Relvin Gonzalez Rodriguez
The skies were as blue as a resin river flowing down the middle of a dark walnut table. Birds flapped their wings, and shook the olive green leaves that reflected the amber light back at the sun, and Billy was sullen from the moment he crawled out of bed. If he knew little about the wonders of the world, he knew even less about why he felt so damn unwell. He carried a torch last winter through the blizzards of the North to reach it, but the village had not been as appreciative as he had hoped. And he ran away during the darkest hours of the eternal winter of the South, back to the cabin he had built in the middle of the country. He must have walked for five thousand miles, and there were times were he thought of turning back, but there were dangers every which way. They must have noticed him gone by now, and a Tukka, an emergency meeting, adjourned to decide on his fate.
He would be an outcast, though they trained him to become a hero. But sometimes the promise of a magnificent gift becomes greater than the gift itself, and once delivered, whatever powers it possessed evaporate, and it leaves you as a noble spirit of the rift; alone to roam the surplus of life once it has fulfilled its purpose.
The women, once plump and childbearing, had grown skinny and scarred, their skin dry, stretched, like the cracking crust of a rogue baker who scuffed at the recipe of the masters that came before him. Still, his mother saw in Billy a miracle. A healthy boy of above average weight, and lungs to fill a temple. The elders trained him with urgency from a young age, knowing that whatever was dripping from their youth was inching a drought. He learned to run fast, faster than the others, faster than the beasts, though the elders did not say what he was running for until his legs had grown a mind of their own. When he poked into the forest, the apes skipped along to the edges; the amphibians made way for the banks; the cats roared a signal for escape, and the serpents slithered up the oak trees. No one dared to go chasing after him came supper, and they all waited hungry at the edge of the village until Billy returned with a basket full of fish, most of which fed him, and the rest cut and re-cut, divided and separated until it multiplied enough to feed the village.
He grew tall, up to 7 feet, and strong enough to carry a group of kids to the other side of the river on their berry gathering expeditions. One by one the kids grew old, with no one next in line to fill the essential, supple chores of the children. Billy grew to be twenty, but no more. He laid his father to rest at age twenty, and her mother took her last breath years later, on his twenty-year-old shoulders. The ones that taught him all about the words that angered the elders and the mushrooms of the forest, also passed on; some from old age, and some found a premature day to exit out of the great unexplained pains of life, and the vastness of the universe.
Numbers in the village shrunk. The elders called a Tukka and appointed Billy to march and snatch the Zephyr from the Icy Monster of the North. All the paths Billy knew formed before him, and every step created the next, and he didn’t think of any other direction but forward. He accepted the mission with care; it was the greatest honor.
“You shan’t be forced to do this,” said Turador, the elder, after the Tukka.
“I must. I must do everything. I want to do everything. It will bring me the greatest of honors to do something, anything. I dare not stand still.”
The sun had risen twice after Billy left.
“Did we decide in haste?”
“It is done now, Turador. Please do not mention it again.”
“I worry, still. It is murder, Terion.”
“Silence! If you care. Silence. Lest your daughters go another night without fish in their bellies.”
“I meant not to trade one life for another.”
Terion turned around. “Leave at once.”
“’Tis the tale of the Icy Monster of the North”—Turador read—“where the sound filled the space, there spawned life”, his twin daughters, now in their fifties, skinny and dry, listened intently, “his claws barricaded the great Zephyr, the giver of light. Along came Torus with a shining spade, and his shield bore the sign of the four great clans.”—Turador stopped the wooden emblem of the four great clans from dangling over the daughter's bed; it was a windy night—“Torus laid the monster to rest, and unclenched its sharp claws. And the light blinded him. But he walked forth, blind, with the Zephyr in his hands. And hence Torus bore a hole outside the huts of the village, and set the stone in the ground, and his village grew to the skies. And thus every beast grew fat, every plant blossomed, and even the blue sky held the clouds in harmonical marriage until infinity unfurled.” The daughters of Turador slept soundly into the deceit of the night with the blood of fish from the Great Gorge still shining in the moonlight.
Relvin Gonzalez was born in Puerto Rico. His short stories have appeared in the Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Down in the Dirt magazine, and Spanish publications such as the magazine El Vicio del Tintero. He now lives with his wife and dog in Austin, TX. Bienvenue à la danse, Relvin.