Albert and I walked along for a while, chatting like that, but it was getting late. We might have been able to make it if we trudged a few hours in the dark, but it was safer to just set up camp for the night. I sat outside Albert’s tent and pulled out my ax. I really appreciated having it back. I grabbed a few fallen branches and began peeling back layers of them for kindling. Albert watched, noting my fine skill as I set the pile of shavings on fire.
“Is it not good when something misplaced is returned to where it belongs?” he joked as he handed me some bread. “Not that change is not necessary every once in a while, but the security of the normal, of everything in the right place, that is when the heart hums a calming tune.”
“Yeah, I am glad to have it back,” I said. I grabbed a stick, and I was poking the growing flames. “I was beginning to feel just like this ax here- lost, abandoned, just all out of sorts. I mean, it is ridiculous! Why should I give that woman even a half a thought? We barely know each other, and, like you said, she is a complete troublemaker! First, running off with me, then running off with him- what kind of a life could someone like that give you?
“Meanwhile, I can’t even stand the sight of my own friends, if you could call them that. You know, I doubt they even noticed that I am gone. Could you believe that? Those self-centered fools! They’re probably sitting in Loina’s house right now, listening to those little flute things and eating my half of the dinner! ‘Give me that extra bit! This is great that that guy is gone! What was his name?’
“Not that I am not grateful for the bit you gave me. I mean, I didn’t pack nearly enough food or water. I didn’t remember the trip up the mountain being so long. I was sort of distracted by Baruka, I guess, and wondering where we were going. I never dreamed I would be involved in such crazy things at my age. No, I think another year, and I would have had my mother trying to marry me off. Lovely woman, she is, but she would be like, ‘Jack, you need to get yourself a wife and move on! Go on now!’ Maybe it’s good I don’t go back. She’d have some choice words for me if I weren’t dead and just run off like I did.
“I have to live my own life, though, right? I have to be free! No one to tie me down! Is that selfish of me? Does that make me a totally self-absorbed, fully full? Albert? Albert? Are you even listening?”
Albert was hunched over with his eyes closed. He’d fallen asleep! I was so annoyed I gave him a good punch in the arm, and he fell right over without making a sound. My jaw hit my chest, you know. I jumped up, afraid I’d hurt him, but he wasn’t hurt, he was dead! I started shaking him, and the others that were around came over to check on him. Sure enough, he was gone, just passed away while I was trying to talk to him. I tell you, that’s too good a listener! Too good, fully!
The men start freaking out. That is when I realized Albert wasn’t just any Elder. He was the Eldest Elder! What are we going to do? Albert was supposed to okay the marriage between Baruka and Ramoth. No Albert, no marriage, no deal. This was turning into an international incident!
But then I had an idea. His robe… those bushy eyebrows…
For Part 21 click here!