"Alsoomse and Wanchese" Scenes
Chapter 7, Pages 63-67
He was awakened by the staccato sounds of a Great Horned Owl. “Hoo-hoo hoo, hoo-hoo hoo, hoo-hoo hoo.” A mating call. He anticipated a response. There was none. “Hoo-hoo hoo, hoo-hoo hoo, hoo-hoo hoo,” the same male sounded, unexpectedly close. He had never seen the Great Horned Owl, which lived, bred, and hunted exclusively at night. He had seen the crushed remains of its prey -- too large to be ingested.
Wanchese glanced at the fire. It was still burning. It had, in fact, not diminished! The corner of his left eye caught movement. He started, sat instantly upright. A human figure sat close to the fire.
His arms and upper back tingling, Wanchese stared.
“Wanchese.” The youth’s right heel made a groove in the sandy earth. He looked at the mark. “You asked who I am.”
. From Skicoac.
I came here because I could not live there.” Chesapeake
Ten seconds passed. The light of the fire extended up past Etchemin’s face.
“Because … I am different. … I do not kill, do not hunt. I will not fight.”
Wanchese pointed. “Those scars?”
“Braves have hit me.”
Wanchese inhaled, exhaled. His jaw and cheek bones hardened. He thought of Askook. “You let them hit you?”
Etchemin looked at the fire.
Etchemin stared past Wanchese’s left shoulder.
”Were you afraid of them?”
Etchemin made eye contact. Wanchese recognized anger. He raised his palms to the level of his chin. “Why?”
“I do not hunt and kill. I do not fight!”
Wanchese leaned backward. Staring at the
he struggled to understand. “Why do you not hunt?” Chesapeake
His right hand gripping his right knee, Etchemin leaned forward. “What do you see in the eyes of a doe that you have struck with your arrow and she is dying?”
Fear, Wanchese thought. It was the worst part of hunting.
Wanchese spoke rapidly. “Ahone permits us to hunt. It is the way of life. Eat or die. We give thanks to the animals who sacrifice themselves. You know that.”
“Killing is evil,” Etchemin said. “Fighting leads to killing. I will not become evil to fight evil.” He rose. He glared toward the river.
“If you never fight, … you are the doe.” Wanchese stood.
Etchemin turned away, went to and entered his dwelling.
Wanchese knelt upon Etchemin’s deer skin, stretched himself upon it, pulled his own deer skin over his body. He questioned how much sleep he would get before the sun made sleep no longer possible. He could not respect a man who had the physical ability to defend himself. It was probably that unwillingness more than Etchemin’s refusal to hunt that had caused other young men to abuse him. Etchemin had chosen to live this way and had been punished for it. He had been rejected and driven away to restore harmony, balance. Ahone had created a world that abhorred imbalance. Herring, striped bass, plovers, hawks, squirrels, turtles, bears all lived according to Ahone’s rules. Ahone’s dictate to the Real People: maintain His balance. Those who refused to obey had to be expelled.
Voices woke him. Early sunlight had penetrated the little clearing. Wanchese rose to a sitting position. He heard Osacan and a voice he did not recognize. Six men appeared out of a cluster of red maple and yellow-poplar. Osacan saw him.
“Wanchese, I am sorry I did not wake you. How went your night?” He laughed.
They veered toward him. He stood, and started to fold his deer skin.
“Not talking? You should know I had a very comfortable night!”
They converged. Osacan thumped Wanchese’s right shoulder.
Andacon had been studying the down slope. “You slept here, not by the canoe?”
“There was no need.” Wanchese brushed moisture off a section of his deer skin.
“You did well here?”
“It was good.” He looked at the ashes of the fire.
The brave standing beside Osacan spoke. “I know what happened.” He jerked his right thumb toward Etchemin’s dwelling. Etchemin had exited it. “You had fish.” He and his companion hunters laughed. “Not deer, rabbit, duck, or beaver. Fish!”
Wanchese straightened his back. “We did. Excellent perch.” He fixed his eyes on the hunter that had spoken.
“We had excellent deer stew, Wanchese.” Osacan extended his right arm. “I would have brought you some but I forgot.”
The hunter whom Osacan had apparently befriended stooped. He picked up from the fire pit the end of a branch not incinerated. “We allow him to live here,” he said to the wood, “because he builds canoes. Except for that, he is worthless.” He stared at Etchemin, standing next to his stacked branches. “Is that right, Useless?!” He hurled the piece of wood. Etchemin stepped to his right. The wood struck the side of the dwelling.
The hunter faced Osacan and Andacon. “He is useless and he is a coward! Watch!” The man strode toward Etchemin, who waited. “Show them I am right! Tell them you are a coward!”
Etchemin stared past him. The hunter slapped him, the sound of palm against cheek distinct.
Etchemin regained his balance, resumed his stance.
“Say it! Say it or defend yourself! No? Then here!” The hunter slapped Etchemin again.
“That is not necessary!” Andacon declared.
“Let him be!” Osacan responded.
“You see?” The hunter, facing them, grinned. “This is what we live with!”
Andacon motioned toward the river. “We have nothing here we must do. Down to the canoe,” he ordered. He stepped off. Osacan; Nootau, ever silent, looking tense; and Wanchese, red-faced, followed.
“Why not take him with you?!” the hunter shouted. “He can build you canoes! If you need to warm your hands, slap him!” They heard a third slap.
Wanchese stopped. He turned about, started up the incline.
“Wanchese!” Osacan exclaimed.
Wanchese heard Andacon’s stern voice. “No!”
He was twenty feet away from the hunter, then ten, then standing in front of him.
“Ah, the coward has made a friend!” the hunter mocked.
Wanchese grabbed the hunter’s skull feather, pulled it out of its groove, held it in front of the hunter’s astonished face, broke it in half. He dropped the two pieces. Locking his eyes on the brave’s face, he waited.
A deep red covered the hunter’s countenance. He swore. Wanchese saw the man’s right hand, of a sudden, move upward. Blocking the upward thrust, Wanchese kneed the hunter’s genitals. He heard instant distress. The hunter doubled over, Wanchese kneed his forehead. The brave went down. Wanchese pinned the hunter’s head to the soil with his right foot.
Breathing fiercely through his nose, Wanchese watched the hunter’s legs thrash. He applied greater pressure. The man emitted a plaintive cry.
He was aware suddenly that the others were close by. The thought that he might be attacked penetrated. He would bring each of them down! “You!” he shouted at the hunter immobilized under his foot. “I will let you up! If you choose to fight, I will kill you!” Three more fierce breaths and he removed his foot.