Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Yes, That's My Family - Attending Church

This is inside the building of the church that I used to attend - it is a different denomination now.
  As I said before, I started attending my friend Shirley's church in Virginia in August. I attended services for a few months until my daughter was born at the end of October. Buzz was on deployment, so he did not get to know those folks until November, when Callista was two weeks old.

We were not trying to be cagey or anything, but it seemed impossible at first to find a church in Norfolk where we felt comfortable. Martin Luther King, Jr. said "It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o'clock on Sunday morning…," and things have not changed that much in America. I went to an Ice Cream Social with Shirley and really liked the people, so I decided to attend services at the almost-all-white church. It was 100% white because two elderly black women moved into a retirement building down the street and it was too far for them to attend their old church across town. I was a young, white, pregnant Navy wife who was enfolded into the flock.

When Buzz and I attended after the birth of our daughter, people were nice enough, though I could tell some people were surprised to discover that my husband was black. I met some wonderful people from that church that are still my friends. We were members there for seven years until we got stationed in Puerto Rico.

Two incidents bothered me. One was after Buzz and I became members of the Diaconate. It used to be that the Diaconate was made up of all men. This church had communion every Sunday morning, served by the Diaconate members as the people sat in their pews. Some of the older people would not accept communion unless it was offered to them by a Deacon. It was ironic that some of the Elders who blessed the communion and passed it to the Diaconate were women, but those people didn't seem to care about that. A lot of the Diaconate were offended that those members would not take communion from a woman, and they started saying, "What if they won't take communion from Buzz?" It was not going to be the last time that the issue of color would be dragged into a discussion about people not liking other types of people. In the end, the minister said that we (the Diaconate) needed to love and accept people who did  not love and accept others.

The second incident was when we had been church members for over six years. When we went to get our family photo taken for the church directory, there were some people that my friend Laura pointed out. Later, when I asked her why she was pointing out that couple, she said that they had left the church when Buzz and I became members. I did not know what to think when Laura told me that. I felt guilty at first, because the couple gave the church a lot of money and he was an Elder and she was a Deaconess. When they stood up at a church board meeting and announced their intent, the rest of the board members told them that they were welcoming this interracial couple into their church, and if they did not like it, they could leave.

That people stood up and did the right thing at that church made me feel such a wave of love and gratitude for them and what they did for us. After all, it is the kind and wonderful things that people have done for me in my life and not so much the crappy stuff that lingers and makes me a better person.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Yes, That's My Family - Friends and Relatives

There have been people who have not approved of my marriage to Buzz, or the fact that we had children. I want to take a moment here to talk about some fun experiences with friends and relatives.

After looking back on my continuing story, I forgot to tell the story of when we visited my sister-in-law, Gina, in the hospital. Gina was admitted because they discovered that she had diabetes and it was way out of control. When Buzz, his dad and stepmother, and Gina's three girls, and I went to the hospital, we could only have one or two people at a time visit her, because she was so ill.

When my father-in-law was upstairs visiting her, the rest of us were hanging out in the cafeteria, which was empty at the time except for a middle aged white woman. Buzz was getting change and buying the girls stuff out of the vending machines, so Delores, my mother-in-law and I were sitting at a table and talking. The white woman started talking to me, telling me about her medical problems. I listened politely, making appropriate sympathetic comments, until she finally ran out of symptoms to talk about. She looked at the rest of the Youngs and asked, "Do you know these people?" I introduced Delores and told the woman that the man was my husband and the girls were my nieces.

The woman looked at my family and said, "We had a colored boy that worked for us one time as a gardener."

I could see Delores start to open her mouth and blast that woman because "colored" was such an offensive word to her. Before she could say anything, I looked at the white woman and asked, "So what color was he?"

The woman was taken aback and sputtered about the man being a negro. I told her, "We like to use the term 'black', thanks!" The woman did not know what to say, so she got up and left. Delores and I almost fell off of our chairs, laughing. When Buzz and then my father-in-law approached us, we were laughing too hard to explain at first.

Delores explained later that the word 'colored' had a lot of negative connotations for her, having grown up in the south where it reminded her of 'colored only' water fountains and the like.

I also cannot look back at my first visit with my in-laws without thinking of my three Young nieces - Angela, Lisa, and Tracie with a smile. I am sure that they knew white people but I think I was the first close relative that was white. They were really young - I think that they were 9, 7 and 6 years old when Buzz and I got married. The girls were curious about me and paid a lot of attention to me, like when they all wanted to comb my hair - at the same time!

Another thing that made me laugh was that they wanted to come in the bedroom when I was changing or into the bathroom when I was taking a bath. Gina got after them because she thought that they were bugging me, but I guessed what they were curious about - the girls wanted to know if I was the same color all over - something that I wondered about black people when I was a little kid.

There will be more fun stories coming up in my next blog of experiences with friends and relatives.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Yes, That's My Family - 10 Stupid Things People Say to Us.

My husband and I have been experiencing an interracial marriage for over 27 years, have two kids, and during that time, we have had people come up to us and say some really stupid things. Usually, they start with, "I am not a racist, but..."

What people have said to me:

1) Is he/they with you? 'He' in this instance is Buzz, my husband, and 'they' refers to my kids, or my kids and my husband, or my relatives on my husband's side who are black.

2) Couldn't you find a white guy to marry? Apparently not. I polled all the white men in the world of marriageable age and none of them would marry me, so Buzz got me by default. Yes, I am being sarcastic here!

3) How could you bring bi-racial children into the world? People think that because we had two children, they are scarred for life. My daughter and son, who call themselves 'brown' when they refer to their race, are well adjusted, happy adults who think that being two races is an advantage.

4) When you and your husband get into a fight, do you call him a nigger? What the heck? It never crosses my mind. Obviously, if I was of the ignorant mindset that I thought that Buzz was a nigger, then I would not have married him. Duh!

5) White women shouldn't have black children because they don't know how to take care of their hair. Really? I did not realize that top hairdressing skills were a requirement for being a mother.

6) You kids are so cute! Where did you get them? I stole them from a black woman when her back was turned? I must admit that it is funny sometime to see the expression on people's faces when they realize that I am the kids' biological mother. The most hilarious times were when my kids had Halloween parties and I would go to the door, dressed in a costume. Sometimes, people thought I was the maid.

What people have said to Buzz:

1) What's the matter, aren't black women good enough for you? The irony in this is that there were some black women who would not date Buzz when he was single, because he was too dark. Buzz explained to me that it is a mindset from the slave days, when darker skinned people who looked like him worked in the fields, while the lighter skinned slaves worked in the house and were higher up in the slave hierarchy.

2) Some of my best friends are black. Really? Why didn't you mention that some of your best friends are white? Buzz and I think that if you single out someone by race, you are not as close to that person as you try to appear.

3) I have nothing against black people, but I wouldn't want my daughter/son to marry one. What people who say this are REALLY saying is "As long as black people stay away from me, I don't have a problem with them, though they are inferior to me, a white person."

4) Why is it that black men are always (choose one) good dancers, good athletes, good musicians, or are well endowed? Being black is not easy. You have to enroll in "Black School" at an early age, where there is rigorous training in music and athletic abilities. Black men that are not well endowed are banished to a secret location, to live a obscure life of shame.

I made sarcastic comments because we think that the things people ask are mostly funny. There are some things that hurt my feelings in the past, but now, I just look at the person who is making the comment and feel sorry for them.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chapter 7 ~ The Masamba

We arrived back at the city and then parted ways. Yohance and Jetta took the twins home while Joel and I went to locate our dad. We found him alone, reading parchments in the back room of the temple.
          “Are you finding anything interesting?” I queried as we sat across the stone table from him. He leaned back, stretched, and then rubbed his eyes.
          “A little. The Harun tend to be dry and long-winded, so it takes time to sift through and find pertinent information. One history or legend is that the first Creator, Obasi, created Fahdamin-Ra and all its inhabitants. He moved back and forth between our world and here by use of the stone.” Dad shook his head. “It sounds like a fairy tale, except here we are.”
          “How did he create this world?” asked Joel.
          “In this account, he didn’t. This world was already here. It goes into great detail - and I mean a lot - about how he formed the Harun from the rock of these mountains, the Masamba from the wood of the trees, and the Jabulani from the clay of the riverbank. That is as far as I got.”
          “He made people out of rocks and stuff? I gotta read that sometime. We found out some things today, too.” Joel was eager to tell about our adventures. He started talking about the apartment, which Dad wanted to see. We left the temple and hiked up to our new lodgings.
          Half a dozen guards and another Historical Scribe waited for us there. To my immense relief, Dad dismissed them all over their polite protests. When it was just the three of us again, we showed him around. Once he admired the outside, we brought him into the main room and told him about the rest of our day.
          “I am curious about the Masamba, and the Jabulani, too,” Dad said.
          “Why don’t we go now, and visit the Masamba?” Joel asked, eager for another adventure.
          “What? In the jungle at night? How would we find them? It’s dark out there.” It was the last thing I wanted to do.
          “We would see their fires from above, when we fly there,” my brother said. “Let’s just drop in.”
          “Maybe another time, kids. It has been a long, exciting day and you need to go to bed now.” Dad said.
          My brother and I both protested. “I don’t feel tired at all.” I said. “You know, nothing made me tired today.”
          “We went all day without eating or drinking anything, either.” Joel added. “I think that Creators don’t need to eat, drink, or sleep. What we can do is fly, like right now.”
          Dad slowly looked convinced, but said, “I don’t know how to fly, son.”
          “It is so easy. We can show you and you’ll be flying in a couple of minutes.”
          “Where is he going to learn?” I countered, pointing to the ceiling.
          My brother was undaunted as he strode outside. “Let’s try it out here, on the balcony.” We joined him on the veranda. Dad went to the edge and looked down.
          “The ground is awfully far down there. Do you think I can learn before I fall and break my neck?”
          “No,” I said.
          “Yes,” Joel said at the same time.
          Dad stood there, thinking. “So, what do I have to do?”
          My father caught on quickly. He was much more careful than Joel and enjoyed flying more than I did, so soon we were zipping along over Harun, the fields, and then arriving at the jungle. I tried to look for lights below but when I did, my stomach would flip. The moons covered everything in their fluid silver light, making the landscape below shimmer. We flew for some time, but we could not locate the Masamba fires.
          “What about the Outsider village? We could go there tonight instead,” I suggested after a while. I would rather go to a civilized village than a dark, scary jungle filled with wild animals and even wilder people.
          Dad shook his head. “I want the Directorate to take us there themselves. Did you see how reluctant Zayas seemed? He needs to answer for what they have done. No, I’m determined to find the Masamba. Let’s fly lower.” We flew so low that our toes brushed the topmost leaves on the trees. It was annoying to have bugs hitting my face and arms. I was careful to keep my mouth closed.
          Dad slowed, flying in a circle. Next, I caught whiffs of wood smoke. All three of us stopped until we hovered in the air. Lights twinkled below my feet. We floated down while being careful not to brush against leaves and branches.
          An unseen man was speaking somewhere beneath us. In front of us to the right was a clearing. There was a fire in the middle and torches around the perimeter of the clearing, lighting the circular area brightly. Off to one side sat four men on large, high-backed chairs. There was a fifth chair in the middle and the man standing in front of it was the speaker, whose voice we could hear. A single man sat in a smaller, less ornate seat off to their right. There was a crowd of people facing them, sitting on the ground and watching.
          I wanted to stop and hear what the man was saying, but my father kept descending. We followed Dad as he touched down in front of the crowd and heard their gasps of astonishment. The speaker stopped and there was complete silence.
Though our dropping in was unexpected, the Masamba did not pause but took immediate action. People melted away into the darkness until the leaders were the only ones left facing us.
          The speaker stared at us for a few moments, which was intimidating. He was a little taller than my father and massive with muscle and bulk. Like Hunter, his chest was bare, but around his waist was a type of skirt made from narrow, braided strips of leather, and a fluffy fur neck-piece covered his shoulders. He was scary. On his head he wore the head of a snarling baboon, a huge knife hung from his belt, and he held a yard long, narrow club. I wished we had never decided to come down and face him. The fire reflected in his deep-set eyes as he fingered one of the braids of his long beard.
The other four men were dressed similarly and they glared at us. The lone man to the right got out of his chair and came closer to the group. He was as massive, but unlike the others, he did not wear a baboon head or a braided leather skirt. There were tufts of tawny fur woven in his hair, the same as Hunter. He had a beard, but it was shorter and not braided. Instead of scowling at us like the rest, his eyes rested on us with wonder. If he had been alone, our reception might have been friendlier.
My father stood straight and tall, not intimidated by the leader, or at least, he did not show it. “What are you doing here? You have invaded the serenity of our gathering,” the man in charge said.
“We are the Creators and have arrived at Fahdamin-Ra after our long absence. Since our return, we are meeting each tribe.”
“My tribe does not believe in Creators. Leave now, and do not bother us again.” The man turned his back on Dad, and plunked down in his chair.
Dad glanced back at us and then folded his arms. “I am not leaving and neither are my children. We have come a long way to visit you, so why don’t you make the effort to get to know us? After all, who else but Creators would visit you by flying?”
“You are not Creators. You are magicians, who used a trick,” he spoke loudly, playing to the unseen audience of his people, who listened in the dark.
My father studied the man for a moment. “Aren’t you the least bit concerned about being rude to Creators, with the powers we possess?”
The man looked bored. “There are no such beings as the Creators.”
Dad scowled. “Well, we will just have to convince you.” For a reply, the man lifted an eyebrow and smirked toward his friends. My father stared at the leader and the leader’s chair rose from the ground. The man was jolted, but tried to cover it up.
“It is still a trick,” he called, from twelve feet over our heads. “You cannot convince me that easily.” Dad shrugged his shoulders, and lowered the man to the ground. The leader’s expression did not change, but he stood up and moved away from his seat.
“Bring someone to me that is sick or wounded, and I will cure them,” My father spoke matter-of-factly.
The leader held up his stick and gazed at it when he said, “We do not have any sick or wounded people. We cure them at the shrine.”
“Let me have your knife and your arm. I will make a cut and then heal it.”
The men snorted with laughter at this proposal, but Hunter stalked out of the darkness and up to Dad. He handed my father the large knife that hung from his belt. Dad took it and grasped Hunter’s outstretched hand. Gritting his teeth, he slashed Hunter’s arm as the warrior stood there, unmoving. Blood gushed out; dripping on the ground as Hunter took back his knife and returned it to its sheath, his movements calm and steady. Dad traced the wound with one finger, making the blood and the cut disappear. Hunter put his arm up in the air so all could see that the cut was gone and then faded back into the darkness beyond the circle.
The leader leaned back in his chair, unimpressed. “Another trick. It just proves that you know magic.”
“Then you suggest a challenge.” Dad stood there, arms at his sides waiting, as the men huddled in a conference. After a while, they went back and sat down wearing identical smirks. The leader did not say anything but seemed to be waiting for something. Dad did not move, but Joel and I looked around wondering what was going to happen.
We did not hear them come until they were almost upon us. A dozen or more leopards dashed into the light. Dad crouched, ready to leap into flight and I cringed, throwing my arms up to ward them off. Joel whistled and one leopard bounded to him, knocking him over. Dad and I reached out to grab the animal but Joel was laughing and rubbing her fur. “Harriet, you lummox, get off my stomach, you weigh a ton.” He grunted as he pushed her off him. The other leopards ran in circles, uncertain what to do. Dad touched them one by one, so my brother and I copied him. The big cats calmed and sat at our feet, with one sitting directly on mine!
“Is this all you can come up with?” It was Dad’s turn to laugh. The baboon men looked annoyed as they got back in a huddle. The lone man just stared at us in wonder.
After a long while, men broke apart and went back to their chairs. “Come back tomorrow, and we will have a more appropriate challenge for you.”
“I accept.” Dad turned away and rose in the air. Joel and I followed. Once we got above the jungle, Joel suggested that we go for a spin. Dad agreed, so outvoted, I tagged along.
We cruised over the stone circle, and saw the smooth stones reflecting the moonlight. We headed east and found Jabulan beside a bend in the river. It was a village of circular huts set in concentric circles with a much larger building in the middle. No one was stirring, but rafts floated off a dock on the river and smoke curled up from a structure that stood alone, a little way from rest of the village. Light streamed from the open sides so we went lower, and spotted a woman adding wood to a fire underneath a large kiln.
She wore a vivid print top and a wrap skirt an equally vivid print, though they did not match each other. A scarf that covered most of her hair was another pattern, with its own intense color and design. She finished her task and vanished back into the darkness, but we heard her begin to sing:

Lady Creator, mother of all,
Thank you for this night, and the sleep you give us,
For the stars and the moons that watch overhead,
Thank you for the day, and the light you bring,
For our willing bodies and the work we do.
Let us be one with your creation
As we use the gift to create ourselves.
Let us see the beauty of every living thing.
Thank you for the land and the sky
Thank you for the plants and the trees
Thank you for the fish in the water
Thank you for the birds that fly
Thank you for the beasts of the land
Let us be one with your creation
As we use the gift to create ourselves.

Her strong and melodious voice floated up to us, as we hovered above her in the dark. I wished I could hear it in her language instead of automatically hearing it in mine. At the end of the song, she did not reappear, so we drifted away and followed the line of the river. It sparkled below us, finally blending into an ocean.
We landed on glowing white sand. The beach stretched for miles, lined with palm trees that waved and whispered in the wind. I heard a splash and my brother was swimming in the glistening ocean. I pulled off my dress and headscarf before leaping in and joining him. I enjoyed the warmth of the water and the fun of swimming in my underwear. Dad sprawled on the sand, watching us and smiling. He was not fond of swimming. Mom was the one who always swam with us, gliding through the water like a seal. I suddenly missed her very much, so I climbed out of the water and sat by Dad.
“I wish Mom were here.”
Dad nodded as he pulled a strand of seaweed out of my wooly hair. “I do, too. Maybe, after I figure out what I’m doing here, I can go back and get her.”
“Really? That would be great.” I splashed back in the water to tell my brother the good news.
We swam for a long time, never getting tired, cold, or thirsty. The sunrise turned the color of the sky to salmon, and Dad called us out of the water, and told us it was time to leave. We flew back to Harun and the flight dried our salt stiffened clothes. No one was there when we arrived, so we slipped inside, unnoticed. We took turns bathing in the big tub and then decked ourselves out in another change of clothes and different jewelry.
When the Harun Directorate arrived at our doorstep, we were standing in the main room ready to go, not sure of what we were going to find.

This is the last chapter that I am posting. For my book, "Travels to Fahdamin-Ra", you can buy it at Navarone Books, Smashwords or Amazon. I will post when it is available in soft cover. Thanks for reading! Navarone Books Link, Smashwords linkAmazon Kindle link

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chapter 6 ~Flying Lessons

           The rain soon stopped, so we accepted Yohance and Jetta's offer to go visit their mother. Joel hesitated a moment at the top of the staircase. "Why did your tribe decide to build the Creator’s place up so high?"
          "Obadele, the Third Creator, created a gift to us of our friends, the eagles. We carved this place for him, so that he could see the birds when he was not flying with them." Yohance used his hands as he talked, making graceful, flowing gestures.
          "Uh, what do you mean that he flew with the eagles?"
          "He flew in the sky with them," Jetta said.
          "He actually flew in the air." Joel looked as skeptical as I felt.
          "Yes, yes." Yohance was quite excited, "Yes, Councilor, the history specifically and clearly explains how he flew in the air with the eagles. After all, he was a Creator and nothing was impossible for him."
          Joel and I exchanged looks, which did not escape Jetta’s notice. "You could fly if you wished to. Perhaps you would like to try?"
          "Not here." I answered for us. My brother started to protest, but I went down the stone stairs ignoring his complaints.
          Yohance took us on another meandering tour through the city streets until we entered a tunnel with steps leading downward. It led to a warren of rooms, hollowed out of the stone and lit here and there by flickering torches. We crossed a narrow bridge over a placid stream, and met up with Silkworm Grower Sela. She gave us a tour of the dark, dank rooms that had moths darting about. One landed on my hair and rested there several minutes until it flew away again.
          Sela and the other workers demonstrated how they fed the worms, and then took us to other rooms to show us the little wooden frames where silkworms wove their silken threads. She led us back upstairs, to reveal where they boiled the cocoons, so they could unravel the threads in preparation for weaving. It was so much fun because Sela explained the basics, and then let Joel and me ask many questions.
          It was with reluctance that we left so that Sela could go back to her work. Jetta took the lead as we headed for the northern gate. Joel was anxious to be out in the open, so he could try flying. She guided us through the network of streets, which still looked like a maze to me. As we hurried past endless doorways and windows, someone called out Jetta’s name. We paused as two boys came running up to us. I saw right away that they were identical twins, about seven or eight years old, and wearing short, sleeveless, blue tunics.
          "Jetta, hello,” said one. He touched Jetta’s proffered knuckles with his own. His twin stared at us shyly. "Yohance, you’re here, too. Where are you going? Will you take us?"
          Jetta and Yohance smiled at him. "These are our young and energetic cousins, Ulan and Pili. They have the distinction of being the first twins in many generations, an immense honor to their parents," Yohance explained. Ulan smiled at us, but Pili kept on staring. 
          "Boys, these are Councilors Celestine and Joel, who are the Creators that you must have heard about. I am showing them around and Yohance is writing the history of it," Jetta said with a touch of pride. The boys, to my relief, did not kneel down in homage to us. Joel extended his hand in greeting and touched the boy’s knuckles to his. I followed suit.
          "Would you like to go with us?" I asked them, seeing twin smiles light up. "Do you need to get permission?"
          Pili nodded and dashed away. As he raced back to his home, Jetta called after him, "Tell Grandmother you are going just with Yohance and me." To us, she said, "If he tells Grandmother he is going to accompany the Creators, she will come out and thank you and we will never get thru the gate." Pili came dashing back to us and halted beside his brother. He nodded at us, so we resumed our march.
          Ulan walked alongside Joel. "So, you are a Creator?" he asked. "You look like a boy. I thought you would be a tall man. Your skin is not dark, either. Is there something wrong with you, because you are so pale?" Jetta hastened to shush him.
          "It’s okay," Joel assured her. He turned his attention to Ulan. "My dad is here with us, and he’s darker, like you, but he is not a tall man. I wish you could meet my Mom. If you think I’m light, you ought to see her. Her skin is the color of the sand by the river, and her hair is smooth and not wooly. You’ve never met anyone like her before, I bet."
          I enjoyed watching the twins. After observing the boys for a while, I could tell them apart by their personalities. Ulan was outgoing and inquisitive. He kept shooting questions at Joel, asking him if he’d been to this place or that, whom he’d met, and what he’d seen. Joel kept up a string of answers. I tuned out when Ulan started describing how the eagles kill and bring their fresh meat back to their nests, and then feed it to their youngsters. Pili tagged along, right behind them, listening to every word, but not uttering a sound. Yohance wrote down occasional remarks from Joel, grinning at his nephews all the while. Jetta and I dropped back so we could talk out of earshot.
          "Can Pili talk?" I asked.
          Jetta nodded. "Oh, yes, he talks. He has an extended vocabulary, but has so much attention on him that he is shy unless he gets to know you. Ulan has an insatiable curiosity, and asks questions day and night. As you’ve observed, he is not the most tactful in his examinations."
          I smiled. "I like someone who is not afraid to say what is on their mind. Why do people pay so much attention to them? Because they are twins?"
          "Yes, many generations go by without anyone giving birth to twins. We see it as a sign of great favor bestowed upon us. Now, you and your brother are here, two Creators in one generation, which has never happened before. Your arrival is the start of great changes that we have prayed for."
          I felt rather overwhelmed, like the feeling of realizing that you are having a big test that you have not prepared for. Then I remembered Dad was with us. I also hoped that the Harun would be patient in helping us catch up on all the lost centuries of information.
          The northern gate was less elaborate than the main gate. We passed through it without ceremony to empty fields with brown soil and no plants. The dirt was muddy from the rain, and mud stuck to our feet as we walked toward a grove of trees.
          "Where are all the crops?" Joel wondered aloud.
          "This field is lying fallow for three harvests. We put nutrients in the soil, then plant again after it has rested and the soil has built up," Yohance said. 
          Joel decided that he would try flying, so we left him to it and made our way over to the trees. The shade was cool and refreshing. The trees had twisty trunks and smooth green leaves, each one the size of my hand. The twins laughed and chased each other around, as Yohance, Jetta, and I watched my brother’s hilarious efforts.
          Joel took running starts and threw himself in the air, but fell repeatedly. He did not appear to be hurt and his endeavors were tireless. He soon became quite muddy, but the dirt did not bother him. I giggled and even Jetta and Yohance laughed, though they covered their mouths each time.
          After watching for a while, Yohance could not help it. "Master Joel, you are most courageous and persistent. If I could be permitted to make a humble suggestion,” Yohance continued at Joel's nod, "maybe if you visualize yourself flying, you will fly. At least, that is what The First Creator, Obasi wrote, when he created us in the beginning. He visualized us as he tapped away at the rock and we emerged from the stone."
          My brother stopped all movement and closed his eyes. I watched him, noting what an unusual sight it was to see him so still. Then a gap appeared between his feet and the ground. My breath caught as I saw Joel rise in the air. He opened his eyes and let out a whoop, which caused him to drop a few feet until he caught himself. Putting out his arms he flew like a plane, learning at a rapid pace, and soon was looping and whirling against the bright blue sky.
          Jetta, Yohance, and I laughed and clapped, and then Joel flew down to me. "C'mon, Sistine. You gotta try this.” He tried to grab my hand and pull me up with him.
          "Let go! I want to learn by myself." I walked out to the middle of the field and tried to concentrate. I ignored the sticky earth at my feet and the clamor that my brother was making. I imagined that my feet were leaving the ground and that I was floating, just floating on the breeze like a feather.
          When I dared to open my eyes, I was hovering about ten feet up in the air. I gasped and then fell, hitting the mucky ground. Jetta ran up to me. “Councilor Celestine, are you all right?"
          I nodded and got up, not hurt at all. We brushed the mud off my dress as best we could and I tried again. After many tries, I floated, but I was shaky and uncomfortable. While my brother flew around me doing somersaults and tricks in the air, I poked along. It was just so strange, adrift with nothing to hold me. I was queasy if I looked at the ground and uneasy when Joel flew by with no effort whatsoever.
          The mud dried and fell off us as we flew, leaving no trace of it behind. I began to feel more confident, but I was still cautious. Thank goodness that my brother got the hang of flying, because over toward the trees, we heard someone screaming. I saw Yohance drop his writing paddle and dash into the copse, toward the direction of the twins. From my lofty height I could see them yelling, and pointing up into a tree.
          Joel sailed past me and reached the tree in a minute. I saw a flash of tan or gold as the boys scattered and my brother fell to the ground, with something in his arms. The little boys kept screaming as they ran toward Yohance, who picked them both up.
          I fumbled through the sky, reaching the tree at the same time as Jetta, who raced there from the field. Joel was just standing up, alongside a leopard, which he must have caught in mid air.
          "Joel, are you crazy? Get away from that animal," I yelled, taken aback by his actions.
          My brother just stood there with a dopey expression on his face, his hand patting the leopard’s head. The big cat saw me and growled, but Joel beckoned me closer. "It’s okay, she won’t hurt you. See? She likes me." The leopard sat down beside him and leaned against his leg.
          "Wasn't she going to leap on the boys when you caught her? What makes you think she won’t attack you?"
          "Celestine, she must feel my power. If we are Creators, then we rule over all the animals, too. Come closer and pet her," he coaxed as I edged nearer. "Put your hand on her head and let her feel you." I put my hand on the leopard’s head and was surprised at how hot she felt. Closing my eyes, I connected with her and felt her wildness, while at the same time, her calmness. Her animal brain was fascinating to me and I stood for several minutes, working my way through it.
          I opened my eyes and patted her. She was not as soft as I expected her to be. Her face looked wild but distinguished, with exotic markings. The animal had large feet, fur covering her dreadful claws.
          Joel kissed the top of her head and she started to purr. "I decided to name her Harriet," he stated matter-of-factly, as if he had just received a fluffy new kitten.
          "Harriet?" I said. Now that I knew he was all right, I was furious with Joel. "How did you know she wasn't going to kill you? You are taking too many risks! What’s next? Wrestling crocodiles in the river?" I saw his eyes light up at that suggestion. Oh great, I thought, that’s all my little brother needed, more ideas. I hate tattle-tales, but I planned to tell my dad when we got back to the city. There was more I wanted say, but Joel was admiring Harriet, so I knew it was a waste of time to give him more warnings. Yohance was writing at a fast pace, making notes. Jetta and the boys stood nearby, staring at Joel and the leopard in awe. 
          "We aren't going to make Harriet tame are we, Joel? She won’t walk up to some hunter after this?" I asked.
          He considered it for a moment. "No, I don’t think that will happen, because she knows you and I are special. She might approach Dad, because he’s a Creator, too. If she saw our friends without us around, she might attack them if she were hungry." He lowered his voice. "All wild animals think kids are easy targets. Ulan and Pili are okay as long as they are with us."
          A sharp whistle echoed through the still air. Harriet lifted her head, and darted to Hunter, who stood beside a nearby tree. "What are you doing with my animal?"
          "Just admiring her. She belongs to you?" Joel questioned him.
          "All leopards belong to the Masamba. They were gifts to the jungle people, created for them by the Second Creator, Adanna, the supernatural and mysterious." Yohance answered for Hunter.
          Hunter gave a mocking bow to the Harun man, saying, "What brings you inquisitive children out beyond the city?" At first, I thought he meant Ulan and Pili, but then I realized that he was referring to Joel and me. I bristled at someone calling me a child.
          "We were out here, saving these little boys from being attacked by your beast."
          "A leopard is a leopard, and they must act by their instincts," he said, as he rubbed Harriet’s side.
          "Are you going hunting?" asked Jetta. She was looking at the band around his head, which held little feathered darts with their points sticking up.
          "Yes, now is when we hunt." Hunter pointed to the sun, which was starting to go down, in a bed of orange and purple clouds.
          "Well, let's go, too. I want to see a leopard hunt," Joel said. Hunter shook his head and turned away. Joel rose into the air and hovered twenty feet over the man. "If Harriet wants to get an antelope, there's a small herd over that way," he informed everyone, pointing to the right.
            If Hunter was surprised to see my brother in the air, he kept his face impassive as he looked up. "Thank you, but we do not need any help." He started to walk away,
          We followed him anyway. He looked back at us, and then stared at Jetta, who smiled and promised, "The Creators are curious. We will all be silent."
          All of us looked at Ulan, who retorted, "I can be quiet."
          "You had better be, or you must leave," Hunter said as a warning. He turned and followed Harriet, who headed for the antelope herd. Joel floated overhead, but I stayed on the ground. Hunter trod silently, but the rest of us walked too noisily, which caused him to turn around and glare at us from time to time. Soon, we came to a rise where Hunter motioned to us to hide behind some rocks. The antelope stood in the long, yellow grass. Hunter and Harriet slid down the slope and crept away until they disappeared into the grassy sea. I wished that I had chosen to fly overhead like Joel, so I could see what was happening.
          Nothing changed for a long while, and then some of the antelope lifted their heads and moved restlessly, sensing danger. The grass shook as the leopard darted to the edge of the herd, and they scattered in panic. A small buck started running, but the grass was too tall to see Harriet behind him. It darted over to the right as Hunter popped up out of the grass and threw some darts at the antelope. One stuck in the middle of the buck’s neck, but the animal kept running and swerved to get away from Hunter.
          The animal did not go much further, before it fell. Hunter and Harriet walked up to the spot where it dropped. Joel floated down to the ground beside them. We took that as a signal to come out of hiding, and we walked through the grass.
          The animal was dead. It died with its eyes open, which was creepy and sad at the same time. Joel sighed. "If the buck had to die, at least it died fast. What was in that dart? Was it poison?"
          Hunter cocked an eyebrow. "Do you think my people would eat a poisoned animal?" When we stood there, waiting for an answer, he said, "It is a secret that my people discovered ages ago," and that was all he would say.
          Hunter wasted no time in searching around until he found two long limbs. He cleared the branches from them, and then unhitched a coiled rope from his belt, and began to tie the animal on top of the poles. We watched, fascinated. Then he picked up one end and hoisted the poles onto his shoulders. He walked at a rapid pace, pulling the animal along behind him.
          We marched along, the boys whooping and running before us until we reached the edge of the jungle. It was getting dark now and soon we would not be able to see. Hunter put the poles down. "I hope this satisfies your curiosity," said the Masamba man. It was his way of dismissing us.
          "But don’t you need help to get the antelope home through the jungle?" I wanted to know. He turned and motioned to Harriet, who bounded into the underbrush and disappeared from sight.
          Jetta moved closer to Hunter, giving him her loveliest smile and he grinned a little in return. "Thank you for the interesting experience of showing us how you hunt."
          "You are welcome," he said, looking at Jetta, then beyond her to the rest of us. "I hope you will leave now. Some of my tribesmen are coming and they would not understand why I am here with you." This time, Hunter sounded a little less curt.
          "Goodbye then, and thanks," I said, as Yohance and Joel echoed me.
          "I had fun. You are so brave and you tricked that antelope," said Ulan. "We want to see you again. My brother and I could help you next time."
          Hunter smiled at the boy and grasped his shoulder. "I will look for you. Now, will you and your brother be brave warriors and escort everyone back home?"
          "Yes," Ulan said, grasping Jetta's hand. He took mine, but his eyes widened in shock when he touched me. "Your hand is so warm and you are buzzing, like a bee."
          Pili reached over and took Joel's hand. "Yes, I feel it, too," he said in a soft, wondering voice.
          The Masamba man looked grave, and I wondered if he was thinking about when Dad touched him. My assumption was correct, because he automatically put his hand on the spot where his wound had been.
          We turned away and Jetta was last to go. Joel and I could see well in the dark, so we led the others to the road. As we found our way home in the twilight, the three moons rose, one after another.