Chapter 48:     Jailbait

Transcribed from dictation, ADAM speaking--

Slept in my own bed again, jeez, I could get used to that.  Feel
really refreshed, strong.  All that food I ate yesterday probably 
helped too...too bad I ate everything in the house, so that there's 
nothing left for today.  Actually, I don't feel hungry at all.  

But time is slipping away, it's already noon and I want to finish
telling this story before I have to go.  Don't seem to be able to 
settle for the short here we go again.

Let's see: Dagrolyt and I were making his rounds, right?

Our next stop was to visit a couple and their daughter. We walked all day and arrived just before sunset, to be greeted by three of the nicest-looking squatches I'd ever seen. It was like a movie scene in saturated Technicolor. Dabronat, Malasna and little Masnia were very glad to see us and this time Dagrolyt introduced me as his friend rather than his Initiate. It was obvious that they already knew who I was and were overjoyed to welcome me, although I couldn't remember having ever seen them before. There were embraces instead of polite head-bobbing. It was also obvious that Dagrolyt was much closer to this family than the last. As it turned out, so was I: it soon became clear that they had been very close friends with my mother. Dabronat said the usual polite "she was a wonderful yøramma", but followed that up with, "we both loved her and still miss her." Malasna said, "Mayala was my best friend ever," and touched my face, "dj'iess! you look so much like her." A single tear went running down her cheek. These people were not doing small-talk. These people lived in a pile of trees--seems they had no compunctions about living in "dead trees" as Mabna had. At least, it was pretty ingenious how it looked like a pile of trees, but hidden inside was a nice cozy room, spacious and dry, with fluffy beds of evergreen branches. Reminded me of a Hobbit house. The girls, mother and daughter, brought us some apples to eat, not ota. I began to catch on, this was like being offered cake instead of mush. Dabronat asked Dagrolyt where he'd been, how he was doing, with no mention of Atli. The girls sat in too, not shy of us, nor retiring so that the men could talk of matters too important for women to hear. Malasna had such a pretty face and was looking at me with such fondness that she reminded me of Elaine, made me feel loved. Actually, it went both ways; I found myself instinctvely liking these people. I asked why I hadn't met them before, "I thought everyone came to the Kha-rat." "We go only rarely," Dabronat told me, "we'd rather spend the Mla-mløt-klys with a few good friends, or just the two of us." "Why waste our shyøma on people we don't want to yøramma with?" Malasna said, "It's too precious." My God, I thought, civilized people! "You know, I'm beginning to feel that way about it myself. It's been a real culture shock for me." "Don't the NokhSo people do Kha-rat?" the little girl asked, which led into a discussion of cultural differences. An intellectual conversation, I loved all these people! The mother was very pretty, but her daughter Masnia was an absolute beauty. Pixie-faced, big innocent eyes, slender and graceful as a ballerina, cute boobs just beginning to bud. Petite for a squatch, I'd guess she was 12-16 years old, but couldn't really tell; I'd never actually met such a young Nokhon before since there are so few children and they keep to themselves at the Kha-rats. Anyway, she was so adorable that I just fell for her right away. She could tell too and squatted up against me so that I could better tell her all about the NokhSo world. It got dark. Dabronat said, "This is an occasion, let's make a fire in celebration." That surprised me, knowing that only Sha-haka were permitted fire, and Dabronat was not one. But he seemed relaxed about moving a stone on the floor to expose a hidden fire pit, as Malasna went out to bring in some firewood and then he produced--of all things--a box of matches! "Hey," I had to ask, "where did you get those?" He was proud of them and handed me the box. It was a fairly new box of standard matches, half-full. I couldn't read what brand, of course, but I recognized them from stores in Nokhsoland. "I get them from Old Dawalasat, the NokhSo trader," he said. "What? A NokhSo who trades with Nokhontli?" "Ra, he's quite famous." "But isn't that ø'skogome, isn't that skesk?" "Well, yeah, but..." Dabronat hesitated to give Dagrolyt an is- this-guy-okay? look, Dagrolyt bobbed his head, "...but not all of us are willing to be slaves to rules from before the dawn of time." "And Old Dawalasat is more than just a trader..." Malasna began to say, but stopped at a little gesture from Dabronat. Well, there it was, Revolution in the ranks of the Nokhontli. "That's okay, you don't know me yet," I said, picking up on the sensitivity of the subject. I could always ask Dagrolyt later. But I was intrigued enough to ask, "Can that Nokhso trader speak Nokontli?" "Ra, fluently," Dabronat said, "he lives with a Nokhon woman, a Sha-haka-ma. That's how he got to be so old for a NokhSo--he has learned to make his haka flow." "And he eats proper food," Malasna added, "he says NokhSo food tastes so good that it is deadly." "I will confirm that," Dagrolyt said, "Dadamet gave me a piece of Nokhso PIE, I was ready to go live among the Nokhsos just to get more of it." The fire was crackling, just a little one to keep it secret. It was like violating prohibition, or smoking a joint, a forbidden thrill that felt daring and liberating. But it was also very cozy, the warm red flickering light, illuminating the beautiful people. It felt very good to be a squatch just then. "Dadamet, will you do some Myøsik for us?" Dagrolyt asked. "Oh, raaa," Malasna insisted, "we've heard about that. Please?" So I sang some songs around the old camp fire. Two or three standard hits, a little classical, a little rock. I clapped my hands for the beat, made electric wah-wah guitar sounds and drum rolls with my voice, pretending I was a whole band. They were amazed, heads were bobbing, I was doing great. The little semi- teenage girl was especially thrilled, respecting me as if I were a rock star. The adults were slightly more reserved in their appreciation-- but not by much. And yet little Masnia wasn't quite satisfied, in several ways. She gave me a playful little shove, so that I ended up sitting on the ground instead of squatting, whereupon she sat down on my lap to get even closer. Then she said, "Now do Myøsik in real-talk." So I made up a simple rhyming song in Nokhontli, to the tune of the Beatle's Yellow Submarine. Translated it doesn't rhyme or fit the meter, but it went something like this: Masnia, I like you, so I'm going to sing your own little song to let you know so. Masnia, I hope you think my song is as pretty as I think you are. Wow, you are a real beauty, yeah wow wow wow Yeah, are you a beauty, wow wow wow They were all laughing and bobbing their heads, clapping the beat along with me, enjoying it much more than songs in English. After a few repetitions they even began to sing the chorus with me, going kind of crazy over the Ra, kha kha kha part. "Actually, we HAVE heard myøsik before..." Malasna started to say, but stopped to look at Dabronat, who said, "Not yet, Ya'yo." They seemed to have some secret they had to be careful with. Of course, I assumed they had experienced music the way most squatches do: usually as loud unpleasant distorted noise, booming out of NokhSo cars that passed down logging roads, or while themselves passing through areas where humans lived. But Nokhontli words put to rhyme and melody were like a cosmic revelation to them. Truthfully, the song wasn't THAT good, I'd had to bend the language around a bit to make it rhyme, but they had no basis for critical comparison, as far as they were concerned I'd just created and performed a Broadway Musical. And little Masnia, now she was looking at me like I was GOD. From about three inches away, not only sitting on my lap but straddling, turned to face me, arms around my neck, breathing heavy, sniffing at my face--yes, like lovers do. And yes, grinding a little. Oh-oh, I thought, I'm in trouble now. And I was. I hadn't expected this very young girl to go erotic on me and sure didn't want to feel that for her--but there it was. Her beautiful young pixie face was so close, looking at me with such adoration, that I couldn't help being aroused. Nobody else there seemed to be paying us any attention, or even think anything of how that little girl was pressing up against me, but my own good-old-American middle-class moral sense was hammering at me: o no no no, o god no. The worst was that little... well, I call Masnia "little", but she was about the size of a tall human woman and reminded me of Melly sitting on my lap, in a lot of ways...the worst was that she had to know what was prodding her bottom just then. There I was, embarrassed again. But she was discrete, didn't make a fuss, even kept it hidden for me, just between friends. It took me a while to cool down enough so that she could get up again. Finally the fire went out and we all went to sleep outside, the bakhl was for bad weather but this was a nice cool night. I made sure to have Dagrolyt between me and either of the women--I won't call Masnia "little girl" any more. Getting jumpy, I guess.
The next morning Dagrolyt finally began reciting Atli to Dabronat. It hadn't even been brought up as a subject of discussion the evening before. So Malasna and Masnia and I went off for a walk. Masnia still couldn't get close enough, she asked me to carry her on my shoulders, so I did--and was reminded of Melly all over again. We followed her mother to a waterfall, a really beautiful spot. There was even a pool to swim in, so we did. They were going to forage for food, so I offered to help them. That wasn't supposed to be a man's job, but these folks were used to ignoring stereotypes and we soon had enough for the day. I saw apple trees, from where they had gotten the fruit they had offered us, although they weren't in season yet. But a little apple and plum orchard high up in the Cascade Mountains, hidden among evergreen trees far from NokhSo agriculture, was not a natural phenomenon. I asked about them. "Old Dawalasat," I was told, "he planted many such places long ago." Okay, now we know who the mysterious trader is: Johnny Appleseed. On the way back we came to the pool again, the sun was shining, so we settled in for awhile. We played in the water and Masnia kept climbing all over me until Malasna told her to "stop pestering our guest, you'll drive him crazy". Right she was. Then we lay out on the rocks with the sun warming us. Life was great. "Sing me another Myøsik, Da-adam-ee!" Masnia commanded, conferring me her own private nickname in the process. "Not right now, kid, maybe later." I was trying to put a little distance between us, be aloof, not look at her beautiful face. She crawled up on my chest and put her beautiful face looking down into my eyes. "Okay, then can we yøramma instead?" "Masnia, stop bothering poor Dadamet! He doesn't want to yøramma a little girl." "Oh no? His dakh is way stiff and hard. And I'm not that little," she looked at me and challenged, "am I, Da-adam-ee?" I groaned and rolled over, covering my dakh. "You'll have to excuse her," Malasna said to me, "she's at that age." "Yeah, I noticed." Fortunately, I could laugh. And so could Malasna, which was a relief. Finally Masnia laughed too. "Look, Masnia," I told her, "I really like you. I even like you pestering me and--yeah sure, I'd LOVE to yøramma with you... someday, when you're a little older. You might be ready for that right now, but I'm not. Sorry." "How much older?" she asked. "Now that's enough," Malasna told her, "give the guy a break. He said he likes you, he said he'd yøramma with you some day, now be nice." "Okay," Masnia agreed, "but I want a Myøsik then." I had to laugh again and agree to that, as the lesser of two evils. I sang Masnia's song once again. I laid on a corny romantic crooner-style this time, since all erotic undertones were already out in the open and resolved--temporarily, at least. Malasna was caught up in it, eyes closed. And I thought Masnia would really be turned on by that performance, but the critic inside her became revealed. "'s all right," she said, "but it might sound better if you sang ahatyara instead of ahat-ayara, it would fit into the..." "Beat," I said, wondering where she could have taken Poetry 101. "...yeah, beat. And really, I liked it better the way you sang the first time. It was more...more real." I was blown away. Masnia wasn't bitching because I'd spurned her, but because she had an instinctive sense for intelligent and constructive criticism, as well as a better vocabulary than mine. Man, I fell in love again. So I sang it again and she was right, it was a lot better. This time she embraced me and sniffed my face and said, "When I'm older, let me CHOOSE you..." Couldn't help it, I kissed her on the lips, a real smacker. She kissed back without missing a beat, fast learner, smart girl. Then she continued, still without missing a beat, "...unless I become Sha-haka-ma, that is. Then I won't choose to serve a man, but we could still be yøramma-friends." "I can hardly wait," I admitted. "But you don't have to," she said seriously, starting to straddle me. "Yes I do, please understand that," I said, gently getting her un-straddled. "You're a funny guy, kinda different." "I was raised in another culture." "Yes, Masnia," her mother backed me up, "and from what he told us about the NokhSo way of life, our ways must be strange to him. He needs time to adjust. Respect that." Malasna was still lying there right beside us, evidently enjoying the show. "Oh, I do, Mamama. I LIKE that he's different. I like it a lot." "She's never ever been this way with any man before, Dadamet. You should be honored." "Oh, that I am and truly," I had to admit. And to Masnia I said, "I'm not that much older than you, really just a boy myself and I want to be a Sha-haka too. So we both must do...what we gotta do." "Yeah, I know. I'm learning Atli from Dabronat and Womans-ways from Mamama, sometimes I get to learn magic from my father..." "Isn't Dabronat your father?" I asked, then remembered that squatches don't actually recognize individual fatherhood. But she surprised me with a coherent answer: "Oh no, my real father is a great Sha-haka who lives very far away. When Mamama was assigned to have me, the committee picked him--and only him-- as the right man with the perfect seed for her. That way I wouldn't be a mistake." "Well, you certainly weren't," I told her.
We went back to the bakhl in the late afternoon. Dagrolyt and Dabronat were talking, but not of Atli. The lesson was over. The girls and I had gathered some mushrooms on the way back and we had a nice meal around the fire that evening. I gave a performance of the improved Masnia song for the guys, Dagrolyt and I did our "Hound Dog" duet, it was a good evening. I felt like I was with normal humans back in Monroe, or could imagine my friends and family from here being there. This was an upper-middle-class family, well educated, modern, slightly hip, daughter from a previous marriage, artistic appreciation, semi- illegal thrills. All that's missing is somebody passing around drinks or a joint, I thought. "Kha, how about some omun?" Dabronat offered, passing me a small handful of psychedelic mushrooms. I wasn't sure if it was all right and looked over at Dagrolyt, who was already chewing his. We all sang songs that night. Masnia sat on my lap and I held her affectionately, both of us behaving almost innocently. I sang her to sleep. I was about to drift off to sleep myself when Malasna said to Dabronat, "Show it to him now, if anyone deserves to know, it is Dadamet." I had assumed everyone else was asleep but it was as if they had been waiting for this moment, both Dabronat and Dagrolyt were now wide awake and squatting. Dabronat stood up to go out. "Check for Alutna first," Dagrolyt warned him, "with Daklakht away on a mission and Ma-ralla-hata as acting Alutna-Jii..." "Ra, they've been snooping around," Dabronat said, sticking his nose outside and sniffing before he slipped out of the bakl, apparently to get something. A moment later Dabronat came back with a small flat package wrapped in a dirty plastic bag. Evidently this was some seriously forbidden skesk, I could see that all three of them were tense about being in the same room with it. "Dawalasat gave this to us long ago," Dabronat explained, unwrapping it with great drama, furtively, as if he barely dared to. "Before you were born," Malasna added, augmenting the mysteriousness of the unveiling. It was an old Walkman, I mean at least 25 years old, a pre-digital audio cassette player with a tattered set of earphones. I half-laughed: couldn't help it. They all glared at me as if I had just desecrated their Holiest of Holies, so I was made aware that they took this very seriously. "Pardon me," I said to appease them, "from the way you were all acting I was expecting a loaded noisekiller or some other kind of extremely dangerous skesk. This is so innocent." They looked at each other as if astounded by what I'd said. Then Dagrolyt nodded comprehendingly. "I can understand that it might seem that way to you, due to your Nokhso history, but this thing is considered culturally dangerous and it had a heavy impact on OUR personal history." "The Alutna caught us with it," Malasna explained, "all four of us--Mayala too--and we were almost exiled. It could have been very bad." "But we were lucky," Dabronat continued, "because your mother was with us and the local Alutna agent at that time loved her too much to arrest her, so he had to let us all go." Dagrolyt laughed, "Actually, officer Daklakht was like an old friend: he'd arrested Dabronat and myself for minor violations of Atli so many times before that he finally respected us for being the incorrigible rascals we were!" Dabronat laughed too, reminded of their wild and crazy youth. "Daklakht?" I asked to confirm, because Mawa had once mentioned her sister's lover by that name and also said that he had traveled far away. She had warned me that he might be cruel and bitter, but these people seemed to see him in another light. "Ra, Daklakht. He's a special family friend now and has been protecting us from other Alutna, even though he's become their utmost authority, the Alutna-Jii Himself," Malasna said with a certain fondness in her voice. "But now," Dabronat said seriously, "he's been on a mission to the hot lands in the South and his temporary replacement is not our friend, so we must be careful again." Squatch politics, I assumed, of which I knew nothing. Perhaps I didn't really even want to know, what could they have to do with me, right? I studied the Walkman, careful not to laugh again; although amused by a blast from the past kind of thing. "This skesk is so old that I'm amazed it still exists. Actually it's a fine example of antique technology." (I'm not going to go into how difficult it was to construct that sentence in Nokhontli.) "It makes myøsik," Dabronat proudly informed me. "Oh, I know, probably pretty good sound quality too. They just don't make them like this anymore," I wanted to show some appreciation for something that clearly meant so much to them. Then thinking that the old Nohso trader might have also given them a supply of batteries, I asked "Does it still work?" "No, it died long ago," Dabronat admitted flatly. "But your mother was obsessed with it while it was alive," Malasna said, "she even learned to imitate the myøsik inside it." That intrigued me. "Hmmm, may I see it?" I opened the transparent plastic lid and took the cassette out. The others gasped, thinking I had broken it. I had to explain as I went to keep them calm. It was a tape of an original movie soundtrack from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Sound of Music, the Julie Andrews version from the middle 60's. I'd seen it two or three times and said, "Oh, I know this myøsik." "Yes," Malasna announced, "your mother used to sing it to you." WHAM. And I do mean WHAM. I could HEAR her voice, I could SEE her face, Malasna singing to me: "The hills are alive..." Holy shit, talk about puzzle pieces of ancient memory clunking into place. And then it was gone, she was gone. But I had seen my mother, as if looking up at her because she was bigger than me back then. The others could see that I had been staggered by something, I finally noticed them staring at me with concerned eyes. I half- laughed again, this time at myself. I couldn't speak yet, so I cleared my throat and sang a raspy verse: "The hills are alive with the Sound of Music..." Every one of them cried out--in surprise, shock, wonder, whatever--as they recognized the song that Malaya had learned. I found myself hugging them all. Then Malasna made love with the three of us.
The next morning Dagrolyt and I headed home to his bakhl; I had to get back into studying all the stuff I had to learn. "They were wonderful people, all three," I said to Dagrolyt, "you seem to have known them for a long time." "Dabronat and I grew up together. We had the same mother." "The same...he's your brother? Why didn't you say so?" "Because...well, one doesn't advertise that his mother had more than one child. You know that children are rationed among us, so it is considered boasting to suggest that your mother's genes are so good that she was bred several times. It's like saying I am of Superior Stock and therefore Superior to You, skyøma." We made a few more stops on the way back home. I won't go into detail, there'd be too much to tell. Or maybe not--most of the people on Dagrolyt's circuit were something like that first couple, devout obeyers of Atli, unimaginative, living pretty boring lives. Sorry to say. There weren't many others nearly as progressive as Dabronat and Malasna and not-so-little Masnia. Back in the valley, Misma and Myrøla were waiting for us. By then half of the month had passed. There was time for some intense training, before the next Ma-mløt-klys.
I met Daseh again, that young stud who had been initiated at my first Kha-rat, impressing me by plowing through eleven women (well, I'd still been a virgin myself at the time). He came by Dagrolyt's bakhl one day, trying to hook up with a Sha-haka who would mentor him. He remembered me too and was surprised that I now spoke Nokhontli so well. Mainly he was glad to see someone he almost sort of knew, since he was from "out of town" and was kind of lonely. Daseh had been visiting the various mlønoli trying to find himself a dwayarat and sponsor so that he could go study at Aket. Like just about every other male squatch, he wanted to be a Sha-haka when he grew up. But Dagrolyt felt that he was busy enough being my mentor, since I had to learn the entire Nokhon culture, however did recommend another Sha-haka he knew so that Daseh was not entirely disappointed. It's apparently not that easy to get your Big-foot in the if they had any doors. Anyway, he was not having an easy time of it, but was confident that he would succeed eventually. I liked him; Daseh was so positive and enthusiastic, eager to become something more than just your basic squatch and willing to make the effort. Being a very physical and energetic guy, and just to be friendly he offered to wrestle me, although that was pretty embarrassing. "My wound," I told him, and he had agreed that it must have been therefore he could have thrown me so much farther than he thought I could possibly fly, so that I crashed into Misma and Myrøla. Actually, even Dagrolyt considered him a gifted wrestler. Daseh was passing by on the way to his final initiation, the Enduring which would earn him "adult" status, when his name would change to "Daset" with the "T" at the end. I knew he was a few years younger than me (17-18?), so could understand that he was a little nervous about it. I was especially sympathetic since I'd been there myself not so long before. I wished him luck as he went off to meet his fate. His situation made me realize how lucky I had been to connect with Dagrolyt: I was being personally escorted into the upper echelons of the Nokhon world even though I should have been at a disadvantage from a misspent childhood among the Nokhsoli. It might have been me struggling to fit into Nokhon society, if Dagrolyt had not once been friends with my mother: yes, like everywhere else, it's all about Who You Know.
About midway between Full Moons and Kha-rats, the usual two Alutna guys, Dalangath and Darassath, came on by our little Eden with the message that I had been "invited to Aket". Or rather, the Elders requested my presence: they wanted to meet me to determine my aptitude for the discipline of Sha-haka, among other things. So with an exciting sense of adventure and the possibility of a fascinating new career in mind, Dagrolyt and I set off for the magical & mysterious City of Aket.

Chapter 49

Adam out of Eden