Chapter 8

Lost & Found

No one had seen anything like it.

Peridots had now traveled the earth for dozens of years, expanded the reaches of their original land, made friends with thousands of humans. Yet no one – be it a human or Peridot – had ever come across anything like Anza.

There was gray on their face, and gray again through swirls alongside their custard-colored body. Anza was sweetness incarnate. Along their neck was a green garland, like a wreath, that furrowed proudly upon Anza’s head. It was not foliage, as one might mistake it to be, but verdant ruffles that jutted sharply. Their tail, too, was green and sharp. Horns stood proudly from Anza’s head and resembled tree stalks but with green tips.

As vivid as Anza was, their appearance would rouse awe within others … but not right away. Phosphorescence lathered the tips of
Anza’s horns. In the light, such phosphorescence looked unimpressive, nothing more than a thin layer of moss. In darkness, however, it glowed.

At first, no one knew this but Anza. And when Anza was born, few paid much attention to them. There were so many vibrant, diverse species of Peridots as it were. Anza could not and did not stand out.

Anza struggled to have a single keeper too. Their first human was not prepared to be one and, thus, cast the responsibility onto his mother, who was tending to a Peridot of her own. So sidetracked was she that she often forgot to give Anza belly rubs.

After the keeper nearly lost Anza during the harvest celebration of Naiku, an old man with a lofty white beard offered to care for Anza. He claimed much experience in doing so with other Peridots. He boasted that he was the first human to do so. The people in the campsite laughed him off. When he couldn’t remember the name “Kee,” the others knew for sure that this old man with a lofty white beard was nothing more than a loud voice of dubious merit.

“I was the first,” he said to himself. “I was the first.” Anza walked beside the old man and grabbed his hand. The other keepers rolled their eyes, but Anza ignored them, for there was something safe about the old man and his clench said likewise.

Anza took to the old man well. While they were fed and tended to, Anza did the same for their keeper. He was very old and very forgetful. Small tasks, like making the fire, were often done twice. So too for belly rubs … which Anza didn’t seem to mind. But the old man with the lofty white beard was never without a smile, and he always knew for whom to care and how to care.

Anza and the old man awaited Teveron, the celebration of the last warm days of the year. Soon, it would get darker earlier in the day, colder at night. Snow was just a couple of months away. Everyone in the campsite took on various duties to prepare for the celebration. Some fished, some built wooden stumps to get a closer look at the stars, and some harvested fruits and berries. Blue tomato soup was in high demand, but one had to delve deep into the forest to find its main ingredient (yes, a blue tomato). The old man volunteered for the task. When others laughed at this, as such an effort required someone of strength and endurance, the old man proclaimed, in clarion tones, that it was he – and only he – who was prepared for such a task. His thunderous conviction reduced the others to timid goslings. With trembling fingers, they gestured toward the forest.

The old man with the lofty white beard marched toward the woods with great confidence. Anza struggled to keep up with him. Once inside, Anza focused just on the feet of the old man, so as not to get lost or fall too far behind. Anza noticed that the old man, who stayed numerous steps ahead, walked with a limp and hunched his back forward. Quickly, the man grew tired and rested on tree stumps, and often resumed the path forward prematurely. He would lose his breath and lean against trees every thirtieth step. When he found a blue tomato near a stream, he snapped it up and tapped his chest with his right fist in glorious victory.

But when he looked back from whence he came, an empty stare fell upon the old man’s face. He looked to the right, then to the left, and then turned around toward the stream, only to turn forward again. When he caught the quizzical gaze of his Peridot friend, the old man blared, “I know where I am!” He resumed his march forward, and when darkness neared completion, the old man’s neck turned frantically, left and right, right and left, upon the equator of his shoulders. “I know where I am …” he fizzled out.

Then, something caught his eye. A large oak tree with serpentine grooves. A familiar shelter for a one-time lost friend.

“Kee,” he said, leaning down into the center groove of the tree. He placed his hands softly upon its bulky roots, grateful for their dependable ballast. “Kee …” he said once again, wistfully.

Anza stood afar and tipped their head to the side. Confusion seeped into their eyes and brow. But what Anza did not understand, Anza felt heavily. A tear rolled down their left eye. Then their right.

The old man wiped his own eyes and caught a glimpse of Anza’s horn tips. Now, with darkness fully set in, each horn cast off a radial glow that was neither stout nor bantam, but plenty enough.

The old man could see several feet in front of Anza, and if Anza were to move ahead, the old man could see several feet more!
The old man hugged the tree once again and scurried forth with Anza in front. Reaching the end of these vast woods, slowly, in darkness, required one itty-bitty step at a time.

When the glow from Anza’s horns dimmed, it was morning. They neared the end of the woods. The campsite was in earshot. Humans had already set up for the celebration. All that was missing was the blue tomato soup. When the bearded man and Anza approached with bounty in hand, applause resounded. One could not hear anything but cheer. And when the blue tomato soup was prepared, cooked, and served, people regaled their children and young Peridots with the story of the first Peridot, Kee, and the bearded man who tended to them. Sips of blue tomato soup never tasted as delicious as the ones that day.

The old man with the lofty white beard smiled and held Anza close to his side, listening to the adulation that didn’t end. Against him, Anza felt his laughter. The side of the old man’s chest and belly rippled and its folds occasionally swallowed Anza’s left ear. A slight pinch from Anza’s horn alarmed the old man, who freed his Peridot from the grips of his blubber. While people gathered to milk the last warm days of the year, their attention beamed onto the old man. The celebration had a new purpose, and it lasted all day and all night, as did his laughter.

The keeper of Kee and now of Anza rose to legend. While he tended to be forgetful these days, by others, he was never to be forgotten.

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