Posts Tagged ‘Historical fiction’

“Tin Hinan”, Section 3 of Chapter 1

March 8, 2012

(Berber girl, from

My thanks to all who are reading this Chapter 1 of my novel, “Tin Hinan”, especially  the readers from d’  I am delighted by your comments and encouragement.  I have broken this long chapter into 4 sections, and will post Chapter II, but will also break it  into sections.

After 4 years I am close to finishing this book, and Bill Penrose, who formatted my last three books at, will stand again for this book.  Thank you, Bill.  None of these books would ever have seen the light of day without your hard labor.

Lady Nyo

Section 3, Chapter I, “Tin Hinan”…..‘Wedding Preparations’

Though the wedding was months off in the future, the first thing to do were to take a piece of my Mother’s tent and sew it into one of my own.  All the woman of the tribe gathered at my Mother’s tent one morning and with singing and playing of the bendir, a frame drum, we cut out a large piece in the back of her tent and started stitching the heavy cloth woven from goat hair.  It was long and tedious work, but we ate dates and millet puddings and drank honey-sweet mint tea and told stories.  For a fortnight we worked on my marriage tent.  The east side would be for Hasim, and the west side for me.  I would have our marriage bed and our stores, musical instruments and rugs on my side.  The marriage bed would be a day couch for my children and me.  Hasim would fill the east side with his weapons and saddles.  By tradition, after the marriage, Hasim would sleep outside, part of the guard men protecting our settlement from raiders across the mountain and from the desert. By custom, the tent, the bed and everything in it, except the weapons and saddles would be my property.

Our settlement was in a large oasis, nestled at the foot of a mountain range.  It was lush and shaded in parts by woods and orchards and streams running through the land. We tilled the fertile earth, made so by the runoff of water from the mountain, and fed by the snows of winter.  It was a beautiful site for our nomadic people, and we defended it fiercely from others who would drive us away. I walked to a little plot of land with my father and decided this would be the place for my tent.

There was much more to do, but the next task was to build my marriage bed.  This was to be the most important piece of furniture a woman could have, and each was done differently according to the skills and imagination of the carver.  My father hired the best carpenter and carver around to build it.  It would be big and wide and would not be too high off the carpets paving the floor of the tent.  My father went with the carpenter to pick the wood, and he obtained some beautiful, scented cedar to make the bed.  When it was carved and doweled together, it took six men to carry and place in the tent.  It was so beautiful, but of course, I was not allowed to lie down on it, or even to sit upon its frame.  I would have to wait for the wedding night with Hasim before I was even to touch it.  But I did peek in the doorway before the divider between sides was hung and saw the beautiful symbols of fertility and good fortune carved along with flowers and palm trees.  In the middle of the back of the bed, was a large and flowing palm tree, with its roots extending outward towards the side posts. Little pigeons and doves were being chased by two hawks and some of the doves were hiding in the tree.

Next was the sewing of the mattress.  My mother and her kinswomen sheared sheep and stuffed the thick wool into two large sheets of thick and coarse cotton. We spread it out on a carpet and during the night, my kinswomen, young girls to elderly women, my cousins and great aunts, would sit around the heavy mattress and we would all take up our bone needles and stitch carefully across and down the mattress.  This would be laid upon the woven ropes that were stretched from one side of the bed frame to another, and woven back and forth until there was a tight foundation for the mattress.  Our tradition said that a tightly woven bed frame augured well for a marriage.  Loose or slack weaving would let the attentions of the husband sag and the wife would stray in her affections.

As the wedding approached, I was bundle of nerves.  I had not seen Hasim, except from a distance.  We were watched very closely, for there was to be no contact before the wedding day.  I was not allowed to venture to the river without another woman with me, and I believe Hasim was told he could not approach me when his tribe came with herds of goats or to discuss shared pasturing with our men.

All seemed to be going according to plan, when the demons of Death took matters into their own claws.  I say Death  for nothing but that could have caused such a reverse of fortune and happiness in my life. We Berbers believe strongly in malicious spirits, and they seemed to hold their own festival with my wedding plans.

One day, very close to the time of the wedding, when already there were preparations for the five days of celebration planned,  I heard some women in my mother’s tent crying and went to see what had happened.  As I neared her tent, two of my favorite Aunties  ran out and threw themselves upon me.

“Aicha, Aicha,” said one fat old auntie, panting in her excitement. “You must prepare yourself!  You must be strong and comfort your parents!”

“What? What? What has happened that I am to be ‘strong’ as you say?”  I started to run towards her tent, and since I am tall, my legs were long, and my Aunties could not keep up with me.  I heard them wailing behind me, yet I did not heed their cries.

I made it to my mother’s tent and entered her western side, where I found both my parents in her quarters.  My father looked somber, and my mother was rocking back and forth, like she was in grief.

“What has happened, oh my parents?  Has something happened to Hasim?  Tell me, oh tell me now!”

My mother was beside herself, and had thrown a cloth over her head as we do when a kinsman dies.  This is to blot out the sight of any happiness and is one of our forms of our mourning.  I was white faced with fear and was sure that Hasim was dead!

“My daughter, my daughter,” began my father, with tears in his eyes.  “Our family has been tricked, we have all been betrayed. Even though our gifts were returned this morning, it is not to be borne.  Hasim has contracted to marry another and has left to go to her tent.”

I was told I stared like a dead person, my eyes empty, my mouth open without sound. Then, one long wail came out of my throat before I collapsed on the carpet at my father’s feet.

Royalty Checks…..

May 20, 2010

"The Zar Tales"

I  want to thank all  who have bought “A Seasoning of Lust” and the new “The Zar Tales”.  I just got a first quarter royalty check and was pleasantly surprised.

Wow!  Baby’s got new shoes!

Last year was a  challenge.  I was growing as a writer and had to pick carefully what influences came into my life.   I had to learn to ignore the bad, tempting though it could be.   Especially the dangerous.  There usually is more than a touch of madness  in this last category.

It was difficult but I learned discernment.  It was not an easy battle.  Some people exist  as human potholes.  They need to be avoided but sometimes you see the hole too late.  You can fall in, but the point is to climb out of the muck.  Shake yourself off and go on.

I had to readjust my sites and purpose as a writer.  I moved away from erotica in the main. There is good erotica….and then there is the horrendous.  Mostly fanciful literature of the bdsm nature.  But too inhuman by far.  At least for my nature.

Writing isn’t something I started out to do, but over the past 5 years it has taken a big part of my life.  I have met some absolutely marvelous people who helped me in too many ways to count.

I think being a writer is in  part about influences.  I have had the great guidance and friendship of really good writers. Bill Penrose, Nick Nicholson, Steve Isaaks and others have helped and encouraged in ways I didn’t foresee.  I had the support of people who were dedicated READERS and that made all the difference to me.  I could chart what worked and what didn’t through their eyes and opinions.  It all went into the mix of becoming a writer.

Readers of this blog know  I have been writing a novel about feudal Japan.   “The Kimono” is also a time- warp story and the research for the 16th century parts (which is 90% of the novel) has been all consuming.  It’s thrown my life, and my husband’s…into new territory. With a novel like this, it should.  We are planning a trip to northern Japan for next year and to do some observations of the Yamabushi cult somewhere around Gassan (Moon) Mountain.  Yamabushi figures in strongly in this book.

Recently I exchanged correspondence with Lucia St. Clair Robson, the author of “The Tokaido Road”.  She published this novel in 1991.  It is a heavily-detailed and researched book.  Having some of the same issues in writing, research, we have a lot to talk about.  Lucia has been very open and encouraging on “The Kimono”.  We find that we also have a lot of opinions in common about writing.  That really helps because sometimes writing historical fiction seems like the most lonely thing one can attempt in life.  Research, the foundation for these kind of books….is never ending.  You just settle in and hope  what you read doesn’t contradict what you read before- but it usually does.  You learn about different cultures, and you learn  there are no “Chinese Walls” between people or cultures.

This is a really exciting period for me.  I’ve shaken the restricting and ridiculous influences of the past and feel  I have grown in my potential: as a writer but more as a woman, a human being.  I expect more of myself, and forgiving folly and fools is on the list.  I am also on that list.  And like “Earl”….I have a list.

I have received so many emails and phone calls of encouragement and congrats on the publication of the first two books.  That people are buying them and LIKING them! is a source of amazement to me.

“The Kimono” will take time to finish and rewrite.  There is always the necessary rewrite of things.  But “White Cranes of Heaven” is piecing together nicely and hopefully by this fall it will be published.  Though “A Seasoning of Lust” was an ‘adult’ book, and I learned a hard way it wasn’t suited to rabbis/nuns/and 90/92/97 year old readers,…. I am toying with the idea of a section in “Cranes” called “Bad Cranes of Heaven” for those poems which are mostly erotica.  Perhaps a ‘tear-away’ section that could cover it’s tracks???

Lady Nyo

Tin Hinan, Chapter 8

October 5, 2009
Young Berber Bride

Young Berber Bride

Chapter 8

“Mother Leila.  What happened to Immel’s wife?”

I watched Immel’s son and Takama play outside.   There was a light dusting of snow overnight, and Ladil, Immel’s four year old dark- eyed son was determined to play in it.  Takama had become a nursemaid to Ladil, and Mother Leila was glad for this.  Although her daughters provided grandchildren, they didn’t live with her, and she was too old to chase a little boy.

Mother Leila spoke over her shoulder at her loom.  “Ah, it was tragic.  Cherifa was young, and of course Ladil her first child.  It was childbirth.  She lingered for 5 days and died.  I thought Immel would lose his mind.”

“Is that why he never remarried?”

“Ah, Aicha, although we are clans, we do not marry from our kzar.  Immel would have to travel far to find another woman.  I don’t think he has the liver for it.  Perhaps until now.”

Mother Leila would call me “Aicha” and not Tin Hinan as I was known.  She insisted she use my birth name. In her eyes, to do anything else would be disrespectful to my parents and tribe. How was I to argue with her?

She threw me a glance full of meaning and I had to blush.  She was not the only person to notice the little attentions her son offered.  Although he did not live in his parent’s house, which would not be proper with my arrival, he frequently visited at odd times.  He usually brought a little gift, like a honeycomb or a thin, silver bracelet or a sweetmeat from the house of another family.

Customs varied from tribe to tribe.  Where in my desert home a woman would not be allowed by general disfavor to walk abroad with a man, here was different.  Immel had taken me to hunt with Sigi.  He didn’t try to hold my hand, for that would have signified his interest in me as a wife. Since I had no family, except at an extreme distance, if it  was his wish to marry me, there would be a problem how to proceed. But only to the elders and Immel’s parents.  He didn’t seem to worry about those things, and continued to seek my company when he wasn’t involved in the work of men.

This morning he came in stamping his feet, for the snow continued and now was more than a dusting.  I looked up from my embroidery and smiled.  Mother Leila muttered something under her breath, but didn’t comment further.

“Tin Hinan, would you like to see the snow on the forest trees?”  Immel blew on his hands, for even with the small fire in the wall, the room was still cold.

I had never seen snow before, except on the tops of far mountains.  Yes, I wanted to see it and feel it on my face, for it was a wondrous strange thing for a desert woman.

“If Mother Leila does not need me now, yes, I would like to see the snow.”

Another ‘humph’ from the loom, but I caught a glimpse of a smile.

I bundled up in a long woolen scarf and my leather shoes, and we went up the trail to where the forest was thick.

Ah! It was a beautiful sight!  Like the cotton blossoms from the sacks they had stolen from the caravan all over the trees. My cheeks grew red and in spite of the woolen scarf, I felt the cold. This was quite the difference for a desert woman.

We stood looking out over the valley, above the kzar, far below us the land was covered snow.  It was so beautiful, other- worldly, and I felt at peace except for the presence of Immel.  I caught him watching me out of the side of my eye, and turning to him, I shivered.

“You are cold, Tin Hinan?” His eyes sought my own.

“I am, but it is worth the discomfort.  I have never seen anything like this.”

I looked up at the silver gray sky and around at the trees, and then felt Immel close behind me.  He had opened his white burnoose and draped it around me, pulling me to him and holding me there with both arms.  At first I stiffened, never having been this close to a man before, even with Hasim.  Yes, there had been the time with the Berber tribesman in the desert, but that didn’t really count.

We stood, not talking, I barely able to breathe. Immel turned me in his arms and looked down into my face.  With one hand, he tipped up my head, and stroked my neck, still silent.  He kissed me, and it was the very first kiss I received from a man.  His lips were at first cold, and I didn’t respond.  I didn’t know what to do. Then, something unstopped in me, and I was kissing him back and not like the virgin I was.  Long kisses, like I was drowning and his kisses were keeping me afloat in the river.

Immel pulled me even closer and in that moment, I forgot all about the cold weather, the snow. My arms went up around his neck and I craned my body to his, and he pressed his hips into mine.  I felt what I knew was his manhood between us, raised up and hard, and only the gossip from my tribe women, their stories and ridicule of men, allowed me some knowledge of it.

Immel felt through my robes and cupped my left breast in his hand, squeezing.  I felt an unknown sensation in my loins, and my legs grew weak.

Immel broke off his kisses and groping and moved back from me.

“Ah, Aicha, Aicha.  I have not had a woman in my bed since Cherifa died.  I have not wanted one until you.  My sorrow has kept me from life.”

I didn’t know what to say, for my own thoughts were crazy.  I had set out to avenge my tribe and my own shame, and now, so much of this was slipping away in this mountain kzar.  It was not helping to remember my mission with the scent of Immel so close to me.

I looked up at him, for though I was a tall woman in our tribe, Immel was taller.  I looked into his eyes and tried to make my voice serious, though my loins were disturbed and my heart raced.

“Immel.  I have promised to make war on Hasim and his tribe. Myself.  You are not part of that fight.”

I looked down at my feet, and now the snow seemed so cold.  It thought about my maidenhead, or my lack of one, and didn’t know what Immel would think. I would not deceive him for he would have to know if he was thinking of me as a bride.

“Then become my wife. Together we will make war on Hasim and restore this peace you think has left you.  But perhaps your heart will change, Aicha.  Perhaps love will take the place of hatred.”

I sat down in the snow, for if I didn’t, I would run away, back down that slippery mountain.  Immel crouched down besides me, his sword across his knees.  No Berber man would sit in the snow next to a woman.

“Immel, I could grow to love you.  But you aren’t getting a virgin for your wedding night.  I took my maidenhead in the desert, with a stick, to destroy my bride-honor.  Then I knew I would not be desirable to any man. I would not be burdened with thoughts of marriage.”

For the first time in a long while, tears fell in two steams from my eyes. I could not look at him, and kept my head down. I felt his arm around my shoulders.

“Aicha. If that is all your reason for not marrying me, then it has little value. The gossipy old women will demand a display of the blanket the morning after our wedding.  I will bring a pot of chicken blood.”

I looked up at him, shocked by his words, and saw he was laughing.

“Would you want a bride that wasn’t a virgin?”

“Aicha, it is just a moment of pain and a little blood.  What does it signify?  Does it mean that you won’t be a good wife?  These customs are old and of little value. They have none between men and women in the end.  My Cherifa and I played around before the wedding.  In fact, Ladil was born an early baby, and there was some hen- clucking from the old buzzards. Cherifa didn’t live long enough to feel the sting of their gossip. It will be different for you and I.”

“And, as I said, I’ll bring the chicken blood.”

I had to laugh.  He was taking this well.  I was sure no man would ever want me.  What fools we are when we are young!

“Immel Uzmir.  I will marry you, if you remember when you found me on that mountain I had a reason for being there.  My parents have been shamed and my honor disgraced.  I will make war on Hasim. He has done a terrible thing to my elderly parents.  He has done a shameful thing to me.”

“Then give me another kiss and I will tell mine I intend to wed you and there are no obstacles.”

Immel reached over to kiss me and rolled on top of me, dropping his sword.  Ah, he was heavy!  I was tall, but thin and I thought he would crush me. He took some liberties with his hands, but my mind was whirling and when it stopped, I felt what must be the feelings of a married woman.  Immel stroked my sides and rounded my belly with a firm hand.  He stroked my legs and gave me many small kisses from my neck to my breast.  Of course all this was over my clothes, but I imagine the sensations were the same as if I were stretched out in my bridal bed.

I now know Immel would have taken me right there if he hadn’t restrained himself.  We had been gone for some time, and reluctantly we rose and rearranged our robes.  This time we walked down the mountain together, Immel firmly holding my hand and smiling at everyone we met.  I blushed easily and kept my eyes cast down.  But I could sense those who met us knew of our plans.  Immel’s face gave it away.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007, 2009

A Thank You, and a beginning to Chapter 3, “Tin Hinan”.

August 18, 2009

I want to thank people who read this blog yesterday and either wrote or called me about that surprising royalty check for “A Seasoning of Lust”.

Writing seems like a solitary venture, but really, the formulation of this book  was a long slog through a couple of years and a lot of friendships.  I was guided by many people, and some actually remained as friends! Actually, the majority of them have.  And besides their congratulations, there is also the fact that this book was born in a cauldron of a lot of doubt and angst.  That came about because of a particular situation I entered freely.  But that has its  legitimacy as to the development of some of the works of the period and some them  made it into the book.  These mental and emotional ‘spurs’ were as viable as all the other influences. They should be acknowledged.

I believe  good lessons, strong lessons can come  from adversity and also, can come some special creativity.  It might take a while to sort out the lessons and the people, but one should,…..ultimately, be grateful in some important way.

To them, the friends and the irritants, I am.  They were all part of the mix that made this book, and it wouldn’t necessarily exist without their presence.

Lady Nyo



As I think back to those times, so long buried in memory, I wonder what I was doing.  Only eighteen years old, such a tender age, and Takama even younger.  We were two maidens driven by Zar-induced madness. There was no other accounting for what I did. Vigorously consulting the goddesses every night I never got an answer.  False goddesses they were, or silent to my pleas.  Safi. (enough)

The first few nights in the desert were sleepless with grief and anger.  I didn’t think of the future danger.  I didn’t dare.  If I did, I would have turned back and then what face would I have?  Our men were known warriors, but our women were just as strong.

Takama made the fire each night, bending over the fire bow and feeding our tiny blazes with twigs and dried camel dung from a sack. She drew precious water from the skins, threw in millet, salt, and we ate some of the dates.  There was no variety in our diet, but I made sure Takama had packed my jewelry.  Sold in a market town or oasis, this silver would bring a different food for our bellies.

Niefa and the donkey fed sparsely on the brush and wild grasses that pockmarked the desert.  We had to be careful with our water, but Niefa was afterall, a camel and she could manage without much water.  Takama’s donkey was another problem.

The first few days had the nature of adventure, and except some expeditions with my father and mother over the mountains, I had never been on my own.  Takama, being a slave, had not even that knowledge. She never left the oasis.

I followed the sun to the east as it rose, and the desert still stretched out before us, endless and unbroken to the horizon.  Some days I wondered if we would die here, the four of us, bleached bones in the desert.  There was little shade except for crouching beside Niefa when we stopped to stretch our legs and squat in the desert.  Takama laughed at me, for I still carried the behaviors of a woman.  I squatted down to pass water, instead of standing.  I would have to remember when we came close to an encampment.

Since we expected to meet others, Takama would be my ‘wife’, and I her young husband.  That would give us at least some sort of story.  But our biggest problem would be explaining why we were out in the desert away from our tribe, and traveling alone.  This was foolhardy at best and dangerous in any case.  A young couple travelling without the cover and protection of at least a small caravan could be runaway slaves. If we were perceived to be such, we would be slaves fast enough.

We talked around our pitiful fire at night, when the stars stretched from horizon to horizon, a blanket of diamonds over us. There was only the sound of the desert wind moaning in the nighttime air.  It got cool as soon as the sun dropped to the horizon and cold when the stars and moon rose into the dark bowl of heaven.

“Aicha, do you think we will soon fine an oasis?”  I heard the worry in her voice.

“Do I look like one of those old, smelly fortune women? Do I look like even a Sheikha? How do I know?”  I was cross with her, for I was fearful myself.  I hide me fear with my fierce words to my slave.

“What if the Arab raiders catch up with us here in the desert?  What will we do?”  Her eyes were wide with her thoughts.

“Ah, Takama, you can dance for them and I will hold them off with my sword.”

Stupid girl, I thought.

“A quick slash of a takouba (sword) and all our problems will be over.  But I would bet even the hated Arabs aren’t stupid enough to kill women. If they guess at my sex I will be raped along with you and sold as a slave.  In fact, from what I hear, even if they didn’t know my sex for sure, they would still rape me.”

Takama’s lip started quivering, and soon her childish tears would fall.

“Takama”, I said in a softer voice, “Soon we will find an oasis and good bread and salt will be offered.  You know our traditions.  The desert tribes are the most generous on earth! We will find a safe haven around their fire and protection from all else.”

Suddenly, Takama screamed and jumped up.  A big desert scorpion, as big as a clay bowl, was crossing towards the fire.  I took my takouba from my girdle and sliced it in half.  It was a lucky blow for these creatures were fast.

After a week, the indigo-blue dye had stained my face, and I had the look of a young man.  Takama tried to line my veil with white cotton, for she did not want to see her mistress degraded in such a way.  I fought with her over this, and threatened to pummel her with my fists like a man would, but we only ended up laughing and rolling in the sand.  I was glad for company, but felt guilty I had taken her from everything she had known for my own selfish reasons. She was a slave, and bound to follow my whims, but she now was also a friend.  Throwing destinies together out in the desert is a great equalizer.

We rose early with the sun, and plodded slowly to the east. After a week, we began to see a change in the dunes.  Off far to the east and north were mountains, and although our steps seemed not to bring us closer, we knew that it was just a matter of time before we would reach some oasis.  Our water was low, and we rationed it out carefully, making sure that the donkey first, then Niefa, had a drink.  Soon we saw shrubs, and more and more grasses.  We pulled up the tough grasses to bite at the tender stalks where they joined the roots, but there was little moisture in this desert grass.

Finally we saw the faint glimpse of palm trees and we knew soon we would arrive at an oasis.  We were coming up to the foot of the mountains and like our own oasis back home, the runoff from the mountains would give some water and pasture.  That was where tribes would gather, and not all of the tribes were nomadic. Most were sheepherders, tied to the land until it was used up by the herds of goats, sheep and camels. Then they would move on, over the mountain passes until they found more pasture.  This was the life of herders back into history.  This was our history.

Winter was coming on, and already the nights were colder.  Takama had brought enough heavy blankets for us, and we had the heat of Niefa to warm us as we huddled together under the covers. A stop at an oasis where we could obtain food, water and shelter was becoming urgent.

I don’t remember all the events of this journey, but I do recall the strong urge to keep running away from the scene of my shame.  Hasim had found me wanting in some way, or had found another more desirable.  Each time I thought of this, my heart overflowed and bitterness and shame rose up like a ghost before me.  I could not quell my liver.  I was single purpose in my need to put as far a distance from my memories as possible.  Running was the only way I knew to change what had happened back there.

As we came closer to the oasis, we saw green grass and date palms.  It was a big oasis, and soon we could see the black tents of nomads.  Niefa bellowed as she smelled fresh water, and even Takama’s donkey picked up his hooves.

It was early evening, the star called Venus had risen when we plodded into the encampment.  They saw us off in the distance, but since we were only two, no general alarm was sounded.  Children ran out, curious as children are, and shyly made a ring around our beasts.  They wanted to know where we came from, but knew those questions would be rude from children, and anyway, desert tribes did not ask.  Hospitality was given first, and what a man wanted to reveal was all that was expected.

We proceeded to the middle of the camp, where men were assembled, and the women behind them.  Now several boys came and grabbed the bridles of both Niefa and the donkey, and I slipped off her back and stood there, my good ‘wife’ Takama coming up behind me.

“Welcome, welcome, come and eat and drink with us”.  A tall man, obviously a chieftain, came up to me, and touching the tips of my outstretched fingers to his, he then clasped together his hands in the traditional desert greeting.

I remembered to keep my veil around my face.  No man would remove his veil from across his mouth in the presence of authority, and this man looked like he was fully invested with the leadership of the tribe.  He carried a dagger in his girdle and the takouba, at his side.

Bowing to him, placing my hands crossed over my chest I answered.

“We have come a long way over the desert, and seek water and supplies.  We have need of rest and a safe place to recover our spirits, praise the Gods and Goddesses.” I remembered to pitch my voice low, and tried to make my eyes look fierce.

“My wife is in need of sleep. The desert is hard on one so young and this is the first time she crosses it.”

I caught a slight flicker of a smile in the eyes of the man before me.  We nomadic people are versed in reading the eyes, for they are the gateways of the soul. The soul resides in the liver, but the eyes are the portals.

“We welcome you to our camp. Come and sit with us, and tell us how you found the desert, the mother of us all.  Your wife will be refreshed by the women.”

I didn’t look at Takama, for to do so would give too much regard for her welfare.  Only if she were sick or breeding would a man publicly show his concern, and then in a very small way before strangers.

I sat and ate good mutton stew, and was grateful that darkness was falling fast, for when I lowered my veil to eat, perhaps my features would appear as that of a woman.  But the blue dye had soaked into my face, and I thought I passed for a young man.  Young I would appear to all, and there was nothing I could do about it.

There would be no questions, for this is not our way, and I offered little about our journey, except to say the desert was a wide sea indeed, and we had come from afar.  What I didn’t then realize was anything I said about the journey, these nomads would already know. If I said we had been journeying for two weeks, they could probably pinpoint our tribe’s oasis.    If I said a month, they would know I was lying, for there was only this oasis and we would have passed by two weeks ago. Stuffing my mouth with mutton and washing it down with goat’s milk, I was grateful for the hospitality and the few questions.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009

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