When the drums started, Father steadied
himself (besides the repetition, it's self-contradictory. How about "leaned on his hoe"?), wobbled, and nearly fell. My hands reached to steady
him, but if his knees let go, I doubt I could have held him up. He shifted his gaze to the forest. His eyes glazed, his mouth gaped, and his brow furrowed. The fast and uneven rhythm offered little clarity. Whether to prepare for celebration or siege,
we had no clue.
“He's forgotten,” Father commented on the drummer. The Hunter's Victory hadn't carried from the clearing in over two years. It's
(its) precise timing likely escaped the drummer's memory.
“Should we go?”
Father nodded, dropping his hoe. “There are no roots to be found here anyway.”
I followed closely behind Father with my hands ready to catch him if he fainted. He hobbled toward the clearing where our kinsmen held our Fire Dances. As we approached the fire, a joyful chorus carried from the forest. “Oh, Great Hunter... Oh, Great Hunter...” The voices sang over and over.
Upon hearing their words, Father laughed and smiled. He forced his feet into a little dance, knowing he'd taste meat for the first time in many moons.
As the chorus grew nearer, my brother, Mumba, burst into the clearing. Dancing and waving his arms around, his face was as bright as the sun.
“Oh, my son! You fill my heart with...” But before he
(Father?) could get his words out, his
(the) smile fell from his face. His brow lowered. My cousins—twenty men altogether—trudged out of the forest, hoisting a giant serpent across
(over, or on - they can't go abreast) their shoulders. Even with all of them lifting, the serpent
was so big that they groaned to carry it. But my father appeared like
(looked like, or had the aspect of: appear suggest he had been invisible) a man drenched in cold water—startled and without joy.
Mumba's smile faded as he approached Father. (redundant line)
“Oh, my ignorant son!” Father chided
him. “What have you done?” (Doesn't seem strong enough in the circs.)
Snakes had been unseen
(they were invisible? No snakes
had been seen) in the forest for a generation. Many of my cousins had never laid eyes upon a snake
[of any kind], let alone a great serpent.
“Father... I have hunted...for US!” Mumba shouted [with] a mixture of
anger and pride.
My cousins shuffled into the clearing and circled around
the fire with the dead snake.
Father glanced at the snake's
eyes and shuddered. A great cry erupted from his chest. “Ohhhhhh! Cursed!”
“Father, if there is such thing as Curse, we have it already. At least now we can be cursed with full bellies.”
He kept his eye on the snake
as he reached blindly for my wrist. “Come, Ah-moonsa.”
(You could vary the language a bit; substitute pronouns, or simply cut some of the repetition.)
I walked with him as he backed to the edge of the clearing. Once the snake
was out of sight, he turned and hurried
for the hills.
Once he passed between the carved stones, I knew he was headed for the cave. Only our elders went there and only for one reason—to make restitution.
inside and stripped his clothes off. Striking the flint stones, he lit the oil lamps and sacrificial fire.
“Lay yon down, son,” Father said to me as she shoved his gown into the fire. “Lay yon down, if you want to to
“I don't understand.” The ways of our people were quite clear to me, but in my fatigue and hunger, I felt myself agreeing with Mumba. If fortune required the god's favor, clearly we had been without it for quite some time. What difference would one serpent make?
Father dropped to his knees and leaned forward until his body touched the ground. “The gods must know the sorrow of your heart. They must know that you offered no aid to your brother.”
The Great Serpent troubled my father. While I saw only a large snake—one who likely feasted upon rats, squirrels, and birds—Father saw a demon of the worst kind. A demon [now] free of
(do you mean that by killing the body, they had liberated its spirit? If so, make it more explicit.) its skin, floating in the wind. A demon that could go anywhere, even inside of a man. A demon that could kill him from the inside.
I fell beside him and pretended to be afraid. More than anything, I truly felt hunger, fatigue, and gratitude for Mumba's hunt.
“We are sorry for Snake,” Father sang.
More than wanting to make the gods happy, I want to make my father happy. So, I joined him, singing, “Sorry for the Snake.”
Before I truly understood what Father intended, he shouted a promise to the cave gods. “My life! I give my life to satisfy your wrath, but take pity on my people. Save them from the snake demon. Save them!”
A tear slipped from my eye. Not because of the snake(; b)B
ecause of my father. He promised his life to the cave gods and there could be no take-back.
Father rose to his knees and cried again, “My life!”
“Father, stop!” I shouted at him. “You're mad with hunger! You're...”
Father closed his eyes, reached to his scabbard, and pulled a blade of bone in front of his body.
“Father!” I reached to grab at
(for) his hands, but before I could take hold of him
,(them) the blade sank into his belly. His shoulders slumped forward as blood oozed from his wound.
“Father!” I held his head in my hands.
Father shook and moaned. “For you, I die. For me, you live.”
“Father, father, father.” I held his head to my chest. “Father, for you I live.”
Father wobbled and fell to his side. “Go far from here, Ah-moonsa. Snake blood poisons the ground. Go ye many moons. Go til leaves fall from the tree. Go and go. Snake try follow.”
“Yes, Father. I go and go.” I wasn't sure if I meant what I said, or if I was trying to please him with my words.
“Love ye...always,” he said.
“Love ye, Father. Always.”
He closed his eyes as a rattle rose from his chest. His shoulders sank and he stopped moving. I lowered my ear his chest and could not hear his heart.
For the longest time,
I held him and sang. I sang until I felt his spirit leave. Then, I kissed Father's cheek. “Love ye, always,” I whispered and hurried out of the cave.
I felt sun on my cheek as clouds moved along the horizon. I knew the stars had shifted, but had no clue what it all meant or what I must do. Father's spirit had moved out from his body, like a fog lifting from the ground. Mumba, my cousins, —
all my kinsmen,—
had a right to know, so I hurried toward the drums.
When I came down to Camp
, (why capitalize?) the Great Snake's body cooked on the fire. Cousins danced with Mumba, carrying him, and singing, “Oh, Great Hunter! We thank you for our meat. Oh, Hunter, we love ye!” And Mumba laughed. Cousins laughed. And they all sang
As I watched them,
something grabbed a
(seized) hold of me that I had never felt before. I'm not sure if it was sadness for father, fear for bad omen, or a little of Father's spirit had slipped inside of me. I saw Death inside of them. Already they had begun to die from the inside.
I wanted to tell them about Father and how I had to leave them. I took a step toward them
(As I took a step forward) and, as I did,
lightning flashed. The ground rumbled and, though it was not the rainy season, the skies opened and rain fell. As I stood there,
I felt Father inside of me(, h) Heard his voice. “Go ye, Son. Go ye now.”
I bolted into the forest and went to run
(ran) with Father's spirit.