There are family stories; there are reasons why people make the choices they make –why they walk the paths they walk. These things hinge upon something imperceptible, yet undeniably powerful –a force, stronger than blood, that can pave the lives of our sons and daughters.
The Mo Rose Family
Deep in the Loud Lands, where the winds carry sound, Andomo Mo Rose sat with his daughter. They huddled together, waiting. There’s a trick to it: you wait for the world to quiet, until you no longer hear the barley fields stir, when the winds have at last died, and only then you project your voice. The timing had to be perfect.
When it was perfect, you can hear a person’s soul captured in time. It was prayer. It was a wish. It was a song. Andomo and his daughter laughed together atop that hill. “Shhhhh. It’s almost time,” He whispered. He became as still as stone. Addy did her best to not move. But she looked up to him with all the adoration a daughter of three could have for her father. Everything silenced.
Had I known you would pass, I’d never leave. Had I known you would change, I wouldn’t have held you that night. Had I known you would become my life, I would have done you better. If only, if only, Oh, if only I’d have known.
The winds carried his voice down the fields. The echo grew louder and louder, and then it was nothing. Andomo propped Addy on his shoulders. He sauntered with a bit of a sway. Addy giggled. She clung to his face for her dear life. She pointed to the house on a hill. “Home, that’s home!”
“Very good. What about that?”
“Right again! Those balloons are going to make everything better here in the Loud Lands. One day we’ll get to leave and see the world.” He stared at the Great White sailing across the sky. Its shadow swooped across the vast fields. He could imagine himself aboard. By then people would want to meet him. He’d be a man of importance and wealth. He smiled to himself.
He tucked the blankets into her shape. Little Addy slept in no time. He stared at her through the door left ajar. His attention shifted. The Mo Rose Manor, his inheritance from his grandfather, Alphonse the First, the Greatest, had sheltered the Mo Rose family for three generations. The dim lights of a late home awakened memories of his childhood, flashes of time he had half-forgotten. He saw himself running down the hall to the bonsai garden, where Alphonse had hand crafted canary cages. The canaries chirped in their prison, and little Domo stared up at the cherry petals pelting down as light as feathers.
“Domo, come here. I have something to tell you.”
He ran to his grandfather. The details of his face was lost in the glaring sun. “Hi Al.” He must have smiled. He remembered smiling.
“Do you remember what happened to your dad?”
“You’re my dad.”
“No. No, I told you before. I’m your grandpa. Your dad is gone.” His armored voice cracked. It was a strange sound to hear for the boy. Domo didn’t really understand why it discomforted him.
“Where did he go?”
“He killed himself.” His grandpa’s eyes appeared beyond the blinding sunlight, his pupils as dark as an eclipse. “Because I left. Because I chose to find that damned tree. That demon cursed us. I wanted to understand why I felt the way I did.” Alphonse wrapped his hands around Domo’s arms. “Listen to me, Domo. One day, I will not be around anymore. You’ll be a man then. But I want you to remember something. Don’t look for the Tree of Madness. Run as far away from it. That’s why we’re out here. We’re all cursed.”
The memory ran its course; Domo only remembered his grandpa’s eyes, his black pupils. The rest was oblivion. He stared at the shadows around the walls. A lengthy sigh escaped him. Tomorrow he’d have to take his cart to the next town to sell his goddamn Fire Juice.
His cart had been loaded with that radioactively red juice. He had breakfasted with his wife, Mei, who stared at him with haunted eyes. She wrapped her stomach, full of life, in an embrace. Andomo stooped down to Addy’s eye level. He held her close. “I’ll be home in no time.”
“When will that be?”
He laughed. “Soon. Soon. Make me proud.”
He whistled a tune he had heard on the static radio. “Miko, let’s go!” He snapped his whip at the air, and the horse began to trudge down the road. It was an endless ocean of barley.