Karin Mitchell's books on Goodreads
Between Families Between Families
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ratings: 8 (avg rating 4.75)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Currant of the River: A Fable, Part IV

In the hole, the sun and the moon were both hidden. The girl could hear them whisper and sing to her children in their sleep yet they remained hidden behind the clouds of her father’s self-absorption. But she knew they were there, could taste currants in her mouth as the children danced and played to dusk and dawn songs in her womb.

The family’s new world was eerily like that of the village, but here when the girl rose to gather water, there was none. The rocks that had formed the slick ribbons before, now stood porous and dry. The snakes she’d been accustomed to hearing on her trips did not slither, they simply weren’t. The colors of the nearby jungle began to fade from lack of attention from the sun. They apologized to the girl, as she gave them all the attention she could, but it simply was not enough. The father meanwhile, had his way in all things. His will be done.

The mother and the girl thought surely the father would be happy this way, but still he was not. With his brow furrowed, he gave constant orders. Without night and day, his will was ceaseless. Without rest, he became more gruel like, less joyful, even than he’d been on earth. The animals from his “farm,” which was really more a menagerie, missed the light and searched and searched for it. They asked the girl where it was in hushed tones, but she claimed not to know. They snuck and formed languages to communicate their findings. But as no one had found anything of value: a piece of gold, a scrap of a story book, a piece of twine; they began to believe the man must have hid the sun and moon in the house somewhere. Why else would he spend so much time there? They were continually sneaking into the house to try to catch a glimpse. He would rage and shoo them from the house. One day, after seeing a weasel scamper out the kitchen door, he became so incensed, he captured the first animal he saw, a monkey, and brought it screaming and howling into the house.

That night, he invited his menagerie to the windows to watch a “celebration”. The animals were thrilled. “He must finally have realized the value of the gift (which dangerously stagnated) within his daughter. It could still be brought forth with the sun and moon and since he must have those hidden in the house...” They thought. But the man’s color had faded and grayed. His pallor was pasty and creased with an eerie otherworldliness and they became concerned as they viewed him from all the windows, that maybe he did not have the sun after all.

Suddenly, a special shadow crossed from the ceiling of the tunnel. It warned them not to watch, that they would surely mourn what they saw. But they were an optimistic lot, so on they watched. The shadow promised them one thing before leaving, “There is a way out, and the key is the girl. Without she and her lessons, you will be trapped here for all eternity.”

The mood darkened as the shadow dissipated, and the animals turned to watch the family’s ceremony. The mother and girl watched as the man brought the monkey he’d captured into the dining area. “Who has a ceremony indoors?” The animals suddenly wondered, realizing what an unnatural thing they were about to witness.

The daughter felt emptiness taking over her breast and the milk drained out suddenly, as did her hopes. Her father was to do something atrocious, of this she was sure. But because it was a world of his own mind, he could not see the women’s distress. It took hold of the animals. The monkey began screaming and desperately grasping the sides of the cage, his poor little face terrorized by what he knew was coming.

The father forcibly removed his nearest animal kin from the cage, cracked his head like a walnut and began to eat as though it were the most natural act in the world, (which in this frightening world of his making, it was.) Just as he did this, the taste of the currants in the girl’s mouth crumbled and fell. She could not hold both this moment, and her lesson in her mouth at the same time. Her jaw slack now, the knowledge nearly dripped from her mouth.

The animals hung their heads and began walking away slowly, one by one.

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