The Waste (IX)

It had been a great while since he took his boat out without the intent to return with scaly sustenance and crustaceous delicacies.  The gliding of the craft through the water and the subtle dips and bobs as the craft navigated the waves was a panacea for the stress that bore upon his broad shoulders.  As the sun rose, the morning light warmed his bare arms, and the shroud of concern melted away.  The cool morning winds buffeted his sail, and stirred his senses.  The undulating minutes spend in this directionless reverie felt like hours. Allamar was temporarily lost in his peaceful glide, before a brisk wind abruptly pushed the direction of his craft, jarring him from his stress free trance.  Immediately, his thoughts returned to the village.  Allamar adjusted his grip on the rudder arm, and pulled.

As he guided his trusty vessel towards a piling on the familiar dock, he could see, in the distance, a slow-moving, dull-colored mass shuffling towards and around a house that hadn’t yet felt like his own.   The port side stern caressed the planks on the side of the dock as the master sailor, Allamar, deftly exited his boat and secured the rope to the piling with the ease of a performer who has executed a difficult maneuver tens of thousands of times.

His footfalls sounded curiously heavy on the planks as he strode, uninterrupted, towards the pen.  Though it felt bizarre to have none with whom to exchange a casual nod, nor a brisk “Morning,” Allamar knew that this absence of informality was his own doing.

He caught several stragglers near his new home, most greeting him with a hearty “Good morning!” The expressions that accompanied their morning salutations ranged from a slightly raised eyebrow, slightly pursed lips, furled brow, wry smile, and in one, and incomprehensible combination of all four.

Heads turned, as he, and the late joiners noisily descended the stairs.  As if on cue from the conductor, akin to the tuning of strings on stage coupled with the rising din of brass from the pit of an orchestra, the murmurs from the crowd began, rose in volume, then became a cacophony as Allamar approached the outer ring of villagers.

The individuals in the close-pressed assemblage shifted and crunched into each other, creating a small pathway for Allamar.  He sidestepped, twisted, and shouldered his way through the tiny avenue, smiling nervously and “Hello-ing” and “Excuse me-ing” the entire way.

Allamar nearly fell directly into the pen as he pushed through the last line of villagers.  They had left little room to stand at the edge of the octagonal recess.  He wondered to himself, “Where was everyone expecting me to stand when I got here?  Did they suppose I would float down from the sky on a cloud and hover above the water to address them?”  He shook the irritated thoughts from his head as the crowd, seeming to read his mind, contorted their amoeba-like form, providing him a half-moon shaped area upon which to speak to them.

“Friends,” Allamar spoke, as the murmurs continued, overpowing his statement.

“FRIENDS!” Allamar boomed.

The cacophonous murmurs dropped to intermittent whispers, then silence.

“I appreciate your gracious acceptance of me as the new chief of this village.”

A nervous hum pulsed through the crowd.

“It was not my intention to bring back the magnificent catch that swims in the pen before you.  It was not my intention to move my family into a new dwelling.  It was not my intention to assume the role of caretaker for this village.  My only intent was to fulfill my duty as a fisherman in this village, and to bring to back a haul from the waters to sustain this community.   What found my hook was the leviathan that swims in this enclosure before you.   As a result of this catch, I do whole-heartedly accept my new responsibility as chief, and, my intent, going forward, is to safeguard the prosperity of this village.”

Notes of consent reverberated throughout the crowd.  The villagers gathered around Allamar look to each other and nod their approval and understanding.

“Some, may have wondered why I have requested that the catch be spared.”

Though he could not be sure, as there was no possible way that he could see all of the faces in the crowd, he could sense that there were several in the mass that sneered.

“According to the records that have been passed down generationally, and kept in the home that is traditionally occupied by the chief, every time a new successor assumes the role, a new condition is permitted to be added to the rules of succession.”

The previously mild conversation from the crowd rose to the level of clammor, and Allamar saw that they began chatting furiously together, assumedly speculating what new condition may be brought into the annals of the rules of succession and of what new bizarre twist was to reveal itself.

“Do you remember when Antonin became chief?

The din subsided, and the villagers looks at each other in confusion.  Several hand gestures were made, followed by head nodding, then head shaking.

“Did anything change?”

Nervous looks were shot between the people in front of him.  The hum of discourse rose.  The crowd shifted uneasily as Allamar waited for a response.  Finally, a coarse voice pierced the buzz.

“No!”

Bolstered by the daring of the lone voice, several other, not quite emphatic and mildly questioning “NO”s sputtered out from the crowd.

“AND WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?” Allamar bellowed.

The villagers’ confusion intensified, and the buzz of their perplexed conversations hung in the air like a massive swarm of hornets.

“The answer is quite simple.  For as long as anyone here has known, the succession of chiefs has been directly from father to son.”

The whirring of hundreds of voices dwindled to a hush.

“The last chief that earned his post with a remarkable catch, was the last to augment the rules of succession.  It was his wish, that in the event of the securing of a fish eclipsing that of record, that the new chiefs family move into the most prominent location, and stay there permanently, and his family would succeed him there.  Not so coincidentally, this person was a direct ancestor of former chief Antonin.”

There was a rise in volume from the crowd, and before it exploded, Allamar spoke again.

“FRIENDS!” The crowd snapped to attention.  “There is a reason I asked for you to come down to this place.  There is a reason I asked you to gather around the most magnificent fish this village has ever seen.  You see, I value this catch, and have looked after it, as it has provided me a tremendous opportunity in life.  I value it, and have protected it, in the way that I value those that are closest to me, my family.

His neighbors shifted, making minor scraping noises as they scuffed their shoes upon the wooden slats.

“For this reason, I am invoking my right as ultimate-catch-appointed chief, to make a new addendum to the village rules.”

There was an impossibly placid silence, as the village waited for Allamar’s next words.

 

 

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