A humble fire crackles and dances behind an old and intricate fireplace screen. Depicting a herd of wild stallions galloping across rolling hills, the antique piece of blackened and sooty forged iron summed up the unfeigned characteristics of its creator, Mr. Greyfox, who stares motionless into the flames in reverie. In its simplistic yet powerful message, of being wild, yet still at peace with one’s surroundings, it has enlightened Greyfox to the fine balance that lies between possession and harmonization with the world. Traits the aging man had increasingly adopted after years of recklessness as a rebellious youth. Coming years later, only after recollection of a traumatic incident as a child, this realization of his place in the grand scheme of things was coming to bear. Even the act of forging the piece of iron was cathartic. The taking of a solid form and willing to be something entirely different through both force and patience was a perfect description of his environment. Though he saw himself as the simple raw material and mother nature and the hammer.
The fire’s calm flickering flame casts off eerie shadows onto the walls, illuminating the ancient artifacts of his Penutian tribe heritage displayed throughout the den. From instruments of war from years long past, though their importance never forgotten, to paintings and sketches of the innocence of his people and the lands they inhabited in the old days without the need of fence or deed. Not a single modern convenience found its way into Mr. Greyfox’s home in the seventy years since he was birthed in the back room of this very cabin. In this his own personal spiritual sanctuary, and most recently the main gathering place of the remaining Penutian elders, the fate of his dwindling community is written.
The air in the room is caustic, choked in a haze of thick smoke that hugs the ceiling, inching its way lower and lower as the time passes in thought and discussion. Smoke billows from both the fire that burns old dry cedar, chopped just feet outside the cabin walls, and from briarwood pipes that burn sweet smelling tobacco toked on by the members of this most important counsel. It’s a cold night and the warmth inside is welcoming and calming. Mr. Greyfox sits in an old comfy leather chair set nearest the warmth of the fireplace. Three other members of slightly less seniority sit to both his right and left, two on an old couch covered in colorful Penutian tapestries and the third perched cross-legged on a narrow, worn through cracked leather ottoman.
“We should have informed them about the burial grounds before hand,” exclaims the precariously perched elderly man on the ottoman. The reflection of the fire dances across his darkened pupils, his aggravated temperament visible in its flickering manifestation.
“That would have brought much unwanted attention to an area I hoped they would have never discovered.” Greyfox responds as he draws on his pipe, still intently transfixed on the devouring flames.
“Yes, but now we have to deal with something far worse than the knowledge of the sites existence.” Another Elder member responds, from the sofa, his voice splintering with the uneasiness of this realization.
“That was a chance I was willing to take, but unfortunately I was wrong,” Mr. Greyfox admits humbly as his eyes scan the floor, fixing on a small darkened knot of wood in the floor. His mind drifts back to his childhood, to the incident that would change his life forever. His vision begins to blur and the floor panel knot morphs into the calculating stare of a single yellowed eye. Transfixed onto his very soul, the ocular apparition scans his innermost intentions then evaporates into a reddish glow. It vanishes in his mind altogether quickly thereafter, leaving no residual footprint in his mind. Mr. Greyfox awakens from his momentary loss of awareness.
The eldest member of the tribe, sits in a sunken corner of the sofa.Though having recently handed down his position to Mr. Greyfox, due to illness and age the eldest no longer holds title, but is yet still held is the highest of regards, his wise words still carrying much weight in the decisions that affect the entire tribe. Wherein tribe Elder leader Greyfox holds title, this elder is respected most by all the Penutian people. The three listen to the old fragile man speak in the low humbling language of their people.
“We must be in agreement in what we do next. Too much is at stake. We have a choice, though neither carries assurance of success.”
Joseph appears at the back door, throwing it open in a crash. He stomps inside, his substantial stature all but filling the open door frame. A cold brisk wind stirs up the fire and swirls the dense smoke and embers around the room. Wailing, piercing the silence, the warm dry air finds tight crevices in between the door jam and Joseph from which to escape into the night. In response the elders to rise, in succession from their seated positions. Speaking in the native tongue, knowing all too well that young Joseph as like most of his generation, chose not to carry the language of their forefathers into the next century, criticize his intruding into their private meeting. Mr. Greyfox motions for them to return to their seats, placating them with a warm smile and an offer to more tobacco from a small tin on the table. He turns and approaches Joseph in attempts to calm the erratic young man.
“Joseph, we were just talking about you. Please sit, join us.”
Joseph walks past Greyfox to stand in the center of the room.
“What did you hope to accomplish today? Don’t tell me this is how you plan to deal with this. The incoherent ramblings of crusty old men.”
Mr. Greyfox returns to his seat and addresses the his fellow council members. His attention turned away from the disrespectful young man, though still very aware of this agitated young man’s erratic temper and proclivity to surrender to it.
“There are certain steps that must be taken, rational steps, to protect what is and has always been ours.” Greyfox responds calmly.
Joseph angrily stomps about the room, eyeballing each member individually. His eyes narrow and lips curl as the anger he holds inside slowly wells up to the surface.
“This is not what you all have preached in the past. What happened to dignity and honor, to fight for what is ours? These are the teachings I can remember as a boy.” The tone of his voice begins to tremble, and his hands curl into tightened fists.
“Times have changed, and we too must. Let the court order do its job. We haven’t the influence we once had in these matters. This is not a fight we can win with force.” replies Greyfox. His eyes carrying the awful truth of a certain defeat that has ever increasingly taken hold of his people. This is yet another solemn example of his traditions falling away, conceding to technological advances of a new world and its demand to be fed the very soul of Mother Earth for its survival.
“You all have changed, not me. Your age has clouded both your judgment and your will. It’s time to honor a new reign of power.”
Joseph continues walking around the room. His gaze shifts from the weathered old men to antique artifacts Mr. Greyfox has displayed around the room. He comes across and old scalping hatchet laying on its side. He picks it up recklessly and examines its splintered wooden handle. He runs his thumb over the dull chipped blade, imagining its weathered condition caused by hundreds of victims succumbing to its will. How things have changed over the years. How these weathered old men are no more threatening than this worthless artifact he thought.
“I will not allow anyone to desecrate our land, not now, not ever!”
Joseph lays the hatchet down and leaves the room, slamming the door shut behind him. Mr. Greyfox follows and throws open the door and yells to Joseph who has vanished into the night.
“We are dealing with more than you realize! A new reign of power has already arrived.”
Mr. Greyfox stands at the door for a moment as Joseph disappears into the thickening mist that begins rolling in from the tree line. The sounds of crickets looking to mate, the gentle creaking of swaying pines and the cool air swooshing between them commingle to create the beautiful melodies of the forest. Mr. Greyfox momentarily loses himself in its peacefulness. From his back door he can see the lights from the town twinkling far down in the valley below. Carried on the wind, the sounds of barely audible music reaches his ears. He strains to make out the classic strings and rhythmic beats of rock and roll. He always liked classic rock. He takes a moment and enjoys the tunes of Eric Clapton under the stars.