rolling prairie above. It was said that the little valley had provided the people with a gathering place, a nearby buffalo jump, access to water and shelter from bitter winter winds.

There was nothing at all notable about Bloom. In particular the Bloom Hills section was typical of small prairie towns. The downtown, if you could call it that, consisted of a pharmacy, post office, grocery store, gas station, barber shop, beauty salon, hardware/clothing/general store, hotel and bar, insurance agency, town office, lawyer and doctor’s office and the obligatory Chinese café. The residential area was made up of seven numbered streets running north-south and separated into east and west by Central Grand Boulevard, along with seven east-west numbered avenues spreading north from the main drag, which ran alongside the railway tracks and was the only route in and out of town. Ingeniously, this road was named Main Street.

Many of South Bloom’s residents snickered at the pretentiousness of Bloom Hills in thinking that it necessitated being divided into east and west districts. And to be divided by a ‘Grand Boulevard‘ no less! And why was Main Street a ‘Street‘? Didn’t it parallel the avenues? And why even was ‘Hills’ part of the neighbourhood’s name when it was built almost entirely in the valley bottom below the hills?

South Bloom at least had streets with proper names … Crow, Fox, Buffalo, River, Rabbit, Hawk, and Antelope. Unlike the precise Bloom Hills layout with its straight paved and curbed streets, sidewalks, storm sewers and ample streetlamps, South Bloom’s narrow raggedy roads alternated between dry and dusty and wet and muddy. River Road was a semicircle that started at the railway tracks and followed the curve of the river around to the tracks again. The other roads, all but one of the six, began at the tracks, or more accurately, connected to an unnamed rough trail which paralleled the tracks. From there they meandered southward at odd angles ending at River Road.

Buffalo Road (or Grand Buffalo Boulevard as some South Bloomers now liked to call it with a grin) provided the only crossing of the railway tracks, connecting to 1st Street East in Bloom Hills. It terminated at a small open area which backed onto River Road, the river itself just steps beyond. This space contained several large majestic trees, a number of stone shapes laid out in imperfect circular patterns, and the only topographical relief feature in the flatness of South Bloom. The grassy knoll rose perhaps four feet above the smooth tabletop that it rested on. To South Bloom’s residents, most of them descendants of the aforementioned first peoples, this spot was known informally as Burial Mound Park.

Bloom Hills housed three churches, a community hall, outdoor skating rink and the school grounds which itself contained the elementary school, small high school, playground, baseball diamond and another skating rink – this one perpetually commandeered by young hockey stars in the evening and on weekends.

The old Catholic church and one room schoolhouse in South Bloom had been abandoned for years. The dilapidated buildings stood on Antelope Street peeling and rotting and sagging. Thistles, caragana and lilac bushes grew gangly and untamed up around the crumbling buildings. They wove themselves in and around the decaying jumble of a wooden picket fence. Thick quack grass and long stemmed dandelions stood tall, as if proudly proclaiming their domination over the once manicured lawn. Rough stone circles dotted the churchyard. A washed out ‘No Trespassing’ sign leaned to one side, itself on the verge of collapse. It punctuated the scene that seemed to serve as a reminder that South Bloom’s glory days were now well into the long ago.

There had been much discussion over the years of increasing the tourism appeal of the town. Although the nearby mountain region was swiftly becoming a well-known tourist destination, not many of those tourists (and their dollars) found a reason to stop in Bloom. From time to time, prominent citizens of Bloom Hills advanced ‘new and innovative’ proposals to take advantage of the river setting and re-develop the little park, perhaps even all of South Bloom. Visions of busy waterslides, go-cart tracks, mini golf, a beach, fast food outlets, picnic grounds and campgrounds danced in their heads. As part of the plan, they promised, South Bloomers could be ‘resettled’ to ‘a community housing complex’ up on the north hills where they would enjoy an ‘improved quality of life’. Alternately, South Bloomers were of course welcome to use the proceeds from the sale of their property to move on to another town.

But of course none of this ever came about in the drowsy out of the way little settlement. Higher levels of government, whenever approached for approval and funding dipped and dived and ducked and dodged and danced and deferred in the most skilful of ways.

And so the days and weeks and seasons and decades passed with the frustrated residents of Bloom Hills wanting more for themselves while the ‘poor souls’ of South Bloom had to quietly make do with what they had … a clear flowing river, sunny prairie skies, a sweet little shady park, a collection of old stories and each other.

~

NO!

She whirled to face him and stomped her foot in absolute defiance. Never before and never since had he seen fear in her eyes. Never again did he suggest that they ought to ‘contact the authorities’.

Lonesome very much shared Gracie’s mistrust of governments, bureaucracy and ‘helping organizations’; but this situation, well, it teetered on the absolute edge of comprehension. What on earth do you do when you find an infant? How could she not be missed by anyone, anywhere? Where had she come from? When had she shown up there? Who would have left her in such an isolated place? Why did she seem to be so at ease in their care so quickly? Why did Gracie appear so unsurprised about the sudden arrival of the child?

They had searched newspapers, scoured the internet and listened to radio and television broadcasts, all to no avail. They could find no fitting amber alerts anywhere in the vicinity, indeed on the entire continent. Lonesome had hung around town and heard no hint that anyone local had a missing child.

Gracie did not waver. Not one bit. Not for one instant. Never.

Besides, to his great surprise, he already loved the wee girl.

And so, they constructed a story …

It was a fact that Lonesome had a grown daughter back east where he had lived as a younger man. No one in these parts had ever met her. And so, Lonesome relayed that his daughter was dealing with some ‘intensely personal issues’, a phrase deliberately selected to stifle peoples’ penchant to press for more and more information. Abandoned by her mother and by the father of her baby, she had no choice but to send the one year old child to its grandfather to be looked after while she was ‘away’.

As the years went by, Lonesome had only to indicate that his daughter continued to languish. And in time the whispers and raised eyebrows amongst even the very busiest of town busybodies diminished and faded away. With that the youngster took an everyday place in Bloom’s story as the ravenous small town rumour mill sputtered and stalled, forced to turn elsewhere for sustenance.

And so there they were: two elders, a kid and an old skinny black dog named Whitey, all snug as bugs in a tiny blue house on the wrong side of the tracks in a non-descript western town smack dab in the precise epicenter of nowhere.

The small girl with dancing eyes and a boundless curiosity flourished in the warmth and love of two crazy old people in the cozy home on Fox Street.

And she eagerly asked question after question after question.

And through all the passing seasons Grandmother and Grandfather patiently spoke truth to each and every question … save for one.

Why is the sky blue?Is the grass green when it’s under the snow?Do butterflies have feelings?Why is Whitey licking himself – there?Who baked the blackbirds in the pie?

… Where did I come from?

You fell from the sky.

I Diiid?

You were too curious.

Reeally?

And you went too close to the edge.

Is this one of your ‘stories’ Grandfather?

I will call you Charm.

NO, I don’t like that name.

Yes Charm.

I won’t talk to you anymore if you call me that.

As much as she could she stomped her foot, turned and left the room. Looking up from her book Gracie caught Lonesome’s eye. They both laughed and laughed.

The next morning Grandfather greeted her with Good morning Windy, how is my little badger today?

Not Charm? (with a pout)

No more Charm.

She grinned and promptly launched herself onto his comfy lap for their customary morning snuggle. The three of them laughed and laughed.

~

"Oh that’s easy. The very best day of my life was the day you came to us."

Why?

Because, then I had two beautiful girls to torment. And I wasn’t lonesome anymore.

~

After only her first few weeks in school Windy’s teacher telephoned to speak with Grandmother. She relayed that the girl’s rampant inquisitiveness was disrupting the class. It seemed that the teacher’s lesson plans were being thrown off by the prolonged and animated side discussions the children were engaging in as a result of Windy’s frequent uninvited inquiries. This was occurring much too repeatedly in history and religion classes in particular. Grandmother concluded the conversation by first, promising to ask the child to be quieter and, secondly, remarking that she was baffled to hear that a teacher thought there was such a thing as ‘too many questions’.

~

Whitey lay with his head in Grandmother’s lap when the life left his eyes.

Is he dead now? Her eyes were open wide and filled with tears.

Yes, my little puppy.

Did it hurt him when he died?

Maybe for a minute, but now he no longer needs that bent and busted old body.

He must be afraid.

No, Whitey is safe with the ancestors now.

But, didn’t he go to heaven?

Our people believe that dying is just another part of life and those who die do not go away but stay close by to watch over and guide us.

Then why won’t we be able to see Whitey anymore?

Well there may be times that you will see him, if he wants you to, and if you look very carefully.

~

"Why do you go to the city Grandfather?"

Well my little lady bug, I have to go to a clinic.

What’s that?

It’s a place you go to get things fixed – in your body.

Oh. Grandmother says you like the city. Is that right?

Well, most cities I don’t like very well. But this one is special.

Why?

Well, mostly it’s about the river that runs through the city. It has … a long memory.

Oh! I know what that is! It’s like, umm, the ancestors and the old stories like to hang out there! Am I right?

And just how do you know that my chickadee?

Cause I heard you telling Clify all about it one day!

~

When she entered the kitchen she saw that Grandmother had set just two places for breakfast.

Usually Grandmother’s movements were relaxed and fluid; but on this morning she appeared rigid and mechanical.

Later Grandmother would comment to friends that despite being scarcely eight years old, the youngster had the sensitivity to phrase her questions as statements. This allowed Grandmother to do no more than provide a brief confirmation of what she needed to hear, even though the little girl knew already what this day had brought them.

Grandfather is gone.

Yes.

To the city again.

Yes.

He won’t be back this time.

Silence … it spoke so loudly.

~

The girl and boy stopped on the bluff and gazed westward across the ranchlands at the stunning wall of white tipped mountains. She was eight years old, a beautiful little creature with long black hair blowing wildly in the relentless wind. He was a gangly early teen with curly light brown hair and a raging display of acne.

The boy walked up and pulled the wire off the top of the post. He then lifted the post out of the bottom loop and muscled it to one side, being careful not to be snagged by the barbed wire. Next he walked around behind the girl, guided her through the opened gate and stopped. Look carefully he shouted above the hum of the wind.

On both sides of the gate the wooden posts leaned and gently settled to the ground, taking the wire fences with them. This continued around the corners and off toward the mountains. Gradually all of the barriers as far as they could see, all the way to the green mountains leaned and vanished into the swaying grass.

The sound of the wind changed. There was no more whistle or howl to it. It became constant and even. Do you see? he asked.

It’s beautiful. she exclaimed Just like Grandfather said it once was.

In the distance near the base of a mountain a cloud of dust rose up and grew ever larger. There was a far off rumble of hooves on the open plain.

About half way to the dust cloud there was a man on a small hilltop. He sat very still and calm facing south-west toward the river.

He slowly turned his head in their direction until he was looking squarely at them. He smiled and gave a small nod.

Windy’s eyes shone as she smiled back and waved eagerly to him.

A single tear ran down Clify’s left cheek and was whipped away by the wind.

Of course later that day Windy discussed what had happened with her Grandmother. She would always listen interestedly. And never did she trivialize or doubt what the girl said or asked about.

For Clify, well, he knew better. He knew which fences could and could not be taken down. He would have been told it was another of his pranks, his tall tales; another product of his uncontrolled overactive imagination. He ate his dinner and went up to his room right away.

Windy missed her grandfather. And yet, she was content, at peace with him being gone. For she knew she would always carry him with her.

For Clify, well, he desperately longed for the old man. Clify still needed the man who had befriended the lonely inquisitive boy; and allowed him to trust.

~

Neither of them returned to that place until many, many years later.

IN THE NEWS:

It was gone. Chaos and bewilderment ruled the morning. Where it had stood yesterday was now mature dry brown grass and a thicket of small trees. Traffic was at a complete standstill in the immediate downtown vicinity as people simply abandoned their vehicles to walk up and have a look, mouths gaping open in disbelief. It had been a showcase building. Up until the day before it had been the exclamation point in the city’s shining skyline. Inside the square once defined by glass and steel and concrete seven of Them were tending a small garden plot.

Pushing onlookers aside, a man surged through the crowd waving a fist in the air and shouting angrily at Them. They looked up impassively for a brief moment then returned to their work. Unexpectedly the charging man deflected off the rump of a large animal and sprawled wide-eyed back out onto the street.

On the perimeter two more of Them were putting up signs directing employees to the new work location, a warehouse in the northeast quadrant of the large city.

Clify didn’t perform well in school. Teachers’ reports typically branded him as disruptive and disinterested. He was said to lack focus; time and again teacher comments included words and phrases such as ‘lethargic’, ‘unengaged’, ‘daydreaming’ and ‘off in his own world’. His poor showing in maths and sciences was of particular concern.

Clify did show some spark of interest in history and geography but unfortunately he frequently displayed an unhealthy disrespect for anthems and politicians. He persistently challenged the religious tenets being taught. It became routine that after every report card his parents would call him into the formality of the living room to chide his sour attitude. Especially troublesome, they emphasized, was when he annoyed the teacher by asking too many questions.

Clify was the eldest of three children. The Coffmans were a well-respected family, church people who enjoyed a high profile in the community. They lived in one of Bloom’s finest homes in the upscale neighbourhood at the end of 3rd Street East backing onto the hillside. His sister and brother consistently attained honour standing in school and achieved notoriety in several sports, dance, junior volunteering programs, church choir, Girl Guides and Cubs.

Clify on the other hand was ‘a bit of a handful’. Instead of engaging in productive activities he preferred to waste time wandering the hills above town. Over time he dropped out of pretty much everything, including, much to his mother’s dismay, Sunday School. He was upsetting the family dinner hour with his outrageous ramblings and rants. Perhaps most distressing to his parents was the increasing amount of time he spent in South Bloom.

The Coffmans rarely (in fact, Mrs. Coffman had never) ventured into South Bloom. However they knew for sure that the people there were of a lesser ilk. They did not integrate well into society and were content to float along without improving their tiny homes or acquiring more possessions. Particularly disturbing was the old man and old woman who had their granddaughter living with them. Admittedly the girl was striking with those lovable dark eyes and, yes; she did possess an undeniably magnetic personality; still, she was reported to be a nuisance at school and seemed to incite the other children to be asking questions that should not be asked by adults, let alone children. What kind of upbringing could a child realize living with old people? And just where were her parents really? Probably they were lost in some self-indulgent, addiction-riddled lifestyle like most of those people were these days. And this was where their son spent so much time.

Clify’s mother worried that he was drifting into a world founded on fantasy. His father’s attempts to pull him aside and talk sense to him proved fruitless.

Not an attractive boy, Clify’s tightly curled light brown hair exploded out from under and curled up around the ratty ball cap he usually wore. This and one noticeably smaller eye, buck teeth, a thin upper lip and oversized ears gave him a clownish appearance which did not go unnoticed in the sometimes cruel world of children. His slight build

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