You Have a Child

You have a child. Tell us.

Chumana played a stick into the fire until the tip held a flame. “I was too small and young to have a child. The midwife did not think I would live, the baby either. Finally he was born, but he was lifeless. The midwife wanted to take him away and leave him for the forest spirits, but I begged to hold him and she finally let me.

“He was so small. And limp. Then he made a popping sound and he kicked and began to breathe and squirm. And then cry. It was such a tiny cry. The midwife said a wandering spirit had entered his body, and she fled. The village chief, the kikmongwi, came to take my son away to release the spirit, but I fought him, and he said if I keep my baby I must leave the village.” She drew her knees to herself and hugged.

What happened?

“The kikmongwi had a son, a troublemaker. Nobody liked him. The elders had told the kikmongwi many times that he must do something, so he forced us to marry and sent us away.” She buried her face in her knees.

What are you not telling us?

She looked up in a flash of anger. “The kikmongwi is the father of my child. Yet he did nothing to protect us, and sent me away with his crazy son who ….” Chumana looked around as if to escape. “He hurt me. He said my son is an evil spirit. He said he would take me to Totec Canyon and make me into a prostitute and sell my son to the warriors. But I demanded we go to the Village of the Twin War Gods, and his father told him he must take us there and build a house for us, which he did. It’s the only thing the kikmongwi did to help us.”

As soon as your husband finished building your house, you divorced him.

“Of course.”

You planned on that?

“I had no choice. I wanted my baby to live.”

After you left, warriors attacked the village where your son was born. Everyone but the chief was killed. How did you find out about that?

“Sometimes I see things.”

You mean like a vision? Before it actually happens?

She nodded.

What did you see?

She sighed. “I saw warriors running through the village, smashing the heads of mothers and children. I heard bones being crushed in the corn grinders. I smelled a sickening smell from the cooking pots. And I saw the kikmongwi just watching.”

You saw this while you were still in the village?

She nodded. “Every time I suckled my baby. I became frantic to go home.”

The Village of the Twin War Gods is home?

“I was raised there.”

Did you see the two warriors who tortured you after you sent your husband away?

“No. I felt something bad would happen. He was so angry. I feared for my son. But I didn’t see him bringing the warriors.” She took a deep breath and held her chin high, her eyes watery. “I do not see all things. Just some.”

What else do you see?

“No more questions now, okay?”

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13 Comments

Filed under #FridayFlash, Anasazi, Ancient Americans, Chaco Canyon, Chimney Rock, Historial Fiction

13 responses to “You Have a Child

  1. battypip

    What a fabulous technique – the ‘interviewer’ asked the questions I wanted to ask, and Chumana sounds so real, scary how she’s totally matter-of-fact about the awful things. And the story itself is fabulous too. Think I need to read more of your stuff…

    • Anasazi Stories

      Thank you much. I just read your story, “Ghosts.” I left a comment, so you’ll see what I said. Chumana is matter-of-fact, isn’t she? When I do character interviews like this, I tend to imagine they’d been given some sort of truth serum. Maybe that flatlines them a bit, but at least I can wring the truth out of them.

      Here’s a link to “Ghosts”: http://battypip.wordpress.com/2009/06/26/ghosts-again/

  2. An interesting technique, to be sure. It certainly adds depth to the character and must be a fantastic way for you to explore their development, motivations and back stories.

    I imagine for people unfamiliar with your method they must assume she is talking to the tribal elders or perhaps her Gods. Which, I suppose, she is in a way.

    Nice job.
    ~jon

    • Anasazi Stories

      Jon: Thanks for the thoughts on how readers would interpret. That helps me. Not bad assumptions. I was imagining that it’s the modern me interviewing the thousand-year-old Chumana through some kind of remote, time-warp video conferrencing kind of technique. I didn’t want to say that to set it up, because then it shoulds like science fiction, and that was merely my own internal technique to conduct the interview. Years ago, I used to imagine interviewing my characters sitting in rocking chairs on a quiet back porch out in the country, a safe-house kind of place. But now when I interview ancient characters, I find myself trying to rationalize how I might could do that. Kind of pointless. People are strange. Especially writers. Especially historical fiction writers. –Jeff

  3. This is amazing. It’s funny how I catch myself holding my breath. I can’t wait to read more.
    Thanks again!
    ~2

  4. KjM

    There’s a quietness to this story that I like very much – notwithstanding the events it describes.

    Well told, storyteller.

    • Anasazi Stories

      Thanks, Kevin. Quiet understatement is something that appeals to me. I’m glad it elicited that in you.

      Jeff

    • Anasazi Stories

      Kevin: I tried to leave a comment on your “Twice, across two moonlit nights,” but the Typepad account said my email address is invalid. But it’s my email address. I checked it. Don’t know what’s up. Anyway, here’s what I tried to write:

      Okay, I went into kind of a “Baskervilles” kind of kind of place while I read this. Then it became a vampire piece with no vampires. That’s a good trick. Makes it surprising. I agree with other suggestions here that this feels like a prologue or a setup for something bigger. Whatever you decide, you’ve got a great setting, interesting characters, and a strong forward plot motion. –Jeff

      Here’s the link to the story: http://kjmackey.typepad.com/kjm_on_the_web/2009/06/twice-across-two-moonlit-nights.html

      • KjM

        The “You have a child. Tell us.” gave me a Greek Chorus vibe and the back and forth between the character and the “us” fit that model very well.

        It’s a very old method of telling a story, and seems to fit well with this piece.

        Well done.

      • Anasazi Stories

        Thanks, Kevin. I agree, this may be the oldest form of storytelling — people come back from some adventure, and the tribal elder says, “Tell us what happened,” and then asks questions along the way to extract the full tale. Which begs the question, when did storytelling as monologue come to be? And when did it shift from being information-only to entertainment? Maybe it doesn’t matter. It’s all an aspect of human nature (the desire for information and to be entertained).

  5. You always have so much emotion in your stories. Well done!

    • Anasazi Stories

      Thanks, Laura. The more I talk to my characters, the more I realize I don’t know them as well as I thought I did. It’s also kind of odd interviewing a character who lives a thousand years in the past. I love #fridayflash. Lots of good reads.

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