Both Sides of the Moon

Both Sides of the Moon by Alan Duff Read Free Book Online

Book: Both Sides of the Moon by Alan Duff Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alan Duff
more questions I s’pose. Questions, questions — when you gonna stop questioning everything, child? How many times I have to tell you, this is not the place for a questioning mind — go back to your father’s people.
    But she’s washing a couple of plates when I arrive, and I grabthe tea towel and start drying them, fall into stride with her, even though I’m imagining my mother and a dog. And I can hardly ask Mereana about that. But I do ask, very casually, in case it is of deepest offence: Did one of my Te Amo ancestors run away from some battle — or something?
    And her reaction is sudden stopping of hands in soapy stone sink. Who told you that? She’s pretending to be casual back.
    Chumpy, I say. Chumpy? That fat useless thing? All he does is live on land cheques for his family-leased land. The Pakeha farmer turned it from bush and scrub into a farm whilst he turned himself into a fat pig on the rent money. What would he know?
    Well, he knows something. Well, he doesn’t. I think he does, kui.
    Then how come he doesn’t know your ancestor wasn’t a Te Amo? How come he doesn’t know the history behind the Te Amo name? No Te Amo ran.
    So who did? And was he related to me?
    He might have been … She got guarded, defensive. Most Maoris are related, if they want to be. And more often when they don’t want to be, you want to know the truth. You did have an ancestor with an interesting story. By the name of Te Aranui Kapi.

    He would not have run, he could not have run, not from anything; the village, the tribal collective — the absolute, unchallengeable notion of manhood being warriorhood being war, being life of those times — would not have even allowed thought of running. This much I know from Mereana and anyway of and from every Maori, that he never runs. Not from a fight.
    It would be worse than death, where would he take himself, what tribe, what village would ever accept a warrior coward? No tribe, no village would, Mereana had reassured me. Not a coward. Not in those days.
    The picture she paints for me has anyway been read up on at our school library, in my home. I have been more than curious about it from a young age. It is half my existence after all. Written records on the Maori are no more than accounts gleaned from oral knowledge, folklore passed down.

    I see a long-established settlement atop a hill of strategic strength, of steep cliff faces in all but one sloping direction upon which generations have constructed ingenious protective devices and deadly traps, making a cunning trail up the only access to the village. The pathway is kept secret in its entirety by the knowledge of a single section only being given to each family, so that no captured single man can be forced under any duress of torture or threat of eating to reveal the entire route. Only the tohunga priest alone has knowledge of the entire way through the traps. But he has been trained to endure much pain.
    And even should the unthinkable happen that an enemy overcome the pathway, there are yet deep trenches embedded withsharpened stakes at every angle, and then the higher-raised banking lanced with perfectly measured and cone-entranced spearing holes to make difficult a penetration from the enemy side, and easy thrust the other. Then there is another wall, with sentry-manned towers, to overcome.
    Along the wall, I see columns of giant tekoteko figures carved in unwelcome posture, of fiercest feature of spat-out tongue and erect penises and bulging, paua-shell eyes shining murder most gruesome for any intruder — should he ever manage to get thus far. Within the double-walled space would be time to pour the permanently ready hot embers and boiling fat atop intruder heads. It is unthinkable that even the cleverest enemy should penetrate this, and yet construction within has been done on the unthinkable happening.
    Over at the farthest wall is a cleverly concealed entrance to an escape tunnel. It is sited right beside a latrine

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