Raging Alone 7: Duties

Desòchu woke up to his grandmother screaming.

“You know better, you steaming pile of castrated balls!” Her voice was brimming with fury, a rage that brought a reflexive shudder from Desòchu even as he was trying to crawl out of bed.

His bare feet caught on the blankets for a moment. As he managed to pull each one free, his grandmother continued her tirade.

She didn’t give his father a chance to respond.

“You know how to take care of a baby! Why didn’t you change his diaper!? Why did you leave the milk skin in with him!? You know better!”

Desòchu froze. His veins ran cold as he realized she was yelling at his father for his own actions. Fear followed after the guilt as he looked at the opening leading to the main room.

“Listen, you loud-mouthed goat! I didn’t do those things! I know better!”

“You are blaming the boy!?”

Rutejìmo’s cry rose in a high pitched whine.

“Yes! He’s the one who did it!” Desòchu could almost hear his father pointing.

“Did you tell him how to take care of a newborn?”

“No, of course not. Why—?”

“Then how would a fourteen year old know what to do!?”

Desòchu flushed. He yanked a shirt on and then started toward the entrance.

“Then he should have asked!” his father roared back. “He’s smart enough!”

The yelling wasn’t going to get better. Desòchu took a deep breath to steel himself and entered the main room.

Tejíko was on the couch with a blanket. She was changing Rutejìmo who was crying loudly and flailing. She didn’t seem to be bothered by the naked little child as she rubbed something white across his rear and penis.

Hikòru was standing near his room, his face dark with rage. His eyes flickered up and then he pointed to Desòchu with his two longer fingers. “Boy! You—!”

Desòchu’s grandmother threw a bag at his father. “Quiet!”

His father batted the bag away and it hit the wall next to him. Cloth diapers and clay jars fell out of the bag. The latter shatterd with wet smacks against the ground. He didn’t seem to notice as he gestured angrily at his mother. “Boy, deal with the goat.”

Hikòru turned and headed for the outside.

“Asshole! Where are you going?” snapped Tejíko.

“Out.”

“You have a child!”

Hikòru spun on his heels. “I don’t want it! I never wanted it and now I lost Jímo!”

Tejíko’s eyes shimmered with tears. “I lost a daughter too.”

“She wasn’t your child,” he said with a growl.

“Yes, you both were. Someone can’t be in your life for twenty years and not feel like kin. She was close to all of us, we are feeling that loss too.”

“Bullshit.”

Tejíko’s jaw opened in surprise.

“You won’t talk about it. You won’t say anything. Just turn around and make it go away. Just pretend twenty years never existed.”

She closed her mouth and shook her head. “That’s our way.”

“That’s horse shit.” Hikòru turned and stormed out of the room. “Do what you want, mother. Take it and get out of my life!”

Tejíko let out a choked sound. She sniffed and turned around to return cleaning Rutejìmo who was already crying.

Desòchu wiped the tears rolling down his cheeks. “I-I’m sorry, grandmama.”

She jumped and looked at him. “Oh, Sòchu!”

When she held out her arm, he came over and she hugged him.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know I did something wrong.”

Tejíko squeezed him tightly and then kissed him. “It’s okay. No harm, he just messed up the crib. We can clean that up. Same with little Jìmo’s rash.”

“Is papa really going to…?”

Tejíko shook her head. “We are all struggling with Chyo… your mother’s death.”

She worked in silence, using a cloth to pat Rutejìmo’s body dry and then to wrap a fresh diaper around his bottom. She had four pins which she used to fix it into place. The red fabric looked stark compared to Rutejìmo’s darker skin.

“Why don’t we talk about it?”

Tejíko gave him a heart-breaking look for a moment. Then she turned back to Rutejìmo before speaking quietly. “Mifúno has her now.”

“The desert, why does Mi—?”

“Don’t say her name too often. The desert is where all things are born and all things go when they die. She is cruel. She takes when you need someone the most, like my… my husband.”

Desòchu sank on the counch across from her and reached down to his brother.

Rutejìmo grabbed his fingers firmly.

“It didn’t matter if he was fighting to save those farmers from that sandstorm, she still took him. He was trying so hard to find that little girl but the wind threw him into the well.”

Desòchu froze.

“He drowned.”

She sobbed, tears rolling down her cheeks as she pressed her palms on the couch next to Rutejìmo. “I-I saw that he broke his fingers trying to hold himself up. His leg was broken from the… fall. He suffered and died and she took him.”

“A-And the little girl?”

“Suffocated. A wall fell on her.” When she looked up, her eyes were shimmering. “Naming the desert is to ask for death in your life. To dwell on it is the same. We don’t speak of the dead because the desert hears everything and she listens.”

She closed her eyes tightly and wiped her face with her shoulder. “You can’t dwell on death, Desòchu. If you do, you are asking the desert to pay attention you and no one survives long when she watching.”

Tejíko couched and seemed to gather her thoughts. When she spoke again, her voice was steadier. “So we let the dead deal with the dead and we focus on the living. Like little Rutejìmo here.”

“Did he kill mama?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

It wasn’t an answer.

Tejíko tapped the couch. “Here, let me show you how to change him. He’s your brother, so you might as well learn how since he may only have to take care of him. Until your rites, he’ll be your responsibility with us helping you.”

“And papa?”

“Hikòru will calm down, he is just grieving.”

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