by J. P. Flores
Table of Contents|
parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
The next twenty hours passed like a surreal dream for Mud, and he was exhausted.
There was nothing Elder Tak could have done to prepare Mud for the bombardment of the twenty-first century on his senses. The boy had finally fallen asleep on the plane. He had been trying to grasp the meaning of Mara’s kindergarten version of how an incredibly large chunk of metal could fly through the air with people inside of it.
“We’re here,” Mara said nudging him awake.
“Here” was another adventure to Mud. There were long corridors and more people than Mud had ever seen at one time. More planes were scattered on a great asphalt field. He stared at the moving sidewalk that transported him and Mara through the giant corridors. When his legs were finally sturdy on the moving belt, he looked up at Mara with a questioning look on his face.
“People just like making things easier,” she said.
“Why is there a need to make walking easier?”
Mara just shrugged in response.
When they reached the baggage area Mara’s attitude changed. Stiffly, she watched the crowd and spoke into her cell phone.
“We’re good,” she said.
Before long, a car pulled up, and Mud rode for what seemed like hours on a freeway clogged with traffic. While on the road, Mara showed him her cell phone. He marveled on how an object smaller than Elder Tak’s truth box gave him just as much access to the world.
The car, being driven by a man Mara called Horace, eventually pulled into a gated estate. They went up a long and winding driveway that ended in a large courtyard. A building made of stone was connected to another one by a stone bridge walkway.
The car drove under the walkway to a parking lot at the rear. A man came out to greet him. He was in his fifties; he wore glasses and had graying hair, a loose-fitting t-shirt and jeans. He greeted Mara and then went to the car, opened the door and leaned in.
“Hello, Mud, my name is Peter. You must have a few questions. I promise I will answer them all after you have settled in. I’m sorry for all this sneaking around but, unfortunately, it is necessary.”
“There are some people who would rather see you go away.”
Nothing Mara or Peter or anyone else had said to Mud since he left the monastery made any sense. He politely nodded his head each time he was told something new, resigning himself to accepting that soon all would be explained to him. That was what Mara and Peter seemed to be promising anyway. He had given up trying to answer the hundreds of questions that popped into his head and the concept of people wanting him to go away was another one added to his list.
“You’re the man who took me to Elder Tak years ago?”
“Then you knew my parents.”
“We’ll talk,” Peter said with a shrug.
The room Mud was led to had a large four-post bed, nothing like the straw mat he had slept on all of his young life. He lay on the mattress, staring at the canopy top. His eyes picked out patterns in the Moroccan design. A tree here, a goat there, things familiar to him. His ride through the city had made him feel closed in. There were no sprawling valleys, no white-tipped mountains.
Finally he got up, picked a spot in the corner of the room and lay down on the floor and fell asleep.
* * *
“I must say I’ve looked forward to this day for a very long time.”
Peter sat at one end of the table, Mara the other. Mud was in the center.
A servant entered with three covered meals on a cart. He placed one in front of each diner.
“I assumed you’d want to eat rice and fish for now,” Peter said.
Mara gave Mud a reassuring nod.
The table was similar to the one at the monastery, but Mud was used to seeing eight robed figures all familiar to him. He was homesick but didn’t want to be rude.
Peter cut into a steak as the servant lifted the cover of Mud’s plate. He looked at it, as the steam was released into the air and then he slid it over to the servant who stood next to him at the table.
“You don’t want it?” Peter asked.
He’s just a boy,” Mara said. “He needs time to adjust.”
“I know, but he has to eat.”
“He left everything familiar to him without any explanation either from the monks or from you. You can give him a little slack. He’s been through a lot of change. And there is no rush.”
“It is not my intention to pressure him into anything.”
“Really? He didn’t want to leave. Did he ever have a choice?”
“We’ve discussed this many times, Mara,” Peter said, “before you came on...”
“Elders eat first,” Mud said.
Peter kept talking as if he hadn’t heard the boy.
“What?” Mara asked.
Mud stood up and slid his chair behind the servant who looked at him confused.
“Elders always eat first,” Mud said as he motioned for the servant to sit. The man looked over at Peter and then back at the boy.
“Please,” Mud said, “I will serve you.”
The servant looked at Peter again as Mara tried to cover her smile.
“No, Mud, he is a paid servant. It’s his job.”
It’s like a chore that is done for money,” Mara said.
“If you have a hat that I desire then—”
“Then I’ll give it to you,” Mud said.
“Right, but if you don’t want to give it to me, I give you money in exchange for it.”
Confused, Mud looked at the servant. “What’s your name?”
“You don’t have to serve me if you don’t want to.”
“It would be an honor to serve you.”
“Thank you, Charlie. But I won’t eat before you do. You are my elder, and I will respect that.”
Charlie sat after Peter gave him a nod of approval.
The old servant looked at the plate. He had a portion of food waiting for him at the servant’s table in the back, but he didn’t want to offset the boy’s kindness.
“Charlie,” Mud said, “are there other servants?”
Before long the dining hall was filled with the sound of people and laughter. Five more ‘servants’ were sitting down to dinner. Adam, the groundsman a man in his fifties with hands as rough as leather, and his young assistant, Lenny, were there. Sarah Gamboa, the maid who lived in the guest house sat with Miles Wabash, a gas company meter reader who had come knocking on the door to read the gauge.
Peter could not remember when his house had last had so many people in a festive mood.
* * *
Copyright © 2015 by J. P. Flores