Akron stunk. It didn’t stink nearly as much as some of the places the Crone would visit, and see and feel and breathe the air of, but relative to Sydney and San Francisco, the only cities she’d spent much time in, Akron definitely stunk.
Philadelphia had smelled good during the hot marches, all those bodies sweating and moving together in common cause. Tante didn’t yet know the outcome of the Convention, but somehow, she knew it wasn’t good.
Or maybe it was just the smell in Akron.
It smelled of burnt rubber and rust that never slept, soot and broken dreams. At least the parking lot outside Motel 6 smelled that way. The lobby smelled of beer.
There was a man, really yellow, the look of long term alcoholism, sleeping behind the desk. His feet were propped up, saliva dripping from the side of his mouth. He was heavy, shaped like a pear. A yellow pear. His shirt was white, but stained, his pants blue. He had exactly three hairs on his head. He wore a name tag.
“Um, excuse me,” Tante rang the bell on the desk, because it was there, with a sign, that read ring bell for service, so she did.
“D’oh!” Homer crashed backwards, hitting his head on the wall, spilling the beer that had been perfectly balanced on his high, round gut.
“Um, Al and Helga dropped me off here, and I see that you have a sign outside that says that rooms cost $49.95 per night, and so I’d like to rent one of your rooms for the night.” Tante was quite proud of herself. While she didn’t really get what a Motel 6 was or why Helga had stopped there, there was that sign out front, and it appeared to be a building with quite a few places one might sleep. She did hope that at a desk in Homer’s position wasn’t what was traditional in these parts.
She’d heard some awful punk rock coming from a bar down the street. It sounded like someone was calling for nuclear war; she wondered if they were Trumpet supporters. The Crone did have her opinions about various musical genres, that was a fact.
Homer picked up his beer can from the floor, almost caught it before it hit, actually, the splash over the lip of the can was what woke him, he’d trained his body with keen precision to do just that. Then he picked himself up, neither setting down the can, nor spilling another drop.
“Ummmmmm……..beer.” He took a slug, and belched in perfect harmony to the crunching of the can, with a brilliantly simple percussive pop of a new top, left handed, followed by the clink of the can just emptied into the pile in the corner.
Tante just stared at him.
“Yup, $49.95 plus tax, no breakfast, credit cards only, I.D., take everything from your vehicle into your room, lock the doors, bolt them, twice, use the peephole, mildew happens, don’t sniff the rug, and ignore any and all sounds that you might hear coming from other rooms, it’s all television.” Homer had donned a pair of reading glasses, was reading from a stained computer print out.
Tante got out her passport and the credit card Al had given her and handed them over.
“I don’t have a car, and I’ve got all my belongings with me.” Tante was starting to feel a bit lost. Homer was so inhuman, inanimate almost. Her jaw started to quiver.
“Auntie Christi? Really?” Homer smirked. “Tell me, can you microwave a burrito and make it so hot that even you can’t eat it?”
“Huh?” Tante was flummoxed.
“Flanders sent you here, didn’t he?” He was getting pissy, and Tante didn’t get it. She sighed.
“No, it’s the name thing, right? That’s really my name, and I don’t know if I’m related in any way to that guy in the story books, I don’t like cooking with a microwave…”
“Good, you’re not getting one.”
“….and I don’t know who Flanders is. I’m tired, and I have a long way to go, and I don’t know how to get there, or what I’m even doing sometimes, even though Copper told me I needed to Sun Dance and Al told me that I had to make my own decisions, or that I had to be nice, or that it’s all relative, or something.” She started sniffling again, the jaw quiver.
“D’oooooooh, I get it! You’re on an Odyssey! I did one of those. Well, really, I’ve done a lot over the years, started back in Season 12.” Suddenly Homer was the Wise One. Tante was game for it, what did she know of wisdom?
“Yes!” She smiled. Suddenly, she wasn’t quite so weary.
“Oh, well, then I’ve got some advice.”
She was all ears.
“When you hear sirens, don’t cross the street. Lash yourself to the closest pole and tell everyone around you to plug their ears.” Tante was taking notes, frantically, on the back of the credit card receipt he’d handed her. “It’s going to hurt, but it’s going to hurt so good. John Mellencamp will be sining, sweetly. You’ll like it.”
“Watch out for the one-eyed monster. You’ll know it when you see it.” She’d figure out the one eyed monster.
“And there’s this woman, a real bitch, and I mean she can turn a man to stone with just one look.” Homer paled to a shade of light cornsilk, almost human, remembering Medusa. “Of course since you’re a chick, and maybe even uglier than she is, maybe you’ll be okay.”
“Now, before you set out, you should probably get a good night’s rest, and I’ll tell you right now, with the bed in the room you’re about to occupy, you’ll probably need some drugs to get there.” He reached behind the counter and pulled out a tray of flowers. “I’m a lotus man myself, but lots of people seem to like the poppies.”
Tante popped a flower.
“Gosh Homer, thanks. Is there anything else I should know?”
“Well, sure, you’ll pick up some sheepskins along the way, have all kinds of adventures. Probably most important is that you wander. Don’t make it a straight shot to the west coast, that’s boring.” Homer belched.
“Wow, I just can’t thank you enough, Homer. Is there any way I can repay you?” Tante was naive, but it was a nativity born of trust, the best kind. Homer didn’t let her down.
“Tell me, are you really the Auntie Christ?” he looked hopeful. She didn’t want to disappoint him.
“That’s my name.” She smiled at him.
“So the end times are really near?” he held up a board with a bunch of odd symbols on it. She decided she could tell a half truth, or a whole truth, it was hard to say sometimes.
“Looks right to me!”
“Thank God, it’s finally Doomsday!”
With that, he sat back down and chugged his beer.
For Tante, the Odyssey had begun.
Tante set off early the next morning, not out of any sense of decisiveness or goal, no, but because she was hungry. Ravenous, in fact. The rabbit stew that Copper had shared with her was warm and nourishing, but not plentiful. She’d always been kind of high strung, or at least that was the term the elders in the Outback had used, their sense of metabolism a bit different from that of western medicine.
Haile once offered her a long, drawn out explanation of the western viewpoint, quite limited, really, even if it did make sense in terms of her appetite. High vibrational energy, that “high strung” thing, required lots of fuel, it was why she’d always been so thin, despite her intake. If she was going to have to walk very far, well, she was going to need to gas up.
She farted as the thought crossed her mind.
She managed to find some nice grubs under a log near the yurt, enough to get her started. She looked up to Sol to get her bearings and started walking, westward, one shoe sticking ever so slightly, each step picking up bits of living soil, fungal spores and nematode eggs, billions of bacteria, expanding their horizons, reducing the drag, helping out while hitching a ride. They suggested she do the same.
The walk from the park to the highway was long, but she quickly fell into the rhythm of it, enjoying the forest of the Eastern US even more than that of the California Coast, even more than Sydney, or the Outback. She thought she might like to see Europe, her father’s Homeland, maybe get more of a feel for the White Man’s culture.
Funny, Copper had put that White Man as the bad guy into her head, kind of the same way Yanaha did, even if Yanaha was more discrete about it. She was, after all, married to one. But the culture of this country, the one she would walk, was overtaking the world, killing it, blindly.
Was it the fault of the Whites? The men? The White Men she’d known well were really nice guys, even if thy were a little arrogant sometimes. She thought about Zeus, and smiled. She could see where he got his arrogance; he was hot. Still, much of his hotness was about his passion, and his passions were all about righting wrongs.
Arnold, well, he was just adorable. Not hot, no, but beautiful in a different way. He was passionate, too, in other ways.
She thought of Juno, kind of snooty, yup, but not really bad. And she was very beautiful, and smart, and sexy, but deep down, very nice, and well meaning. She couldn’t help being snooty, any more than Peacock could, and really, her tail hindered her just as much as his did.
Good and evil, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, were they all just a matter of perspective? Red and blue, well, those seemed pretty objective, but then, Tante hadn’t quite figured out what those colors had to do with the election, the choosing of a leader. Perhaps each team had a uniform or something, she’d have to remember to ask Arnold, or Ja, since Haile was gone.
By the time she reached the highway, Sol was high in the sky, preparing to head west Himself. She smiled up at Him and stuck out her thumb, thinking of hitching with Baltha across the Outback, smiling again. It had been easy, and fun. It seemed a lifetime ago.
Sol ignored her hand signal, moved on without her.
So did countless cars, or at least more than she had any interest in counting. Holding her arm out got tiring, fast, and the asymmetry of it bothered her. Kind of like the one sticky shoe thing. She started trying to figure out a way to re-balance, to maybe walk in such a way that she could keep a thumb out and use both arms and maybe compensate for the slightly off footing.
She’d just gotten into a fun little spin that propelled her forward, while waving both of her thumbs from outstretched arms as she went, the g’s tended to offset the force of Gravity acting on her arms, when an ancient Mercedes going the opposite direction, really fast, like, light speed, she didn’t even see it at first, went into a skid, something she heard more than saw, sending it into a spin, opposite hers, that ended with it a few meters in front of her.
The passenger door opened up.
“Guten Tag altes Tante! Wohin gehst du?” A man with wild white hair and a thick mustache smiled up at her from the driver’s seat as she peered tentatively into the car.
“Ah! Sind sie einen Deutschlander?” Tante was overjoyed. She’d been thinking of her parents for some time, wondered how far they’d gotten learning each other’s language. Riding with this man would be fun, she could brush up on her German.
“Um, what?” He looked confused. “Don’t you speak English?”
Tante looked confused, too.
“Well, yes, but I assumed you spoke German. That was German, wasn’t it?”
“Um, what? No, I asked where you were going. Sorry if I mumbled a bit, the spin I took to get here was a bit disorienting.” He smiled at her.
He was cute. She hopped in.
“I’m going to Mendocino, which is in the opposite direction you were going, or at least I think so. I’m not sure why you went into that spin, for little old me.” She smiled, warmly. It felt really nice to have someone turn around for her, go out of his way.
“Und wo ist Mendocino?” He inquired, sweetly. Such a nice smile.
“Fickst du mit mir?” Smile or not, Tante was getting confused.
“Um, what?” He lost the smile, put on his own confused. It was a look that was tough for him, because he wasn’t, not very often.
Tante sighed. If the guy had known she was traveling so far, he probably wouldn’t have stopped. Still, it was nice of him, and she decided to just go with the fact that he apparently didn’t know he spoke German, at least sometimes. He clearly didn’t understand it when she spoke it.
“It’s in California. Three thousand miles, probably not what you had in mind when you slammed on the brakes.” She frowned.
“Oh, I didn’t slam on the brakes. Helga is one of those smart cars. She slammed them on when she saw you.” He smiled again.
“The car saw me? And decided to stop?” Tante really knew very little of automobiles and their technologies, much less of their personalities.
“Well, that was nice of her, but she probably didn’t know how far I have to go.”
“Far? Three thousand miles? Not too far, I don’t think so, no,” as he shook his head in the negative, the car downshifted, and sped up, concurring with the driver with the new resonance of its engine.
“Wow, that seems really far, to me, at least for a car! It will take, like, forever!” Tante had very little concept of distance, and as an old Crone a little more than a year old, well, her timing was also way out of whack. She’d learned that long before.
“It’s all relative. To you, a young old Crone far from home, everything seems out of reach, far away. To Helga, an old young car at home in the cosmos, anything is possible.” He caressed the leather covered steering wheel.
“So why did Helga stop for me?” Tante had gotten used to rejection, it came with the skin she was wearing. The idea of a car with intent was new, even if she did totally grok the MTJ. It had free will, for sure.
“She wanted to. She saw you there spinning, and decided she wanted to share your orbit. You were the first being she’d come across spinning the opposite direction she was. You made her curious,” brilliant eye twinkles stood in for upturned lips. He was a doll. Tante wondered if he, or dolls, would be offended by the comparison. She thought not.
“Wow. I never really thought about human made things having much choice in matters. I mean, I know the powers of the earth, I’ve felt them. Most cars seem pretty dead.” She thought about it a while. “Of course, Haile’s Studebaker back in Australia did offer a pretty warm embrace.”
“Some things take longer to form relationships with. But believe me, everything and everybody has a choice in every situation, always, no matter what scale. It’s all about the interaction. Helga passes most hitchhikers by; when she saw you, she decided to get acquainted.”
Tante felt skepticism creeping in. Did those people working in cubicles doing meaningless work all day really have no choice in the matter? Did the ant, following the pheromonal trail of its siblings follow blindly, never altering course? Was the order given to shoot to kill always followed, without question or remorse? Did everyone pay her taxes, were they as inevitable as death? Was death inevitable? It sure didn’t seem like it, not if there was a Taphao Tong. Was she simply the mindless drone of some omnipotent force that compelled her to act one way or another, against her will?
Hell no. Not the Auntie Christ, and not Copper, and not Yanaha or Arnold. Certainly not Ja. No, she was a being of free will, and that’s all there was to it. She could choose.
“Will Helga really take me all the way to Mendocino?” Tante suddenly felt the cosmos opening up to her, endless potential.
“Only if you want her to. It’s up to you, she’s willing, es sei denn, du wirst sauer.” He winked, apparently empathetic to the Crone’s tendency toward foul mood. “It is a big country, quite diverse. You might consider wandering around a while. What brought you to that spot in the road where I found you in the first place?”
She thought about it. He probably didn’t want her life story, although to her, that was what had brought her there. It was easy to think on such terms when one was only a year old. Her introspection was interrupted by a siren and flashing lights coming up behind them, the police car whizzing by. A penny slid off the dash as Helga moved over, landing in Tante’s lap.
Still she was confused.
The billboard in front of them showed an ad for Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale, scantily clad youngsters, dancing on the sunny beach. Finally, it dawned on her.
“My Sun Dance?”
“Ich weiß es nicht; es liegt an dir.” He gave her his best deadpan, not easy from such a jolly fellow. Tante knew in that instant that she’d learned something infinitely big, or maybe infinitely small. She supposed when it came down to infinity, everything was relative.
She saw Sol getting ready for bed through the windshield, thought maybe sticking with Helga and…..suddenly she realized she’d not been properly introduced to her new friend and mentally kicked herself for being so rude.
“Wow, I just realized, I don’t even know your name. But I remember, distinctly, you addressed me by mine when we first met! How did you know my name?” She was getting weirded out again.
“Ah, nein. My name is Albert A. Stone, but you can call me Al. When I addressed you earlier, I called you old Crone. That’s who you are, isn’t it?” He grinned at her.
“Yup, that’s me. How about I start my Sun Dance in the morning? The sun is going down, and I’m sleepy, I’ve got a lot to think about. My feet hurt. From what I know of Sun Dances, they’re pretty hard, and I’m hungry, and it’s getting cold out, my shoe is sticky, and my arm hurts, that’s why I was spinning, and……..”
Helga slammed on the brakes in front of the Akron Motel 6 and honked her horn.
“Du wirst sauer.” Al reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a credit card in her name, handing it to her. She already had ID.
She was the Auntie Christ.
“You have to do your Sun Dance. The modern world has alienated you from your true self. Your mother was stolen from her people, just as I and many of my ancestors were stolen. The Great Forgetting has overtaken people of the modern world. “ Cop had asked Tante her story, something no one had ever done before. She’d always done all the asking, and his straightforward manner appealed to her.
He was also kind of cute.
“We dance in the sun a lot, or at least when it shines, which isn’t all that much in Mendocino, but we get some, and it’s really nice. So I don’t think that’s it.” She’d not yet gotten to the place of shutting up and listening very well.
Tȟašúŋke gave her his best Bad Cop stare. She shut up; he was good. The battle axe in his holster was pretty impressive, too. She didn’t dare ask about the, uh, furs he had hanging from his belt.
They were sitting in a Yurt at a state park in Pennsylvania, listening to the water flow as Baltha munched on some oats from the pouch Cop had provided for her. She didn’t want Tante to know she was with her. After all, the Sun Dance was no walk in the park.
No, it wasn’t a bowl of cherries, at all.
“You know nothing of the Sun Dance. To spend the full day, in the baking sun, bones piercing your skin, bound to a pole, dancing, making the music with your breath, no food, no water, just pain, and dance, and brotherhood, and blood, and dance, until your skin is ripped from your body, your sacrifice to the great spirits made!” His voice boomed.
Tante puked into the fire at the center of the structure.
Cop laughed, poured some water from the jug by his side into an old tin cup for her.
“Oh, don’t worry old Crone, you’re not of my people. Your Sun Dance will be different.”
“But what? That’s the problem, I just don’t know what to do!” She almost whined.
“I cannot tell you that. I can only tell what I see, what I know from my own people and our ways. They’re very different from the ways of those who’ve taken over this country. Our entire worldview and values are different. Your symbols are strange to us.” He gave her a look as indecipherable as that of a cigar store statue.
“Are you from here?” Suddenly it occurred to her that she might be dealing with another exo-dimensional. She’d been so long with the small group in Mendocino that she’d almost forgotten what a great big cosmos it is. Still, she didn’t want to let out any secrets. They guy was, after all, a Cop.
“Not Philadelphia, no. My people are from the Great Plains. Once we roamed, followed the bison, lived with the land. Now, well, some have scattered, some still live on what the Wounded Ones, those who have lost their place in the circle that is life, have thrown to us. Their wounds come from blindness, they don’t see themselves within the larger context of the world that holds us, they see themselves as above it all. Some of us, well, we still live real life, not the no life most people here live.” He frowned.
“What do you mean, no life?” She was still rinsing the acid from her teeth. Yuck.
“Sitting in a cubicle all day, staring at a screen? Working like a slave to grow another family’s food, while yours goes hungry? Working your fingers to push buttons, working to put water into plastic, and not with your arms, to gather grains, hunt game? Playing guard, baby sitting children who should be home with their tribe, running in the world all day, learning what they need to know of life, real life, not sitting in a square box with no windows learning false histories?” Cop had been a teacher before walking away. He was a rent a cop for the convention in Philadelphia, hired by no one in particular.
“Well, from what I saw wandering around in San Francisco and Philadelphia, the people who won’t be slaves to the system don’t have it so good. It seems that some in the system have far too much, those who live in the great towers, more than any sensible person might need, while others can’t get out of the cold at night. I met some people who work in cubicles, and you’re right, that’s awful, worse in many ways than to die in the gutter. It’s as bad as the way they raise food. I’d rather sleep outside than be enslaved in a cubicle, but then, I grew up in the Outback, among my mother’s people.”
“The culture that has taken over this land sees no alternative to itself, it cannot imagine a way out of the mess it’s in, or doesn’t even see the mess. Blindness, perhaps. It kills anything that it perceives as enemy, not knowing that it only kills itself. They don’t recognize that gopher is a cousin, fungus a wise elder.
“Modern culture puts a price on everything, when it doesn’t even know the price it’s paying, it sees everything but self as dead, or unconscious, it tries to outsmart even death. It is so blind it doesn’t even see that what it values most, money, is nothing, not even paper any longer, not even usable to wipe one’s ass.” He sighed.
Tante sighed, too.
“So, you don’t know what I should do, either. Or what we should do. My friends and I have thought a lot about this, it’s why we were in Philadelphia. It seems like being the Auntie Christ ought to indicate some kind of significant role in this story line for me, but maybe that’s just ego.”
“Oh, are you the Auntie Christ?”
“In that case, you need to start walking. It’s a long way to Mendocino.” He winked at her.
“Say what? Walk? To California? From Pennsylvania? We flew here, it took quite some time!” It suddenly occurred to her that the convention was over, and they’d ridden for a full day to get to the Yurt they currently occupied. She’d forgotten all about Ja and Arnold.
“Well, you could hitchhike, but it’s going to take you a while to get to the Interstate. It’s around three thousand miles, cross country, as I recall. I’ve got to get back to Philadelphia, return Crazy Horse to the police stables.”
“But hitchhiking is dangerous!” Tante did not want to walk, or hitchhike, especially given her bad shoe, it had half a sole on one foot, she was still carrying the peeled off part, planning on fixing it. “And my shoe is broken!”
She waved the sole at him.
“It’s not dangerous for an old Crone like you. People see you out on the highway, they see an old black woman down on her luck, rode hard and put away wet, a lot like Mother Maka. You don’t have anything anyone wants.”
“But there’s time pressure! That woman with the pants suits is evil! The man with the false hair and false skin tone, well, at least he tells ugly truths, his own, more attractive to many than the lies of the woman, but both are so……so…….so………”
“Time. Bah. That is the linear thinking of the Wounded Ones. Time comes and goes and comes again, there are no points in time, only a flowing circle. The water in the stew was once a cloud,” he pointed to the meal they’d shared, “the meat was the clover in the field before it was rabbit, the pot that it was cooked in was once the stone that we stand on and will be again, long after we are gone. We are all the same. Still, rabbit was a brother, he gave of himself to us, as much so his sister’s children might live as anything, but just the same, we are thankful. The wounded ones have forgotten this.”
“So being the Auntie Christ means something?” Tante was so exasperated, and tired, and confused, she just wanted some answers.
“Sure it does. Just like being the guy with the Crazy Horse means something.”
He pulled some duct tape from Baltha’s saddlebag and repaired the shoe.
“Well, there you go. I’ve got a date with a Mermaid. Good luck now, see ya!” He smiled at her as he handed back the shoe.
He leapt onto Baltha and rode off into the sunrise. Tante decided to curl up in the Yurt and think about it for a while, maybe until someone made her move. Or maybe she’d just set out in a few hours, none too happily, but none too sadly, either, see if she could find her way home, wherever that was. Maybe on some distant exoplanet, far away. Maybe in her dreams.
She thought of Baltha, back in Mendocino (she thought), and the others, and really, they were her family now. She wondered about Virginia and Josef, how they and their new baby were doing.
Suddenly, she realized that she was completely on her own, out for a walk across this land not hers, but not Woman of Big Butt hiding pantsuit’s land either, nor the man of Orange and Foul Face Mask’s land, but all of their’s, and gopher’s and water’s and mushroom’s, too.
She hummed a Woody Guthrie tune, not realizing it, never having heard it before.
At least her shoe would function adequately, for a while. It was time for her long walk.
Baltha did her best to help, took wing and alit on the nice guy’s podium for the cameras one day, timed it perfectly. His smile was so cute. But alas, it was not enough. She felt it when she was there that day, it was not enough.
People weren’t thinking of birds, and miracles, they were thinking of bills, thinking of children and fathers gunned down in the streets for the crime of color, just as her own friends and family members had been taken for the crime of place.
Simply being born in a place was enough to make her an enemy, and she could feel it, even there, not from all of the crowd, no, but from many, she felt it when she shifted back into Baltha in burkha, just to get a sense of things. She felt fear of her, fear of the unknown who had been painted as enemy for a very long time. She decided not to go to Philadelphia, stayed in California with Yanaha and Forest and Sea, the human and non human family members.
When Arnold returned, he had a sad story to tell, one that wouldn’t make its way to the surface of the public media, not in time to change things.
The America he’d learned about as a boy was a myth.
“In the streets, it was good, almost like the old days,” he smiled, briefly “we were shouting, and marching, even the cops weren’t so bad. They were mostly just keeping the peace. It was hard not to get caught up in it, the vibe was really positive, people smoking grass, and the cops didn’t even care.” He paused, and his smile turned around.
“In the Convention Center, there where the delegates gathered, it was criminal. The woman stole the nomination, didn’t even try to hide it, just said sorry, we have the money, we buy the votes, the people don’t get one,” he choked up a little, caught himself. Old habits die hard, that catching of the self. He sniffed, and went on. “There were a few brave souls, a few who stood up and walked out. But not enough.”
He broke down for a minute, composed himself, or rather, Yanaha composed him with her warm embrace. “After the vote, after the people marching in the streets, thousands of them, in the stifling heat, marching and chanting for democracy, feeling good, we were so sadly mistaken in our belief that we might still live in a democracy, not something owned by big business, it really hurt, all over again. Breaks an old man’s heart”.
“Maybe you all figured out then and there that you never really did live in a democracy.” Ja wasn’t so moved, he’d seen enough of what the Imperialists had done to the world he grew up in. That and he was his mother’s son.
“Baltha is going to flip when she gets here and finds out you didn’t bring Tante back with you. I can’t imagine what you were thinking, letting her go off on her own!” Yanaha was alternating between holding Arnold while he wept and pacing the floor, frantic over the thought of Tante, Disturbance Personified, out stirring up the wrath of the Ancient Ones.
Ja wasn’t even a little bit defensive.
“Hey, the guy she took off with was a cop! And he wasn’t hauling her away, they were talking like old friends!” The past week had been exhausting, and Ja was in no mood to talk about it.
It had been the wildest thing.
First, the cop. He sure didn’t look like a cop, but then, Ja had mostly only read about them and seen them on TV, that and a few around town in Berkeley and San Francisco. The New York cop was riding a horse, and while he’d seen a few of those in Golden Gate Park, that wasn’t all that odd, this guy had really long hair. And feathers in his hair. His uniform was fine, NYPD all the way, but since his hair was so long, he had it tied back with a bandana, with sure as heck freaking feathers.
Then, the cop’s horse. Tante’s Teva broke during the march, the ground so hot that the bottom layer just melted and peeled right off of it, and she started hobbling, and bitching, and crying, because really, she’d had Right Shoe with her most of her short long life, so the ground rumbled, just a little, as much as it could in Philly, the City of Brotherly Love.
When the horse saw Tante it went nuts, like, totally berserk, starting rearing up, threw the guy down to the ground, right in the middle of all that marching and chanting. Ja thought there might be trouble, a cop down in a crowd, cops all over the place, but it was fine. He landed in the middle of the folks carrying the giant joint, and they picked him right back up, still laughing and singing as they carried him along. The Hot Chick at the front of the Weed People’s float, a topless mermaid, managed to calm the horse and give it back to the cop as he was rave waved to the front, up to his mount. He kissed the mermaid, thanking her.
Since Tante had caused all the fuss, she was really apologetic for making his horse crazy, and told him so, was walk trotting along beside him, one foot sticking to the ground with every step, the crowd’s pace not too fast, not too slow, as he was transported to the float with the mermaid, where the entire procession stopped for a minute, in unison.
He told her not to worry about it, it happened a lot.
He’d introduced himself.
“My name is Tȟašúŋke Witkó. My friends call me Cop, short for Copper, the name given me based on my skin tone by the people who stole me from my family. They were into Native American tradition. I was part of their rather extensive collection.”
Ja had been trying to keep up, hindered by the sign he was carrying. Before he knew what had happened, the Copper had pulled Tante up onto the horse and they’d ridden off together. He decided to tell himself that maybe the horse was Baltha. He sure hoped it was. Her continued absence in Mendocino was reassuring.
The joyousness of their celebration was short lived.
Arnold hadn’t spoken up. He didn’t want to put a damper on things, he’d been around long enough to know that a person never knows, thought what the heck, maybe the old Crone was on to something, and if there was magic to be added to the mix of things, nobody could work it like Yanaha. He smiled as he recalled her magic of the previous night.
But he also remembered his own frustrations from the summer of love. He’d marched the marches and carried the signs, and while the people of the US finally got tired of watching their boys come home in boxes, well, they kind of forgot an awful lot about peace and love and doing the right thing afterwards, that or those boys who came home not in boxes came home kind of shattered. Those broken bits can spread some pain if they’re not dealt with, and most of them hadn’t really been dealt with. It was the doing the right thing that seemed to throw a lot of folks, too many years living life with the idea of being chosen or above all the rest of the world or some such, had done lots of harm. It was something Yanaha’s people understood, something he had learned.
Most of the people of the US of A,, well, not so much.
But when Yanaha returned from the library a short time later, the look on her face told the whole story. Heck, it looked to be a trilogy, at least.
“Well, I’m afraid this is something we’re going to have to deal with ourselves,” she sighed, “while the energy of the MTJ isn’t strictly a local phenomenon, it’s kind of limited as to where it can vent its frustrations.”
“Well, where can it vent them then?” Tante was still panting, more from the dance than the idea, as its silliness had already occurred to her, at least a little. From what she understood of earthquakes, which was more than a little, after all, she was pretty sure she’d rattled the world they were all occupying a time or two, that wasn’t how they worked.. She’d consulted the Great God Google, the way she liked to think of the search engine since Haile left them, she like to think of him there, sitting at Google’s right hand, or at least the image of Google she had in her mind. Google was colorful, and shape shifted, often, Google was no Baltha, but like her, it always returned to its true form.
Or at least Tante assumed so. She’d not given her own true form thought in quite a while.
“Well, it can take out the Yellowstone Caldera, but since the epicenter of that blow hole, Dick Cheney’s place, is so close to the spot where Wolf has finally resettled, the MTJ refuses to vent there.” They all nodded in agreement. Wolf was a great friend. Yanaha continued.
“Any place that there’s significant fracking going on has potential, as does most of the Pacific Rim. For now, both Cleveland and Philadelphia are out. Besides, the MTJ can’t just convert the kinetic energy of plate scraping into an outcome. The translation of the ancients’ text is kind of vague, there’s some really archaic symbology used, but basically I think it says that we have to use the materials and methods consistent with reality, that magic is just that. Or that’s my interpretation.”
“What’s the exact translation?” Arnold, ever the attorney.
“Well, you must recognize, that in the ancient ways, knowledge was passed through oral traditions, symbols and reality are the same, the ancients were immersed in life. There is no word for symbol in most indigenous languages, no such concept. The old grandmothers who tried to write down the knowledge when the language was stolen and the young ones started to lose interest, well, they faced lots of challenges. Attempts to convey old wisdom with written words is difficult, at best”. She was hesitant in expressing the sense the symbols had given her, the meaning conveyed.
“Don’t worry Yanaha, Arnold isn’t going to take you to court, your best guess is good enough for us,” Ja laughed as he said it, only a little falsely, trying to lighten the mood.
“Well, the sense I get from the symbols is something like: “Get real, Bitch”, she chuckled, genuinely, before she continued “partly because it was Coyote who delivered the message as I was studying the old text. You probably couldn’t hear, over the music down here. It was one of those direct answers to a question I’d posed, mentally. The longer interpretation was my own.
“Okay, so, no problem, right?” Tante was working back up to manic mode.
“That Bernie guy is really good, the people love him! All we have to do is show just how awful and false she really is, it will all work out for the best, right?”
“Well, maybe,” Arnold sighed again, almost afraid to get too hopeful. “How’s about we all go to Philadelphia. That seems right, I mean, it’s the place that’s supposed to be about brotherly love, the American Revolution had roots there, lots of good folks in that area. Maybe we can stir up the crowd!”
“Black Lives Matter is going to be there, for sure, I’d love to get with that group!” Ja’s Anarchist was getting fired up, even if it was a political thing. His deep Yeti intuition was troubling him as well, in ways he couldn’t quite define. Just as Arnold said, it all seemed ideal, the place for the New Revolution to take place, for the corruption of the system to be laid bare.
Maybe that was it. If the system wasn’t corrupt, well, Bernie was a shoe-in, even if he was a Democratic Socialist. That might be a livable system, at least until he found a way to run free in the Himalayas as his spirit called for him to do. But if it was corrupt, and every fiber of his Yeti being cried out to him, howled in that way that had served as password to the cyber world of Haile’s creation, howled at him from his mother’s silent mantras transmitted from Bhutan, that it was corrupt, well, that did not bode well for the march on Philadelphia.
He restrained himself, and started doing online searches for people he might connect with there. Already a movement had begun, the old guy from Brooklyn was indeed shaking things up.
People were paying attention.
The first day of June, Tante suddenly snapped out of it. She’d been quietly snickering away in the corner, sounding more and more like some sort of strange animal, like some de-evolutionary transformation in communication. When the background sound of her suddenly stopped, it immediately drew everyone’s attention with its absence. They’d all grown quite fond of it, it worked well with the sounds of Sea and Forest.
“The Trumpeter doesn’t really matter at all.” In fact, the sudden change back to the obnoxiousness of her typical tone was unsettling. “He can spew his bile all day long, the more the better.”
Baltha spoke up. “Tante, you know you don’t mean that. So much hatred and ugliness cannot make the world more beautiful.” She was growing a little concerned about her friend.
“No, that’s just it. The ugliness and hatred is all so obvious, nobody really wants that. Even the other Reds can’t stand him. He’ll never get elected.” She sounded so certain it was a little unsettling. “It’s the woman who’s the problem. The guy from Brooklyn is who we need to focus our energy on.”
“He sure has our votes, and since we’re the only ones here who can vote, I guess he’s a winner in this household.” Arnold beamed. He’d been carrying a secret man crush for the Bernster. He’d never met the guy, but had admired him for years.
“Yeah, he’s almost kind of radical enough. And reminds me a little of Arnold. He’s kind of cute.” Yanaha sent her love a kissy.
“I’m feelin’ the Burn.” Tante’s eyes were blazing, her lips parched. Sweat rolled from her hairline down her cheeks. A little puff of steam rose off of her body, and she cooled. She took a deep breath. “No, I literally mean focus our energy. We need to sit down with Forest and Sea and Wind and Fire and the power of the MTJ. It wants to move. What we’re going to do is bond with the others in ritual and refocus the energy of the MTJ into an electoral landslide of the forces of Love over the forces of Hatred.
Baltha lit up. “The way those criminals at the DNC have been shapeshifting the ballots is as bad as anything I’ve seen in all my lives! Yes, we must do this!”
Ja immediately tuned in to Baltha’s wavelength. “And the media, they’ve been trying to conduct a snow job! They’re all owned by the same people who own the woman. And she’s more like the angry Trumpet than either of them is like the old guy, even if he does still represent government. The whole show is a farce, if you ask me, but yes, let’s try it!”
Yanaha set her knitting down and pushed herself up out of her chair. “Well, come along then. We’ll need to gather the right things, let me go up to the library and do a little research. We’ve got all sorts of stuff for keeping the peace with the MTJ, it’s become so much a part of our daily ritual we hardly think about it. We’ve sure never tried to channel its energy anywhere else, that wouldn’t be nice. This we’ll need to think about.”
“It’s not about channeling the energy to a place. It’s about channeling it to an event, an outcome. Instead of ripping the earth apart, we’ll crumble the walls of injustice that have overtaken the promised land!” Tante was sweating and panting again. They all kind of wished she’d go back to mewing and giggling. Her behavior actually cast an incredible pall of doubt over the group, which had seconds before been right there with her.
Baltha averted disaster and held them together by re-channeling Tante’s energy through the group. “Let’s dance in preparation for our ritual!” She threw her arms in the air and spun, a radiant smile beaming its light from her veiled face. She’d done a minor shape shift into Salome mode.
Ja immediately switched on the music.
As they danced, they felt the Bern.
“He seems to have the nomination of his party tied up. The things that they say about the people of this country in my homeland must be true.” Baltha was in a somber mood. The dynamics of the household had changed a lot since the mass Exodus of the other Outlanders a few weeks earlier. Spring had fully sprung, and the new season brought changes of all kinds to the community.
Forest was awakening, those mostly dormant during the mild winter of the coast were opening up to the sun’s warmth, pulling stores up from root to shoot to produce new light catching communities so that sweet sugars could be brought back down to soil and roots and their friends the fungi. Morels were sending up their sex organs, spreading spores to wind and tasty snacks to lucky fungivores that came upon them. New seedlings were poking up out of the soil; most would perish. That morning, Baltha was focused on those that would perish.
“It’s not just here; the whole world seems to have gone mad.” Ja was their main conduit to the world outside of the homestead on the MTJ, and even he was spending less and less time online. The fact that the Trumpeter seemed to have a chance at taking over that part of the planet, or at least take over control of the government of the humans there, wasn’t the worst of things.
Indicators were that climate change was likely even more dire than had been predicted, people were being displaced by war and hunger everywhere, Economies were failing all over the place and in no time flat there was going to be no place left for refugees to flee to, not unless a way off planet earth was forthcoming.
“Things certainly aren’t what we’d dreamed they’d be back in the sixties.” Arnold was shaking his head as he settled in to his chair by the stove with a cup of tea. He put his feet up.
“The Age of Aquarius, peace and love and it was so obvious and clear out there where we were, so clear for so many people who tuned in and turned on way back when. Just not enough of us dropped out, I guess. I’m glad we did; the note helped a lot.” Yanaha was in her own place of comfort across from him, knitting and rocking. “Whoever it was that started that war on drugs screwed up I think. We just all understood, all of us who'd been to that other place.”
Tante just giggled. She’d been giggling for quite some time, something a whole lot like someone on very good acid might do. Both Yanaha and Arnold had been around for a very long time, and they’d seen lots of folks tripping, and that’s what Tante appeared to have been doing for almost two weeks.
Channeling the ancient snotty ones had inspired the Crone to delve deeply into meditation and hypnotic trance states after the others left. She wanted to start regressing through all of her past lives to see if she could get to either something back in the times of the start of this whole god of Abraham mess and find her link to the Christ there, or perhaps even further, back to before there were people or animals or plants or even bacteria, back to the time of Zoldak and Beldar. If there was such a thing as time. Maybe it was a place.
Maybe a dream.
She’d Googled past life regression, having determined that the Great God Google was one powerful Dudette in the place time she found herself occupying. Baltha had done it and learned a lot. Lots of the Google hits went to Amazon, a place in South America with a mighty river of the same name where one could buy almost anything. She settled on a couple of quickie downloads of guided meditations for past life regression.
The very first one did the trick.
The woman’s voice was so mind meltingly sweet and syrupy that hummingbirds starting poking at Tante’s ears as she sat in full lotus on her Zafu out in the yard, quite close to the spot of her rainy self crucifixion. At the same time, the guide spoke with such utter lack of inflection that it took complete concentration to derive meaning from the words. Tante let the hummingbirds hover and poke, a serene smile on her face as she listened:
“The soul you carry now is one that is heavy with all of the lives that have come before, the lives of your ancestors, those who came to the land where you live. It holds the resonance and memories of those who touched them, those whom they touched. Perhaps you were a slave. Perhaps you were a master. Your life is heavy with the experiences of your ancestors who came out of Africa, or who stayed there. It is heavy with every birth, every life lived, every death.” Honey dripped.
Tante was really getting into it. Things had gotten so quiet in Mendocino since the others had left, she’d suddenly started hearing things much more clearly. Of course sitting there with earbuds in helped a lot with the meditation. The subtle drumming and interesting high frequency binaural beat in the background was quite hypnotic. If she’d been carrying around shit for four or five billion years, no wonder she was so cranky sometimes. Her smile grew.
“The fears you carry in your current life come from the traumas of your past lives. They come from the ways that you have died.”
Fears? Tante didn’t really feel afraid. She was pissed off a lot, and sad. She’d certainly gotten a lot less pissed off and a lot more sad over time. Part of that was about being in that guy’s head. She knew he wasn’t really evil, just unhappy.
“Perhaps you fear water because you once drown.”
Nope, water she was fine with, liked it a lot. It didn’t make her mad at all, although it was pretty sad what people had been doing to it.
“Perhaps you fear dark places, because you were set upon by wild beasts who rent your body, and left you bleeding, to die, alone in the forest.”
Well, no, but geez, it sure seemed like sweetstuff here maybe shouldn’t be so graphic. Why introduce new fears that she didn’t have before? Tante couldn’t recall any rending at all, and from what she’d seen so far in life, humans seemed to be about the most dangerous and wild beasts around. Besides, Tante liked the dark.
“Perhaps your fear expresses itself as anger.”
Oh yeah, now she was getting somewhere.
“Perhaps you even fear your anger, what your anger might bring to yourself and to others.”
Yup, that was it, in a nutshell. Tante didn’t want earthquakes, she didn’t want tornadoes or hurricanes or lightening or wind or any of those other things that her anger seemed to bring forth. Those things were dangerous. More than anything, she didn’t want to see anybody get hurt at her hands or whatever it was that seemed to make the earth move.
“Perhaps in a previous lifetime, your death came through spontaneous combustion.”
Tante envisioned herself getting so angry and trying so hard to hold it all in that it just vaporized her. The energy of all that anger just turned the stuff of her body into ashes, on the spot, poof, just like that, gone in a puff of gas and gray stuff.
That’s when the giggling started.
Initially it was kind of a choking, an upchucking of air of sorts, a sputtering out of air in short, sharp coughs.Then the tears started flowing almost as freely as the gales of laughter. The buds were pulled from her ears as she rolled off the Zafu onto the grass. The ground shook, but just a little, really a friendly little rumble, relatively speaking. The ancient one carried on that way for a good twenty minutes or so before Arnold and Yanaha went out to check on her. Such behavior was outside the realms of Baltha’s experience, and she’d been more hesitant with Tante of late. Their relationship was evolving.
After a few fits and starts, the old hippies got her somewhat under control. They talked her down out of wherever it was she’d gone when she’d internally combusted. At least most of the way. She hadn’t done much talking since then, mostly just some light eating and sleeping, meditating and giggling.
They were a little concerned. Their meeting with Tante’s distant cousin was not that far away, the California Primary was coming up. The battle between the old guy who represented the forces of love and the angry woman who represented the forces of greed was getting even more interesting than the one between the blues and the reds, but the guy the reds had chosen was downright frightening. It seemed like a lot of things were converging all at once.
And there was news of possible new activity along the San Andreas. Looking at Tante as she sat out there giggling at not much of anything made them all a little nervous. It was pretty obvious to them what the new crack at the MTJ was.
It was the Auntie Christ.
“It was brilliant, really.” Ja looked haggard, his Yeti half was showing itself clearly. He’d been up all night trying to figure out how to get into the files Haile had left behind, wracking his brain trying to come up with the right mix of 0’s and 1’s to open the doors to the network. He’d been so into his humanity of late, his romance with screen and keyboard was waning as surely as had that with the weed. He sat at the table drinking his coffee.
The sun was just coming up, and the six who would leave them were packing up, awaiting the arrival of Hari to take them into the city for their flights out of the country. Tante was in the corner with Piwi moaning, both of them sick as dogs after drinking too much of the red wine that had been on hand the previous night. Arnold was packing food for those leaving to take along on their journeys, and Yanaha and Baltha were exchanging tears of goodbye with their friends.
“So what was the solution?” Arnold liked puzzles, even if the digital age was a bit too young to hold his interest much. He preferred the more complex enigmas of his octogenarian wife’s beautiful brain, that and Sudoku.
“There wasn’t one. I gave up. I got so frustrated with it that I broke down in tears, and then I got angry and wailed out the cry of the Yeti, and that did the trick.” He smiled. “I’m the only human on earth who can produce exactly that resonance frequency, exactly that sound, and even I can’t do it at will. Of course I was able to change the password once I got in.”
“Brilliant indeed.” Baltha joined him at the table.
“Haile seems to have had a lot going on in cyberspace that we weren’t completely aware of. It’s almost like those aspects of the mycelia that we can’t really grok, a different way of knowing based on a different kind of interaction, a different way of being in the world. Haile really was something new.” Once Ja had gotten in, it was like a drop down the rabbit hole.
“The antipodal network that the twinses have been thinking about is already funded. The Citibank has issued a million dollars in credit to a non-profit called the Southern Hemisphere Alliance of Magicians And Naturalists, with Ina and Yang as co-ordinators, headquartered in Argentina. There’s also one in Shanghai called the Association of Socialists, Intellectuals, and Anarchists, headed up by Yin and Alonso.”
“Wow, and I thought those online sites I keep coming across were random.” Ina was amazed. She and Yanaha had talked about forming a network of herbalists and shamans in addition to their polarity work as she started getting more and more feeds about the new wave of interest in natural healing. Alonso had already formed a group of environmental activists down there with friends he’d met during his years studying landscape ecology and land use change at Universidade de São Paulo.
“They might have been, assuming there is such a thing as random.” Ja had been thinking about it and his old friend a lot over the past few hours.
“Perhaps Haile was simply aware of what had caught your interest online, that’s what the coders do, look at what you’re interested in. Or perhaps he guided your interests a bit. We may never know.”
“Yes, I’ve been investigating political science through free online courses.” Yin spoke up. “Ja’s wisdom peaked my interested in Anarchism.”
“And I have delved into the depths of Socialism!” Yang grinned at his sister. They weren’t aware they’d been sharing an interest in political systems.
“Whichever it was, clearly Haile’s heart was in the right place.” Baltha cut to the quick. “Our friends have funds to help them with their work. In this world, that helps a lot.”
“Haile was also obviously doing some masterminding.” Ja continued. “There seems to be some importance to spreading the movement, integrating networks, whatever it this thing that’s brought us together might be, globally. At least the antipodal nature of the twinses synchronicity seems to suggest geometric significance. There’s another organization called Polarities of Peace, Yin and Yang as co-ordinators. Juno and Zeus have been gifted with something called the Coalition of Highly Intimate Communities, an organization aimed at exploring alternative small scale social and family structures.”
“What’s for me….what’s for me……what’s for me?” Tante had perked up and she was scampering around and yipping like a rat dog, her hangover apparently throwing her back into spoiled child mode.
Ja handed his tablet to Baltha.
“Just wait, Tante.” She threw herself back into stern babysitter mode. “The others have to go into the city soon, we’ll be here with Ja for a long time.” She passed it back to him.
“Zeus, you should have your stuff already.” Ja looked to the chiseled one, who nodded in the affirmative.
“Yes, and the Boys Opposed to Oligarchic Business Syndicates will be interfacing with the Dudes Against Disaster as soon as we get home.” He checked his phone, eager to be on the road.
“What about you, Ja?” Baltha, naturally, had not thought of herself, but of her friend.
“I’m the man with the money for the Homeland of Interbeing of People. For now, my work will be online. Eventually I’ll be coordinating all these interactive networks, or at least Haile and I will be.” He beamed.
“Haile’s alive?” All of them were hopeful, Yanaha got teary eyed.
“Haile is out there, somewhere, somehow, that is all I know.” He paused for a minute before going on. “We’re all members of the boards of all of these non-profits. Arnold and Yanaha are our legal team, with an adequate income to keep them and whoever else here indefinitely. I haven’t even found them all yet, at least I don’t think I have. But there’s one that’s in Haile’s name, one with unlimited credit.”
“What?” Tante wanted him to hurry up so she could find out what her mission in life was, finally.
“Say what?” Alonso was shocked; the lessons of the Jesuits had been hard at times.
“Genetics of Diversity: Memes Aliens Nanobots. It’s been doing research, spending money on laboratory equipment and electronics. I’m almost thinking it might be something like a seed bank. We spent a lot of time talking about my Yeti genes, and about how maybe I should think about trying to have a baby.” Ja blushed.
“You can’t have a baby, you’re a man!” Tante really had regressed. Arnold and Yanaha had decided that maybe the rituals would involve less alcohol in the future. The others shut her up with the look; they’d all mastered non-verbal communication with the Crone.
“It’s a heck of a big responsibility, that’s for sure.” Arnold spoke up.
“And things do seem so uncertain in the world.” It was Yanaha’s turn to sigh.
“We made the decision not to have kids, and it broke my mother’s heart. And it was more than just about being a grandmother, she has lots of grandkids. The Yanaha people are few. It’s the same with indigenous people everywhere, we’ve been assimilated.”
“Like the Borg.” Ja got it. Almost.
“But the drive to have children is strong. When we were young, we read Paul Erlich and decided that the population bomb was going to explode and the world would be better off without any more people in it. Forty years ago, when I was getting to the stage in life where my body was crying out to carry and nurse a child, Nixon was in the White House and the things we’d learned about the world showed us just how much the machine had been lying to all of us all along. We’d finally realized what was happening to the environment and nobody was doing anything about it. So we made the decision to just play foster parents to those who showed up. We’ve been doing it for a long time.”
“It’s different for a woman, that’s for sure.” Arnold decided to step back into the conversation and pick up a little of Ja’s discomfort, maybe even not let Yanaha get too blue. “Fatherhood is super important; my own Dad was a champ at it, set a great example in how he lived his life. But when it comes down to it, only a woman can bring a baby into the world. You’ve got to find the right one, a good mother, and then you have to win her heart. So it’s not only a big responsibility to be a dad, you also have to be a good mate to your kids’ mama, or at least not an awful one!” He smiled the perfect Arnold smile.
“I’m sure you’d make a wonderful father.” Baltha smiled and took him completely off the hook of his discomfort as she continued. “What did Haile set up for Tante?”
“Well, it’s not clear. There’s an account in Baltha’s name called Basic Income To Crone Handler; it does also have Yanaha and Arnold’s name on it. That might be it. Baltha’s got another one in her name that’s simply in her name. Her legitimate passport and birth certificate made it easy.”
“A BITCH account. Fine, whatever. B, I want a pizza. With spinach and pepperoni. And mushrooms.” The hangover had reached the post nausea stage of hungry, and the headache was starting to crank up the crone.
“I WANT PIZZA!” the ground rumbled as the doorbell rang.
Hari was there, pizza in hand.
“It’s Civil Disobedience, not Civil Disturbance.” Ja had gotten into the Transcendentalists; he liked exploring what the Imperialists had done with the wisdom of the East.
“What’s the point of being disobedient if you’re not disturbing anything?” Tante was trolling Facebook, tossing Auntie Christ zingers around on the web sites she felt most offended the teachings of the Christ. Most of them claimed to worship him, it was really sad.
“The point is personal freedom. If laws are unjust, disobey them. You don’t have to create a disturbance. Besides, smoking weed is pretty much legal in this state Tante, it’s not like you’re some great outlaw out there bringing great social change by sitting around communing with the Ganja.” Ja’s fascination with weed had waned early on when Wind and Forest had made themselves known to him.
“In this odd culture, Dude, my entire existence is illegal, think about how fundamentally wrong that is in and of itself. I’m feral. There’s a cross in the Outback with my name on it, the only obvious remains of a baby that was born last year, only there aren’t any remains to go with it. I came into existence when your friend made the passport from the altered birth certificate, anybody who looks me up will decide that I’m a phony.” They’d taken Tante’s actual birth certificate, issued in Wilcannia, and simply changed the birth year from 2015 to 1945, the trick used by every person on earth who wanted to become someone else: find a “dead” child’s identity to steal. It was a variation of an old theme, one that messing with developmental genes gave birth to.
“And it is no doubt disturbing to a whole lot of people who hold a whole lot of really different truths from those that we hold, especially since we all came into this crazy country together.” Ja went on. “Refusing to pay taxes is one thing; challenging peoples’ fundamental belief system is something else, and scaring the crap out of a culture already terrified of damned near everything might not be a good idea”.
“All I’m challenging anyone to do is to actually examine what it is that their fundamental belief system is. I don’t know why; I just do.” And that was the truth of it. Tante did what felt right, and tried not to worry too much about it. Lying in the grass waiting to die can do that for a person.
“It’s just that there’s so much suffering in the world already, and we’re all so totally intradependent that compassionate action seems so much more powerful than rattling the dishes. The most fundamental nature of reality holds us all together so closely that pursuit of happiness can only be a positive thing, at least as long as you do no harm along the way. Loving creates love. Trusting creates trust. Being nice is just so fundamental to all those things we know are good, like sharing and caring and helping others.” Ja had also gotten into his distant cousin’s teachings. Tenzin was a really sharp guy; into science and art, an anti-capitalist, and totally open minded.
“Disturbance happens.” Tante sighed. It had taken her so long to come to peace with herself and who she was in the world that it was almost a chore to try to explain it to others. Some of them got it. “And as often as not, it’s violent.”
“But we KNOW that non-violence is the only valid approach to a more beautiful world. Violence only begets more violence. Judgement begets judgement. Love is the answer, it’s the way.” The Yeti passions were stirring.
“The minute we define something as unjust, we have passed judgement.
Judge the sin, not the sinner. I judge the lies of the woman. I judge the bigotry and hatred of the man. You might perceive my ways as violent, but surely you know their basis is love. I weep for the Trumpster, and for the woman as well. Is the storm violent, or does it simply rage? Is the sea lashing out against the shore when the tsunami hits, or has the rumbling of the earth set something in motion that cannot be stopped? Is social change so different? Do you suppose that Gandhi held no anger in his heart?”
“Yes, we do feel anger.” Yanaha had been listening intently. “And we feel grief for all that has been lost to the big White Machine, grief for Gaia as we share its suffering. Grief for all the species lost already.” She was starting to tear up.
“See? Even Yanaha cannot think about the destruction taking place without thinking of the white man, and she’s been married to one for fifty years! Juno the matriarch loves to point at the patriarchy, which automatically attaches gender to the ills of the world. Zeus blames the capitalists and Ja the tyrants and oppressors. Yin and Yang would ask those of us with lots of fire to cool down, and Ina seems inclined to point to our entire species, or at least an awfully big segment of Gaia seems to. Hari told me the other day it was the meat eaters who were to blame, and Alonso seems to have a very big beef with something called Monsanto. We have to stop blaming each other, look to ourselves, each and every one of us.” Tante was exasperated. “When I think of my father, I think only of the human being whom I love. I don’t think of him as the evil white one any more than I think of my mother as some more noble black one, I think of each as the special people they are. It’s a way of being that is to blame. The machine is not white or black or Republican or Democratic or Asian or Muslim or Mocoví. It’s a system. It’s a sin, not a sinner. It’s a system, not a person or group. And it’s a system that needs to be disturbed!”
“Punished?” Alonso threw that one out there. His time among the Jesuits had taught him something about humanity, one of its not so pretty ways.
“I’m pretty sure we’re punishing ourselves pretty thoroughly already as we do damage to the whole. I’m not much into punishment.” Tante sighed again. It seemed to be what had replaced ranting and whining, perhaps it was the weed.
“In some cultures, when a person has done wrong, members of her tribe remind her of her good qualities and all of the things she’s done right.”
Alonso had used a lot of different approaches in the work he done at Zen centers. Many of the people who ended up in them had run through rough patches in life and needed that kind of love. “In some ways, reminding all of the people of various belief system about those fundamental truths they all share is the same thing, even if Tante is none to gentle in her delivery.”
“But you’re right, there is anger.” Zeus had been very quiet up to that point, thoughtful. “And Gandhi had anger, on that point history is clear. And he did indeed cause quite a disturbance. Non-violently. Of course there was violence committed against him. He stood fast, turned the other cheek.”
“Perhaps civility is the key”. Juno was treading carefully; her time in Mendocino had broadened her cultural horizons considerably.
“Ah, but what culture considers civil, another does not.” Ina was suddenly feeling some fire of her own. “My grandmother sometimes engaged in social discourse with a machete in her hand.”
“Interesting”. Baltha spoke up.
“What?” Tante was intrigued. Her friend so seldom engaged in their philosophical discussions that when she chose to offer input, it was usually pretty insightful.
“You’ve never said or done anything evil. In fact, most of what you put online is very much in line with the teachings of Christ, that’s why Tamminya had you read the book without a lot of input from anyone else, to let you choose how to interpret it. The only stigma you carry is your name.”
“And I am judged upon it, judgement of the sinner without any real obvious sin, based on nothing that’s real.”
“As you said though, the Auntie Christ isn’t even real, not in the roll books of the world we live in.” Ja suddenly realized that he wasn’t real, either. He was just as feral as Tante. “And you mostly judge yourself.”
“Just as you do, love.” Baltha’s term of endearment caused Ja to blush again. It really stood out against his beautiful white beard.
“Enough of your mirror gazing!” Zeus’ sudden outburst caught them all by surprise, all except Juno, who’d been trying hard to channel his growing anger into something a little more gentle. Problem was, she’d gotten turned on, which only amped him up. “And enough of sheep. I’m going back to Europe. I’ve got a flash drive that Haile left with me that calls out to be allowed to serve. Are you with me my love?”
“Yes, I think it’s time. I want to make a run to Portugal to delve into these ideas about ecosexuality. We’ve formed our networks here all, haven’t we?” Juno looked to the others for confirmation. Heads were nodding.
“Yes, and we’d like to get going with an antipodal network we’ve been strategizing. Alonso and I are headed down to Argentina, and Ina and Yang are off to Shanghai. In fact, it was something Haile suggested to us a few days before shutting down.” Yin had emerged as the front person for their family foursome.
“Haile apparently did a lot to make sure we’d be taken care of.” Ja welled up a little. “I’ve got a bunch of external hard drives to wade through, all kinds of wild encryption. Smartass made it a challenge for me.”
“Mendocino holds a certain appeal for me.” Ja looked at Baltha when he said it.
“We like it here as well.” She looked back at him.
“Yeah, the MTJ rocks!” Tante said it; it did it.
Arnold came up from the cellar with a few bottles of wine to celebrate the ties and confirm the bonds that held them. It had become a place of ritual.
“Tonight, we accept the gift of grapes from soil and water and the ways of the yeast that have fermented the sweet sugars gifted from sky and delivered by sun into the intoxicant that makes us merry! Gratitude and good cheer!”
Yanaha liked complicated toasts.
“To Intradependence!” Ja.
“To love!” Juno.
“To peace!” Arnold.
“To cooperation! Mutualism! Togetherness! Conjugation!” the foursome, in no particular order.
“To diversity!” the shapeshifter.
“To Civil Disobedience!” Zeus had his sights focused into the future, recognizing that only his actions or inactions in each and every now mattered.
“To disturbance.” Tante spilled her glass of red wine on the tablecloth as she rather too briskly set it back down after her toast.
Peace, peace, peace, peace……Arnold recited the mantra silently as he went to retrieve the salt and heat some water to clean it up. It was going to be a long summer.
“You really shouldn’t bring up the candidate’s butt, or even the candidates bad hair or small hands, for that matter. Those things aren’t relevant and just turn the whole thing into a freak show.” Yanaha was once again pretty irritated with Tante.
When the white man brought the Golden Arches to the land of Yanaha’s people, they suffered. The changes in diet and lifestyle that many of the indigenous of America experienced at the hands of the imperialists were almost as devastating to them as the wholesale slaughter and infectious diseases that took so many. Yanaha became quite heavy in her youth, something that had been painful for her in many ways.
“But there’s nothing wrong with a big butt! That’s the point!” Tante really was pretty oblivious to many of the social niceties of much of the world. Folks of her mother’s culture tended to be pretty transparent and authentic. So much of the philosophical discussion they’d been having seemed kind of like common sensical stuff to her. She tried to explain.
“It seems to me that when she stands up there in that awful outfit trying to hide her big butt, it’s just like trying to pretend that the money handlers don’t own her. They obviously own her. Her butt is obviously big. Lots of folks like big butts, there’s even a song about it.”
“There’s a few. Yanaha has lots to love, and I love it all!” Arnold kissed his blushing bride behind the ear as he said it. Unlike the woman in the pants suits, Arnold was being totally transparent. Yanaha was a big woman when her met her and every bit of her beautiful.
“Yeah, that’s it. Yanaha never tried to pretend to be anything but a big beautiful woman. Even the Trumpeter doesn’t pretend. He’s a narcissistic fascist, a bigot, and a war monger, but he doesn’t try to pretend to be anything but that. The people who vote for him are voting for exactly him. It’s different with that woman.” Tante had mistakenly identified the presidential candidate as the one with whom her husband denied having sex, assuming that celibacy and sexual frustration was perhaps part of the woman’s problem. She was attempting to find common ground with her. “She’s trying hard to hide something.”
“What about Baltha and her burka, walking around with only her eyes showing so often?” Ina had never met a Muslim woman before and was curious. Baltha was, after all, gorgeous in face and form, and an extremely sexual being. Hiding her natural beauty seemed a real shame to the little Mocoví woman. “Is she trying to hide something?”
“You bet. She’s keeping just how hot she is under wraps.” Tante had already had the discussion with Baltha, who was just entering the room wearing sweat pants and a t-shirt.
“Yes, I find that the men of most cultures of the modern world become too easily distracted by my beautiful boobies.” She sighed. “It wasn’t that way in the outback. If I want to engage intellectually, hiding my body is most expedient. Even the women tend to stare at my boobs if I leave them unfettered.”
“They are fabulous.” Zeus offered his not so humble opinion.
“Yes, very nice.” Arnold agreed.
Ja just blushed.
“It is your odd culture that has created such nonsense.” Ina had had similar experiences. The men of this world, from whom the natural beauty of boobs had been withheld, seemed distracted beyond reason by their mere presence in the world. It was mind boggling.
“Sexual repression has been one of the greatest ills to befall humanity.” The conversation was moving right up Juno’s alley. “Forcing women to deny their incredible sexual power is a mark of the patriarchy that needs to be erased.”
“How did we lose it?” Tante was really curious. While there was a brief time during her fast paced development when all the boys at Uluru showed at least a little interest in her, she’d never been a Baltha. She was far too skinny, something that made the issue of big butts a mystery to her. She’d wished for more butt and boob when she started seeing the Barbie doll images online, but shape shifting wasn’t part of her programming.
“The same way we lost our connection to the living world. We forgot our animal nature. We started to imagine ourselves above them, as gods.” Zeus was quite familiar with his animal nature. He’d learned to embrace it.
“You know how we lost it.” Baltha looked at her friend.
“Yeah, well, there is the god of Abraham and his hair-brained notions.” Tante sighed.
“The Hindus and Buddhists aren’t a whole lot better about it, lots of celibacy being preached to those seeking enlightenment.” Ja was a pretty chaste guy; the girl with the flowers in her hair had moved him in ways he was still grappling with, working out his own perspectives on sexual love. He did know that the love between his parents was deep, abiding, true, and a thing of beauty. It was a lot like what he saw in Yanaha and Arnold. While Zeus and Juno’s relationship seemed to work for them, he wasn’t sure it was for him.
“Sex is part of being human. As a man, I think about sex many times, every day. Among the Mocovi, sex was as natural as breakfast. When we wanted to have sex with each other, we did. When we didn’t, we didn’t. There was no rape. It is easy to spend ones sexual energy in other ways, there were not the silly prohibitions that I learned among the Jesuits.” Alonso shook his head.
“Forced celibacy is a disaster, it is unnatural. Choosing celibacy is fine, and at one point in my life, I tried it for a while. I didn’t much care for it.”
“And am I your one and only?” Yin smiled at her lover.
“No, my love, but you are my partner.” Alonso smiled back. They’d gotten very transparent with each other right away, and Yin had taken another lover at the Zen center as Alonso watched. Yang and Ina preferred remaining monogamous with each other.
“Even this conversation, which really is about making fun of people and honesty, has become about sex. Obviously, it’s a pretty important topic.” Ja was fascinated, and Baltha definitely turned him on, Burka and all. It wasn’t about her fabulous body or fairness of face, it was about Baltha. The sexual desire was kind of something that showed up after the other feelings he had for her had grown.
“All a person has to do is look online or at the screens at the airport.” Tante hadn’t seen TV anywhere else, Arnold and Yanaha gave their’s away after Boston Legal got cancelled. “Sex sells everything.”
“And what’s really sad is that the people buying all that crap aren’t even getting laid.” Ja had been engaged in deep contemplation of the whole marketing thing ever since Haile left them. It seemed to be a very effective strategy for herding the sheep.
“Which brings us back to the bullshit factor.” Tante was really starting to embrace being exactly who she was. “My whole point wasn’t to suggest that the woman’s big butt is an issue worth considering. The fact that’s she’s trying to hide it is. The Trumpeter’s bad hair isn’t an issue, but it is probably one of the indicators as to why he acts like such a jerk. He’s trying really hard to have nice wavy blonde hair, when in truth, he’s a bald guy.”
“Gods, doesn’t he know how hot bald can be?” Juno loved her partner’s shiny pate.
“Even worse with the small hands.” Arnold jumped in. “In urban legend, that translates to small dick, which brings us right back to the sex thing. I remember the pissing contests of youth, probably just as silly as the girls with their boob jobs and stomach staples.”
“The whole point is that somewhere along the line, the guy who is out there with his fake blonde hair and trophy wives and his hate filled rants learned how to hate himself and everything else in the world, and he’s not afraid to speak his truth about it. The woman learned to lie and lie and lie and say what people wanted to hear to force her agenda on those around her and not to worry too much about who or what might get hurt along the way.” Tante paused, gathering her thoughts. “What’s different about the Socialist? He’s on the same ticket as the woman who lies, and both of them oppose the truth telling fascist. The people seem to seek the truth, whether it is hate filled truth or love filled truth.”
“The Socialist has bad hair as well, or at least the press seems to think so.” Juno had taken over as fashionista since Haile’s departure.
“His hair is lovely!” Baltha did a brief stint as a light breeze blowing through it, couldn’t resist.
“His hair is authentic.” Ja.
“It’s more than that.” A lightbulb had illuminated in the imaginary space over Tante’s head. “The truths the Socialist speaks are those same truths we all came up with the other day, truths about right and wrong. The truths of the Trumpeter are ugly and hate filled. The woman just lies.”
Yes. Again, it became so blindingly obvious to all of them it was simple. The truth, in all its variations, was simple for those who wished to see it. Hate was just as true as love, it was all a matter of which one a person chose to embrace. The lies were another matter altogether.
The End is Near