Moon and Poet

Moon and Poet

A Chapter by YouoweYoupay

Moon and his poet.

7. Moon and Poet

I hid behind a bouquet of flowers.  Little harmony in the assortment, but it was a gift from the heart. She could not but accept.

“For me?” Fifo chirped, pointing at herself. I nodded, pushing the chaos of colors into her hands.

An image flashed in my mind. Her bicycle dove down the hill. Her arms spread as if in flight and her shouts of glee filling the streets. My brother and I huffed as we pedaled far behind. We yelled at her to slow down. Could she hear us?

“And tell this Antob that I’m not scared of him.”
Fifo threw her head back as she laughed, the sound of silver wind chimes and meadow cowbells. My chest swelled with pride for two reasons:

One. Fifo was the love of my life, even though we were cousins. For years my eyes had been set on growing as tall as she was and stealing her away from the world, until Lumio sat me down and explained that she would still grow as I grew. So I pulled the courage to wish her happiness with the one who chose her. Married women were not supposed to receive flowers from any man other than their spouses. The least her husband-to-be could offer me in return is to grin and bear it or properly confront me about it. What kind of a name was Antob anyway? Antob.

Two. I made her laugh. And not just the courteous chortle she showed at family gatherings, her eyes squinted and twinkled this time. But no one could make Fifo laugh like Lumio could. In his presence, she ranted and mused with the nonchalance of a child. Lumio grew smaller in her company as well. He abandoned his famed air of the wise philosopher, chattering away boisterously and floundering over the edges of rugs and furniture. 

However, this afternoon had been different. Fifo’s attempts to converse and jest with my brother had been nearly futile. He returned her gestures with sharp nods and a handful of strained smiles. The moment I took my eyes off them, they had both disappeared in the inner rooms of my grandmemah’s cottage. I scanned the parlor and got lost in the vibrant noises of our large family. 

“I can’t reach! I can’t!” Morjana moped. She glared into the distance threateningly, waiting for someone to notice.

“Who moved the wodge from under the sink! Who would do such a cruel thing! Who!” my cousins cried in pretend interrogations as they exchanged chuckles in between, “Don’t you know Morjana loves her wodge?” Another boom of laughter echoed in the air.

A tiny girl five years of age, and one of my youngest cousins, Morjana insisted she had long ago become a woman, fiercely refusing to be cast aside in serious occasions like the spring festival. To safely evade her embarrassingly loud tantrums, gods forbid we should ever forget to adjust the wooden block under the stone washing sink in the kitchen so she could reach and help rinse the dishes. Not even Tambier’s great flood could match Morjana’s tears if you forgot to offer her a seat at the preparation table to chop vegetables, knead the bread or discuss a family plight.

Morjana also believed in true love, and that she would never accept a marriage proposal from any boy in the village because none of us deserved her.

"No one stands a chance?" I once joked, pointing at myself with an expression of self-pity, "Not even me, Morjana?"

"Especially not you!" she haughtily confirmed.

“Tula, have you seen the little tot? He’s grown!” An aunt beamed as she passed on a newborn child to the memahs sitting in a row.

My aunt Tula received the wrapped bundle with a squeal. She uncurled the tiny soft fingers in hers and showered the strawberry cheeks with kisses and nuzzles. She sung him a song that melted in the fire of the discussion about weddings and good matches. 

“Aunt Tula,” someone burst out, “what do you have to say about this mad woman! Have you heard what she’s done?” 

My aunt did not hear. Or so it seemed. She gently rocked the baby on her legs and cooed.

“Jeyna, restrain your mouth!” another girl hissed, “Or she’ll stand and leave again. Will you be happy then? You know Aunt hates this sort of talk!”

The door was shoved open with a kick and Uncle Helal set the heap of firewood and the bucket of fresh fish aside asking for his wife, his voice drowned by the industrious ambience.

“The moon came looking for his poet!” someone teased in a sing-song voice.
But my aunt failed to hear the romantic beckoning so I drew her attention again. “Aunt Tula, Aunt Tula! Uncle’s calling you.”

My mother stopped knitting.

“Beya!” she fretted, “Mind your tongue and call her Memah Tula!”

“But, mother,” I argued, “she’s no memah! Look at her!” 

Uncle Helal’s mustached face split in a satisfied grin. 

“This boy’s got a pair of good eyes, he has! Catch, Beya!” He tossed a peach in the air and I caught it, almost falling over. I inspected the blushing fruit in my hands. I sighed in relief. No worms.

“Haven’t I told you, sore folk?” he gloated, his voice rising and his chest swelling.

Eyes rolled with grumbles and complaints.

“Here he goes.”
“Gods, not again.”
“Beya, why did you start this?”

Uncle beat his chest as he roared, “Haven’t I told you? Don’t I always say? That I never married an ordinary woman from the start? You’ve all been fooled! My wife is an enchanted river maiden. Forever young and lovely.” My aunt Tula shaded her eyes with her hands, but the flattered smile and cheeks, glowing red were exposed for all to see. I faded into the interior of the cottage in search for my brother. 

  Aunt Tula did remind me of a river maiden at times, especially when she wore faux pearls in her red-brown hair. Though motherless, she had never held any bitterness toward wives who gave birth. She refused to participate in gossip with the other women in the village, all of which only added a soft luster to her beauty. 

 Lumio stood frozen before the prayer room. I slithered behind a wall. The door creaked open and Fifo emerged from the room, both of them avoiding eye contact.

“You saw me?” the moonlight in her eyes met his. He cleared his throat and wiped the remainder of playfulness on his face.

“You were dancing in the prayer room?” 

Fifo’s lips parted and closed again. She tucked her hair behind her ears.

“I’m sorry, Lumio.” she explained shyly, “I know it's inappropriate, but the house is toppled! I had no where else to �" ”

“Why are you practicing now when you’ve still got five until the spring dance?”

“Lumio,” she sang gently, her face relaxing into a knowing smile, “you never worry about these things. What happened with you?”

“Nothing happened with me.” he retorted, arms tense and jaws tight.

With hands folded behind her back, Fifo leaned against the wall and examined Lumio’s grumpy face.

“Have you seen a vision about me?” she guessed.

“No, I have not seen �" Fianna, stop asking me these silly questions.” He nagged, pacing to her closer and adding in a more whispery tone, “And stop prancing around all the time.”

Fifo’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. A stray lock of wavy black hair fell near her eyes. Failing to read his face, she started to say something but they were both interrupted.

“Fianna, sweetheart.” a memah I could not recognize beckoned her with thick fingers, “Come, let us talk. Come, my love. Don’t be afraid.” the memah’s thick fingers fluttered aggressively and her round face was unsmiling. Fifo glanced at Lumio and he understood.

“If you’re going to talk, Memah Raya,” Lumio suggested, stepping ahead of Fifo like a shield, “then please do it here and now.” 

Memah Raya’s plump face contorted in polite dismay.

My memory returned to me like a slap on the back. This woman! She was Memah Sour Lemon’s friend. Fianna had accidentally admitted to a child next door that she deeply disliked indigo blue. Her opinion had triggered shaking heads and a few offended Ulian residents nearby. Fifo had already expressed her regrets to several members of the community, so why was this still a seething topic?

“Fianna, you’re a bright, young woman, aren’t you?” Memah Raya preluded in a sickeningly sweet tone, “You already know this color represents the sorrows of our Ulian friends and neighbors.” 

“Yes, Memah.” Fifo lowered her eyes, her breath quivering.

 “Later this evening, when Zumra and her daughters arrive, we need you to explain that you did not know of this and that you are so very sorry �"”

“She will do no such thing.” Lumio delcared, his hands behind his back and his chin lifted.

“Lumio, dear,” she protested, her head shaking fiercely, “I understand you’re trying to protect her, but �"”

“What is your least favorite color, Memah Rayah?” he feigned curiosity, “I’d like to know.”

“Well, it’s... red.” she humored him, crossing her arms, “Bright red. Awful color.” 

Lumio snickered, “I respect your personal taste, but did you know that in the countries of the east, bright red represents prosperity and happiness? Did you know that, in the North, it represents Odanai, the goddess of childbirth? Have you heard that in the west side of Peham, if bright red cloth is not hung at your door, it is seen as savagely insulting to the ancient healers who died of the same disease they had been trying to cure?…Would you then, my dear Memah,” Lumio swung back and forth on his heels, hands stil folded behind his back “feel compelled to show the Easterners and the Northerners and the West Pehamis how very sorry you are?”

Memah Raya’s eyes darkened and softened again. She released a long sigh, pearls of sweat hung on her forehead. 

Plastered along the wall of the interior hallway, a winning smile spread on my face before I poked my head again to watch the scene.

“There is so much truth in all that you say, I will not deny,” she nodded, a hand over her heart, and a hand over Lumio’s shoulder, “I do not mean to offend you and certainly not Fianna. I am just doing what is right for the community. To keep the peace in the village, Lumio.” she gazed at him more daringly, having found her excuse, “You understand, of course.”

Lumio smiled at her and slowly removed her hand from his shoulder.

“It’s just a color, Memah.” his voice dropped lower, civil and hollow, “You understand, of course.” 

With that conclusion, her roly-poly cheeks grew red and she turned to leave. It was not advisable to argue with the Eye of Guloc for too long. You never knew what unpromising visions he might see and reveal to you in retaliation. Lumio never took vengance in that way. But Uncle Helal had once painted the picture for me; the fear that would paralyse whoever learned of their ill future. Sleep would not come to them. Food will churn like dirt in their mouths. And every passing hour would be a torment.

 Fifo’s large dark eyes held Lumio’s in a grateful gaze, washed by relief. She started to speak but he only nodded at her courteously before leaving as well, as if he had to rush away before something ominous happened again. Fifo lingered in the empty hall, beneath the weak sunlight of the window behind her. To her right on a polished wooden shelf, sat the broken glass fragments of a dancing figurine. She stood alone with intertwined fingers and a dozen questions in her mind…and a thousand questions in mine!

© 2020 YouoweYoupay

My Review

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After reading StarNinja's review, I realized that I was also thinking that Lumio & Beya may both have designs on Fifo. If this is truly what you mean to imply, then I think it should be emphasized more. This little hint of a development could be significant, but you've stated this possibility in such a way, we can't really feel the tension. To me, storytelling is all about developing tension. If your reader is not wound up by what's happening, a story gets boring. I felt little touches of boring during this chapter, becuz sometimes I think you go on & on about some cultural lesson, but you won't spend the same amount of writing energy on the dynamics that are going on between your characters. I love the cultural & philosophical approach you take toward your stories, but I also feel there could be more suspense, more action, more tension, near-confrontation. These are the things that keep a reader plugged in (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 5 Months Ago

Oh my. What's with all these furtive glances, pregnant pauses and throats clearing? Does Fifo have this stunning effect on every boy? Or... could it be... Lumio has ideas similar to our Beya's? Hmm....
Family drama is certainly a never ending source of amusement, consternation and inspiration. Bravo on your ability to portray these things so skillfully. Bravo I say!

Posted 5 Months Ago

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2 Reviews
Added on December 5, 2020
Last Updated on December 6, 2020
Tags: Short novel



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