Undivided Lines is a collection of stories about wisdom, love, adventure, and redemption, featuring a diverse range of characters who brave challenging and life-altering experiences. From a tenacious senator defending the legacy of his work, to a Native American youth fighting for survival in his homeland, to a new mother traveling the galaxy to solve the mystery of her husband’s disappearance, these stories entertain, amaze, and enlighten.
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From Undivided Lines:
I heard the sound of flowing water and saw the outline of plants and trees by the bank. I felt for my bow and ran down the path beside the river, able to see the light brown earth in the night. The path curved with the riverbank. I couldn’t see the water but could hear it rushing downstream, like a spirit in communion with life, the sound of power in harmony.
At the fork where one path led into the trees below the highest hill on this side of the river, I followed it and turned parallel to the hillside. Even though it was dark I left the path and climbed up where there weren’t many thorns or bushes. Before I reached the crest of the hill the sun had started to rise.
Waiting for the light with my back against the trunk of a Callum tree, I looked up with closed eyes, and stretched my arms toward the heavens. I shook my bow in glory for God so He would bless my hunt that day, and quietly sang the song my uncle taught me, a song of gratitude and need. The sun burnt the sky over the hills in layers of orange, pink, and yellow, with the deep green night still overhead. A few more minutes and the land would reveal itself, and the deer come out to seek their food.
I knelt behind a line of bushes on the western slope of the hill where I could see all the way to the river. Within an hour a doe appeared from the north, walking south along the bank near the path, fifty feet or so from the water, stopping frequently to chew grass or tear leaves from a low branch. I waited. If she was a mother her children had been weaned by now, for there were no other deer in sight. Slowly I stood up, circled around the southwest side of the hill, downwind of course, avoiding leaves and sticks and pausing behind trees for cover.
A short distance uphill and three hundred feet south of the deer, I stopped behind the trunk of an old Callum and drew my bow. She raised her head from the brush she was chewing, and lowered it again. I closed my left eye, took aim at the hollow between her neck and left shoulder, drew my bow to full extension, and released the arrow.
After dressing the deer and eating lunch, I returned to my camp to salt the meat and prepare a gift for my family. My way since leaving the village has been to bring them an offering from every kill. Many capable hunters abide there, but this makes life easier for my mother, sisters, and uncle, and is an honorable gesture. Packing the steaks into my bag, storing my share at my camp, and filling my canteen at the river, I left for the village, hoping to return before midnight.
I ran most of the way to the village, walking when my breath grew heavy, then running again after a minute or two. This was early Fall when some leaves were changing color. I heard their song as I ran and imagined myself flying through the air with the leaves on the tallest trees. I flew over paths and jumped over fallen trees and leaped across streams from rock to rock, keeping my eyes and ears open for people and predators. The bow on my back and ax in my belt gave me courage because I knew how to use them.
Entering the village one hour from sunset, I found my mother resting in the tent as her stew cooked over the fire outside. She smiled in bed and lifted her arms for me. I showed her the offering of meat and she called my sister, Nali, who peeked inside and stuck out her tongue at me, then took the meat away to store it. Mother told the news of our tribe from the last two weeks. I listened to some of it, but not all, because my mother’s voice is sharp and she speaks many words. She said my uncle was struggling with the elders to set up a camp in the southern grasslands for the winter. The winter before had been hungry due to hunters from other tribes killing game in our hills. She asked me to stay for dinner that night but I said no, I hoped to return to my own camp by midnight, which was the truth.
Leaving the village at sunset I stopped at the market to see if Zeeba would give me some vegetables, she is like my aunt, but her husband, Temul, was there instead. I thought about finding my uncle before I left, but I knew that he was busy. The woods were dark when I left. This was no problem because I had run the trails in the dark many times before, and the moon would be high and bright that night.
Coyotes yipped and howled after sunset, and sometimes bears and wolves came near the village, but that was rare. As the moon rose I ran and kept running, not slowing for breath, alive with the spirit of life and the joy of life. My legs and heart felt strong as I ran, flying with the leaves on the tallest trees. Leaping over streams, launching off fallen trees on the path, climbing steep rises, and soaring down hills, the blood in my veins flowed through me, electrifying my journey in the quiet night.
The final stretch of the trip curved up along the river near my camp. The moon shone brighter than the night before, the path and trees looked clearer, and I could see the light dancing on the surface of the water. Coming to the fork where one of the paths led into the trees below the highest hill, a sharp rush surprised me and an arrow pierced a tree on the riverbank. The next arrow hit the water, and the next tore through the brush as I ran behind a tree by the path. The angle of the arrows showed the bowman to be one hundred and fifty feet away on the hillside, but he could have run down afterwards to fight me hand-to-hand. I removed the ax from my belt and held it ready. Without a sound the man appeared to my left, ten feet away by the path. He had traded his bow for a crescent-shaped machete hanging beside his knee. He saw my ax.
“I do not wish to fight you,” I said loudly.
“You seldom do,” he said back. He was one of the Rihnlo Tribe.
“I have nothing to steal, except my bow and this ax.”
“It is enough,” he smiled. This was when I knew that one of us would die.
More swiftly than I expected, his blade hissed beneath my chin then swung around below my knees, so I had to jump in order to dodge it. The Rihnlo was fast and well-trained, but I was a champion of my village, and knew I could defeat him. Watching the center of his chest as he weaved side to side, I saw his next strike before he did, and sank my ax into his throat. The Rihnlo died at my feet, and I set his body and spirit free upon the river.
Dawn broke the next day and I returned to the hillside to collect his bow and other possessions. Walking out of my camp I heard footsteps behind me in the leaves. I was not alarmed because these were not the footsteps of a warrior. Gathering the bow and arrows from the hillside, and finding no other tools or goods there, I climbed to the crest of the highest hill where I had watched the sunrise the day before. Leaning back against a large Callum tree, I let the one following me come within twenty feet, and called, “You are a friend of the Rihnlo I killed last night. Come forward so I can see you.”
The person approached and I stepped out from behind the tree. In front of me stood a woman with a baby in her arms, sleeping. She looked at me and said nothing as the sun shone orange and gold on her and on the tiny child. I stood looking and she stood looking, and this is how I met my wife.