Kulu grew up in a village without Story.     
      Because the village was without Story, it did not even have a name. But if it had, the name might have been—Survival. It was as if there was no color in the village, and there were no smiles.      
      People did what they had to, and that only. They grew crops and they hunted and fished. They cooked and they sewed rough animal skins together to wear as clothing. When it grew dark, they went to bed.     
never thought of himself or the village as either happy or unhappy. Why? Because he had never been anywhere else, and he did not know there were any other ways to live.     

     One day when he was about eight, Kulu was in the jungle gathering fruit. His bag was full, and it was time to return to the village.      
      But this day, unlike every other time he had gathered fruit, he could not find the way back. And as he tried to find the path, he got farther and farther from the village, until he did not even recognize the part of the forest he was in.     
called out as loudly as he could. But the only response he heard was the loud cackle of a cashinaw bird, mimicking his own cry, and the whisper of the breeze in the branches, that seemed to say, “Come, come, come, we are waiting for you.”      
      Who was waiting? Kulu realized that he had not even been looking where he was going, he had been so fascinated by the spirit voices in the wind.  Now he suddenly came to his senses, looked around, and then looked down. A few feet away from him, a wide, cleared path ran through the dense jungle.     
      And on the path, his back slung with a bag filled with ripe nambo fruit just like the bag Kulu himself carried, was a boy who looked a lot like his twin! Only this boy…why, he had on bright trousers and a shirt like a rainbow, and a hat that shone with tiny mirrors like stars sewn into it, and golden embroidery on the hat! And the boy…what was the boy doing?      
      Why, he was blowing into a stick that had holes. And out of the stick—it must have been out of the stick—came—what was it?—sounds, like a swift river, that dove deep into Kulu’s ears and swam all around inside his head till they made him feel like jumping around! His feet started to step in skips and jumps, all by themselves!      
had never done this before. Was this boy an evil sorcerer? But before he could think about that, Kulu’s feet shouted up to him, “No, he’s not!”     
called to the lad, who stopped in his tracks and turned around. The boy took the stick from his mouth and waved his hand at Kulu. Then the boy made a face with the corners of his mouth up and teeth showing. Kulu had never seen a smile before, but it made him feel good.           “Come on,” the lad motioned with his finger, and Kulu walked over to him. The boy pointed down the path. Then he turned to Kulu, pointed to his chest, and said “Mano.”      
pointed to himself, and said “Kulu.”      The two walked silently down the path for a long, long time. Mano made more sounds blowing into the stick with holes. Sometimes it felt to Kulu like Mano’s soul was laughing in the sound-river that came from his stick. Sometimes it felt like the jungle was alive with  happy spirits. Sometimes there would be fearful sound streams, but joyful ones would always chase them away, or else dance them till they shared in delight.      

      At last they came to Mano’s village. Kulu’s mouth opened wide in amazement, and every time it started to close he would see something new and it would open again! The tents in the village were all as colorful as Mano’s costume. They had bright pictures painted all over them. People sat in the doorways on multihued, woven rugs, cooking soup and other dishes on open fires. Everywhere, there were painted wooden birds and animals, as well as creatures that looked partly like a bird or animal, and partly like a human.      
      “Kulu, this is the village of Story, ” said Mano, and except for sharing their names, that was the first time either of the two had tried to speak. Both were surprised that they easily understood one another.      
      The boys arrived at Mano’s family’s tent. “These are my mother and father,” Mano smiled, outstretching a hand. 
      “This is Kulu,” he told his parents, outstretching indicating his new friend with his other hand.  Kulu felt soft light flow toward him from the eyes of Mano’s smiling parents.      
      “Kulu, it is told here in Story," Mano’s father said, training his kind eyes on Kulu’s face, “That long ago there was only one village in this great jungle. But there were two different kinds of villagers.”     
      “Some loved the earth and all things and creatures on it, and felt grateful for all—for the Sun that came to light their days and the moon that lit their nights—for the clear waters that flows in our streams, and the fish that swim in them and give themselves to us for food—for the fire that lets us cook our food, the trees that give us their fruit, and the animals and birds who are our friends and neighbors.”      
      “The grateful ones had a story for everything. We knew who the great snake, the anaconda, was, and where he came here from and how he came to be. We knew how we came from our gods, who sailed down from the stars on boats. And we knew that when one of us dies, she or he can make the journey back to the gods without a boat, for the spirit is light and can fly. A good spirit flies up, up, to heaven and the stars.”      
      “These wise ones knew that everything is holy. Life was a festival of love and worship. They were known to stay awake all night to hear the elders tell—and dance, and sing—stories, and the “youngers” make up and share their stories, too. All have stories. This life is endless stories! There are so many, we could never tell them all.”      
“But there were those who did not share our joy at life. They did not love Story. They were always grumbling.”       
      “And one day they all left the village and never returned.”      
“ We have heard that they formed another village, far away in another part of the jungle, but none of us has gone there. None of us would want to. For what is life without Story?”      
      “You, Kulu, are the first from that village who has ever found us.”      
“Welcome, Kulu. Welcome to Story.”       

     Kulu looked at Mano and at Mano’s father and mother, and he looked around the village at the lovely tents and painted wooden figures everywhere. The tents were painted with stories, he now realized. He thought to himself, “I don’t ever want to leave here. I did not know the words ‘happy’ or ‘unhappy’ before, but now I do. I am so glad I got lost today.”
     And he never did leave.                                                       

© by “Mr. Max” (Max Reif)      

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