UNTOUCHABLE HEART

- by Skye Levin


Except for the commotion in the lower village, the day started like every other. No mail, no gasoline, no bus transport from the road head. No pencils left at the teashop. Sugar running low. Families hoarded rice supplies, hiding sacks in the rafters of back rooms, or behind the crocheted mats cushioning their hard wood cots, and, in the case of the headmaster’s clever wife, encased in small woven baskets placed inside larger woven casks full of hay and potatoes. Little boys trapped fish in the river. After Ram Bahadur Ne, the youngest son of Shiv Bahadur Ne, got sucked in by the black current, his friends sold the carp he’d caught for fifty rupees each, door to door. This is not to say they didn’t care. Hard times. This was my second monsoon as an English teacher in Chamsal Village, Mahakali Region, Nepal. I was becoming used to the spiritual riches of failure.
 

The monsoon was worst for the untouchables. They lived in the lower village on the collapsing swell of the riverbanks. Their response to the cold was to pull their pants down, their ragged cut-off burlaps, and shit, skinny-assed and shivering, in the beautiful stone face of Shiva, the destroyer. The white fog rising from the water would kill their aged fathers within the season: pneumonia, typhoid, tuberculosis. The swollen river had infiltrated their huts built low in the valley in the damp, infested bogs along the rice fields. It made for domestic tension. The steel-plated river held the shadows of the roiling clouds. Further down in the water, deep under the phantoms on the surface, laid the remains of wailing and tossed reeds, their roots tenuously anchored among the stones of a submerged bridge. There was no getting away from the bloat of the season. The waterlogged donkeys of the passing wedding palanquins. The keening of transistor radios. This was the season for selling daughters or starving them.
 

I watched a group from the lowland cut their way through the weeds to my retreat. I put into a pile the blue scraps for patches, my knitting (or was it unknitting?) needles, and a beat-up copy of Hamlet, then rolled up the pile in a dirty bamboo mat, and took it all inside. I hid a packet of wax candles and a container of kerosene under the pillow on the high bed. I swept the store of potatoes laid out to dry on my stoop into a dusty, red pile, dumped them into the billow between the two corners of my skirt, and took them inside to hide in a bin. By the time the goat-breathed crowd reached the doorstep, all of my dry goods and valuables were gone, and I was in bed, ready to feign illness. Still the rush of eager breathing outside startled the solitude. The foggy white dream and culture in the little dirt-floor room could barely support one alone and bursting soul. The knock was a tear in my aloneness, and something seeped out, sweet and embryonic and social, into the late afternoon vapors.
“Elder brothers,” I shouted. The sound echoed ragged and tinny into the tendrils of cloud outside the door. “What can I do for you today?”
 

The tin roof hung over the threshold. It made for a thin strip of dry space along the edge of the cabin. There was a welcome mat. The laws of caste meant the men would not enter. They all grouped on the mat, the last neutral zone, so many strung-out cherubim.
“We need some help, Miss,” one said. “We are in the cloud of not knowing.”
“It’s got me too, brothers,” I answered. White obscured the frame of the door. The fog crept in. The voices. I clutched the blankets closer. “Is there another epidemic?”
“Help us.” I though I recognized the voice of the blacksmith’s sullen younger brother, the one whose wife had recently committed suicide after the government hospital declared her infertile. “We want to consult with you,” the melancholy voice said.
“Innocence is the ultimate disaster,” I replied. “Just a minute.”
 

I got out of bed, walked to the door, and poked my head into the half-circle of waiting villagers. I inhaled the descended cloud, as if it were a cold anesthesia from the unreal sky, then took a good look at the lean widower, and felt his desperation overwhelm me. I shut the door tight, and bolted it. Threads of light came into the room through the one high window above the bed. Three shiny cast iron bars ran parallel through it, proof against leopards and vandals. I sat in the cold bath of light. The women had packed the sill with orange cow dung when I moved to this lonely outpost, away from the Brahmins but too near the evil-filled jungle. The jungle along one side of my hut was the home of desperate hunters and outlaws, “cracked minds”, and bloodthirsty tigers. With the spreading of dung, the women, my friends, had tried to protect my moral purity. They were afraid for me. They knew I was putting myself outside of them for a reason.
 

I paced towards my bookshelf for ideas. Job, St. John of the Cross. The blood ran dark in my veins, starting from the heart, circling, daunting and merciless, down into the bomb of hunger between my legs. Dante.
A battered brass bowl and wooden pestle lay on a stack of New Yorkers under the wooden desk. An emptiness predated sound inside the bowl, co-eternal with the sound that would be present soon. Just picking up the bowl recalled the ringing in my ears. When I held it against my clammy palms, I felt a surge. I held the pestle still so that there was no sound.
“Mercy brothers,” I said to the shut door. “I am so out of my depth.”
The door did not respond. Those days I didn’t want to leave my books, the villagers brought me hot tea. It had been a fine season so far. But the knocking continued. I couldn’t ignore it much longer.
 

When I opened the door, they stood at attention. A circle of gaunt, dark untouchables surrounded my porch. Their moving parts, faces and hands, made diaphanous holes in the wall of mist. The cloud slivered their stamping legs into solid, disconnected blocks of trouser and bone. They were like men held in stockades, imprisoned by swatches of impenetrable white cloud. The body heat and motion made the heavens stand back a foot or two. A clearing formed.
“Let me see.” I clasped my hands behind my back. “I must warn you. I don’t know much.”
“No, miss,” one lean man said.
“Miss,” the goldsmith said. “We have been thinking of what you said. Remember the day the rains began? The river was as easy-going as a grass snake. The clouds put on a dark mask. The sky became stern. You were a little frightened. I remember because I sat next to you in my brother’s yard, and when we handed you a plate of sugared oranges, your hands shook and you dropped the fruit into the dust. Why were you so scared? This was not your first monsoon. We looked to you. You seemed a witch who knows the future. And you, you said, “Into itself did the eternal pearl receive us.” You were looking at the clouds. We have not forgotten this.”
The wild-eyed blacksmith broke in, holding his bony arms out to show that his hands trembled and were empty of tricks. Even the pads of flesh below the thumb were gone. “My youngest sister has the sleeping sickness,” he said. “She sleeps in the deep of the morning. She sleeps through the long, fading afternoons. She never opens her eyes.”
What do you know about it?” an old man said. “This is the longest rain on record. The clouds are not content to dump their contents, they must join us at our tables, even. The girl is lost in cloud.”
“She dreams all day long?” I said.
“Will it become an epidemic?” the blacksmith asked. “She wakes up at night soaked in the same smell as the river.”
“What is one girl,” the old man said. “Hari.”
“But if the whole family catches it,” Hari said quickly, as if repeating an argument they’d already had. “What if it spreads?”
 

I leaned into the hand-smoothed, dung-washed wall. My arms and legs felt like cast iron armor, inside which I dreamt, maybe was dreaming this scene. Inside the room, the empty bowl made no sound. “Maybe I should see her,” I said. “I haven’t been down in the bogs since the river flooded. I’d like to see the conditions. Though,” I warned, “I can do very little.”
 

Together we started down. I let myself down the muddy rivulet in the side of the hill by gripping the stalks of weeds. The reedy grass bristled, but their roots were planted deeply against the pressure to cave. The backside of the hill had gone a week ago, leaving a cluster of Brahmin houses stranded on their cement platforms, mid-avalanche terrain. As we went lower, the flooding made each step a balancing act atop a floating, shape-shifting pool of weed and mud that gave way, often, to vertiginous drops and hidden animal holes. One student of mine from the goldsmith caste, Kesab, guided my elbow. He joked with me about the fat paperback in the pocket of my skirt. The book, he pointed out, would do me no good if I couldn’t walk. I let pass this opportunity to show the boy how the soul lay beyond standing or falling, waking or sleeping. He caught me once as I fell, as if, like the weeds, he was planted truculently against an overbearing sky. As he helped me to stand, I opened my eyes wider and breathed in sweet, cold cloud until I was laughing with him, out loud in the sunlight pouring in through the ball of spun water.
We reached the bottom. The path followed the cliffs overlooking the river, cliffs that had become high banks. In another season, rice fields lined the other bank. Now the river stretched, rippling and broad-backed, all the way to the next ridge of hills. There were houses along the cliff-bank, some with back-ends supported with stilts. We trudged to the closer homes, timber foundations swaddled in corn husks, dung, and tight, sealed thatch. Here and there, parts of the houses had been swept away. But the families inside tacked up clear plastic and stayed on.
The blacksmith’s house radiated mildew. The thatching was slick as laminated plastic and heavier than stone, the bundles of husk and brush having stored all the water they could without collapsing. At the doorway, the roof drizzled beads of fermented water that dangled across the threshold in long, slender filaments. Brushed against, they burst with a sickening euphoria and the smell of grain alcohol.
 

In the room before me were four people. The doorway filled up with on-lookers. The river had coated the floor with several inches of clear black silt and a level wash of black water. Unaccustomed to bending into the low, pot-bellied curves of the round room, when I bent, I bent at the knees, stiffly. It seemed a formal occasion. The girl’s mother came to greet me, sliding once cold arm around mine. Her tight grip on my elbow pinched. She led me to the string cot, where the girl lay. I looked down at her. Shakespeare sagged in my pocket, like a stone.
The girl’s hair was blue-black, a color not as transparent as the water at our feet, but as lit through with motion and suspense. She wore a cotton shift, and looked relaxed in sleep. Her bare feet beneath the shift were two-toned, the brown of a husky coconut shell on top, pale and wrinkled on the bottom. The lines across the balls of her feet were exaggerated, topographical, as if evolution were re-working her, making a hybrid of what was once simply a common land animal. The nails on her toes fanned outwards, like soft, grainy seashells. We watched her for a long minute, and then one drowsy little brother crossed the room, the water around his ankles finning out like dank flames. The girl fluttered her eyelids. We could see the milky white rim of both her eyes. The water rose and dipped. Her eyelashes settled in rhythm with the settling of the water.
 

The mother shushed the boy, and he curled, preternaturally motionless, on a shelf alongside the bed. The only decoration in the room lay on that shelf. It was a place mat, the picture of a white cottage on a landscaped hill in Great Britain in gauzy studio light. The inscription read, “Rest is Peace.”
“Has she said anything aloud?” I asked.
“No,” her father said. His pant legs were reflected in the cool, velvet murk.
“I think,” I said. “If I were you, I would be more worried about the river than her.” The girl lifted one arm, smoothed the air around her hips, and let the arm flop down again. She could have been an intricately designed sack of rice, the face painted on. She had assumed weight. She was the only dry, sacrosanct place in the room.
“We would have brought in the shaman,” he said. “But he was too expensive.”
“Miss,” someone outside called. “Miss, come look.”
“Excuse me.” I waded out onto the landing. Past what had once been a cliff edge, the river took on blind momentum. The sound was what struck me. The crash and roar, the concatenation of pressure and water, made one basic sound: baritone, and above that, the hiss of tiny funnels opening on the fizzing, speed-gilded surface. It sounded like a death rattle.
“See,” Hari said. “The river is getting rich.” A young boy had climbed a peepul tree, and he was poking a long thin stick out into the waves. He hooked a red sari, and pulled it, like dripping satin ribbon, above the water a few feet. The stick bent, then, and he dropped it. A shout went up from the neighbors’ yard. “Somebody’s house,” he explained. The river threw one sopped boot into the yard. I stared at it, at the battered hole no foot would ever fill, and then the river swept it back, and on.
“When did your sister fall asleep, Hari?” I asked. This was an attempt at diagnosis, trying to see the dreamer through the dream. “Did anything unusual go on? Was there enough food in the home?”
“She fell asleep three days after we bought her wedding sari,” he said. “She got very quiet when she saw it. Maybe she didn’t like it. We have enough food with fish from our front yard and lemurs driven inland by the rain. She was not unwanted. She never went hungry. We were providing everything.” The river lapped unbidden at our ankles, like a pet. Ten steps west and it would kill us.
“Well,” I said. “Maybe she had a different idea about her future. Some people can’t change ideas very easily.”
“What idea could she have had?” Hari said. He did not wait for an answer. “Did she think she would grow old right here by this river, losing bars of soap in the rapids and catching fish with a spear?”
“Maybe she’s frightened,” I said. “It happens.” My hip banged against the paperback in my pocket. The father and mother stood at the door, looking hopefully at me, the little brother bobbing like a buoy. I had no insight. “Here,” I said. “I have a gift for her.”
 

I pushed back into the house. The sludge left small graceless inscriptions in silt around my ankles, fanciful chains. I sat down on the side of the cot, and washed off the silt. Next to me, the girl was limned in warmth. I had the desire to lie next to her. Her face looked very old somehow, as if she were meditating on the difficulty, on the danger of the river’s character, or on the strange metamorphoses it began, as it flooded, to require. Something told me she was thinking in the best way she knew how. I took my copy of Hamlet out of my pocket, and slipped it, fossil wisdom and all, under her pillow. A foreign object, an account for her to draw on. No one in the family could read. I could sense the father’s frustration. I stepped outside. The river had sped its beat and risen slightly. The father followed me out into the breeze, a little reluctantly. He wasn’t sure I’d done all I could.
 

It was the same frustration the headmaster exuded when he saw me warm my hands at the fire pan in the school office in the cool mornings, pushing my way in right amongst the men. It was the same frustration the elders expressed when they same me smoking cigarettes and walking with the raw-boned Maoist drop-outs on the greeny labyrinthine paths around the village. “Douli,” they’d say. Cloud-girl. “We must find you a husband.” It was the frustration of Kesab, the slowest and oldest of the solicitous untouchable boys, when I looked straight into his endearing animal eyes, ignoring the rest of the seventh graders for a moment. In those moments, I tried to raise up his soul. I had pity for him. I had pity for him and for the rest of the claque of square-jawed untouchables clustered on the benches in the back of the classroom. They were used to the switch on the back, the open-palmed slap. Invisibility. Humiliation. I gave them something different, something from the heart, but my attention frustrated them as much as anything. My compassion, like my principles, had no context.
 

I looked up the hill at the heavy-hanging cloud. The underside was one long, smooth curve, as if designed to exactly cap the hill without brushing against the warm, breathing earth. “Well,” I said. “We have a saying in America. Sweet dreams.”
“Sweet,” he said. “Like jelabees.” I thought of the rubbery orange pretzels boiled in oversized woks, sprinkled in powdered MSG, and sold congealed and cold. The soft plastic crusts fall apart as they are eaten, oozing glucose water and microscopic fly parts.
“Not really,” I said. “Natural.”
To move north through the neighborhood, we had to climb up and over an entire pine tree, tracks already thick through flailing limbs and the prickly battery of crushed, gleaming needles. The trunk ended in one limp white stump that lay on the clay, crumpled and useless, like a tuber. From the top of the beached tree, I could see into the next yard and the next.
 

On the muddy ledge of the neighbor’s porch, a woman sat with her breasts bared. A short boy of about five stood next to her. His head was ducked down to the level of her navel, where he chewed on a stiff, square nipple. He popped the dewy nipple out of his mouth, looked up at us and grinned. The calcium-bright drops of milk on his mouth steamed. His mother let out a high-pitched call, looked us up and down, and then said, as if she had been following the entire conversation, “It isn’t natural at all. My husband’s cousin is sleeping, and my husband’s sister, and sometimes I have to fight not to sleep, too.” The lids of her eyes bulged, as if she kept most of her power of apprehension hidden in the outline of her brows. She had a broad forehead and the wide-set eyes of a cow. She looked like she could muscle back hunger.
 

Her eyes put me in mind of the village’s cattle herd, which over the past month had begun to wander freely over the lanes and paths and ruts of the hill. In this weather, no one bothered to watch them, as the worst they could do while foraging was to slip and break a leg. All the smaller feed, chickens and goats, had been killed for meat or picked off by the starved leopards that had forded the river when that was still possible. The cows would come, like moody, loosed ghosts, and eat everything that could be torn up and chewed; wheat grass and moss curling up from the cracks in the well’s platform, clumps of fermenting thatch from the roof, and the fibrous lumps of paper encrusted in the whitewashed walls. The lumps were once stenciled sheets with pictures of gods: the fat infant Krishna with his guilty hand in a bowl of whipped butter, placid Shiva with his loincloth and the river Ganges spitting out from his black topknot, or intertwined snakes, wriggling into the symbol for infinity and then out again. Rain had disintegrated the stencils and plastered the paper to the walls, where they made colorful, sodden lumps the cows ate like penny candy. The cows mooned in and out of the open-air tableaus with the flat, melodious eyes that asked- do you recognize me- even as they shook the silky waddle hanging from their taut, muscled necks and moved themselves on.
 

A tiny vein stood out on this woman’s forehead. I saw how it pulsed with each draw on her milk supply, and I saw how my own face was reflected, bobbing and quizzical, in her eye, and behind me the river, a flushed oncoming blue. I stepped out of the way. Seen in profile, her eyes were black. She shrugged. “Can you do something for us, Miss?” She called my name by pressing her lips together to make the start of a kiss and then raising her chin, eyeing me squarely, and drawing out the last syllable as if it were the first not in some Bollywood song she’d heard in the bazaar. Before I had come up with a decent reply, she smiled as if to apologize, stood up, and went into the house. The door shut behind her.
 

The story was the same in every house. I was empathetic but impotent. Finally, I was stern. I made my excuses, declined cups of tea, and then Kesab, my favorite student, met me at the end of the row. We began the climb up the hill in a silence that was broken only when we got back to my house. A stout Brahmin waited in the yard one hand fingering the sweaty string that hung from under his vest. He looked hard at me. He looked hard at the student. “Where have you been, Miss? You went DOWN THE HILL, didn’t you? You were with the…” he looked at my skirt, which clung to my hips, “dirty people.”
“I guess you could say that, I said. “That I went down the hill.” He took a watch with a round, scuffed face and a plastic watchband out of his pocket. The noonday sun above had burnt up every last trace of wispy, wet insulation. I walked to the pump, squatted, and let the water fill my ears. The Brahmin snorted.
“You,” he said, “are a dirty person.” I scrubbed my neck, then pulled the neckline loose and let the stream clean my legs. By the time the water ran clear, he was gone.
 

The student stood a few feet down the hill. He had the look of someone tending an animal, but he was watching my house, watching me wring my skirt out. I walked to the house. Dewy baby ferns grew along the footpath. Between floods, the vegetation grew tenderly, every slender leaf as imposing as a fugitive. Inside the cabin, my bowl made no sound. I reached under my bed, and pulled out a handful of potatoes. I carried them out to Kesab, who still stood, a little uneasily, at the edge of the yard.
“Take them,” I said. “I’ve been hoarding.” The dirt shone. We were alone on the hill. Kesab put the potatoes, one by one, in his pockets. I though of turning back to my house, but my room, with its cozy atmosphere of scholarship and economy, would not be brightened by the cracking open of a book. This epidemic had unseated my usually quiet conscience. When the Brahmins had begin to bloat last month, their fingers swelling up like monkey’s tails, throats squeezed tight by encroaching jowls, feet suddenly club-shaped and mottled with white and red blisters, I had not worried. The Brahmins thought highly of themselves. They claimed all of the best land, high up on the hill, and so their uncomfortable swelling was not difficult to interpret. I clucked, and made garlic compresses, and encouraged hydration where I could. When the leopards came to the hill, I locked my doors at night and recited William Blake, “Tyger, tyger burning bright….” I think I secretly hoped one would slash me on the way to the outhouse under the stars. The claw marks would have been something to finger on the nights spent dwelling in doubt over my Great Plan For The Hill, which included the rising up of the local girls in revolution and the leveling of the caste system. But no leopard ever touched me. And now, in the middle of all of the enigmatic sleepiness, I was more or less awake.
 

“Would you like to go for a walk?” Kesab asked me. He was a tall, strapping boy with comely features and a good-natured smile. He had sat in the back of my classroom for two turns of the earth now, towering shyly over the other children. If I remembered correctly, he danced on the school team at school programmes, shaking his hips in the traditional way. His seemly form brought him some favor, even though he was academically quite average. It was understood that he had no time to study at home because, being poor, he had to work in the fields, like a girl.
“Into that muck?” I said, gesturing at the avalanche on the hill behind the house.
“There are some great things out there,” he said. “Just watch.” He ran off down the back of the hill. While he was gone, I rummaged around on my desk, and pulled out a pen and pad of paper. I sat down to sketch the clouds, which, by now, were gathering moisture for the night rainfall. I drew one cloud the way it looked from underneath, and then another the way I imagined it looked from above. Then Kesab was back with a light green fruit. He beat his fruit on the ground and then held it close to his face and scrutinized the tenderized part, squinting and sniffing. He showed me how the rind had softened enough to peel off. The fruit smelled starchy and sheer, but when I tasted it, it was as bitter as a mouthful of metal. “Look,” Kesab said, and spit. The drizzle of saliva hung over his chin until he wiped it away.
I noticed a single man on a horse on the path along the river’s high water bank, followed closely by a group of people trudging along on foot.
“Who,” I asked.
“For the sleeping girl,” he said.
“So THAT is why her family was so urgent,” I said. I did the only thing an idle, burned-out revolutionary could do. I wrapped my singing bowl and pestle up in my drawings of clouds and started down the hill, wedding gift in hand. I was careful to step exactly where Kesab stepped, and this time I did not fall.
The house was loud with the twiddle of flautists. A band of men held flutes of hollowed-out bamboo shoots. Two men held tiny, rough-hewn violins, and one had a harmonium strapped to his chest. They made a raw noise, like an orchestra tuning up, but they were in full swing. The groom sat on a sway-backed horse in the middle of the yard, and waited, who-knows-what glory in his heart. His three-piece suit was coated, up to the knees, in slick gray mud. He wore dark sun-glasses, a festive three-cornered hat, and a heavy garland of marigolds and tinsel. The men of his family sat crowded onto the one bench facing the river. There was no food, no celebration, and only one pundit. Inside the house, where the pile of presents should be, lay only the girl herself, curled on the cot, using her red wedding sari as a blanket and the paperback as a pillow, and girls her age, eleven or twelve, watching from the bedposts, two or three or four on one single newel, more along the wall, packed body to body, panting together with open, credulous mouths, and in between breaths, wailing. The mother and father welcomed me back, a little sheepishly.
“If she doesn’t wake up now,” her father said, “When will she?” He gestured to the row of girls standing behind the bed.
 

One small girl in a pink knee-length dress and a pair of matching pantaloons obediently pulled back the sleeping girl’s head. The row of girls grew still, elbow fitted to crook of elbow, ribs pressing into ribs. The bride’s head moved easily, as if the long exposed neck and wild blue-black braids were afloat in an atmosphere of liquid pleasure, but then she wilted back to her original position, nose shy in a nest of collarbone. The father pulled a hair from the back of his head and twirled it nervously around his thumb. The mother wept. “When will she wake up? When? When?”
 

Outside the groom’s horse snorted, impatient, but was quickly drowned out by the mangled, muffled chords of a tribal love song. The water was brackish but golden in the late afternoon light. The river slipping on was a fugitive grace note that rang and rang, untouched by the day’s events. The crush of girls began a chant (when will she wake up when when when) that hit my funny bone, and I began to laugh for terror. The girl’s lips opened and closed, like a powerless bell without a clapper. I unwrapped my bowl, and dropped the papers at the foot of the bed. The pictures of the clouds lined with silver floated briefly on the water and then sank. I tapped the bowl with the pestle. The sound that came forth was the sound of my own furious dream.
 

I got up and left. I left my dream, and, it would seem my ideals, ringing in the watery twilight. I rushed up the hill, falling every two or three feet until I passed into the jungle behind my house. This was a place no woman dared to enter alone for fear of mad rapists that roam the hills. It was a demon-filled jungle of pine trees and barren, craggy bushes. I did not know what I wanted there, but yet I moved with desperate intent. Did I want to die? My shadow, Kesab, was there before me- standing as if struck- in a semi-dry hollow beneath a pine tree that had wept its blue-green needles all over a hunter’s shelter. The shelter, a two man hole under the ground, had been erected for hunters far from home. Only a few steps from my own hut, I was far from home. I looked at Kesab for not the first time this day, but still I paused, unwilling to be seen by a student in this crazed state, so angry. In this state I would do or say anything to feel myself again.
“Miss,” he said. He drew closer to me: “Kiss me.”
This tease was close to the truth of what I wanted to do. I leaned in and kissed him. He clenched his mouth shut, so that our two front teeth met. He gestured that we should lie down, and I did. The mud was cold and wet, so when he hurried through the act, I was not surprised. He was boyish, full of tender, silent places, and at other moments as dangerous as the unfeeling river below. He was frightened, and after he entered me, in two quick jabs, he collapsed into my arms.
“You are laughing,” he said.
“Yes, I am laughing,” I replied. For at that moment I apprehended the valley. Above us, in our moment of isolation, the weary prayer flags dripped from the trees. I heard the sound of the rusty prayer bell as the wet wind took it. I had loved the river, and at that moment I even loved the carnival of it’s flooding, though it would destroy his home, and others in the village.
 

As we made our way back to my cabin, I heard cries of thanksgiving and praise. The marriage was taking place. The good sense of the blacksmith family was revealed the next day when the river rose and swept their house away, and the remaining family had to take up residence with cousins higher on the hill. There is no room for a sleeping body in a crisis like that. Every hand must hold a bucket or drown.