a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
These people are peaceful. Quiet. You’ll never hear them yell at one another. Their houses are built on stilts, but it is dry and dusty, at least this time of year. Maybe it’s to protect them from animals. Bruce is the name of the American with curly brown hair who stays with them, but they call him “Peace Corps.” He wears a loin cloth, too, and the beetle nut makes his teeth and lips red. Usually, a job in the Peace Corps is a two year gig, but he loves them so much, he keeps extending his contract. He’s been here so long the organization is getting ready to cut him off. Five years is their limit. The villagers ask me if I’ll take his place when he leaves.
The dirt paths from hut to hut are hard and cracked, the grass on either side tall and brown. There is an open area at the edge of the village of hard-packed dirt, with hoops on poles on either end, a basketball court. The men play in their loin cloths. When two teams play, the pounding of the dribbling ball on the ground makes the earth god mad, so the losing team has to pay the priest to appease him.
I’m leaving tomorrow, and they hold a dance on the other edge of the village, in a tree-ringed open place, more dusty than hard-packed. The dance goes late into the night, a generator running electricity to the lights that hang high in the trees and to power the record player that plays their 45’s. Their favorite song is “Let Me Take You to Funky Town.” Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it. They play it over and over. Men on one side, women on the other. The guy with the microphone calls out “All women dance,” or “Teen dance,” or “All men dance.” I can’t understand his language, but I can see what happens after he yells into the microphone. How can I figure out my life so that I can get the Peace Corps to hire me to come back here to spend five years with these people?
Treg Isaacson is a counselor in a University in Seattle. Before earning his MA in psychology, he traveled extensively, finding grace in cultural exchange. His writing has been published in The Monarch Review.