Sunday, July 15, 2018

Civil Rights Events 1955 to 1968
Introduction
 
I am about to embark on a series of posts that will convey information about important racial clashes in our country’s recent past, events that illustrate simultaneously pernicious racism and manifest progress toward the seemingly ephemeral goal of achieving racial equality.  Why?  Because I am a white man who lived during this time period, who feels the guilt of my race’s inhumanity, who since adulthood has been an active student of our nation’s past, who for 32 years was a public school instructor, who as a novelist recognizes that drama can be a useful tool to achieve beneficial purposes.
 
I had just turned 21 in 1955 when Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi.  I had finished my junior year at UCLA, on my way to earning a bachelor’s degree in history.  I had begun reading Bruce Catton’s remarkable series about the battles of the Army of the Potomac.  My interest in the Civil War whetted, I would over the next ten years read many books that informed me of the cruelties inflicted personally and institutionally upon the African race.
 
I do not recall being aware of Emmett Till’s murder at that time, but I was indeed cognizant of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama and the names Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.  Then came the raucous in Little Rock, Arkansas, the images of an isolated black girl walking toward the entrance of a previous all-white high school as adult whites – mothers included – flanked her, gesticulating, faces emitting hate.
 
I had had two open-minded, kind-hearted parents to influence me during my formative years.  Although we had lived in a town outside Nashville, Tennessee, for two years – I was 9 when we left for California – we never did live in close proximity to African Americans.  I do not recall having black classmates in my elementary and secondary school grades.  My parents never succumbed to the white cultural attitude that blacks were inferior and a personal or economic threat.  My mother became a member and, for one term, the president of the Pasadena Interracial Club.  One evening a man came to our front door in Pasadena, California.  My father, a proof reader for a Los Angeles newspaper, answered the knock.  A neighbor presented him a petition he wanted signed – a declaration that blacks should not be permitted to reside in our neighborhood.  My father refused to oblige.  His action is one of my fondest memories of my parents.
 
I lived in a low-rent dormitory of sorts my graduate year at UCLA.  Our large room accommodated six people.  One of them was a six foot five or six inch ex-navy black man named Bill.  We struck up a somewhat restrained white/black friendship.  We spent most of our time together in the confines of our room.  He was athletic.  He had tried out for Johnny Wooden’s varsity basketball team and had been cut – no criticism of his ability; he was good.  We played a recreational game once against some other UCLA recreational team.  I recall how out-of-my-league I felt.  Bill scored almost all of our team’s points.  As the year progressed, I developed the impression that he wanted to test my apparent indifference that he was black.  He asked me once to shave his armpits.  I declined.  (I wonder still what he had concluded)  The ending semester of my graduate year I was student teaching an America history class (eleventh grade) in the nearest high school to the UCLA campus.  The last day of the school year my supervising teacher assigned me to conduct the class while she finished making out student report cards.  I invited Bill to speak to the class about his racial experiences.  He did.  The students – all of them white -- listened raptly.  He had been looked at suspiciously by school personnel when he had entered the building to come to my room.  He left elated.  I was very pleased.  I believe the experience expelled any doubt he might have had about me racially.
 
I taught one year in a combined junior and senior high school in northern Los Angeles -- 1957 to 1958.  It had a racially and ethnically mixed student body: whites, blacks, many Latinos.  It was a beneficial experience for me perspective-wise.  Student strengths, deficiencies, challenges are universal.  It was painful to see eleventh grade students reading on the second and third grade reading level and my being unable to do anything useful to rectify it.
 
I was teaching English to seventh graders in Orinda, California, when Southern lunch counters were being occupied by black college students like John Lewis and then to eight graders during the Freedom Rides and in 1963 during the Birmingham campaign in integrate department stores and then in 1964 when horrible murders were committed in Mississippi resulting from civil rights activists’ attempts to have African-Americans registered to vote.  Then Selma occurred, followed by the march upon the Alabama capitol.  1968 brought us Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis and rioting in major cities and the Algiers Motel incident in Detroit.   So much horror to witness on television, so much revulsion to read about!
 
One year during the 1970s I taught a one-quarter elective that covered all of these events.  Another year I had two English classes read Dick Gregory’s autobiography Nigger.  Over the years I had my gifted and talented English classes read Richard Wright’s Black Boy.  The children of upper middle class, college educated white parents, my students needed exposure to what it had been like –as best as I could intimate – to be black in America.
 
I would like to do more intimating now.  I wish I still had the reading material I had when I was teaching.  Thankfully, I have the internet.     


Friday, July 6, 2018

"Alsoomse and Wanchese" Scenes
Chapter 25, Pages 255-257
 
Thomas Harriot stood on the starboard side of the Dorothy’s quarterdeck watching beneath its furled sails the Bark Raleigh one hundred rods ahead being towed by oarsmen in long boats toward the narrow exit of Sutton Pool. Ebb tide had begun, the bells of St. Andrew’s having minutes before struck two o’clock. Ushered similarly through the thirty yard passageway into Plymouth Sound, the Dorothy would join its companion ship, unfurl its sails, and begin the two to three-month journey to Bahia de Santa Maria, somewhere between Spanish Florida and Norumbega. The sky was clear, the breeze gentle. The colors of the multiplicity of craft in the large inlet pool of water -- between the mouths of the Tamar and Plym Rivers -- and the colors of the shops along the streets of the Barbican connoted extemporaneous celebration.
Raleigh’s protracted project had begun.
How many evenings he had spent educating himself in the popular taverns here carousing with the port’s numerous ship masters and captains! He and Raleigh’s “gentlemen travelers” – he one of them -- had spent the past two nights in these same taverns awaiting departure. April 27, 1584, etched in his brain, to be etched, he fervently wished, in history!
The painter John White joined him at the gunwale. They watched silently the Bark Raleigh float through the narrow exit way, the side of its three-story square blockhouse a scant twenty yards from the ship’s starboard rigging.
“What would our patron say if the ebb current and those wherries pulling us took our starboard spars into the blockhouse?” White muttered.
“Would you draw a picture of it?” Harriot answered, grinning at the deck.
“I will need to husband my allotment of paper. Better subjects many longitudes beyond wait to be replicated.”
Harriot half-turned. “I have seen your painting of the savage that Frobisher brought back in 1576 and the woman and child from the 1577 expedition. I have been wanting to ask you about them.”
“Ask.”
“What … did you see? Are these people so behindhand as to be mentally deficient? I do not know what to expect.”
White leaned against the gunwale, his long coat bending near his right hip. “I saw human beings, who think, who suffer, who in our presence sought of hide human emotion.”
“What was their sense of us, as best you could tell?”
White moved his left foot ahead of his right. He looked across the deck where another gentleman traveler, Benjamin Wood, was scrutinizing the left side of the narrow exit. “I wish there had been some way besides the use of gestures and facial expressions to communicate. What they thought and felt I can only imagine.”
“What did you think they felt?”
“Fear. Despair. Resignation. We uprooted them, Harriot. We took them to London as specimens! What they could have told us, if they had survived and learned our language!”


Sunday, July 1, 2018

"Alsoomse and Wanchese" Scenes
Chapter 20, Pages 196-197
 
The drums had begun before three of Tessicqueo’s braves escorted Wanchese out of Mattosh’s longhouse. A large crowd of villagers had formed a large semi-circle in the assembly area in front of Tessicqueo’s residence. Dark clouds were scurrying across the morning sky, wind rippling longhouse entrance flaps and edges of aprons and cloaks. A shrill cry rose from the people when Wanchese appeared inside the semi-circle. He saw women amongst them, many clutching knives. He imagined them cutting off his fingers, toes, ears, genitalia after Megedagik had killed him. He saw his body being burned in a great fire.
Tessicqueo was seated on a sculptured log, his elite men standing adjacent to him. Commoners dared not obstruct his vision. Tessicqueo would have his spectacle. Subjected to frequent Mandoag raids, Tessicqueo’s braves had been trained to be vicious. Fairness accorded strangers was prohibited. Wanchese thought that Pomeiooc was becoming such a village.
Upon Tessicqueo’s signal the middle of the semi-circle of watchers opened. Ten to twelve warriors danced within. They were brandishing invisible arrows, spears, and clubs. Their warbling cries were shrill. They weaved about him, their footfalls in rhythm to the beating of drums. They swooped in at him thrusting their “weapons.” He would have enjoyed sending one of them sprawling. Outwardly, he appeared stoic. Save your energy for Megedagik. Be calm. He had been taught during his manhood training that a warrior must control his muscles so as to receive better his opponent’s blows, so as not to be stiff but be quick in reflex.
He would need to be very quick. And smart.
He did know how to fight.
The middle of the semi-circle opened; the warriors exited. Watchers near the opening cheered. One large figure entered. Megedagik.
He extended his arms, turned his head left and right to the cheering crowd. Red lines marked his forehead, cheeks, and the shaved sides of his head. Two parallel lines, one red and the other black, divided horizontally his muscular body. Turning toward Wanchese, he leaped high and forward. He landed -- feet widely separated – ten feet away in a menacing crouch. Wanchese said: “You look pretty.”
Megedagik roared. His shoulders hunched, his arms extended like the legs of a crab, bent at the waist, he stepped forward.
The crowd was instantly silent.
Up on the balls of his feet, chest almost parallel to the ground, taking swift, short steps, Wanchese moved to Megedagik’s left. Keep yourself loose, he told himself. Wait for his attack.
Megedagik went for Wanchese’s neck. Wanchese struck the Nansemond warrior’s left hand away with his right. With his other hand Megedagik grabbed Wanchese’s left wrist. Wanchese struck Megedagik’s left eye with the heel of his right fist.
Megedagik stepped back. They stared at each other.
Megedagik closed. Wanchese drove his right knee into Megedagik’s lower left leg. Megedagik closed his arms around Wanchese’s upper body, straightened him, locked his hands, squeezed.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

"Alsoomse and Wanchese" Scenes
Chapter 18, Pages 177-179
 
Abukcheech and Alsoomse were suddenly alone.
She looked at him. He was as unattractive as she remembered. Yet he stimulated her mind.
He smiled. “I will be doing all the talking. Neither you nor I will like that. I want to know your thoughts.”
She blinked.
“Ah. That is how we will communicate? One blink means ‘yes.’ Two blinks mean ‘no.’”
Alsoomse moved her left hand.
He squinted. She moved the hand again, frowned, immediately winced.
“Does that mean ‘no’?”
She moved her right hand.
“Right hand means ‘yes’; left hand means ‘no’?”
She moved her right hand.
“Then I will begin.”
He rubbed his left cheekbone, withdrew his left forefinger, looked at it, afterward grimaced. “Strange. Sometimes the body does something intentional the mind does not order, or does not know it has ordered. I look at you, I see the damage, and my finger goes to that place on my cheek.”
She blinked. She wondered if her eyes were betraying her thoughts.
“I witnessed what happened. I asked later why it happened. Therefore, I know certain things.” Seated on the upended, thick block of wood that Sokanon had occupied, Abukcheech placed the palms of his hands over his bony knees. “My first question is, ‘Do you regret what happened?’”
Alsoomse felt her eyes jump. She looked inwardly.
Two women conversing passed by the nearest wall.
He awaited her answer. Which was it? She moved her right hand.
He nodded. He closed his legs, scratched awkwardly the left side of his head. “You had to think.” He leaned forward. “Why?”
She frowned, moved her left hand.
“No, you have to answer. It is important to know.”
She stared at him, her lips tight.
“I told you when we spoke before that you wanted to be a man.” His right thumb and forefinger rubbed the sides of his jaw. “He hit you. He did not kill you. Are you glad now that you are not a man?”
What was this weak little man’s message?
“Do you regret speaking like a man because of this injury?”
Of course! She moved her right hand.
“But you have other reasons, I think.” He looked at his active forefinger, curled it, looked at her. “Because you did, you caused other people injury, hardship.”
She blinked, closed her eyes, moved the hand.
“Then maybe you have learned that freedom to speak, or act, requires self-discipline. Perhaps you have learned that what you do affects others. Nobody is really independent.” He gazed at her.
Who was he to judge?
“A wise man knows that. A true woman knows that.”
She resented his superiority.
“A good woman helps her man become wise.”
A “good” woman cannot oppose injustice?
“Your eyes tell me you want vengeance.”
She scowled, jerked her right hand.
“How can you take vengeance without risking or burdening other people?”
She had no answer.
“I believe it is better to be good to people you care about and to accept what you cannot control.”
Is that what he thought he was doing with her? All the while adding wood to her anger?
“I have talked enough.”
She closed her eyes. She recalled Sunukkuhkau’s ferocious face.
“I will stay here until your cousin returns.”
Do as you wish.


Friday, June 22, 2018

"Alsoomse and Wanchese" Scenes
Chapter 8, Pages 77-80
 
Granganimeo’s wife Hurit, standing a canoe’s length away in the village lane, was staring at them. She approached.
Weroansqua,” Sokanon greeted.
Instantly, Alsoomse rose. The back of her left hand covering her mouth, she faced about.
“Sokanon. Alsoomse. You are teaching these children well.” Hurit looked at Wapun and Pules, who were watching her with large eyes. “Is that not so?” she said to them.
“Yes, Weroansqua, they are very good,” Wapun answered.
Pules nodded vigorously.
“I am pleased.” Hurit looked at Alsoomse, then Sokanon. “I have a duty I want you to perform.”
Sokanon’s eyes flitted.
I want both of you to accompany me to Croatoan, tomorrow. To serve me. Together with Allawa, and two other young women.”
Alsoomse’s cheekbones tingled. Her arms felt the rush of adrenaline.
She had expected criticism.
“Both of you appear surprised.” Hurit’s amused smile enhanced her unaffected beauty.
Weroansqua, we will serve you well,” Sokanon answered.
Hurit nodded. Her face hardened.
“You should know that Croatoan’s weroansqua has asked me to attend a meeting she is to have with Piemacum’s important men, believing, we suspect, that Piemacum wants her to submit herself and her people to his authority.”
Alsoomse felt a second surge of adrenaline. Quick to exhibit temper, her face burned.
The Croatoan were gentle people! Her father Matunaagd had said so, often! For some time now they had been led by a woman, which explained, probably, their peaceful manner. A thought occurred to her. “Weroansqua,” she said, “I believe I know her purpose.”
“Which is …?”
“Your presence will answer Piemacum’s question without the weroansqua needing to give it.”
Hurit nodded, a slow backward and forward acknowledgment. “You are perceptive, Alsoomse. You are your father and mother’s daughter.” She paused, looked at Alsoomse soberly. “But in other ways you are not nearly so. You disturb me.”
Alsoomse’s face blanched.
Sokanon interrupted. “Is Granganimeo to accompany us?”
What other ways? Alsoomse thought.
“No, Sokanon. His or Wingina’s presence would cause a fight.” Hurit’s face softened. “I am to go alone. Men do not usually fight women.”
“We leave then … when?”
“Immediately after the casting of tobacco. Several of our men will take us there in two canoes. They will not be men of high station.” For the first time Hurit looked at Nuna and Odina. “I will need Machk to be one of them. Please tell him.”
“I will, weroansqua,” Nuna responded.
Sokanon made a small hand gesture. Hurit raised her eyebrows. “I will need somebody to look after my mother. She is not strong.” Her face apologized.
“I am certain one of your friends here will do that.”
Simultaneously, Nuna and Odina nodded.
“Then everything is arranged.” Hurit turned, took two steps toward the lane, and stopped. Pivoting, she regarded Alsoomse. “One other matter.” Her eyes examined the length of Alsoomse’s body. “I expect you, Alsoomse, to show your high station the entire time we are there. That means necklaces, Alsoomse. Bracelets. Beads hanging from your ears. You will be representing this village, not yourself. Do you have them?”
“Yes.”
“I should not have to ask.”
“No.” Here was the expected criticism. She felt the start of a second burn.
Hurit studied her, too lengthily.
The burn reached Alsoomse’s ears.
“Why do you do this? Are you not proud of your parents’ standing?” Hurit looked at Alsoomse’s legs. “No tattoos, not even on your calves. Your cousin has them” – she pointed – “there, and there, and on her arms. She wears a nice shell necklace. Polished bones hang from her ears. Every day. Why must you be so different?”
She wants to know; I will tell her!
“We are different people.”
“That is obvious.”
“I love my cousin.” Alsoomse’s eyes combatted Hurit’s sarcasm. “I respect her for who she is. It is not because she is my cousin or she is the daughter of parents of high station. It is because of who she is.”
“We all judge people that way.”
“I know some who do not. Also, some people of high station expect to be treated well but do not deserve it.” She was thinking of Askook.
Hurit’s left index finger touched the outer side of her left breast. Her fingers curled, became a fist. “Are you saying that people who are leaders, who take responsibility for the welfare of their followers, should not be treated with respect?”
“No, weroansqua, I do not.” Both sides of her face were hot. “I am saying that people like me born into high station should have to earn respect, not demand it. That is why I live here, outside the gate to the compound. I do not want anyone to believe I demand respect.”
Alsoomse moved her right foot forward, traced a line in the sandy earth. “I believe also that people not born of high station deserving respect should receive it.”
Fists pressed against her sides, Hurit studied her. “You are outspoken in your beliefs.”
“I spoke them because you asked.”
The flesh beneath her chin stretched, Alsoomse maintained eye contact. Peripherally, Odina and Nuna were figures of stone.
Hurit’s irises remained centered. “You should know, Alsoomse, that there are people in this village, and at Dasemunkepeuc, who believe that you are dangerous. Strong-headed dangerous. My husband has spoken of it. Our kwiocosuk has spoken of it. You risk punishment, from Kiwasa, from your leaders. I will expect you to keep your thoughts to yourself while we are at Croatoan. I have … tolerated your independence, until now. I must be certain that you will say or do nothing to damage our purpose.” Her eyes bored.
“Your answer?”
She would be truthful, not weak. “I respect you and all of our leaders. I will do nothing to hurt our people.”
“You will wear ornaments that signify your station?”
Alsoomse hesitated. “Yes, weroansqua, I will.”


Monday, June 18, 2018

"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.
Etchemin.
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.”
“I did.”
“I am Chesapeake. From Skicoac. I came here because I could not live there.”
Ten seconds passed. The light of the fire extended up past Etchemin’s face.
“Why?”
“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.
“Why?
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 Chesapeake, he struggled to understand. “Why do you not hunt?”
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.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Wanchese has embarked on a trading mission up the Chowan River to Choanoac with his superiors Andacon and Osacan and his cousin Nootau.  Alsoomse had wanted to be included.
 
Alsoomse and Wanchese" Scenes
Chapter 6, Pages 50-51
 
 
... Looking over his right shoulder, Wanchese could no longer see the northern tip of Roanoke Island, where the previous afternoon Alsoomse had demanded that she accompany him, knowing her words were futile, believing a combative dialogue was essential. It was one aspect of her being he both resented and respected. If he ever did decide to court a young woman, she would have to be just about as strong-minded.
      “You and your important friends need to grind corn kernels, tend the fire and pot, dress deer hide, hunt for clams, make pottery, plant seeds, pull weeds, harvest crops, gather nuts and berries, do everything we do every day! Instead, you are permitted to travel, meet new people, do exciting things!” Why was it that she targeted him with her complaints?! It had been Ahone, not he, who had created the People, the sun, the moon, the rivers, the swamps, the great waters, the trees, animals, fish, and birds!
      “The Great Creator determined our duties!” he had answered. “You have yours. I know mine. It is the way of things.” Her eyes had been large, adamant. “To change would be to destroy order, balance. Without order, without discipline, we do not survive. Our father and mother made that clear to us!” Standing close to him, her chin angled up at him, she had seemed more intent on forcing him to step backward than altering his viewpoint.
“Why must you challenge everything you decide is wrong?! Who are you to decide what is right?! Our leaders and the kwiocosuks and the gods decide. We accept! Those who cannot must live alone. Is that what you want?!” He had not diverted his eyes. He had not given ground! He had said nothing more!
She, not he, had stepped back. She had looked briefly across the water, had engaged him afterward as resolutely as before.
“I know responsibility! You know that! I know the importance of order! I would do nothing to hurt our people!” Face flushed, she had for five or six heartbeats stared, her frown distinct. “I am not content! My mind wants to know what you know, not by you telling me what you decide to tell me but by my living it. Myself! Can you understand that? I should be allowed! No, not allowed! I should be free to do!”
She was wrong. Going to Choanoac to trade with the great Menatonon is what men did! Important men! That familiar burn of temper was ascending the back of his neck! He was a hunter, a weir builder, a warrior, not a weaver of mats! Men and women were different! Meant to be! They had separate responsibilities, for obvious reasons. All responsibilities had to be met. No village member had the right to choose whatever task he or she wanted! It was hard enough for villagers, working together, to accomplish what survival demanded!
“I want to go someplace with you to learn things I do not know! I will not give up until I do!” Turning her head, she had looked again at the sun-dappled water. “When you get back,” she had said, enunciating each word, “you will tell me everything! About Menatonon, the women there, what Nootau said and did, what their village is like, how they are different from us, everything!”
“I will.” How the corners of his mouth had wanted to celebrate!