Cian, Lost in Romani
By Charley Brindley
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Water machine thing stop, make clunk noise so I know it ready me take out
wet clothes from him belly.
"You help Cian hang up?" I say to Carmen girl and make hand signs to
machine and up to other clothes now dry. She not too much understand, but
wiggle head up and down anyway and get down from hatch where we sit. I
take rope, bring down dry clothes, show her to take off them, put on big
white skin Kaitlin already lay down on deck boards nearby, that way keep
Girl learn good what I show. Later on I make fold clothes and maybe she
do too. I talk her all time, know someday she talk back on me.
"This thing, you know," I point to water machine, "Mr. Dokie call
wishy-washer, but I call by my Saxon word, trrific." I smile on her, not
know if I say word rightly. "When him see fine new idea, he say trrific.
This wishy-washer be wonder on me. Not never know one could put in dirty
clothes, put in sweet smell powery, turn water thingy, flip lectrickty,
and…trrific, dirty clothes get clean clothes. What think that, Miss
Carmen?" I watch her take big arm of clothes to clean pile, come back for
more. "You hard work girl. Think land you come from be not easy for girls
to live by. You out from forest like Cian did come?" Now I already pile
big load on her and she walk little bit crooked like white men I see all
time drink river water from bottle.
I grab top bunch off her and run for pile, but not so fast. She run by,
try to beat. I make noise on deck with wood leg like I run faster behind
her. She run more and fall on pile clean clothes, I throw my bunch on top
her. She make laugh under all clothes. First noise she ever did. I dig
out, see most beautiful face on world, all happies. Little tree-brother
come on run, like him scared for her. Them him see laugh sound be okay for
Carmen, sit on deck, scratch head, look me hard. I scratch head, look him
hard back. He show teeth, I show teeth. Carmen make little giggles. We
both look her, scratch, show teeth.
"Come on," say I on Carmen, "we got much work, no time for sillies." But
smile all time. We go back, pull down last dry clothes. "Oh, no," I say.
She look up me, see puzzles on face. "We pull down Captain Sinaway's flag
off him boat tree!" I hold in hand, that flag was on top end of dry
clothes rope. "Oh well," I tell, "it dirty too." Toss on pile of dirty
clothes and start take wet ones out to hang up.
"This one be brown pants of Mr. Doki," I tell on her, "we hang him first."
And I show Carmen how pin wet clothes on rope. Then come out funny look
thing. I shake out, hold up. "What this one are?" It have two straps
look like go over shoulder. Then nother two straps go around maybe. Have
clips on ends. "What think, Carmen? What these two big cuppies for?" I
hold out by fingers on straps, cups hang down. Look on girl, she shrug, I
shrug. We not know, but pin on rope anyway, must get dry.
"Ah, I know this one." I take out blue shirt, shake out. "This come by
my Saxon." We hang him up shirt and I think back little bit while me and
Carmen girl work together.
First day I see that Saxon, he came to me by end of Manaus dock where I
feed fishies everyday for boatman. Saxon be outsider, I know this by so
much clothes he had. His skin not so white as others who came bother us,
but more close to brown, like mine. May be only because sun is kind on
that face. But him eyes, they be sky-water blue, nice, soft look. He say
something to me.
"Do you know the way to Alichapon-tupec?"
He speak in same tongue as other men around that place, but I still not
can tell even one single word what they say. Boatman only one can speak
me, him one time have Yanomami mate. I only come out of jungle five days
now, still try learn. But his words not rough-sided, more soft like him
eyes. I think he wants buy tree-boat from that boatman.
"Over there," I say in Yanomami, because that only how I can speak. I
give him smile and think maybe I show him where best tree-boat is. He
gives hand, helps me up. I not think he know girl before with wood leg and
he watch my amulet much close also. I pick up medicine pouch and hunting bag.
He be nice and pick up other bag for me. I think he not know it have
torks inside so I not tell. Saxon follow behind me.
I stop by nice tree-boat and he say to me, "I have two companions, three
if one should count the dog." Me think his words say he not like.
"You need a bigger tree-boat?" I say to him in word and used hands also to
help me talk him.
"Female," him speak, "both."
Yes, him want big tree-boat. I take him to next one.
Then he bring out large paper and does me long storytell about it with
much turning downside up and back and pointing of fingers here and there.
Each time he look me, I smile and wiggle head up and down, but not
understand any his word at all. I see pretty paper like this before with
nice red, blue, green and small pictures of old white men, but they little
paper. My boatman say them called money, so I think this Saxon paper be
big money, maybe want use it to buy tree-boat. But much money for just
tree-boat so Ciantas think him want me for river scout. I take big money
from him and look up down dock for boatman, but him not nearby. Think I
scout Saxon now, give big money boatman later.
Saxon walk away and soon come back with woman, small woman and smaller
doggie. That make big surprise on me, all time think him by self. But no
matter, him give big money. We load all stuff, me tell each people where
sit in tree-boat, doggie only one understand words. Him sit by me, look
happy-tongue all time.
We splash by paddle up Mother River all day till sun go sleep. In camp
Saxon make fire with little box from pocket. Flip open, snap finger, fire
come alive from little box. Ciantas not never see this before. How can
him finger snap make fire alive? I think later I find out about this thing.
Before I start make food for people, I cook five torks for doggie. Put
them on sticks over fire, they cook while I make nook-a-noom for peoples.
Woman say to man, "Saxon," that first time I hear him name, "Rachel and I
are not really very hungry," she look by side-eyes at torks on sticks, "you
know we had a big breakfast. Good night." Ciantas think woman and small
woman so tired they not want me make food to them. They go on them beds.
I think woman be him mate and small woman him child. No matter.
Now strange thing happen. Saxon take one cook tork and with him knife,
cut off head, tail and skin, then begin to eat. Ciantas think this might
be outsider custom and if I not do same, maybe big insult on him.
Outsiders do many strange thing, like drink dead river water from bottle.
Sometime they try make Ciantas drink dead river water also, but I show them
knife blade and they leave me alone. But not want to insult on Saxon.
Tork not so bad anyway. Doggie like also, he eat two more.
After later we sit by fire. I put my hand in him pocket, feel for fire
box. Him eyes go wide, then he lean back so I can get my hand in pocket.
Find box, pull out.
"Ah," Saxon say, "my Zippo lighter."
I open, snap finger, no fire. Him smile on me, take box, snap finger,
make fire. Then close box, hand over me. I open, do same, fire come out!
I close, open, snap, fire! Close, open, fire.
"It will run out of fluid," him say, still with smile.
I put back in that pocket.
Then him reach for my chest. I think him try what other outsiders try on
me and maybe I show him my knife blade, make stop. But him lifts my
amulet, look close. I take leather from neck, give him. He turn over in
"This is from a laptop computer! How in the world did it come into your
I think he like my amulet. "We make trade," I say. "You can keep the
amulet, and I will have your magic fire box?"
He put leather back around my neck, guess he little bit smart for that
trade. Strange thing, he arrange my hair over nippies, careful not touch.
Him lay back, head on backpack, watch fire. After little minute pass, I
fix medicine bag next to him backpack, lay beside Saxon, head on medicine
bag, watch fire too. Hands touch, sleep come. Long time later I wake,
still dark, fire gone away. Him arm around me, Ciantas head on Saxon
chest, he make nose-noise little bit. Heart slow beat, strong. Look up to
him, wonder if eyes still sky-water blue when not open. Ciantas like here,
stay long time, hope sun not wake today.
Tribi-Kimba prowl nearby, I know him by strong scent, wake me. Birds start
talk to each one another, sun wake soon. Make nook-a-noom for people while
they still not wake. Saxon like eat tork so I try put in with nook-a-noom
for everyone. Doggie wake when food start to cook by fire. Him tail go
wag-wag most time. Soon small woman wake and come to fire by me.
"Nook-a-noom," I say to her while I mix in dry petals from medicine bag.
"Nook-a-noom," she say.
"Fire," I say in my tongue.
"Fire." She say exactly my word. Try another one.
"Dog," I say, pointing at Wag-wag.
"Dog," small woman say, then, "Hero," she say.
"Hero?" I say like her.
"Hero," I say and Wag-wag look me hard, turn him head side by side then
come on me with happy-tongue. Guess him called Hero in outsider tongue.
"Ciantas." I point my face.
"Cian," she say. That fine.
Sudden picture jump inside my head. Little Yanomami girl next to hammock
with woman under shabona. Eat fruit, laugh. Woman show little girl dried
leaves, roots, make talk about them. Point to arm, head, stomach. Not
know picture like this before. Picture gone just sudden it come. Now I
point to this girl and lift shoulders.
"Rachel," I say and she smile yes on me. I put next nook-a-noom on rock
by fire to cook.
I point to sleeping man. "Saxon."
She wiggle head up down, say, "Uncle Saxon."
"Uncle?" I say her word, but not know it mean. I lift my shoulders, she
lift her shoulders, maybe not know how to tell me uncle word. I think she
five, maybe six seasons old.
I point to each thing I told her and she know all Yanomami words good like
"Nook-a-noom smells so good, may I try some?" she say in her words and
point to first one on fire rock.
"Please," I tell her my word for asking something.
"Please," Rachel say much good it sound like come by my mouth. I take hot
food from rock, break in two, give half her, we eat together. She like, I
think. I like also, have nice taste.
Rachel jump on feet, run to sleep bed, grab up little pack she all time
carry on her back, run back to side fire. Open top flap, take out something.
"Omane Tai!" I not mean say bad words out loud, but cannot help. Grab
hold my heart pound! Almost fall back on fire, I so fright on this thing.
Rachel break little bit nook-a-noom, hold on him mouth, but he not eat,
just smile all time like been happies since forever. Cian not never see
thing like this before. It be such small tiny, but have hair just like
Rachel. How can girl-child make her own ipsy child in packback?
Rachel speak on her child, "Nook-a-noom taste good, huh?" She not notice
my big eye, heart run so fast. She take bite her baby not eat.
"So," I think, "this be where white people come from? Little white girl
make ipsy ones in them packbacks? Not come from woman stomach like
Rachel look on me, see I have fright face. Not know why. She hold him
out to me.
"You can hold her if you want," Rachel say. "Her name is Yimmy, she's a
I reach with shaky, take Yimmy. This thing not live, but smile all time,
eyes wide, look at me. I turn upside, look under dress part. Oh, not real
person, made of wood kind stuff. But look so people, like big woman
smished down to baby one. How can make such thing? I smile, then laugh.
Why I so fright on just wood ipsy woman? But him be pretty, yellow hair,
Rachel look me when hear laugh. Mother now wake and Rachel say to me,
"Kaitlin," I say, then tell her Yanomami for mother. She say it back to
me good. I give Rachel back her Yimmy and she take in arm.
Kaitlin come to fire, say me "Good morning." I not know what, so just
smile on her.
Rachel look at me, she know I not understand. She point toward Eastern
sky, where starting get light, say same words. Ah, I think, this be kind
greeting for day start.
"May your day be bright and cool," I say to Kaitlin.
She nods head on me, say, "The bread smells so good. What's in it?"
"Nook-a-noom," Rachel say to her. Kaitlin blinks at child, tries to say
Yanomami word, but not good.
Rachel tries again, but then says, "Just call it bread, Mother." Then to
me, girl say, "Mother please nook-a-noom?"
"Yes," I say and Rachel say my word for yes. That piece now ready and I
break for Kaitlin. She like pretty good.
"This is delicious, what's in it?"
"Her name is Cian, Mother. And nook-a-noom is made from wild animal toes."
"Rachel! It is not," Kaitlin say. "It's like a bread or muffin. I know
she used some kind of flour and maybe eggs. I smell herbs and spices. Ask
her what's in it?"
Saxon wake at voices sound, I glad. I give same dry petals to Kaitlin I
use in food, she run get little bit paper, come back and make marks on
paper. She look at dry petals, taste nook-a-noom, make more marks. She
look very happy on me. Cian think Saxon with good mate.
"Saxon," Kaitlin say on him. "Can you sketch these petals and the nookum
bread Cian has made for us? We have to try to find the plants and collect
Saxon rub eyes, then grumble some words no one can hear good.
"I'm afraid it's going to crumble," Kaitlin say to him.
Then he take up little book and wood thing to make marks.
All have good big breakfast, then we take down camp and go on water. I
not know where Saxon want go, so I keep going upriver till he tell me where
We come to Albe-waar falls. Cian not never been past Albe-waar before. I
look to Saxon, him point to top of falls. We carry all stuff around
waterfall, take long time. On topside we find big lake, me not never know
of this before. Water dark, do not like, but me think Saxon know what he
do, him boss man, give big money, must know where we go.
We paddle long time on lake, water deep and black. Me look down, see ugly
things under water, seem like scare-dream I have many times every night.
Not like. Not like sleep either. I look back at Saxon, point to shore
long way off, him nod on me, put down him book and marking thing then turn
tree-boat to land. Cian not like deep black water. Wish him go with me in
sleep, kill scare-dream.
Later I help Saxon make beds. Think him want sleep him mate, that good.
Take hunting bag, start leave, Hero come sit on tail by my foot, make
happy-tongue to me.
"Well, Hero," I say to him, "come with me. I do not think Saxon will want
us around when he sleeps with his mate. I certainly would not want another
woman around, would you?" Him turn head side by side, make whinny noise.
"Yes, I know. We would be in the way. Let us go hunt Tribi-Kimba. He is
that big cat with the broken toe. I never try to kill him, just like to
sneak up on him in the night, then scare him half out of his wits. But he
does the same to me. Come along."
Hero good hunter. Him sniff up much little furry animals, then stop look
to me. I nod him stay still, them me arrow them. Kill much animals, some
big ones too. Not need for food, just cut open, let bleed, not know why.
But never kill tree-brother, that be sinful thing.
Try to sleep some in jungle, but not like sleep any more. Make nice
leather neck-belt for Hero. Kill few more animals, one big crawley, no
legs, fork tongue, remind me of things in sleep, not like.
Go back camp, surprise see Saxon sit by fire, Kaitlin with Rachel sleep
together other side. Him sad look, eyes blue deep in fire till Cian and
Hero step by light. Then bright face, jump on him feet. Think him happy
see Hero come back, but Saxon take Cian in arms, hold close. Me feel weak,
not understand. Sister-mate, mate-sister, not like these things go round
inside head. Look up, see him eyes, lips. Something drop on ground, oh,
hunting bag fall.
Wiggle from Saxon arms, see big pile wood nearby. Try smile on him, point
to fire wood. Now he look happy on me, go with Hero sit on him bed, look
me work on meat, smile all time. Soon him lay back, fall sleep, still
smile on lips. I not sleep no more this night.
Rachel wake later, come to me, give hug, not know why. I say to her;
"I love your yellow hair, can I fix it for you?" I lift some of curly
hair, she understand enough my words to know. Nods on me.
"Rachel fix Cian hair?" she ask me. Yes, I like Saxon child much good.
We go into jungle, climb tree, find pretty flowers high up for her hair.
She like up there, see over many tree tops, watch sun wake. When we go
down, I show her old Yanomami game, nack-nack. We play and talk.
I point to sleeping Kaitlin. "Mother," I say. She nod. I point to
doggie, "Hero." She nod. I point to sleeping Saxon, "Father," I say.
"Uncle," she say.
"Uncle. What is this uncle, I do not understand what an uncle is."
"That my mother, that my pet." Rachel point Kaitlin then dog. "That my
uncle, mother's brother."
"What?" I say. "You mean mother's mate."
"No, crazy." The girl laughs. "My uncle can't marry my mother."
"Wait," I say, "I have to understand this perfectly." I smooth out dirt,
draw picture of shabona, what boatman at dock say is called house. "This
is your house." I draw woman, man, child inside. "This is Kaitlin," I
point to woman. "This is you and this is Saxon." I point to man.
"No," Rachel say. She point to man, "Ian."
"Ian?" I say.
"My father's name be Ian. He in Scotland working on big thing in ocean."
I not understand any of last part, only that Rachel's father name Ian, not
Saxon. She draw another house, look mostly like boat, next to house I
draw. She draw in a man.
"Saxon," she say, pointing to her man in him own boat-house.
I take little stick from her hand, draw woman in with him. Point to that
woman, "This is Saxon's mate, his wife. What is her name?"
Rachel laugh and knock on wood leg, "Hello," she say, "Saxon not married."
She rub woman out of Saxon boat-house. "He no have mate."
I grab up little Rachel, hug tight, laugh by her till almost cry.
She say, "Okay, Cian now Saxon wife. Can we play the game?" Rachel make
giggles at me, Cian also, just like two small woman, we make laughter and
play at game but not care win or lose, make so happy.
Saxon wake, smile on me first, then see him breakfast ready. He
watch us play game long time, then turn head by side like Hero, try to
understand something. I see him look at Kaitlin, him sister, she smile on
him, shrug shoulders. Me like Kaitlin, she know how tell him with no
words. She still look on leaves I give her, make marks on paper. May be
she medicine woman also. Much glad she Saxon sister.
We leave black lake, go up green water stream. Long time later, turn off
to brown water stream. Saxon sit in back tree-boat, make turns. I not
know where we go. Next day, brown water stop, lay still. I look all
around, think I see this place before, but not know how, never been here.
See this place behind closed eyes. See other boat like this one, but
little. Woman inside, look like Cian, but have two good legs, not wood.
Have small woman, like Rachel, she have two good legs also. Squeeze eyes,
look hard. Small woman laugh when big Cian splash her face, small woman
splash big Cian, both laugh much. Think small woman be big Cian's child,
but not understand. Cian with two good legs and small child, not make
sense anyhow. I not ever mated, cannot have child. See woman point to
trees, say something to child.
"Cian." I hear Rachel talk behind me. "Mother wants tree question."
"Mother," I whisper. Picture clear like thunder in head. That little
Cian! In boat with mother, long long ago. Never see mother before this
day. We were here, on this stream, playing, laughing together. Why we not
still here? Why that Saxon bring me this place?
"Cian?" Rachel say to me. "What wrong?" She come forward, take Cian
hand, hold tight. Not talk more, just wait for me come back. No, not make
cry, not never before, not now too. Black water scare-dream wait for me, I
know it wait for me in sleep. Not never sleep no more.
"Yes, Rachel." I put arm around child, hold close. Still see little Cian
in boat, mother put arm around, hold her, them both happy way back there.
Leave them in their little boat, not never change that picture.
"I am fine," I say to Rachel. "What question does your mother have for me?"
"She want know what big tree name," Rachel point to tree on bank.
"We call that kind of tree a bran-lolly. I do not know the word in your
language, but it is the wood my leg is made of." I knock on leg, smile to
"It's a leg tree, Mother," she call back to Kaitlin. Then to me she say,
"Look water, Cian. Change green."
Me look on water, very green. "Yes, Rachel. It is beautiful." I look
back on Saxon, him still paddle strong. Him smile like him know something.
Me look back forward, water now turn blood like, start move faster. Saxon
take me someplace, not know why. Me take up paddle once more, help him.
"Please I can splash water?" Rachel say me.
I take her in lap, place hands on my hands, show how work paddle. "Tell
your uncle Saxon to take a rest, we will do the work for a while."
"Stop paddling, Saxon, we can do it while you rest," she yell back to him.
"Okay," he say and hear him paddle come inside boat. I smile, know he
I look forward, see strange sight. Big things, far away. White, sharp on
top, point to sky, some even cut through clouds. Not never know what they
We make camp early. I show Kaitlin everything in medicine bag. Try tell
and show what all for; one for cut arm, another for hurt eye, some for bad
stomach, one for sore ear. She very excite on this things. Make many
squiggly mark in lots papers. Ask me please for little bit each leaf and
root. I give, happy to do. Cian like Kaitlin much more, never have sister.
After later, I see Kaitlin with Rachel, they look on Saxon with Cian, make
whisper and giggles. I know what they whisper. Strange, sometime Cian
want be with females, make whisper, cook food. But most time want be with
Saxon, make happy.
By and by him fix bed, but not by other two. Make Cian bed next him. I
lay by him, want sleep on shoulder, take him in my sleep. But dare not
close eyes. Move close, like smell neck and hair. Feel my eyes heavy.
Must go into jungle now, hunt, kill, cut, bleed. No sleep.
Think Saxon sleep, but when I pick up hunting bag, I hear him whisper.
"Cian, take me with you."
I look on him for some long time, then feel smile on my lips, hold hand
out to him. We go.
We hunt little while, but Cian want stay close camp, not good leave Rachel
and Kaitlin by selves. Tibi-Kimba play games with Cian, but surly would
kill other two females if I not nearby.
Cian swing hunting bag over shoulder, make climb up tree. Saxon follow
more slowly, not sure of self. Way up, we stop, look right down on camp,
see others sound sleep near fire. Hero look up at us, head go side by
side. Hang bow and arrow on out limb where Tribi-Kimba see them clear.
Now make nest in tree-arm cradle like tree-brother do. Saxon see what
happening, him help.
We lay back in our nest. Take one last look down on camp, then up to
night sky. See moon, stars shining by. All quiet in jungle. Now we see
about make trade for amulets.
Later on, Cian sleep more better than never before. Wake only two times.
One time that Saxon wake me with kiss, want trade amulets again. Then me
wake him still later, not satisfy yet too. Then we sleep like two rocks
under trickling water. Dream all that night, but only of my sweet Saxon.
When we walk back in camp, see Rachel and Kaitlin look on us mouth open
then smile pretend like go on bout business. I know they see my new
amulet, was Saxon magic fire box, him have my amulet around him neck. He
no shirt, pants cut off short by my knife.
At next we go on water, Saxon ride in front. In night, we go out
together, I teach him hunt, he teach me pleasure. Not too much hunt.
Six day after Saxon meet me on dock, we come to old village on river bank.
I take tork sack, walk up bank, see shabona, roof rotted away, hammocks
still swing by dead trees. I think I know this place, not clear much.
Walk through shabona, see something in one hammock. All come back like
thunder in head.
Scare-dream break lose in full daylight. See little Ciantas by fire side,
she maybe eight seasons old. Mother there, she make food, little Ciantas
help. Suddenly hear scream, much men come run. Mother yell, "RUN Ciantas!
Run into jungle, the outsiders come to kill us, do not look back. RUN
now!" Little Ciantas not run when mother yell her. Stay by mother at
fire, hold on tight, try hide. Men come hack, cut everywhere. Blood fall
on me. Not outsider men, no big clothes on them. They Yanomami donsni
akali from other side place, much long hair, red yellow paint on them
bodies. Loud growl, not words, growl and scream on us. Stone knife hack
and cut. They grab mother, throw on hammock, two hold down her, other jump
on top her, all time scream and yell. Blood go all over. Little Ciantas
get hack from back, fall, leg hurt more, much leg blood runs down, man grab
little Ciantas, throw around. Me scream out loud, fall, not able move but
still see. Close eyes, not want look no more. Open eyes, see donsni akali
hack all Yanomami people to bits, drink blood, yell to sky, dance around
like crazy animal things.
When no more my Yanomami move or cry out, they start to feed on us.
Little Ciantas drag self toward jungle like mother say, drag little bit,
rest. Drag more little bit till dark, not look back, like mother say.
"Saxon," I whisper, know he right beside. "Give knife."
He put him knife in my hand. I cut hammock from trees, then get down on
ground, wrap bones in rotten hammock. Start dig grave with hands. Then
Saxon beside me, him dig grave with hands. Then Rachel on next side, dig
grave with hands. Kaitlin, too, she cry now, help dig grave. Little bit
later we smooth dirt over mother.
I open sack, only one tork left. Let go, him run for jungle, not look
back. Cian not want kill living thing never more again.
Then Saxon, Rachel, Kaitlin help me to stand. Saxon take Cian in strong
arms, lay my face on him bare chest. Now Cian can cry, first time. Feel heavy burden lift from
shoulder. Saxon take it for me forever.
End Chapter 2 (of 30 chapters)