So I Never Saw a Weewoo
I have a Pa. He is very big, bigger than me. His fur is white, and it has black stripes like mine, only he has two stripes over his eyes and some circling his tail while I only have three on my back. The rest of me is blue.
I also have a river in my backyard. It has blue fur like me, but it doesn't have black stripes like mine and Pa's. Its stripes are white. It is very strong, almost as strong as Pa, but not quite. I know it's kind of strong, though, because I always hear it running up the hills and panting over the rocks, even at nighttime. It never goes very fast. It must get tired easily. I wonder why it doesn't just stop to rest then.
Pa used to take me fishing in that river a few years ago. Ma never liked fishing. She always complained about getting wet when the fish hit the water with their tails, so she and my brother stayed behind and started nice, warm fires so that we could cook our slippery prizes when we got home. We Kougras always enjoy a nice fish fry.
While me and Pa were at the river, he would always point to some Weewoo nest teetering on a tree branch, even if I had already spotted it. When it was time to leave and sunlight was disappearing from the river's back, he would tell me to wave goodbye to the nest even if there weren't any Weewoos in there. There never were any Weewoos in there.
I never saw a Weewoo, no matter how many times I looked at the nest, no matter how many times I shouted goodbye. Pa always told me to keep looking. I found a white feather floating on the river. I kept it.
Pa doesn't take me fishing anymore. Well, actually, I don't think he can unless he reaches across the ocean and past the river, from where he is working now. He catches fish to feed an entire village. That's his new job, a great job, one that's very, very far away. I hear from him every week, though, through writing, which I guess is okay. When he asks me if I still have my white feather, I take it out of my pocket and wave it at the sunlit paper as if he can actually see it. It's not as white as it was when I found it on the river. Actually, it's really brown now. But I don't mind. I still think it's pretty, and Pa does too. And he can't even see it real good, so it must be pretty.
I wonder if he still looks for Weewoo nests when he's fishing at work. I wonder if he has time. I wonder if he has ever spotted at least one and shouted goodbye to it, whether it was empty or full, whether he was in silence or under the eyes of a bunch of laughing men who find you funny when you're being serious. Ma told me that where he works Weewoos fly around all day and sing at night, so maybe he doesn't even have to look for a nest. Maybe they wave their big wings over his head to say hello so that he never has to say goodbye. Maybe they sing him a lullaby at night.
I'm sure Pa thinks about them. I'm sure he looks for them, even when he doesn't think he's looking for them. I'm sure he has found at least a dozen white feathers that are still white, but just hasn't told me. It's a surprise.
This morning I woke up really early. I'm not sure what woke me up. It was either the sun or the river running from the night, pretending to be the sun. Or it was my brother rolling out of bed. He's noisy. He always gets up on the wrong side of the bed, however you do that. I don't think I get out of bed on the same side every morning, but I'm always quiet. Grown-ups say weird things.
After I fixed up my fur that I prefer messy, making sure that my stripes at least looked like stripes and not squiggly lines, I headed downstairs and snatched an orange from the fruit bowl. I'm never hungry in the morning, but Ma always says, while wagging one pink finger, that I can't step one paw into that river until something edible steps into my mouth. She says it just like that too, and in a serious voice. Grown-ups are also good at saying funny things that get you a dirty look if you laugh.
I didn’t go swimming today. I spent all day writing to Pa and reading his letter to me, but I didn’t mind. Well, actually, I kind of did, but not because it was boring and I would have rather been swimming or anything rude like that. Even though I couldn’t see his face, his words just screamed--or rather panted--exhaustion. I imagined his eyes were dark, the blue rings around the pupils dimmed as they tried to balance all the dreams that haven’t been dreamt yet, good and bad.
I wanted to talk with him for the rest of the day, all night, about silly things, like how our Gruslen tried to swallow a Mootix for breakfast, or how I went to the Meridell food store with my brother to get some potatoes and then wandered off to ask one of the cashiers where they get their Draik eggs from. I never got the answer to that question because my brother grabbed me by the tail before the nice Acara could reply. I never got to tell Pa I never got the answer to that question. I never got to tell him what the question was. He said goodbye too fast. I couldn’t hear him say it, but I could feel it. I told myself to stop there and take my letter out to the mail basket.
He needed rest. I don’t think the night lets us rest a lot, though. I kept thinking that Pa should just come home and rest and take me fishing on the river, but I tried to keep that off my mind. He needs the money. He needs it for us, for himself, for that village filled with hungry people. He needs it even if that means playing tug-o-war with a fish that’s ten times larger and ten times stronger on a million times meaner water.
That probably means there is no time to say goodbye to the Weewoos, no time to hear them cooing “hello” and “how are you” overhead. He might not even have any time to gather feathers if there are any. Well, that’s okay because I still have mine, right in my pocket. And it’s no longer white, but it’s still pretty.
And I myself have never seen a Weewoo, but I was always right by that blue-furred river shouting hello, goodbye, even when there was no one home.
This morning I went down to the river, but with dark shadows under my eyes. Luckily, with the help of its cold, blue claws and foamy white teeth, the water woke me up. For a while, I just splashed around, picked up shiny pebbles and tossed them to every ripple I made. Occasionally, a Goldie would slip under my tail, and I’d playfully pounce against the muddy floor, stirring up a great commotion of filth. The little fish always swam away, out of sight. I figured my tail was no fishing pole.
After a while, nostalgia started creeping up in me. Funny, the word itself seems so unfamiliar, but something deep inside me understands at least the definition of the emotion. Its voice is nagging like a child’s, but manages to hold that innocence created by seasoned lullabies and silly mistakes--like looking at the sun just to feel the temporary oblivion of blindness, or putting your Poogle Pop down on a rock when Ma calls you to supper, only to come back and realize the Mootix can settle for sugar at supper time.
There’s one thing Pa told me before he left for his new job, something about Grandpa Hesper. He was a wise Gnorbu, with a long beard curtaining from his blue chin. Pa is not sure how he was related to him. In fact, he isn’t even sure he was related to him at all. He might have been a simple close acquaintance, perhaps even a kind stranger. Regardless, he said he always capitalized his name with that lofty title Father--or, in my case, Grandpa.
Pa said Grandpa Hesper worked at the planetarium in Altador for the duration of his life, but later retired due to some severe pain in his back. This is when his life became a whole lot more focused on Pa. With rickety ribs and a stubborn spine, he stumbled out of bed every morning to flash a grin lined with yellow teeth. He spent a lot of time sleeping, but always, no matter the circumstance, woke up after the sun set. He and Pa went outside and sat in the grass, watched the stars part the red curtains of dusk to see if it was time to take their seats in their constellations. When the moon rose over the treetops and curtsied, spreading out her lacy gown in gratitude, it began.
“Oh, Har, it looks like the Gladiator is out to shield the world from a storm tonight. How nice of him, those clouds really seem to be gathering in the distance. Oh dear, of course the Thief had to show his face tonight. Good riddance, when will that Techo realize that stars aren’t going to make a celestial man rich. He’s made of them! Oh, and what is that Hunter up to tonight? Trying to win Kreludor’s heart with his bow and arrow? Good grief, boy! Just go talk to her. You’re the mightiest guy in the galaxy; that‘s impressive. Oh, Protector, you good lady, always holding some of the light left behind from the sun. Too bad these villages are too interested in flaunting their own anymore. Yes, what a shame.”
The old Gnorbu would ramble on for hours straight, Pa often said, but he rather enjoyed it. The man was still close to his star-framed friends, even if he didn’t work on the highest floor of the planetarium anymore. He had the voice of a poet, low, understanding, describing the world around him, the silence and the noise and everything in between, in a way that made just about anyone stop to listen.
“Hey, Father,” Pa would often whisper in the dark. “This isn’t all of them, is it? It can’t be all of them.”
Grandpa Hesper would look up to the sky with the passionate glint in his eyes, a deep, heartfelt chuckle simmering in his throat. “Well, Har, there are others; they live out on the sea. Perhaps they don’t mind getting a little wet when the water gets wild. The Wave emerges every night. He lifts his silvery tail over the horizon, which tends to tame the tides somewhat. Then there’s the Dreamer, and oh, what a sweetheart is she. Always sound asleep on a pillow of clouds, always basking in the glow of Kreludor above, dreaming of a world where she and her friends can stay in the sky all day long. Then...”
Grandpa Hesper paused momentarily, as if to highlight the distaste found in his next series of words. “Then there’s the Sleeper. Poor sailors don’t like to mess with her. In fact, they rarely sleep. They’re afraid that those big, black eyes are going to pull them right off the face of the ocean, off the face of the world, without giving them a chance to anchor down. It seems silly to us, but it actually isn’t that irrational a fear. Well, Har, it’s a bit past your bedtime, is it not? Get a head start. If you get back to the house before me, don’t wait around. Just go in, wash up, and get ready for bed. I’ll be up to read to you shortly.”
Pa nodded obediently, lovingly. “Yes, Father.”
I’m not sure what happened after that. Pa stopped there and hasn’t added more since. For a while, I pestered him about it, begged him to finish his story. He always sighed, looked to the ground, and then promised me he’d read me a fairytale instead. I don’t understand. I thought grown-ups liked to tell stories about their childhood. Doesn’t it make them feel young, like they’re handing you a whole new story just like theirs, only one that fits you? As confusing as it is, however, I'm just letting his story stand where it is. Maybe he doesn’t know what else to say. Maybe nostalgia visits him a bit too often.
Ma called me in to wash up and get ready for bed. I wasn't tired, but I didn't mind my curfew. I wasted the whole day watching the river make a liquid mosaic of my face, my stripes. Not to mention, nostalgia was still sound asleep and snoring somewhere between my heart and stomach. I thought I may as well follow suit.
My bed is situated right next to a window that looks out into every night--whether cloudy and rainy or clear and starry-and flaunts the moonlight on its panes. Despite the warmth of my room, I'm always greeted by cold sheets. It's comforting, though. I claim every drafty spot with my fidgety legs before falling asleep. I guess you could call the shivers that run up in me a kind of lullaby, mysterious fingers that confuse my spine for a harp even though it lack golden hymns and delicate strings. There really is no better feeling than being played to sleep.
Tonight is different, however. I'm kneeling on my bed and looking out into the night with the window. There are no clouds. There are stars. I remember those stars are actually the bones of celestial people. I try to connect them in my head, but all I make out is a tangled net of silver.
I'm frustrated, but still not tired. I look down at the river. There's something eerie about it, two glaring eyes boggling in rippling sockets. I'm definitely not tired now. I go back to threading the stars together--still nothing.
But that's all right. If I can't easily see the pictures, I guess they can be anything. I can form my own constellations.
In fact, I think I formed a feather last night after I closed my letter to Pa. And it was glittering white around the edges but remained denim blue in the middle. I think, though tired I was, I reopened the letter and showed Pa even though I couldn't hold it in my paw.
And I'm really, really not sure, but I think when he gets the letter, he'll see it. He'll see it real good.