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THIS OCCURRED ONLY two-thousand years ago in my village.
There was a storyteller in our village then, a simple man, really, who went down to the beach every morning and told stories there. Mostly kids and dogs listened to him, but sometimes an adult, bored at home or temporarily not welcome there, came down and joined the little group. Whenever the storyteller did not appear, which was rare, the children went out looking for him, they liked him that much. Oh, he did delight the little ones!
Well, one wonderful Spring day Tumorka, for that was the name of the gentle storyteller, told the tale of Ni and the Drug Lords; and it also happened that one of the Evil Sisters, out taking a walk and plotting some mischief, to be sure, heard part of it.
Now Ni was a handsome young villager who worked at many jobs, many "Togos" as we say, because times were tough then. The awful truth was that the Dodomendos, or the male elders, had looted the treasury in many acts of greed during the previous century. And as a result the Dodomendos were overthrown by the women. But even so, it took many centuries for the Xamoran economy to recover. So people like Ni worked many Togos. But a goddess should not digress too far; I will come to the point.
One of Ni's lesser Togos was working as a Drug Dealer in the Ancient Abode.
Now, do not look at me like that. The "Ancient Abode" was one of our finest Inns & Eateries back then, and selling drugs was a perfectly respectable way to earn a living; it was as legal as selling, say, a pack of cigarets or a bottle of wine. Moreover, taking drugs was a way of life; it was in fact the "good life."
Much of the land was devoted to the cultivation of the "medicinal" plants, as they were called because they eased so much pain and suffering; and there were many who claimed to be great authorities on the medicines or drugs the plants produced. "Connoisseurs" I believe these people were called. And everything was available, from Aspirin to opium; only alcohol was not allowed, for it had caused too many fights, too many problems.
Drugs, in fact, were served at nearly every meal. No respectable inn & eatery was without them, and the great I&E's boasted many varieties, stylishly packaged and labeled and carefully stored in underground compartments according to the most stringent requirements of temperature and humidity. The cultivation of the "plants" was on everyone's mind, and the effect that the weather was having on the "crops" was a frequent subject of conversation among decent folks. "Gonna wilt the poppies, gonna wilt the poppies," some old geezer was frequently heard to mutter while staring up at a blazing sun. There were good drug years and bad drug years; and on the bad years, so it is said, many Drug Lords even killed themselves out of shame and a mistaken sense of responsibility.
Naturally, the self esteem of those who served drugs in the establishments--the "dealers" or "les serviteurs"-- was considerably enhanced. An individual with low self esteem developed, almost overnight, normal self esteem; while an individual with normal self esteem became almost arrogant. Almost instantly such individuals became men of great knowledge and power. "A good choice" or "a little on the aromatic side," uttered by one of "le serviteurs" in a quite, severe tone of voice, could reduce almost any restaurant diner to worshipful obedience.
Thus Ni's stature increased a little at the restaurant where he was paid to pontificate about this or that "little plant" grown in the domain of Fish Heads, Skunk Rock, Lion's Path, or the Ancient Bones, under more or less dry or humid, humus or gravelly conditions of temperature and soil.
But Ni was a good soul and, after an evening of dealing drugs at the Ancient Abode, he always felt a little slimy, like the backed up water in Eel's Nook on the east side of Xamoro lagoon.
Now keep in mind that at this time--I don't know why I feel embarrassed saying this--it was the men who did all the menial work. Excuse me for smiling just a little. This was after the overthrow of the Dodomendos but before the Acts of Mercy. They not only fished, but they buried the fish heads themselves now; they cooked, repaired thatched roofs, and did that which needed to be done with the sewage; and, were it possible, they would have been made to suckle newborn babies.
This was a kind of retribution that was extracted for all the centuries of male incompetence that Xamoran woman had to suffer up to this time. Those stupid men, they really deserved it. And--I don't know why I am still laughing about this at my age, but I am--it was kind of pleasant in the beginning.
But after awhile, maybe the first ten years, it became apparent that it was not such a good thing after all, because--how shall I put it?--the men developed a kind of "hang-dog" appearance. They weren't fun to be around anymore. Cooking you a yellow Mura-Mura fish, boiling you a Scarlet Wrinkled Wren egg, or even massaging your back or your foot, or tugging on your little toe to relieve the tension there, or . . . Well, excuse me for blushing. But you know what I mean. Anyway, it wasn't any fun anymore because you had this feeling that, though they were stewing in their guilt, they were beginning to loath you for not being quicker to forgive.
Anyway, at the time that Ni worked at the Ancient Abode, it was but a year before the Acts of Mercy that restored a modicum of dignity to the Mendodo men, though never their former arrogance, never!
Now where was I? I seem to be all digression today. Maybe it's the season, or maybe it's the cloud I came in on. It was so high, so bellowy, I thought I was going to pass out over Ecuador. And then this fat, loud, cigar- chomping, politician of a god on his way to a conference, he said, in Mexico City kept pressing his attentions on me. "And where might the fair goddess Mendodii be going in the month of May?" he kept asking while blowing smoke in my face. Well, . . . But I had better get to the point.
As I was saying before, Tumorka was down on the beach one radiant Spring morning just after the rains had made our plants shoot up so magnificently high you would not believe it. What a sight it was! And he was telling the story of Ni. You see in Xamora we don't have to stoop to inventing stories, we just "tell reality"; because in Xamoro, reality is as fantastic as any work of fiction or puerile political promises. But as I was saying, Tumorka was referring to Ni as the "Lion so full of grace," a classical turn of phrase in the Xamoran oral tradition dating back to Homorka, when the Evil Sister passed by, staring downward--at her feet or at the ground, but most assuredly into the dark core of some evil plot.
"Each day the Lion so full of grace does many things; so sad it is he has the hang-dog appearance . . .," she suddenly heard, just now noticing the little rag-tag assembly in the sand into which she was about to stumble, being so completely wrapt up in her dark contemplations.
"So full of grace?" she hissed. This reeked of male pride. "And the hang-dog appearance? Why, men were meant to wear that expression FOREVER," she spat. Outrage filled her bosom like the deadly poison of the Mogumbo snake.
Near her left foot she spotted the shiny, jagged edge of a broken Muga-Muga shell. She bent down to pick it up. "Tumorka, you bastard, you will pay for such words," she thought.
An ancient bird passing between beach and sun caused a flicker of darkness in Tumorka's eyes. Startled, he looked up from where he had been sitting cross-legged in the sand. The children moved closer to him, while several of the dogs bared their teeth and made low growls, as the Sister dropped the shell fragment and hurried off towards the village.
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