by Raji Singh
Steven Spielberg’s excellent portraying of America’s 16th President omits – probably because of cinematic time constraints – dramatic events of Abraham Lincoln’s Kentucky log cabin birth. Those events relate directly to Charles Darwin’s birth in England on that same day.
The story begins, for the revolutionary evolutionary and the rail-splitter turned (alleged) vampire splitter a fortnight before they arrived in this world. It begins with…
* * *
Mariner sits cross-leg atop Turt’s shell as they glide down the Leezian’ bayou. He looks upward, mentally charting the strange new celestial alignment, even he, as an experienced seaman, has never observed: A pair of stars – bright as planets – appears on a slow course of collision.
A pigeon perches on Mariner’s shoulders; another is at his ankles. Their outstretched wings catch a light breeze and provide sail power. Normally Mariner appears a muscled Poseidon – wild ivory hair, eyes fiery, clenching his trident-like custom-made harpoon. But on this twinkling night, he’s swift, gentle Mercury in pigeon feather helmet and winged sandals. He almost feels Mercury, messenger of the Gods, delivering news imperative to the survival of all mortals.
Neither Mariner nor Turt fear gators that swim near. Mariner’s unrivaled in harpoons-manship. Turt’s beak-snout strength and the quickness of his fin-claws overpower any gator, any size.
“Breathe in, deep-like ‘ol fella,” Mariner says to Turt. “Smell it? Blow me down, if we aren’t nearing our port.”
Turt arcs his crusty, leather neck and sniffs. His perpetual beak-snout frown hides a widening smile. He knows the joy awaiting him on the bank of the bayou: Mama Lucy’s stump juice.
The dewy air is pleasantly thick with a fruit-nut pungency from the ferment The Healer of the Bayou brews for her medicines and delectable delights. Our travelers are on their way to visit: Turt, to renew old acquaintances and sip from a sumptuous stump, and Mariner, to query the blind seer about the spectacular sky omen.
From his dungaree pocket, Mariner extracts his dog-eared Seafarer’s Guide to the Galaxy and fans through the fish-smelly pages. He finds the chart he has studied since first observing the star alignment.
~ ~ editor note: The copy of Mariner’s ‘Guide’, necessarily vented by over two centuries in the open air, is on display at the Fiction House Bed, Breakfast, and Museum – “a nice place to stay and visit at a great price. (When remodeling is complete.)” ~ ~
Mariner cannot read – not a word in the ‘Guide’, but he’s versed in the celestial. He sees on the pages and in the sky, an alignment not repeated for 1800 years and a decade – give or take a month or two: Not since the B.C.’s became the A.D.’s, he knows, though he can’t even recognize his A,B,C,D’s.
“EEE-eee,” Mariner hears Mama Lucy screech excitedly from the bank. “My ‘ol friends, ‘de come sailen’ in. Back for a drink of my heavenly sin!”
* * *
Mama Lucy’s so old – a hundred years and many more – she’s shrunk to no taller than a yard and a third stick. Her head is onion shape and hair sprouts up and out – bleach white. She’s not white or black – more of an off shade of gray. The Cayan people of the bayou have long forgotten which race from which she comes.
Mama Lucy rhymes to Mariner as she ‘reads’ the sky’s meaning .
My Bayou sky is showin’
Two Stars together comin’.
Be it glad or be it warnin’
A pair o’ birthin’ omens?
Mama’s words sublime often come in singsong rhyme.
She and Mariner sit by the bayou bank, on a log near her cabin home. It is also her medical office / laboratory / backwoods herbal pharmacy. Turt moseys, taste testing the varied fare the hollowed out stumps have to offer.
“Heyah Turt,” Mama Lucy calls out to him. “Take a beak-snoutful of the grub worm aperitif. Brewed it up special for your under-shell itch relief.”
Turt sifts in a long, languorous drink of it and mentally mimics Mama’s rhyming. ‘Ahh! The magic fixer elixir. If only you could carry it on a sea trek. Nary would a parasite’s tarry make you a nervous wreck.’ Turt drains the stump and winks gratefully to Mama. The pigeons, roosting comfortably on Mariner’s shoulder perch, fly over to join him at his next stump.
Mama Lucy bends to arrange rocks on the ground to reflect the aberrant sky show.
“As I been watchin’ ‘em, Mama,” says Mariner. “I’m seein’ ‘em move such that in a fortnight, they’ll be right about here.” He readjusts her display.
Mama Lucy rises, creakily. You can almost hear her bones rattling around in her shapeless burlap sack of a dress as she ambles about blindly ‘reading’ the sky, then rocks, then sky again. ‘Connoitering’. Reconnoitering, the weight, the feel of the stars on her bare shoulders, their sulfur in her nostrils, and glow in her thoughts. “Something strange indeed up high. Important babes birthin’ nigh. May be a needin’ my mid-wifen’ to avoid a life a’ strifen.”
Mama lay on the warm ground to keep continual ‘read’ of the sky. Mariner stretches. It’s been a long and cramped, though convivial, sail aboard Turt. “If you follow the stars’ path as I’ve been doing, Mama. You’ll see, one points to England. ‘Tother, to up north, Kentucky. In not many days, I could get there. England’s ‘nother matter.” Mariner reclines besides her, but in moments snoozes – the effects of the alcohol in the stump juice he’s imbibed takes its effect.
Mama Lucy wonders aloud. “Ah! But the magical sense of creatures!” Screech owls hoot wise agreement in the distance. She looks over at the merrily getting tipsy Turt and his pigeon friends. “Turt could find the babe, pre-manger, across the sea. By creature-sensing the star’s magic, he could bring my birthen’ notions to the he or she.”
Mama continues to study and ponder. At once, out of her knowings comes the answer.
“Two to be born. Of that, I am just sure.
They omen hope and understandin’ for the sad world’s cure.
No complicatin’ of birth will there be
With me off to Kentucky and Turt to sea.”
NEXT WEEK: THE STUMP JUICE ELIXIR BECOMES A NEWBORN’S, ABRAHAM AND CHARLES, FIXER.
©Raji Singh 2012
(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read their origins in my novel, TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE, but that’s a different story. It’s available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble,)