This is a short-story that I am working on for my next book. In our religion, we would call this a pataki. A patakis is comparible to the myths of the Romans, Greeks, or Egyptians . . . with one exception: Our religion and spirituality still lives, while the others are lost in the sands of time! [It's a snob thing . . . I just had to write that!]
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I must admit: I am putting this here for a personal, selfish reason. I see a wonderful future for litdotorg and some of the talents who write here. No, not everyone loves each other. Not everyone likes each other. Probably, some of you hate each other.
But everyone's tongue, and pen, has power. Real power. Power that can create something incredible, or destroy everything we all work for. Out of all the people who write here, I only see one who has no hope for ever producing anything worthwhile, and considering the vast number of paticipants, that's a huge average in favor of success.
I know at the end of the day when everyone turns off their computers, most of this doesn't matter anymore; and I also know that to most of you, I don't matter. I'm okay with that! And if the law of averages has taught me anything over the years, there are some who are here out of boredom, and really don't care if this site lives or dies. To these, it is just mindless entertainment.
But truly -- entertaining is part of the role of the writer. So as they are mindlessly entertained, we have an audience and a role to fulfill. How aweme is that?
I also realize that I am brand new to this site, and some of you don't trust me or my visions yet; and, some of you think I will stick around for awhile, but bail when I get bored.
Trust me -- for reasons I myself cannot fathom, I am devoted to this forum. For reasons I cannot name, I cannot walk away from this internet site. On a personal level, I have too much invested in it already to just pick up my toys and go. Barring serious injury or death, I'm staying, and I consider myself in this with all you wonderful people. We're going to create something beautiful here if it kills me.
Just give us time.
Some of us have a huge vision that goes beyond anything this site has ever done before; however, that vision will only be an unrealized dream if we don't stick to what we are here for -- to read, write, and respond. For, truly, this is the only way we will grow as writers.
There's no else here to help us. Right now, we are all we have got. And I beg each of you . . . when you think of dredging up past history and hurts done on lit, bless them, and move on. That is advice that I offer to everyone --even my friends that I have here. Those who know me well know well that when I set my eyes on a goal, I run over anyone who stands in my way.
Of course, after I reach the goal, I go back, pick them up, dust them off, and say, "I told you I'd run over you if you didn't get out of my way!"
Now -- for my story. This draft was finished weeks ago, so it wasn't written to confront anyone here. It has no veiled meaning other than this: A good tongue will lift us all, while a bad tongue will destroy all we have built."
Comments and criticisms before I do my final draft are much appreciated!
Obatalá sat on his throne, listening to the stories the orishas told him about his favorite son, Shangó. One-by-one each spoke in turn, and as the afternoon wore on, the stories became more outrageous. The elder orisha fought to keep his eyes open; the lies and embellished half-truths wearied him more than they angered him.
“Obatalá! Obatalá!” Oyá shook his knee briskly. He realized he nodded off. “It is obvious you are tired, Obatalá, but we need to know what you are going to do about Shangó.”
He looked at her sadly. “I will speak to him.” It was all he said.
The orishas left Obatalá’s palace early that evening. None of them were happy.
When the last orisha left, Obatalá sent his servants to find Shangó. “Bring him to me quickly,” he ordered. “I need to speak to him tonight.” They went looking for the orisha as told.
It was late when his servants brought Shangó to the palace. Obatalá was pacing in his throne room, lost in thought; he was so distracted he barely noticed Shangó enter.
The young orisha prostrated himself at Obatalá’s feet. Gently, his aged hands touched Shangó’s shoulders and lifted him from the floor; the two orishas embraced like father and son. “Father,” said Shangó in his ear, “Why have you called me this late? Is something wrong?”
Obatalá grasped his shoulders firmly, holding him at arm’s length. “We need to speak.”
There was a touch of worry in Shangó’s voice when he asked, “Have I done something wrong?”
Obatalá sighed heavily, and still embracing the orisha with one arm, walked him to the window. Together, they watched the darkening world outside as Obatalá spoke. “Shangó, you were quite young when I gave you ashé and made you the king of a vast kingdom.”
He nodded his head. “I was. I didn’t think I was ready to be king, but with you at my side, advising me, I think I have done quite well.” He threw his shoulders back so his chest protruded proudly. “I have made Oyó the richest kingdom in the world. I have expanded our borders, acquired tributaries, and made treaties with kingdoms far beyond ours. Even our enemies respect us, and no king dares intrude on that to which we lay claim. I don’t think our people have ever enjoyed such wealth in the world.”
“There is more to being a king than expanding territory and creating wealth, Shangó.”
“What else is there?”
“Shangó, I gave you your ashé because, in my eyes, you were a noble young man above reproach. You did everything for not only your own good, but the good of others. Something changed as you got older. You worry about money, war, and conquest. And you no longer care about your own reputation. All afternoon my chambers were filled with orishas, and each was complaining about you and your behavior. Without a good reputation, you won’t have the goodwill of others, and without their goodwill and respect, you rule will slowly crumble.”
“Obatalá,” Shangó said, his voice strained with worry, “What have the others said about me?”
Sadly, Obatalá told Shangó everything the orishas said.
“None of that is true!” Shangó roared, his voice shaking the palace walls. “Most of those things are lies, and those that aren’t lies are embellished half-truths. Father, I would do nothing to hurt this kingdom. I would do nothing to hurt you. Tell me you don’t believe them!”
“I don’t.” He looked out the window; it was dark, and his reflection stared back at him. “Shangó, I want you to prepare a huge feast for me as ebó. We will invite all the orishas as our guests.”
“What should I serve you as ebó, Obatalá?”
“Prepare the best food in the world.”
A few days later, all the orishas gathered around Obatalá’s banquet table. Shangó stood at one end and Obatalá at the other, with all the orishas seated at the broad sides; they watched, hungrily, while servants brought huge, covered dishes to the table. With the feast assembled, the servants stood back, waiting for Shangó’s command. Obatalá said, “Shangó, there are so many covered dishes here. Just a few days ago, I asked you to prepare the best food in the world as ebó. On what do we feast tonight?”
Shangó nodded to the servants, and as they came forth to uncover the dishes, he said, “Roasted beef tongue, father.”
“We feast on beef’s tongue?” Obatalá asked. “Why do we feast on beef’s tongue?”
“Because good ashé is the best thing in the world, and the tongue is full of ashé!”
Everyone thought about Shangó’s words, and they all agreed: The tongue is full of ashé. “Ashé!” they all said at once, and everyone feasted.
A few days passed, and still, the orishas came to Obatalá with lies and embellished half-truths about the youthful Shangó’s exploits. Wearily, Obatalá called Shangó to his palace again. “The orishas still speak poorly of you, Shangó.”
“What am I to do? I cannot control their words.”
“No, you can’t,” the elder orisha agreed. “But you can make another ebó. Prepare a feast in my honor, but this time, prepare the worst food in the world.”
A few days later, there was another feast. As before, Shangó and Obatalá stood at opposite ends of the banquet table while the orishas sat at its broad sides; the servants brought great covered dishes of food, and waited for Shangó’s command. “Shangó,” asked Obatalá, “tonight I asked you to prepare the worst food in the world for all of us to feast on.”
A cry rose up, Oshún’s voice rising about them all. “We are feasting on the worst food in the world?” she asked, exasperated. “We are kings and queens. Why would we feast on something so awful?”
Obatalá held his hand up to silence her. “Shangó, what are we feasting on tonight?”
“Roasted beef’s tongue,” Shangó said with a wry smile on his face. He was looking directly at Oshún. She held both hands over her heart.
“Shangó, did we not eat that just a few days ago?”
“Yes, we did,” he answered, smiling.
“And if beef’s tongue was the best food in the world, why, today, is it the worst food in the world?”
“Tongue is the best food, and tongue is the worst food. For a good tongue will save us all, and a bad tongue will destroy all that Olófin created!”
All the orishas hung their heads in shame: To themselves, each recounted the lies they told Obatalá about Shangó, and realized their own tongues, and not Shangó, were destroying the kingdom.
In silence they ate; never again did they falsely accuse Shangó to Obatalá.