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Life With the Magoondi


The Puritans had settled on a broad, fertile plain beside a rich and fruitful river. The river cascaded as a waterfall at the edge of the plateau into a lush valley where the Magoondi lived. The Magoondi, though near-sighted, couldn’t help but notice the Puritans residing on their sacred land but they had watched and deliberated for several moons before making contact.

The Captain, a grizzled veteran of conflict, armed or unarmed, civil or mean spirited, foreign or domestic, had arrived with his Magoondi interpreter in the nick of time. The Captain rode into the Puritan camp on a half-blind quarter horse. He wore a worn hat, a dusty duster and ornate, nearly new, though already scuffed, cowboy boots he had won from a dwarf, with oversized feet and ambitions, during a card game at a saloon in a city far away on a nearby continent.

A pair of Magoondi emissaries had come calling, communicating with the Puritans through the Captain’s interpreter. The Captain respectfully listened from a listenable distance. The Captain had extensive knowledge of the ways of the Magoondi. When the Captain had heard enough he pulled one of the Puritan elders to his side for a private conversation.

“They offered us food,” said the Puritan excitedly.

“So I heard,” said the Captain.

“How generous of them.”

“It’s poisonous.”

‘What? The food?” asked the Puritan. “Why would they…”

The Captain spread his arms expansively. “You’re trespassing,” he said, “This is Magoondi land.”

“But there is so much room. And so much food,” said the Puritan referring to the abundance of edible flesh of the furred, feathered, finned and fruited.

“That’s a matter of opinion,” said the Captain.

“So, I’m to refuse the offer of food.”

“No. Look.” The Captain handed the Puritan his field glasses and pointed into the distance. Through the binoculars the Puritan could see an encampment of painted and armed Magoondi warriors.

“What does this mean?” asked the Puritan.

“Refusing food is an insult. An act of ill will. A declaration of war. The Magoondi would slaughter you. That’s if you’re lucky. They’re capable of much worse.”

“What could be worse?”

“How they go about murdering you. Like rendering you blind, deaf and mute and allowing you to wander senseless among the carnivorous beasts… for a very short while. Or impaling you through the anus on poles and letting you dry in the hot sun like a cored apple. Or skinning you alive while you hang upside down. Or emasculating the men and leaving them to spend their lives gamboling about as a merry gang of eunuchs.”

“What would they do with the women?”

“You don’t want to know. They could…”

“Stop. I don’t want to know,” the Puritan said, “At least, in any event, we’ll be joining our Lord above.”

“Tell him I said ‘Hi’,” said the Captain turning to walk away.

“Wait! Wait! So we accept the food but don’t eat it?” said the Puritan.

“That would be equally offensive. This is a test of compatibility. Of accommodation. Of proper manners.”

“But they aim to poison us.”

“Look at it this way. You’re new to a neighborhood. A neighbor comes calling, with food. What do you do?”

“Eat it?”

“Of course not, idiot. It’s poison. Again. What do you do when a neighbor comes calling?“

The Puritan, slack mouthed, shrugged.

The Captain was all too acquainted with the atrophied reasoning powers of the pious.

“Listen. We don’t have time for school.” The Captain sighed visibly. “You invite your neighbor inside to share the meal.”

“They’d poison themselves in order to poison us?”

“You propose a grand feast for all and you provide the food,” the Captain continued. “Puritans are so stupid,” the Captain mumbled. But the Puritan didn’t take offense. He hadn’t noticed the slight since had been lost in his thoughts.

“Poison food! We couldn’t…”

The Captain looked at the Puritan incredulously. Shook his head in disgust and frustration. “Of course not.”

“Ah, I get it. Get in their good graces. A gesture of goodwill.”

“Hurry back to the meeting. Convey the invitation through the interpreter before it’s too late.”

The Captain sat stirring the dying embers in the fire pit. He brushed the dust from his fancy cowboy boots. He read a black bound book and sipped at a bottle of whiskey he had retrieved from his saddle bags.

After a while, the Puritan returned, smiling. “I see you’re reading the good book.”

“I’m reading a good book.” The Captain sucked hard at the whiskey.

Seeing that he had misjudged, the Puritan said, “Let me give you a copy of the best book ever.”

“That’s a matter of opinion.”
The Puritan ignored the retort. “Anyway, it worked,” he said, brightening again, “We are feasting with the Magoondi the day after the morrow. Praise the Lord. How can I thank you?”

“I’m afraid there’s more,” said the Captain.

“More?”

“They’ll bring magoondo.”

“Their Chief?”

“No, magoondo is an alcoholic beverage. You can tell its importance to the Magoondi by its name. It’s a disgusting elixir. You don’t want to know how it’s made. The yeast comes from their women’s nether regions.” The Captain shook his head, kicking at the ground with his boot.

“We don’t consume alcohol,” said the Puritan.

“You will this time. Otherwise…,” The Captain pointed to the warrior encampment.

“War?”

“War.”

“We’ll sip a little, out of courtesy, and pray to our Lord for forgiveness.”

“It won’t matter. You’ll all be drunk, happy and horny by nightfall. Especially your men and women of breeding age.”

“Our sons and daughters are chaste.”

The Captain looked at the Puritan through steely, blue-grey eyes that conveyed more than the Puritan’s experience could interpret.

“They’ll be chased for sure. You see, the magoondo is alcohol laced with a powerful aphrodisiac.”

“Good Lord!” said the Puritan.

“That’s a matter of opinion,” said the Captain.

The Captain continued to look at the befuddled and frustrated Puritan.

Sensing he was not finished by the look in the Captain’s eyes, the Puritan asked, “There’s more isn’t there?”

“Alcohol, aphrodisiac and fertility booster. Many of the women, yours and theirs, will be impregnated. The knocked up women will join their new husbands in the appropriate camp, yours or theres. It’s how they assimilate. They need to refresh their bloodline. The eyesight, you see.”

“I can’t accept any of this,” said the Puritan.

The Captain pointed toward the warriors in the distance.

“We’ll break camp first thing in the morning and be on our way to a more Godly region,” the Puritan said.

“The Magoondi are watching. They’ll be on you before you can cross the river.”

“I thought they wished us gone.’

“Perhaps in the beginning. Not now. They have examined your young men and women. Especially your women. In their bonnets and long, drab dresses that mute their soft, shapely… ” The Captain halted when he saw the stern countenance of the Puritan’s face dissolving like heated wax.

“You speak of them as cattle,” the Puritan said.

“Of a sort.”

“I must pray and sleep,” said the Puritan as he rose to retire to his tent.

The next day was consumed with preparation for the following day’s feast. Hunting, gathering, slaughtering, slicing, pickling, marinating and whatever else Puritans do to prepare a meal.  Plus the felling and sawing of trees to build banquet tables. A laying out of their Sunday best which was no better than any other day’s best given the harsh, unsanitary life of a Puritan, even on a fertile plain with a beautiful, abundant river. The air was thick with tension although the Puritan had not shared his knowledge of the ways of the Magoondi with his brethren. The Puritans accomplished all they had intended and slept soundly if not securely.

The big day was upon them. The sky bright and cloudless. A big cat roamed the perimeter of the Puritan camp, eyeing a toddler lurching about with a poop-full diaper drooping on his fat thighs. His mother snatched him away.

“You’ll want to deal with that one,” the Captain said pointing to the cat, “She has tasted human flesh.” He cinching the saddle of one of the two ponies that had arrived with him.

A young woman carrying a bundle walked toward them. She was tall and thin and swayed like the mesa grasses in the breeze. She smiled at the Captain, touching his arm affectionately, before tying her bundle to the rump of one of the ponies.

“What is this?” asked the Puritan looking on.

“She’s leaving with me,” said the Captain matter-of-factly.

“So you’re taking Chastity?”

“Literally and figuratively.”

“But her parents! They’ll…”

“They’ve been told. She’s of age. She doesn’t want to be a Puritan anymore. There’s nothing you or they can do.”

Chastity hoisted herself upon the pony.

“The interpreter will stay,” said the Captain. “He’ll be of assistance. He’s one of them.”

“You don’t want to wait and see what happens? To try to help us?” the Puritan implored.

“Not on your life.”

 

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