The other local farmers had an easement agreement with Straen so they could cross his land and water their herds, but Keekik’s passionate desire for emulation put him above the law, or so he believed. True, he had no herds of his own, being only sixteen, and a stable hand on Logi’s farm, but now, crouching behind a tree at the edge of Straen’s property, he felt that ownership was inherently evil, and that resources should be available to all who desired access.
Experiencing an almost ethereal since of giddiness at his self-assigned empowerment, the excitable lad sprung from his hiding place, across the artificial boundary between Logi’s and Straen’s farms, and ran with enough vigor to clean his employer’s stables for a week (though he loathed the task).
Racing past the soil enhancement equipment, he knew exactly what he was going to say. His words would be exoteric when he arrived at the lake where all of the caretakers for the farmers were watering the herds of cukol.
Finally, he passed the last open gate that gave him entry to the gathering at the water. The thin, pale skinned boy climbed up a dozer machine that was sitting idle for the moment, took a wide stance, raised his arms above his head and cried, “Brothers and sisters, hear me,” as loud as he could.
Nudrak, Fene, and the others turned away from their placid animals who were contentedly lapping, to see what all the fuss was about.
“What the hell are you doing here, Keekik?” Fene ran the herds for their mutual employer Logi. “Shouldn’t you be sweeping up the stables? Logi will be cross if you don’t have them cleaned up by the time he brings in the vrus beasts for their feed.” She looked at him with the expression of a stern mother who had found her most troublesome child once again misbehaving.
“Forget about the stables. Forget about Logi. I appeal to you all as kindred spirits. Don’t you see that the rich farmers are exploiting your labor? Throw off your yokes and your chains and join with me. Together, we will share all of the wealth and make each farmer’s property into one great collective.”
He was sweating with excitement, expecting at any minute for the herdsmen and women to cheer him, and embrace his ideals for freedom and equality. Instead they laughed, and not just a few chuckles, but full-blown belly laughs, as if Keekik was a comedy act, and a really good one, too.
“You’ve full of biscuits, boy,” shouted Nudrak.
“Go home and suck on your Mama’s teet until you grow up,” yelled Olgoli.
“He’s been reading his books again, the ones from old Earth,” taunted Fene, which really hurt the boy, since he thought she’d be the first to support him.
“What books?” Custu was new to the farms, having moved to Ai province from Tah less than a season ago, so he was unfamiliar with Keekik’s reputation.
“Some garbage written by…wait a minute…on the tip of my tongue.” Fene scratched her head in mock confusion. “Oh yeah. Someone named Marx, I think.”
“I thought it was Mao,” Nudrak added.
“No, I remember now, it was Stalin, or was it Hitler?” Fene was having way too much fun at Keekik’s expense as far as he was concerned. Then she took a more serious tone again. “Go back to the stables. You’re lucky to have the job you do. Go back before Logi finds out about your foolishness and fires you. Then you’ll have to slave away at some sweatshop in the city, and believe me, I came up that way, and it’s nothing you want to experience.”
“And stop reading all that nonsense, boy.” Nudrak had ceased laughing as had all the others. He walked over to the dozer and looked up. “Get down here.” The boy complied and stood before the wide-built, dark bearded herdsman, his head hung low.
Nudrak put his hand on the lad’s shoulder. “Now see here. Straen, Logi, and all the other farmers worked hard to grow crops, breed herds of transport and food beasts. They were the first generation colonists that came here fifty years ago, and they could have died. Instead, they labored night and day, sacrificed, did without even the simplest things you take for granted today. You’re too young, but I was a boy like you in those days. Now go home. Do what we did. Work hard. Show Logi you’ve got potential. Maybe he’ll promote you to the herds, or the harvesters if you’re good enough. There’s no short cuts on colony worlds. You either make it, or you don’t.”
Keekik trudged back down the road, kicking at rocks, trying to hold back his tears. He’d studied the texts every night for months and thought he understood what was wrong with the world, especially the part where had to shovel vrus dung. Where had he gone wrong?
I wrote this for the Bonus Wordle “The Letter E” writing challenge hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. The idea is to craft a poem, short story, or other creative work using at least ten of the following twelve words:
Exoteric ((adj.) suitable for or communicated to the general public: not belonging, limited, or pertaining to the inner or select circle, as of disciples or intimates: popular, simple, common place
Emulation ((n.) effort or desire to equal or excel others: jealous rivalry)
I used ten and bolded them in my story so the reader could pick them out more easily.
It was the word “Emulation” that set the tone for my story and the naiveté of youth, some of them, anyway.