Chapter 1 of my novel to be titled “Arowana”
|The fishermen, with their daily harvest of life, have rowed their boats home.
The women and children are gone. Their earlier splashes of work and play are long forgotten by the eternal river.
The trees begin to cast their long shadows across the river’s glassy surface in their daily attempt to race against time; to touch the other shore before the sun is itself extinguished in the river’s murky depths.
It is the time of day when most creatures surrender to sleep, preparing dens and beds for a night of dreams. Their yawns awaken the majestic dragon from her slumber. Slowly, she unfolds her flowing golden and crimson garments and polishes her elegant slippers. In nature, as in the human world, beauty simply can not be rushed. And, she is the queen of the river! Who would dare?
The beautiful Dragon, queen of the river, leaps from the surface of the river in the tree’s darkest shadows, then returns to the water with a SPLASH! The children strain their eyes to see, but the Arowana is almost always tantalizingly just beyond sight, sheltered by the coming of night.
The dance has begun!
With nightfall, the Arowana dances across the surface of the water, the most graceful of ballerinas: Spinning, twirling, and leaping high into the air! The lucky child, who has minded her parents well, is blessed by the briefest glimpse of the Arowana: A flash of her golden skirts, or a splash of crimson headdress reflecting across the river’s glassy surface.
“I saw it! I saw it!” I cried!
“That’s seven days of good luck,” mother, father, and grandfather responded simultaneously.
Once the Arowana is assured that all eyes are closed, and all souls asleep, her slippers grace the land. She dances among the treetops, carried by the wind. She watches over the village and protects us from evil, she travels great distances in search of rain, medicine, or other things that we need, before returning to her home with the rising sun.
Every evening the four of us, our little family, would watch for the Arowana and listen to her reassuring splash. My parents and grandfather would tell fantastic tales of her adventures.
I loved the stories, and was reassured, despite the nearly constant thunder on the horizon and smoke in the air. I had one question for the majestic dragon. It was a question I didn’t dare ask. There was one wish that I hoped the queen of the river would grant. Grant that one wish and I would ask for nothing more, in all of the days of my life.
Could she grant my unspoken wish?
Just before I began to dream each night I would receive three precious gifts: A kiss from my father on my left cheek, a kiss from my mother on the right, and a kiss from grandfather on my forehead.
Those were beautiful days. My earliest of memories. I cherish them.
Then, one day, the thunder grew louder. The smoke thickened, and from that day forward I received only one precious gift each night.
My question was answered.
My wish was denied.
I was raised by my grandfather, a casualty of war.