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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 103: Hastings 36
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 102: Kondor 34
By midsummer Lauren was somewhat conversant in her new musical language, and had also made friends with some of the people. Although age and gender were not easy for her to tell, she found that the young were more open to her and to her ways than their parents, and the girls more interested than the boys. Several of the younger women ate with her, and learned to cook over her fires. She had taught herself to light these with sparks from rocks, and one girl she had named Speckles had watched her and learned to light fires and to contain and control them. She dug out some cooking gear which she hadn't needed while in Philadelphia, and made soup of a basic sort. She dared to try a few of the grasses and wildflowers that the parakeets ate, although she still shied from nuts and berries. The grasses cooked well in her stews.
She also taught them to make clay pots, and to fire them in open fires. It wasn't as easy making soup in a clay crock as it was in a stainless steel saucepot, but she had begun to think that her mission here was to bring the basics of civilization to these people, to introduce them to simple technologies besides weaving sticks. The older birds were a bit suspicious, but polite, and the younger birds were eager to learn.
She also tried to understand what they already believed about God. This, of course, was more difficult, and required that she use the language link quite a bit, as there were many words she didn't know, and a few she couldn't translate even with the link. But she wanted to bring them something more important than creature comforts and improved technologies. She wanted to bring them knowledge of their Creator, and to figure out how they fit within the plan of redemption. But she had to begin with what they knew, and where they were, and that was going to take some time.
But she shared a great deal with Speckles. The young hen was interested in everything--what Lauren knew, where she had been, what her things were for. And Lauren kept no secrets from her, trying to explain to her difficult ideas such as alternate universes, demonic monsters, and cotton underwear.
She did feel a bit awkward about her clothes after a while. The parakeets didn't wear any clothes at all, nor did the sparrows, but she didn't feel comfortable wandering around the village naked. She cut the legs off one old pair of jeans, and spent a lot of time with nothing more than that and a T-shirt; and she did accept that there would be no problem bathing in the lake, as long as she didn't contaminate it with soap. She tended to wash her face and hair with water warmed in her four quart pot, and worried a bit what she would do when her shampoo was gone.
She helped in other ways. She was the tallest person in the village, and that made her well suited for fixing the tops of nests, and wading out deeper in the lake when the fish avoided the shallows, and plucking fruits from the higher branches of trees when they started to ripen late in the summer. She was careful at first about eating fruit, but eventually decided that she would die of malnourishment if she didn't expand her diet, so it was worth the risk that some poison in the food might kill her first. It was tasty, and she found she could eat anything they could, although she preferred to cook much of it.
She fancied herself a Bible translator for a while, and even read sections of her Bible, trying to translate on the fly, to those who visited her. But they had no written language, no concept even of drawing, until she introduced it. When she taught them to make pots, she also had each of them etch a picture on the side that would tell them which pot was whose. Eventually, she thought, they'll create language from this. If I live so long, which I actually could, I will translate what I know into their language.
In college she had hoped God would not send her as a missionary to Africa, and He never did. But here she was, a missionary in a much stranger, more primitive, and more distant land, and enjoying it immensely.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #61: World Transitions. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: