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“Some of these stories are closer to my own life than others are, but not one of them is as close as people seem to think.” Alice Murno, from the intro to Moons of Jupiter

"Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see." Arthur Schopenhauer

“Why does everything you know, and everything you’ve learned, confirm you in what you believed before? Whereas in my case, what I grew up with, and what I thought I believed, is chipped away a little and a little, a fragment then a piece and then a piece more. With every month that passes, the corners are knocked off the certainties of this world: and the next world too. Show me where it says, in the Bible, ‘Purgatory.’ Show me where it says ‘relics, monks, nuns.’ Show me where it says ‘Pope.’” –Thomas Cromwell imagines asking Thomas More—Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

My favorite posts to get started: The Self-Righteousness Instinct, Sabbath Says, Encounters, Inc., and What Makes "Wolf Hall" so Great?.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Hekura Healer of Inherited Wounds: He Borara Chapter 13

Teaching the Yanomamo about Jesus
            Bahikoawa’s real name is Mobaräkäwa. Nakaweshimi, she of the hirsute labia and the missing infant, is Rariwi. The boy who gave him his first glimpse of the Yąnomamö wild glint is Warotobowä, and he sits with Lac, along with a few Mömariböwei-teri men, going through the charts to see what can be salvaged. The relationships are diagrammed correctly in most cases; it’s only the names that are worthless. He has the names of many children and siohas right too. Warotobowä says he’ll help Lac redo the entire census for one of each of the main types of madohe: an aluminum pot, an ax, another machete, fishhooks, a loincloth—apparently the Yąnomamö find the foreskin string as uncomfortable as Lac did when he tried it—and a shotgun.

            “Ma, little brother,” Lac responded. “Pick one—and I’m not giving you a shotgun, you or any other Yąnomamö. You’re too waiteri.” Now the light is softly fading into night. Lac and the six young men from Bisaasi-teri will travel back tomorrow. He’s decided to abandon his work, try to cobble together a serviceable PhD thesis from what he’s already done, and inform Dr. Nelson that the task he set him to is impossible. The Yąnomamö are too violent and cunning in their enforcement of the name taboo.

            Lac knows he’s failed as an anthropologist, but this reality doesn’t cut as deep as it might because the failure is as much anthropology’s as it is his own. Most of the ethnographies produced by PhD candidates like him are based on stints in the field not much longer than he’s been living in Bisaasi-teri. If he hadn’t made it a point to travel to as many other villages as he could, he would never have discovered the hoax his hosts had played on him, which makes you wonder, he thinks, how much of that so-called data is total bunk.

            It would barely matter anyway. All these eager young white people set out quixotically trying to expand our knowledge about the range of human experiences, and they end up staying for six measly months with a long-conquered people, missionized and corralled onto a reservation of one type or another. What can we learn about human experience from that, other than that technologically advanced societies don’t afford their primitive cousins much regard?

            It’s already too dark to do much more with the census tables. He imagines he’ll have to toss the entire file for his genealogies into a fire and start from scratch—if he ever decides they’re worth another crack that is. He tells the boy they’re done for the night, gives him some fishhooks from the bottom of his backpack, and sits down on the hammock he’s tied in the headman’s yahi. He doesn’t want to close his eyes. Even though he’s given up on pretending to be an anthropologist—given up on believing an anthropologist is something worth pretending to be—he still feels the full weight of his guilt for interfering in the raid on Patanowä-teri. Except, maybe interfering isn’t what he feels guilty about; maybe it’s the brute fact that he got someone killed.

But that guy would’ve killed you, he reminds himself; his buddy would have killed Rowahirawa.

            So self-defense is your defense? Ah, but what were you doing there in the first place? That’s like saying you’re not responsible for wrecking a car because you were drunk; the fact is, you’re responsible for getting drunk when you knew you’d be climbing into the driver’s seat.  

Lac closes his eyes at last. Next he knows, he’s groping and flailing about in the mosquito netting to keep from tumbling out of the hammock. Those powerful arms, holding him down, rearing back to strike, and then…. The logic of him-or-me holds sway, the principle people who’ve never set foot in a jungle like to call the law of the jungle. All of civilization begins with an effort to change this fundamental equation. Kill your neighbor? Why, when his family will avenge him? Why, when you can profit from his labor, when you can make use of his products? Why, when some authority would surely drop the hammer, seeing to it that, as a consequence of your deed, you are somehow sanctioned, sacrificed, or elsewise compromised to make your victim’s family whole? Absent an economy, absent a protocol for meting out justice, absent an authority to execute on that protocol, and we’re doomed to repeat this cycle of endless reprisal—tit for tat in both gifts and offenses—unto eternity.

            He looks around the yahi. It’s silent and dark. It seems like he only nodded off for a minute, but it could have been hours. As he lies rocking, his ears slowly tune in to the skittering and scrapping of roaches and beetles in the roof thatching above him, a sign that the Mömariböwei-teri will soon need to burn this shabono and build a new one, either on this same spot or, if they wish to avoid hostile neighbors, in some other more strategic location. From what Lac has gleaned, shabonos grow too infested, their roofs too leaky, after a few years. Rebuilding is a time of great excitement.

            As the swaying of his roughly jarred hammock dwindles peacefully into soft juddering and then to stillness, Lac slides into an almost sublime state of emptiness. Emptied of ideas and beliefs, of conceits and agendas, just an intricate conglomerate of flesh sacks within flesh sacks, kept in business by a central pump encased in a bone cage, mindlessly thudding away. The gooey mess behind his eyes has been pushed beyond capacity, taken far outside the parameters of its normal operation. Now it’s seized up, congealed, its contents left to flake away, like dry leaves scattering in the breeze.

            Whether he’s here with the Yąnomamö or back home in Ann Arbor, it makes no difference. In either place, he’ll merely be thudding out his existence while being jostled and prodded about by other stuffed flesh dolls endowed with delusions of selfhood and significance. He should rightly be mortified on returning to Bisaasi-teri tomorrow evening, but he’s been the butt of their bullying jokes ever since he arrived in the territory back in November. What’s one more X-frame bridge, one more instance of failing to keep to a trail for more than five minutes at a time, one more day of having to insist on being told about topics even children are natural experts in?

Some of the elements of those fake names he should have recognized—but then again English-speakers hardly blink at the idea of a man named Dick. How could he have known?

No, he’ll go back. He’ll give Mobaräkäwa a piece of his mind. If Clemens is there, he’ll tell him about the Salesian plot to steal his dictionary. Then he’ll ask him to arrange passage out of the territory, back to Caracas, back to Laura and the kids. If Clemens isn’t there, then he’ll have to motor downstream to Ocamo, have the padre get him on a flight from the dirt landing strip in La Esmeralda, a request which will require a bit of lying if he hopes to have it granted: “It’s just for a couple weeks, like the last time, and when I get back I’ll pick up that dictionary you asked to borrow.” Then it’s back to the States, where he’ll eat lots of fresh salad, drink lots of cold beer, and take up showering every day again.

He falls asleep to the sputtering of embers in the hearth, a faint smile stretching his briefly contented lips.
*****

Lac doesn’t trust Warotobowä any farther than he can throw him, not because he presents as especially shifty, but because Lac has accrued a history of being taken advantage of by supposed friends among the Yąnomamö. Plus, the duplicitousness, deception, and disrespect are exacerbated in the wake of incidents of public humiliation, of the sort he suffered a severe version of in Mömariböwei-teri. Every idiotic move sets you back, not only regarding your projects but also your reputation. Nevertheless, though Lac is wary of the young man, he decides to employ him as a temporary stand-in for Rowahirawa. The kid is sharp and curious, seems mostly genuine in his dealings with Lac so far, and he even speaks a little Spanish.

Lac finds no point in checking his impulse to interrogate his young informant as they make the march back to Bisaasi-teri. “Will Rowahirawa be finished with the unokaimou when we get back?”

“Ma, he’ll have this many days to go.” He holds up three fingers, meaning the ritual must last about a week. That’s a long time to be separated from everyone, Lac thinks; they must take the spilling of blood, the taking of life, seriously, their bombastic eagerness notwithstanding.

“Owa, where are you from? How did you come to be at the mission at Tama Tama?”

“I was born in Mömariböwei-teri. I’ve been doing siohamou in Ora-teri”—Lower Bisaasi-teri, Lac thinks, which is why I seldom cross paths with him. “The other white nabä took me to Tama Tama once long ago, and I go back on occasion to hunt and see if I can get any madohe. They gave me clothes but they were too big and I didn’t like them.”

“Did you learn to speak Spanish there?”

“Awei, they sat us on long flat logs and taught us to use white leaf bundles like the ones you’re always drawing in. They talked all the time about a nabä who lived at the time of Moonblood and was so good a healer that he was able to heal himself even after being killed by warriors. They said he’s still here in the forest today, but now he only heals souls. When I asked how he saves the souls from the hekura and returns them to sick people, they said that’s not how this nabä spirit heals their souls. Instead, he heals some wound we carry from one of our ancestors. They said the hekura aren’t real. That’s when I knew you nabä are crazy. We’ve all seen the hekura. The missionaries told me no one alive today has seen the healer spirit in this way. They only feel him. He’s probably just a hekura himself, tricking them into believing he’s the only one. It’s a ridiculous trick too; no man I know of passed his wounds on to his sons.”

“Are the names you gave me for the people of Mömariböwei-teri true? Or are they like the names I was given in Bisaasi-teri?”

“Ma, Shaki, we gave you the true names. I will only give you real names if you bring your madohe straight to me.”

“Why didn’t you tell me the Bisaasi-teri were playing a trick on me?”

            “Because if I had everyone would have been furious with me.”

            “The names of the Bisaasi-teri ancestors I showed you, you’re sure those are real names?”

            “Awei, Shaki. I don’t know those people, but the names are good. They’re not funny like the other names the Bisaasi-teri gave you.” But that doesn’t mean they’re the names of the ancestors I’m trying to learn, Lac thinks. These legit-sounding names mostly came from Kukumbrawa, the old man Lac interviewed all those times in private, the one who went in for all the drama and tall tales. Hard to imagine now, he thinks, that fellow has been my lone reliable informant.  

            “Owa, has the Christian brother been to Lower Bisaasi-teri many times lately?”

            “Ma, he sends his motorista to ferry kids across the river. He gives them sweet-tasting oatmeal, which they love, and he tells them to tell their fathers to come to him for madohe. He says he’ll give them what they want for a little help with his ohodemou—just like you, Shaki.”

            “Do the Bisaasi-teri go work for the brother then?”

            “Awei, some do. But they hate him, so the ones who go over there usually don’t go back. They tell the rest of us to stay away too.”

            “Why do they hate him?”

            “They say he gets angry and threatens them. They say he never hands over the madohe he promises because he’s always trying to get them to do one more thing.”

I know the type, Lac thinks, never satisfied, always suspecting everyone is out to screw them. “Have you gone to work for him?”

“Awei, I know the best ways to do everything. I know how to find everything you may need. I always go to find out about what new nabäs are doing. My uncles say there’s more of you showing up in villages all the time, bringing more madohe, telling the Yąnomamö they have to learn about their healer spirit who got killed but woke himself up.”

“Do many Yąnomamö want to learn about this spirit?”

“Ma, they only pretend to listen. The shabori say they’ve never encountered this spirit, so they wonder why the white nabäs think he’s so important. It’s probably because nabäs don’t know very many of the hekura.”

“I’ve never seen him either,” Lac says. “And I agree with the Yąnomamö that most white nabäs are wrong to assign him such importance. He’s one among many.”

“Shaki, why do you want to put everyone’s names into your white leaves? Why do you want to know so much about people’s lives and their ancestors?”

Lac explains that the way the Yąnomamö live and think is much different from the way the nabäs he knows live and think, and he’s fascinated with those differences. So he’s trying to find out as much as he can about how each society came to be where it is now, its people living the way they do. He hopes, he says, to one day be able to explain why the nabä live one way and the Yąnomamö live an entirely different way, thinking all the while it would be more accurate to say he’s hoping the Yąnomamö shed light on the white nabäs’ distant past but not motivated enough to go into such detail.

“Ah, Shaki,” Warotobowä says, “I would like to know the answer to this question too, but why don’t you take ebene and ask the hekura? They’ll tell you about the flood that washed your ancestors away from this region. They’ll tell you why you and the other nabäs are so strange, and then you’ll know how to live more like the Yąnomamö.”

Lac smiles. Anthropologists are admonished to avoid ethnocentrism, but nothing stops their subjects from believing their own culture superior, the norm from which any deviation means degradation. No matter where you go, you find that people are not so much interested in explaining what makes one society different from another; people just want to know what the hell is wrong with anybody who’s not like them. It must come natural to us humans. It’s only through disciplined effort that we see past the bias.

“Shaki, where do your supplies of madohe come from?”

“Owa, the villages where nabäs like me come from are full of them. We all have ohodemou, many of us building things to trade among ourselves, and since the villages are so big, there are many many varieties of madohe for everyone to exchange.” Lac glances over to see how the news affects his informant. How well does he understand the concept of cities, whether dirt-road towns like Puerto Ayacucho or bustling seedy metropolises like Caracas? What has he learned at the mission school, besides that Jesus healed his own fatal wounds after his death?

They walk on in silence along the elusive trail through the heavy dank air. Lac thinks of his censuses and genealogies, chuckling quietly at the preposterousness of his predicament. When he returns to Bisaasi-teri, he’ll seek out the old man who gave him all those valid names, continue pressing back in time—because what else is he going to do until Clemens comes back? Who knows if any of his charts are accurate, if there’s any chance of him forging ahead and meeting with any success? He dreads the conversation, or better yet the letter, in which he has to explain to Dr. Nelson, a real doctor, why he’s abandoned the project he agreed to undertake. He dreads the confirmation of his father’s and oldest brother’s dismissive characterization of his chosen discipline. Most of all, he dreads going back to the States, back to Ann Arbor, knowing he failed. So he determines to keep at his work, see what he can find out, at least until Clemens arrives.

And what, Lac wonders, will Clemens do to occupy his time in Bisaasi-teri? Does he walk around looking for people who will listen to his speeches about Jesus? Right now, the traditional myths remain dominant in the minds of young people like Warotobowä, but in ten years that tradition will be vitiated beyond recognition. The religion will be effectively lost—along with most of their other traditions. How can you just walk away now, he asks himself, and let this opportunity vanish? Ah, because the reality of learning about life in tribal society is far removed from the notions you brought to the field. Because there’s still enough time for someone else to do the work, to get the information, to make the discoveries. But won’t that someone else at some point find himself right where you are today? And won’t he be just as tempted to give up?

One foot in front of the other, one name in the ledger after another—until you find yourself off the trail, derided as a fool, and put back on course.

“Shaki,” one of the boys calls out. “Why don’t you take the lead again?” Lac steps to the front of the line amid their chortling, and his private thoughts are quickly subsumed by his efforts to discern and keep to the path.
*****

Rowahirawa is in a rage.

Lac has been in his hut all morning working with Kukumbrawa on his genealogies. Now it seems Rowahirawa has completed the unokaimou. He’s returned to his father-in-law’s yahi. And he’s pissed.

“Shoabe, why is my owa, the sioha, so angry?” Lac asks Kukumbrawa as they jog alongside each other to the shabono, Lac with his census graphs still in hand. But the old man doesn’t seem to know; he says merely that the young man—the huya—is jealous. Upon ducking into the shabono and stepping out into the plaza, they see Rowahirawa, fresh from his week-long confinement with the two other unokais, facing off with an older man. Lac moves closer and sees that it’s Rowahirawa’s father-in-law he’s dressing down, the one trying to coax him into remaining with his daughter in Bisaasi-teri by dangling before him the promise of a second marriage to a younger daughter. As Lac listens to the tirade, he begins to piece together the story behind his informant’s anger—and he can’t escape the rush of relief from realizing it’s not him the rage is directed toward this time.

Now Rowahirawa turns toward another huya—a term Lac has been taking to mean something like hooligan but is beginning to think refers to any male in his late teens. This guy is trying his damnedest to appear unfazed by Rowahirawa’s insults and threats as he timidly protests.

Lac doesn’t have to listen long before he understands what’s set Rowahirawa off. “I was ready to plant my garden outside,” he’d said to his father-in-law, but now he’s calling this huya a coward for waiting until he was quarantined for the unokaimou before arranging a tryst—a series of trysts—in the gardens with his wife’s little sister. Lac has to resist openly chuckling. Everyone in the village has stepped into the courtyard to bear witness to this latest flare-up. Finally, someone else, Rowahirawa no less, is accepting his share of humiliation. He’s not accepting it quietly though, not meekly laughing at himself and, hangdog, saying, “Oh shucks, you guys, cut it out,” blotchy red from overheated blushing.

Thus Lac begins to understand how a Yąnomamö man secures his reputation as no one to be trifled with, the same way he may need to start doing it himself. Now the young lover’s father is running up to enter the fray, condemning Rowahirawa for his insults and threats, standing up for the honor of his lineage. Looking around to gauge to the level of concern on the villagers’ faces around him, Lac worries this row will combust into a full-blown family feud, more so because Rowahirawa has no family in Bisaasi-teri but is too incensed to back down. Instead, he challenges both father and son to a club fight.

“Get your himos!” he demands, referring to the longer clubs, the ones with an edge, the more dangerous ones. “You can each have a turn before I take mine.”

Not only does he show no fear; he seems desperate for them to strike the first blows as he chases them back, jutting his head out with his hands down at his sides, all but begging for a new set of perpetually livid scars he can display through his tonsure, that window onto the violence of his past which serves as a warning of his current propensity.

Lac grips his charts tight. He’d be more worried for his friend if the two men weren’t so patently intimidated; it’s as though Rowahirawa is transferring his humiliation onto them, with a vengeance. First the father and then the young lover—if such a term applies—hunches down and cants his body to avoid squaring shoulders, just perceptibly. You can see, even as they complain about their mistreatment, neither will step up to deliver the blow Rowahirawa is demanding. This will be to their lasting disgrace, proof in everyone’s mind of their cowardice. Lac will have to keep an eye out for how this diminishment affects their standing. For now, Rowahirawa is still full of rancor. Who will he direct it toward next? How will he sate his urge to violence? He turns from the two men, all contempt. As he steps away, the father shouts one last bit of defiant invective.

Rowahirawa whips back around. “Did you change your mind about fighting me, Makorowiwa? Then forget himos. I’ll bury an ax in your filthy forehead and then your son can screw my little sister-in-law all he wants while I go through the unokaimou again. When I’m done I’ll bury an ax in his head too.” The man goes rigid with impotent rage. Rowahirawa turns away again and starts huffing toward the passage out of the shabono as Lac, stunned, recovers his wits and riffles wildly through the pages in his hand. Rowahirawa just said the man’s name aloud, in the center of the courtyard, for nearly everyone in the village to hear. And it’s not the name Lac has in his charts.

The name Lac has came from Kukumbrawa. The old man is still giving him false names.

With both hands, Lac lifts the stack of pages over his head, making ready to throw them in the dirt, but a thought makes him hesitate. After holding the charts suspended for two beats, he comes to a decision and, pages still in hand, rushes off after Rowahirawa. He finds him pacing between the entrance passage and the edge of the garden. “Come inside my hut,” Lac says.

“Shaki, I’m leaving Bisaasi-teri first thing tomorrow. The people here, they’re all liars and cowards and weak and pathetic. The women all have saggy butt cheeks and pocked, greasy foreheads. And I barely learn anything about the hekura from these incompetent shaboris who let child after child die as their souls are dragged away and devoured.”

As they step indoors, Lac takes a moment to be grateful Rowahirawa hasn’t smashed anything in his hut yet. “Shori, you called that man by his name, the huya’s father. Why is it a different name than I got from the old man?”

“Shaki, you idiot. Will you never learn? Everyone knows the old man is giving you fake names—they’d be angry with him if he weren’t. And I didn’t call him by his name; that would be too nice. I called him by his dead father’s name. Come with me back to Karohi-teri and I’ll give you the real names of everyone here.”

“Ma, Shori, I’m waiting for the bald missionary to return so I can bring my family to live with me, but if you stay and give me the names I need, we can start traveling to every village you’ve ever heard of. You’ll surely find better wives and better shabori teachers in one of them. And one day you’ll surely be the one who truly lives here, wherever it is you decide to live.”
*****

“I would have been back sooner,” Chuck says as they sit across from each other on nice wooden chairs outside the hut Lac has been helping to restore to habitability. “The Salesians have been dogging us at every turn. We had to pay up for enough licenses and permits and official letters to set us on course to burning through most of the funds we raised before I set foot in a single shabono.”

Lac wonders if he should tell Chuck about Padre Morello’s interest in his dictionary, but decides he lacks the certainty he’d need to make such an accusation. Chuck looks tired but hale, like he’s been absorbing some of the heartiness that’s been leaking out from Lac’s pores into rapidly evaporating puddles on the jungle floor.

“It seems the Catholics have talked to every pilot who flies in and out of Esmeralda,” Chuck goes on, “telling them about a host of favors they can count on if they help keep all the Protestant missionaries out of the region. We had to bring in some friends from Caracas to fly us in. And the priest who lives with the Ye’kwana near the airstrip was not at all happy to see us landing.”

Great, Lac thinks, that means I have to watch what I say so I can keep the padre and the other Salesians on my side. They can make life pretty damned difficult for a fieldworker if they decide to. Staying in the good graces of both missionary groups is going to take some finesse.

“The only good thing about it,” Chuck goes on, “is that the rivalry is energizing people at the church back in the States. After the newsletter went out and people read an article I wrote about our problems with the Caracas bureaucracy, we started receiving more donations than ever. The New Tribes is determined not to lose Bisaasi-teri the way they lost Mahekodo-teri and Iyäwei-teri.”

“I hate to tell you then that the Salesians have already started moving in across the river. So far, they’ve been concentrating their efforts on Lower Bisaasi-teri—maybe because they want to keep their methods secret from someone like me—and from what I hear they aren’t having much success getting people to come stay with them.”

“Yes, we found out about the new compound over by the old Malarialogìa hut.” He chuckles. “Your face that first day I brought you out here—I can’t imagine showing up for the first time right after a fight like that. Anyway, me and Judy are going to stay here as much as we can, and we have another couple coming from Canada in two weeks to stay at Lower Bisaasi-teri.” 

            Ah, Lac thinks, so I’ll have to relocate to another village if I want to study Yąnomamö with minimal contact to the outside world. But if I travel farther inland from the Orinoco, getting Laura and the kids in will be that much harder—impossible really.

You’re going to have to decide what your priority is.

“So you said you found a way to get the names you wanted—after your little setback.” Chuck shakes his head, unable to conceal his grin. “How did you do it?”

“It was staring me in the face,” Lac says, savoring the English words on his tongue, rolling them out with effortless precision, as though his mouth had a mind of its own, one in perfect sync with the mind hosting his consciousness of the world around him. “I was so dead-set on following the kinship gradient I’d discovered early in my stay, working from the assumption that relatives would know the most about their closest family members, and would therefore be able to give me the most accurate information. But that approach kept running headlong into the logic of their name-avoidance practices. Close kin, especially those who are recently deceased, are the people you refuse to name the most vehemently. What I realized—and it was just last week—is that the only way to get a bunch of good names is to start with the most distant relatives or people not related at all. Or better yet start with enemies. If you want the names of people in Iyäwei-teri, you ask someone from Mahekodo-teri. The best source of names in Bisaasi-teri is a man from Karohi-teri doing bride service for his father-in-law, a young man who happens to be disgruntled about not receiving a second wife he was promised. I still have a lot of cross-checking and corroboration to do before I can claim any success cleaning up the mess I discovered in Mömariböwei-teri, but I have names for everyone in Upper Bisaasi-teri, everyone in Mömariböwei-teri, and I have a good start on the census for Lower Bisaasi-teri. The genealogies are a trickier matter, but I’ll keep poking around. The longer I’m with the Yąnomamö, the more options and opportunities seem to pop up.”

“That’s truly remarkable,” Chuck says. “You sure set yourself a difficult task in collecting all their names. Honestly, I only know the names of a few of them who are close to the mission—thought I knew them anyway. Well, and a bunch of kids I suppose, but we often give the children biblical names so they can be entered into official records. We’re not nearly as proficient at it as the Salesians though.”

“Yes, I’ve noticed the priest at Ocamo calls the men he hires from Iyäwei-teri by Christian-sounding names. I called my main informant Pedro for a while, just because I had to call him something and I didn’t want to piss him off. It’s funny, now that he’s hanging his hammock in my hut because he’s too mad at his father-in-law to stay in his yahi, he’s started calling me aîwä—older brother. So I’m obliged to call him owa. As hard as it is for me to follow all the conventions, it must be even more delicate a balance for people in your and the padre’s positions to have to strike: showing respect for their culture while trying to pave their way into civilization.” Worried his attempt at sympathy may come across as a rebuke, Lac adds, “For me, it’s simpler, at least in that regard. I only care about their culture. Well—I should say I’m only interested in their culture for my work. I definitely worry about more than that though, as I see the outside world encroaching.”

Both men fall silent, pondering the potential fates they have some undetermined role in bringing about for the people whose disruptive existence was the cause of their separate voyages into this all-devouring jungle. What on earth are we doing here? Lac imagines Chuck must be consumed by that same mystery. Clemens is developing a program to help Yąnomamö children learn Spanish, not, as Morello seemed to think, composing a dictionary. As they discuss this project now, Lac thinks back to when Clemens gave him a single page of Yąnomamö terms and phrases, just before they left Tama Tama to motor up the final stretch of the Orinoco until reaching the mouth of the Mavaca. That was when he should have noted the first sign of trouble: a single Yąnomamö word translates as name, as in “to name someone,” and as insult. At the time, the implication that you can’t name someone without insulting him was lost on Lac.

“How long will you stay in Bisaasi-teri?” Lac asks.

Continuing their conversation about each other’s work, they’ve stepped inside the hut Lac built his own to share a wall with, forming a right-angled, thatched-roof duplex of sorts. “I’ll stay as long as I can,” Chuck says. “That’s why I’m having Judy and Tricia come to live here with me. The more of a presence we can sustain, the better chance we’ll have of preventing the Salesians from establishing a stronger foothold.”

“I think I’m going to bring my family here too; I’ll feel much better about them living in the territory knowing you’re here. But first I have some traveling to do. I want to see how well my name-collection system works on a larger scale, moving from village to village. If I could get village histories tracking their origins and migrations even back just a few generations, the scientific value….” He trails off. “But there are also some villages I just feel like I need to see. The people here talk of an immense village near the headwaters of the Mavaca. They call it Mishimishimaböwei-teri. But I have to go somewhere else first. I need to go to Patanowä-teri.”
*****

“Where did the old man get all these names? They sound like true names.”

“Nobody in Bisaasi-teri would recognize these names, Aîwä. I alone possess true knowledge of the village where these people live. That’s why the old man used their names. No one here would know the man whose name was spoken and get angry.”

“What is this village? Can we travel there?”

“Awei, Shaki, it’s a long ways in that direction”—east—“but we could journey to Iyäwei-teri and stay there a night before heading to the Höräta River; that’s where we’ll find Makorima-teri. With your noisy boat, we may even be able to reach it in the wet season.”

“Owa, why do so many Yąnomamö fear that someone will get angry if it becomes known they are giving me names? You say the names I got from Mömariböwei-teri are true, but no one got angry about people sharing them.” 

            Rowahirawa sighs. It’s midday. The heat swaddles them in their hammocks as they sway and rock within the shadowy dank air of his hut, where they’ve come to escape it. “Each man has to make his own decision about whether he wants madohe more or if he wants to get angry more. If you say a man’s father’s name, he has no choice. But if you whisper the name of a neighbor, he may decide he likes his machete.”

“I don’t understand. The Mömariböwei-teri know I have all their names now, and no one got angry as far as I know. Do men get angry at each other for sharing their names a lot? Why are people so frightened?”

            “Each man decides what he wants, but you can never be sure what other men will decide. That’s why some are scared. In Mömariböwei-teri, the patas discussed the matter for the whole village when they heard you were trading tools for names. They consulted with their hekura. They agreed they wouldn’t get angry before you got there. Still, you have to be careful. Sometimes, men get angry and they can’t help it. Like me, when I get angry, I can’t decide not to be angry anymore. I’m just angry.”

Lac thinks he understands. He wonders whether he’ll get them all to be more forthcoming with time—all the ones who know him—or of him anyway. He may have to start all over again in more distant villages. Really though since his earliest days in Bisaasi-teri, it’s seemed as though people had already heard of him whenever he showed up at a new shabono. Tidings and gossip travel fast from village to village. “Owa,” he says, “I’m going to travel to many villages soon, and I want to go first to Patanowä-teri. Will it be safe for me to go to this village, or will they think I’m a Bisaasi-teri?”

Lac rolls on his side to see Rowahirawa smile his goofy, big-toothed smile. “Ma, Shaki, you are truly crazy. The Patanowä-teri will not think you’re a Bisaasi-teri, but you shouldn’t go there anyway. It will anger the patas here that you’re taking your madohe somewhere else. Plus, the trails will be flooded and your every step will land on a snake.”

“Awei, but I must go there. I must go to many villages. I’ll even go to Mishimishimaböwei-teri if I can. I hope you’ll come with me.”

“Maybe I will go with you to Mishimishimaböwei-teri. You will definitely need a lot of help to get there—and even more help once you’ve arrived.”
*****
Sister feeds Yanomamo children

“Brother Marteens has done a… satisfactory job setting the groundwork for the outpost at Boca Mavaca,” Padre Morello says as they enter his office at Ocamo and find their respective chairs. Lac loves these chairs, and he still finds the padre’s voice a comfort. He has a series of evasions in mind should the topic of Clemens’s notional dictionary come up, but so far it seems Morello has returned to his usual, genial self, leaving Lac to wonder how trustworthy his recollection of the earlier encounter is. “It’s come along well, and now we’re ready for a priest to reside there. We’ll be having Brother Marteens apply his skills elsewhere, while Padre Sanchez takes over at Mavaca.”

Lac merely inquired after the mission’s progress, but from this reply he gets the impression Morello expects the news of Marteens departure to please him. What has Marteens told the padre, Lac wonders, and why should he think I have any animus toward this one Salesian, preferring any other missionary as a neighbor across the Orinoco? Or has Marteens been up to something Morello mistakenly assumes I’m aware of?

It’s a single suspicious moment in an otherwise fine conversation. Padre Morello, an amateur photographer, is planning a book about his time with the Yąnomamö, and he’s told Lac of his need for quality photos from “real life in the villages.” Lac has come downriver to offer him access to his haul of 35-millimeter pictures, not quid pro quo, but simply as a favor. Lac assures himself he’d proffer them regardless—but he does want something.

“We’ve got lots of company at Mavaca now already,” Lac says, silently warning himself to tread carefully—you don’t want either side to start thinking of you as their spy, and you definitely don’t want them to suspect you of spying for their rivals. “You’ve probably heard about the arrival of the Canadian husband-and-wife team taking up in Lower Bisaasi-teri?” Not waiting for a response, he interjects the crux: “So I figure conditions will be adequately safe for me to bring my own wife and children in to live with me outside the village. I’ve planned some river voyages that will keep me busy for much of the remaining wet season, and I’d like to visit Patanowä-teri if I can manage it—though my Yąnomamö friends warn me against any attempt. I’m thinking I’d like to fly my family in sometime in November, giving me plenty of time to look after them as I make my final preparations for my colleagues’ arrival in March. Dr. Nelson and his team will be doing medical tests and taking samples for genetics research. It should be an exciting project. But, Padre, I’m wondering if you could help me arrange a flight out of Esmeralda to Caracas, and then another flight back for me and my family, maybe a couple weeks later?”

The padre smiles. “Of course,” he says, genuinely delighted by the opportunity to be of assistance. Lac waits half a second for a counter-request, wondering if he should have offered the photos after asking for the favor instead of before. “She must miss you terribly, and I understand the loneliness one feels while living among a strange people, deep in the jungle, cut off from everything he knows. Having your wife with you will be so good for your spirits. Yes, I’ll set up the flights in and out. We’ll start working out the details in the morning.”

Same old Padre Morello, not angling for any favors, no dictionaries or kids’ language training materials, but simply glad to be of service to a fellow fieldworker, one of the few civilized men he has opportunity to converse with on this lonely frontier. The padre goes on to speak of past examples of missionaries who brought their families into Amazonia without catastrophe. None, Lac notes, were living among the Yąnomamö. “And then,” Morello says, “there are the young men”—white huyas, Lac thinks—“who come out here and completely lose their bearings.” His friendly eyes fold into a glower. “You can understand the temptation, I’m sure, Dr. Shackely. You know how it could separate a youth from his insufficiently steadfast resolve.”

Lac nearly interrupts to explain Yąnomamö women have never been an overly enticing lure to him, making the concealed hook of sin easy to evade, however many dreams he has in the early morning hours about liaisons with Laura, and others; it’s in fact this indifference that pricks his conscience, hinting as it does at a divide he’s still making in his mind between his own kind and theirs. But he intuits the padre must be referring to a specific man, someone causing him trouble, perhaps threatening the reputation of the Salesians in the territory more generally. So instead he says, “People do lose their minds out here, as you say because they’re cut off, surrounded by people who are wildly different from them. I hold out hope that those minds can be fully restored, but I admit that remains to be seen.” The padre’s fancy diction is having its usual effect on Lac’s own. “I only worry,” he goes on, “that it will be difficult to keep everyone safe.” Kara and Dominic could be bitten by poisonous snakes. Laura could be…

“You’ll be happy to hear then,” the padre says, “that the priest at Mavaca will be equipped with a shortwave radio like the one I have here. Which reminds me: you’ll be wanting to speak to your wife, perhaps share with her the good news about your visit in a few months. It’s almost time for my evening call to the main mission outpost; I’ll see if I can’t patch you through to your wife’s apartment at IVIC.”
*****

“I’ll be able to help with your research,” Laura says through the static, her sentence like a hissing wick finally detonating in an explosive squawk from the speakers.

“It’s a strange place, Honey,” he responds, reaching for the dials, inexplicably taciturn. “I think you’ll probably have to spend most of your time watching the kids, making sure they don’t get lifted off into the sky by the bugs.” Suddenly, his English feels clumsy. Why downplay the risks at this point, he asks himself, when you’ll need to alert her to them all later anyway?

“Lachlan, you’re missing half the culture.”

“Ha! I bet at this point I’m still missing far more than that.”

“No, I’m talking about the women. I can spend time with them while you’re with the men, chanting and hunting and doing whatever else they do. Maybe they’ll be more open with me. Maybe they’ll even be easier to get some names from.” Like Mead and Bateson, Lac thinks, that ill-fated couple, but the Shackleys could be different.

“Well, that would be a welcome development,” he says. She’s antsy, he thinks, lonely and bored half out of her mind. It was a huge sacrifice on her part, agreeing to all this. You owe her your best effort at making the experience in some measure fulfilling. “I’ll show you the basics of how to fill in the charts. It would be good to have another source of corroboration for the names I have, but if you can help with the names of dead ancestors, well, then I just may have to figure out a way to bring you along to every village I travel to.”

Their time to luxuriate in each other’s airily mediated voices is ticking away, and Lac, at a loss, lingers longingly over this last point, listening for her response with the foreknowledge of the ache that will come as soon as he signs off. Some career you’ve chosen, he whispers to himself. Laura tells him about how the kids are healthy but in need of other children to play with. Will the Yąnomamö children make for good playmates? The thought of Dominic with a miniature bow, chasing a bee with a string trailing behind it, swells his heart. Then he thinks of Kara, of her tending to anyone younger than herself, and in turn being tended to by anyone older. Laura is right about him not being nearly as familiar with the distaff portion of the village; he has a much harder time envisioning what life will be like in Bisaasi-teri for his little girl.

And what will it be like for Laura?

She’ll have two English-speaking families to visit, along with a priest he hasn’t met, and she’ll be able to occupy herself by taking part in his work, collecting information from female sources. He’ll have to help her learn the language, even though he’s far from having mastered it himself. Indeed, there’s a gradient of linguistic aptitude among the Yąnomamö themselves. As of now, he’s much closer to the idiotically inarticulate end of the spectrum. Maybe Laura will quickly surpass him. Maybe she’ll be the one coaching him. If so, he would welcome the guidance. However much she thrives in the role of amateur anthropologist, she’ll never be able to travel to other villages without a well-armed male chaperone. She’ll still need him for that. Lac fantasizes about having her in the field, about them both fulfilling their complementary roles, her tending the hearth fire in Bisaasi-teri, acquiring deep knowledge of the cultural intricacies, him journeying from village to village, recording a more global history of intervillage politics and population dispersals.

“Laura, I know what you’re giving up for me now, what you must be going through. I know I’ve left you in circumstances that are… less than ideal. I just want you to know how much I appreciate it, and that I plan to devote much of my life in the coming years to making it up to you.”

“Lachlan, neither of us could have known what it would be like. I’m making do, me and the kids. Make it up to us by doing great work. Write the best damned ethnography that’s ever been written. Be the best damned anthropologist who’s ever lived.”

He lets her hear his forced laugh. “I’ll do my best,” he says, adding silently in his head—if I don’t get killed.
*****

The thing about Patanowä-teri, he writes to Ken, is that while everyone on the outside is afraid of its inhabitants, telling stories of their unparalleled fierceness, people on the inside are scared to death of attacks from everyone on the outside. When I arrived (on my third attempt), the men were involved in a project to clear the area surrounding their immense shabono of any and all trees and brush, so raiders would have nowhere to conceal themselves if they attacked. They worked diligently—and I can tell you the Yąnomamö don’t work at all if they can avoid it—and the whole time they were on full alert.

As the handful of men cleared the brush and chopped down the trees, at least three others were standing guard with ready bows. When the women went out to the stream with their hollowed-out gourds, the men protecting them walked in a crouch, their arrows nocked and partly drawn back, their eyes open so big they looked like prowling bush babies.

Lac lifts his pen and marvels at how the Bisaasi-teri raiding party managed to ambush a man from such a vigilant group—even though one member of that party was shot through the chest, and at least one other would have been shot as well had it not been for Lac’s bumbling antics. Should he tell Ken how he got the wounded Monou-teri man to drink some water, and how it probably saved his life?

He sets his pen back down, writing, I was granted access to “the one who truly lives here,” and I presented him with both an ax and a machete, telling him I would bring much more on future visits. He has a big personality, this headman, loves to tell stories, acting them out with dramatic flourishes, and constantly pausing to ask, “Do you know what happened next?” or “Do you know what I did next?” But he too, truly living though he may be, was nervy as hell, barking orders at other men in a way I’ve never seen a Yąnomamö do.

The villagers seldom defer to their headman’s authority; any leading must be accomplished with the lightest of touches. The people in every village I’ve been to use the same phrase, “the one who truly lives here,” to refer to the headman, and they put special emphasis on the “truly” to stress the starkness of the distinction. But there’s no single word for a leader. I’ve been using pata to refer to them because it means something like “politically prominent man,” similar to the word browähäwä, but I’ve come to realize this latter connotes more of an ambition after prominence on the part of younger men, whereas patas are already established.

Rowahirawa tells me the best way to identify the headman of any village is to watch for which pata visitors go to when they arrive to trade. All the visitors to Bisaasi-teri, for instance, go straight to Mobaräkäwa (whom I’ve been calling Bahikoawa). And in Patanowä-teri I was brought first to Kreihisewa, after a tense approach and an even tenser entrance.

Lac pauses again in his writing, remembering how marching into the plaza and striking the visitor’s pose felt like turning himself in to the police. I’ve done something horrible, he may as well have said, or at least I think I may have. So I put myself in your hands, at your mercy. Let’s see if we can’t sort this whole thing out.

   Convention called for him to stare blankly over the top edge of the shabono’s thatching, into the billowing green conflagration of foliage festooned with daubed chains of cottony cloud. And stare he did, even though he wanted desperately to scan the plaza for the man he’d lunged at and sent over the edge of the bluff—the bluff he’d see now looming over the village if he turned and looked over his shoulder. He conjures an image of the man’s face in his mind. It seems so vivid, he thinks, but if I came face-to-face with him now, would I even recognize him?

It was the same deal as in the other villages he’s visited: he had a rough census with most of the people’s names before arriving; now he needed a Polaroid and a 35-millimeter photo of everyone. Patanowä-teri is home to over two hundred people though, so taking the time to get a census of any other village from them might have put him behind schedule. All he could think of as he stood in the pose, and later as he moved from yahi to yahi going over his list of names, was that one of those names belonged to the man who knows he was there the day the Bisaasi-teri and Monou-teri staged their joint raid, who knew that he’d not only been present but had participated—or rather, interfered. Yes, one of the names on his list must belong to this man—unless that man had been killed.

Lac had, after all, shoved him down a steep embankment, into the path of the band of retreating raiders. It’s entirely possible they killed him, meaning he wouldn’t be telling anyone what Lac had done, meaning Rowahirawa is the only one who knows. And does Rowahirawa even know about the tackle? Had he crossed paths with the doomed man on the cliff face? No, he couldn’t have. He only went through the unokaimou ceremony for a single killing, and then there’s the fact that no one else from the raiding party claimed to have killed anyone at the bluff. No, there were only the two killings, meaning the man who knows what he did is still here.

Every mock lunge Lac expected to be sincerely fatal. He stared out over the trees, thinking of the intricate abundance of life, the layered complexity and staggering copiousness of details and processes awaiting discovery, more than any one hundred minds could hold, however immanently graspable they individually seem. If the world can be seen in a grain of sand, think of the entire cosmos of interlocking cycles and nutrient chains and chemical bonds in every square inch of the forest canopy. Even the ants have stories to tell, and stories to be deduced, of how the species evolved, what its ancestors looked like, why it behaves the way it does, individual variation—do ants have personalities?—their roles within the group established through some basic biochemical mechanism. Never in his life had Lac looked so intently into a distant swatch of foliage, so doggedly brought to life in the theater of his mind the epic story of pismire prehistory alongside the smaller scale dramas of the workers’ daily lives.

Lac wasn’t attacked. He stood long enough for the entrance ceremony to come to its next stage, when Kreihisewa came to guide him to his family’s yahi, where an empty hammock awaited. He lay in the visitor’s repose, trying not to think of all the stories he’d heard of nomohori, dirty tricks, where hosts lulled their guests into dropping their guards and then hacked into their skulls with some worn-down nabä tool. Then came the sweet and chalky date—if there’s any difference in recipe from village to village, his palette lacks the refinement to discern it—and then it was time for him to present his gifts of madohe.

Getting back to Patanowä-teri hadn’t been easy. Rowahirawa balked at the idea of going with him, probably with good reason. Most of the other Bisaasi-teri insisted he was insane to travel over ground during the wet season, and he had indeed had to journey far out of his way to find a dry, relatively safe route. Now here he was, ready to do his work. The headman was helpful, but things didn’t go quite as smoothly as they had in Mömariböwei-teri, mostly because there were so many more people. But he proceeded. When you feel this alone and out-of-place, you latch on to anything that offers a clear sense of what you should do next. He proceeded, and all the while he had no plan for how he’d respond to coming across the man he sent tumbling down the cliff face.

Rowahirawa wasn’t there to guide him or watch out for him. Instead, he’d relied on two huyas with relatives in Patanowä-teri as guides. These two had sat out the raid, and unless Rowahirawa had told them, knew nothing of the inappropriately outsized role Lac had played. Still, lots could have gone wrong. An inwardly pulling throb of vibrating collapse took up residence in his chest and spread to his arms and to his head. His voice was brittle and creaky. His eyes were dry yet leaky, irritated by the softest breezes. He explained his goals and methods to Kreihisewa, who shouted a summary to everyone who had gathered to prod and pinch and gawp at the nabä with hair the “color of overripe bananas.” He insisted, in a way few headmen would insist for fear of embarrassing incidents of defiance, that they all cooperate.

Lac worried that the tension of anticipating enemy raids would conduce to shorter fuses. Only an insane person would go about asking after names at a time like this. Only an insane person, for that matter, would attempt to reach Patanowä-teri from Bisaasi-teri in the height of the wet season. The Bisaasi-teri had said as much. But he did both. A large contingent of one of the two main lineages refused to listen to Lac go down his list of names, and refused still more adamantly to give him any others. He considered petitioning the headman to exercise some authority on his behalf, but decided against it. This will only be a first pass, he figured; he’ll return to this village again, he’s sure. It stands as a unique sample, larger than any village he’s yet seen, and embattled like no other he’s heard of. Better for the people who opt out to witness their neighbors enjoying the fruits of their cooperation, later observing nary an evil consequence befalling those whose names he checks off. The objectors will come around. Trying to coerce them into providing information would likely redound to its own evil effect.

Lac wrapped up his first day sitting in a hammock, listening to Kreihisewa tell, or more precisely reenact his stories. He couldn’t help comparing this man’s charisma to, of all people’s, Padre Morello’s, who Lac supposes is a sort of big man in his own right. Kreihisewa is a kinetic dynamo of a raconteur, like someone hired to act out a one-man theatrical production for a class of kindergartners. At key points, he’d lean close to Lac’s ear, splashing tobacco-steeped spittle on his cheek. But there was something in his intensity, in the graceful occupation of the role he was making up for himself as he went, in the fine-grained nature of the attention he directed toward his audience—all of which reminded him of Morello. The only difference was that Morello would demur from self-aggrandizement, prizing humility after the Western fashion. Even the undercurrent of potential and thoroughgoing disreputability was there. It made Lac wonder if it might be possible to arrange a meeting.

Maybe, if Lac were to listen closely as such a meeting took place, he’d be able to channel some of those undercurrents to the surface. He’s stopped writing. Looking back at the page before him, he tries to work out the ramifications of complete forthrightness. Ken wouldn’t rat him out to anyone; they’re friends. Plus, if Lac simply explained the situation… But sending it in a letter would mean leaving a written record, physical evidence. Of what, though, he counters, considering I didn’t kill anyone? If the man he’d pushed down the cliff had met his demise, he would have come across this detail in his interviews—unless the man was from the faction that chose not to participate.

Lac sighs. The topic exhausts him, but his thoughts hoist it up and heave it to the front of his mind with the relentless fervor of hopeful determination, as if by thinking about it hard enough he just may be able to change what happened. Change what he did. He goes back to writing about the Patanowä-teri headman, leaving out any mention of his earlier visit to the village. Wrapping up his description, with an inch and a half left at the bottom of the page, Lac turns to the topic of his next trip.

I’m disappointed, he writes, to still be in Bisaasi-teri, a village that has been in sustained contact with the New Tribes for over a decade. The place is lousy with missionaries of every stripe: the Canadian counterparts to the Clemens family across the Mavaca in Lower Bisaasi-teri, the Catholic priest who’s recently arrived to replace the Dutch lay brother in the burgeoning compound across the Orinoco, and of course Clemens himself, who’s been coming and going between here and Tama Tama to prepare for the arrival of his wife and daughter. He’s got the outhouse working again. I helped him build a chicken coup. He’s basically setting up a one-family farm for their extended stays.
 
Already, young men from the village are showing up asking me to confirm—or more often to debunk—this or that element of the Jesus story. What the hell do you tell them? That nearly all your fellow white nabäs suffer from some bizarre delusion, one that piggybacks on their capacity for guilt as much as their paralyzing fear of death? “Us white nabäs have our own hekura we speak to and call to inhabit our chests. Their stories are much different, but they’re really the same kind of hekura the Yąnomamö know”—though the nabäs would be loath to admit any such thing.

My plan has always been to stay with the Bisaasi-teri long enough to learn the language and the basics of the culture and then relocate to a village farther removed, one whose contact with the missionaries has been minimal, one whose people have never heard of Jesus. Rowahirawa has been telling me about a place that sounds perfect, a village called Mishimishimaböwei-teri, which is located near the headwaters of the Mavaca. He says it’s much bigger than Patanowä-teri, which would make it the biggest I’ve heard anyone speak of. I want to reach it while the river is still high. I won’t be able to stay long on my first explorative mission, but I hope to make contact and lay the groundwork for future visits.

He’s on to the next page now, a whole series of lines to fill with his dashes of ink, with scribbled conjectures about this undiscovered group running wild in the wilderness. Ah, but it’s not the kind of wildness you might have hoped for, he resists writing to his friend, not the wildness conducive to adventure, but a wildness far more frightening. He leans back in his chair, already rickety—it’s the humidity that wrecks them—and looks around at the cluttered and moldy interior of his hut. Lately, despite all the villages he’s been traveling to, it seems like he’s always in this damned hut, or in some shabono’s plaza, or in some yahi trying to parse some overly exuberant man’s tobacco-distorted words, pen and paper in hand. Kennedy talked of going to the moon. Humans have spread from Africa to blanket the globe with their quickly tainted tabula rasa of colorless concrete, migrating farther than any other terrestrial species—except for the ones they brought with them. Yet individually we spend our lives occupying such small ranges, making the same routine circuits over and over: work, home, store, maybe a nice restaurant one night a week, blind to the seasons and the racing away of year after year, dumped unceremoniously into our futures, left to wonder: How did we get so old?

Here in the jungle it’s not so different. I’m always here, he thinks, writing or making food or cleaning up after making food or listening to some crazy old man prattle on endlessly about the huyas he’s killed or the wives he’s enjoyed and then passed along to his little brother—a kinship category which also includes cross-cousins, Lac has discovered. I’m always here, or else I’m in one of the shabono courtyards, variously avoiding beggars and badgering reluctant informants. Or else I’m walking, days on end, with an eye to the ground for snakes, trying to see the bent twigs signaling the arbitrary meanderings of the so-called trail.

Only so many hours fit into each day—staying productive and avoiding wasted time is a matter of prioritization at its most ruthless. When he was a kid in Port Austin, he would look at the sunrays streaming through high billowing clouds over Lake Michigan and bask in the radiance of his gilded future. Every shimmering promise and prisming dream awaiting its fruition somewhere along the infinite span of heartily bloated seasons stretching over the horizon. Now it’s this sweaty, gnat-bitten grind unto the end of his overstretched days, grueling journeys and tedious paperwork, minute by minute, for the rest of his life.

He needs to get out of the field. He needs to see his family, and the ocean, and the familiar landmarks, roadways, buildings, and sidewalks of Ann Arbor.

Before any of that, though, he needs to find this place called Mishimishimaböwei-teri. But first he has to check on something. He has to make sure Rowahirawa is the one telling him the truth about the names. So his next move will be to motor his dugout to Ocamo, and from there voyage to the Höräta River, where he’ll find Makorima-teri, the village where the people whose names Kukumbrawa has been giving him live, if the allegations are true. 
*****

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