Another slice off the narrative roast:
Thank you Jesus, the hard-working nomads of Engywha uryot’ha, and the sacrifice of one spit-roasted yak. The nomads had done some construction in the center of town, rearranging the tents and tables to accommodate most of the village. Like lines of ants summoned to the hill, we all traced through the sands to the tent cluster, eager to pounce on this festivity. Had to admire their modular prowess, puffing up the “rooftop” and seamlessly linking their tents. They must have given their interior decorators some purpose, evidenced by the descendent aubergine fabrics, torch illuminated, resplendent ceiling accouterment.
We gathered around low tables, not much more than darkened sheets of wood upon brick. Not much used, easy to stow and re-use. Can’t just peel off the yak and eat it on the spot. Could still smell it lurking in the air, the aromas having come to rest in our new hall. I try my best to immerse myself when given the chance, but I didn’t try that hard here. Found Clean and other fast friends in a matter of moments. I bowed out of courtesy, ready to capitalize on desires long accumulating in interest here.
“You looking quite happy, Sir Michael,” noted Clean.
“Looking forward to the feast you all put on. Great timing for my arrival, right?”
“Quite,” he added. “They’re serving.”
I snapped my gaze toward whatever activity began at a nearby table. Two husky nomads set down a heavy red chest on a table. Kids, being kids and all, squeezed in through the cracks, barging in between the seated adults. You’d think they wouldn’t take to grown-up food. Prayed within that they honored guests, travel writers, and elders first. In that order.
“What’s in the box?”
“Food,” Clean answered, matter-of-fact. “In this feast, we serve children first, since it is first feast, first of trade.” Lovely. I tried not to wish the plague on the kid pulling the prime rib by accident or on the one picking out the tenderloin.
One of the huskies unworked a drawstring from this chest, pulling the lid toward him. With his back turned to me, I could only guess at what the kids found inside; whatever it was, the sight widened their eyes and seized their greedy hearts with exhilaration. The elder crowd managed polite smiles, much like watching little ones plow through a Christmas plunder with indiscriminate fervor, in mere minutes undoing the wearisome labor of nights, hours, planning, and money. That kind of smile. Suze has it down, does it all the time when I’m feted at our quarterly awards. Plenty of opportunity to practice.
Looked like some individually wrapped items, nothing at all like I’d expected or wanted, packets of pastel green and red, with the unhappier of the children getting stuck with yellow. Toys then? Candy? What kind of leftovers are we getting? As the kids cleaned out the initial chest, smaller baskets were brought in, much to the delight of grown-ups who mattered in this world. Same wrapping. Dandelion yellow, with that tacky red and green. Didn’t want to guess, but I’m already feeling the bottom drop out of my stomach.
Señor Tomás de Torquemada® Microwave Burritos.
I am in a dream, an horror of world, rent into shreds of hope misplaced and desire retraced. No, there’s a roast yak outside, somewhere in the surrounding sand. I’m going to exercise that option, support the local economy, eschew these imported goods. Courtesy, custom be damned. What sort of backward “feast” is this?
I tugged Clean’s sash, breaking off his leering at the burrito baskets. “Is this for the feast?”
“Yes, yes,” he dismissed, ogling the portions coming his way. “You could say we have adopted these as a local delicacy.”
“So this is just an appetizer, right.” Had to be.
“No, this is the feast.”