Thursday, 30 November 2017

Carla Lane's Obsidian Butterflies

It was the year 1-Reed [635]. The Chichimecs came out of Chicomoztoc and there was unrest. The two sons did not care about the unrest. They were not concerned with it. Their names were Tata and Tlapatecatl. They were older than children but younger than men and they lay upon their mats even though it was day.

Itzpapalotl came into the temple. She saw that her two sons were lain upon their mats looking at one of the painted books. She said to them, 'Should you not be out seeking labour? You have no idea what is on your faces, nor on top of your heads!'

The two sons regarded each other with wisdom but they spoke not. It was but a passing thing. Tlapatecatl said, 'We desire only for our breakfast to settle in our stomachs. When this is done, then we shall go abroad to seek labour.'

Itzpapalotl looked first at her son with the straight hair shaped like a mushroom and the moon face, than at the other son whose hair was curved like that of a Totonac or a Huastec. The look was comical and yet without causing her own face to widen. She told them that she did not think a tortilla could take so long to settle. She wondered if the tortilla had stuck to the stone during cooking and the two sons had themselves become stuck as a result.

'Recall that we are talking about your tortillas,' said Tata with a face of knowledge. It was well known that Itzpapalotl was not a good cook. Her food was bad. When she cooked, people became ill. Often when the people talked about the cooking of Itzpapalotl, there was a sound of laughter in the air. This was because everyone knew that she burned her tortillas, and they said of her ahuautli that it was the same coming out as it had been going in. No-one could tell the difference.

Itzpapalotl crossed her brow. It seemed to her that she should strike back with words of thorns: 'I have heard say that Mixcoatl the Cloud Serpent requires two young and strong men to carry all the chameleons that he catches. That is what I have heard.'

Tlapatecatl looked at the painted book. His eyes remained fixed. He said, 'There is only one problem with that, mother.'

'Tell me what the problem is,' she demanded.

'You tried to kill Mixcoatl. He hid himself in a cactus for fear of you, and then he ran to the south.'

'Yes,' Itzpapalotl agreed with reluctance. 'You have reminded me of that very well.'

Maitlatzinconetl then went into the temple. He had about him his work, his wooden tools and stone knives. His face was like a beast of the wetlands beyond Cuauhnahuac. It was as though he had the belly of a fat man upon each cheek, and when he spoke words, each belly moved with a wobbling motion. He said, 'I am now going to my labour. I work on teeth. I make them better. If I cannot make them better then I will pull them out. That is what I do. I would love to be here in the heart of my family but I must be about my labour.'

'That is too bad,' said Tata, although he did not seem to mean it.

'The same is true of your mother's cooking,' observed Maitlatzinconetl and they all laughed except for Itzpapalotl. Itzpapalotl looked sad.

Later she encountered Ocelotl at the tianquizco. She bought corn and she saw him there. His face became wide. 'I would like very much to have sexual intercourse with you,' he explained.

'Do you not know that I have a husband and that I am very happy?'

Ocelotl said. 'I know and these facts do not trouble me, for I do not wish to have sexual intercourse with your husband.'

Itzpapalotl's face became like unto a clear sky. She did not quite seem to know where she was. Her mind was in confusion. She tilted her head to one side and placed a fingertip to her lips as though asking a question at the calmecac, but she did not ask a question. She was thinking about how her life had not turned out exactly as planned and how it would be interesting to allow Ocelotl to go into her in that way, even though it would make everyone angry if they found out.

That is what she was thinking.

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