It made no difference where he went or what he did, Aruanã thought sadly: his father's trouble followed. He had heard Naurú; still he could not understand what Pojucan had done so terrible as to make him a no-warrior. How could one so fearless and brave be a man without honor?
When he approached his family's hammocks - hung the farthest distance from Tabajara's place since his father's return - he saw Pojucan making an arrow. Two were next to him on the hammock - arrows of a kind Aruanã would need for Macaw. Seeing this, he was suddenly happy. When had his father last taken an interest in anything that concerned him?
Pojucan greeted the boy, and continued working on the arrow. Unlike those used against men or in the hunt for meat, it ended in a small, round knob, not a point of bone or sharpened reed. Its snub-nosed head was designed to stun, not kill.
"A boy needs a swift arrow for Macaw," Pojucan said, "one that will fly true and fast."
"With such an arrow, I will be the first to shoot Macaw," Aruanã said eagerly. "I will find more feathers than all the rattles can wear."
"When I went on my first hunt, I was afraid of the forest."
"And so it is with me, Father. But this fear will not stop me."
"There is no need to go beyond the forest of our people. Many macaw live there."
"I remember the signs and will look for them." He was referring to the markers with which the clan defined its territory: a broken branch across the trail, a slash on a tree trunk. "You have been beyond these, Father, a longer journey than others. I will also remember this, for I am your son."
"There are things in the forest even the bravest warrior has no eyes or thoughts for."
"You led the hunt. You saw the trail as the animals do." Suddenly Aruanã implored, "Oh, Father, why has it changed? "
"It was a long time past," Pojucan said. "It was the other life."
Pojucan still did not know what had come over him when he was a prisoner. He should have danced before his captors, and mocked them, until they brought the slaughter club. Why had he, on the second night, looked up at the stars and thought that life held more than a death of honor?
"You must look for Macaw in the middle branches," he said abruptly. "There he makes his home."
But Aruanã did not want to lose this chance to hear his father. "I do not know this other life you speak of," he said.
"Think only of the sunrise and of what must be done for Naurú. It is your first hunt. Sleep, so you will have eyes for Macaw."
"My father is Pojucan, the Warrior. Pojucan, the Hunter. This I will always honor."
Pojucan, a deep ache in his heart, swung himself into his hammock and turned his back on his son.
Naurú was going to have him killed, of this he was sure. His death would come without ceremony, a group of warriors ambushing him in some quiet place in the forest or seizing him here in the maloca and dragging him beyond the stockade. His body thrown to the urubu and the piranha.
But why should he allow old bent-back Naurú to decide his life for him? He was not so stupid as to seek an open confrontation with Naurú. He would be a twice condemned man if he dared defy Naurú before the elders.
He dreaded Naurú, but there was something else, a fire within him that had begun as no more than the faint embers at the end of night in a maloca.
It was heresy, the denial of a glorious way of dying among the Tupiniquin, and he was the first man to think it.
Aruanã lay awake for a long time, listening to the insects in the thatch, the creaking of hammock poles, the conversation of those still awake. He heard the cries from the jungle, so very close late at night.
Copyright Errol Uys. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this excerpt contact the author at http://www.erroluys.com.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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