He had been walking down a gritty, shadowed street when the rain came.  The sky darkened to a steely gray, lightning flashed menacingly while the thunder rolled for miles and miles beyond.  A single drop splattered on his forehead, but then another and another in increasing procession until a downpour began.  The tear-shaped droplets spattered against him and drenched his clothes throughout, quickly chilling him to the bone.  Buildings loomed about him, creating a sort of tunnel in which there were few ways to escape the torrent of water.  To flee the weather's vicious onslaught, he ducked into the nearest doorway and disappeared from the street.

Upon entering the door, the young man found himself standing in what appeared to be a thrift store.  A bell rang above his head as the door closed, and he spared a brief glance at it before turning his attention to the rest of the room.  The only light in the room shone down from a single fixture in the ceiling, sending spikes of amber through the thick, dusty air.  His ears detected soft, nearly discernable music playing from somewhere in the back, the tune old and unfamiliar to him.  The atmosphere seemed heavy with the smell of wood and mildew.  Several feet in front of the door stood shelves, and many of them at that.  On these shelves sat minuscule, silhouetted figures.

Shaking the water from his dark, curly hair, the young man took a few tentative steps forward and grasped one of the figures in his hand.  It appeared as a sculpture of a bird made from a most peculiar material – not plastic, yet surely not wood.  He supposed it could've been made out of rock, but it was much too lightweight for that.  The surface felt cool and smooth against his rough fingers despite the cracked red paint that had seen better days.  Beady eyes gleamed out at him from its black and red face, its beak curved into a dangerous, claw-like shape.  It was incredibly realistic for how old it seemed.  No great amount of effort on the young man's part was needed to see in his mind's eye the bird soaring high above the ground, crimson wrings spread wide.  It was free of hindrance; free of the cages that would hold birds, beasts, and men alike in the future.

He placed it back in its position on the shelf with a diminutive sigh and lifted another off the rotting wooden shelf.  This item turned out to be a sculpture of a Native American warrior, most likely made from clay.  Its miniature bowstring was drawn taught in his expertly-carved hands and its petite body was tensed – ready for battle.

Letting his imagination take hold of him, the young man imagined this warrior to be the young chieftain of his tribe, leading them into battle against their neighbors over hunting grounds during a famine.  As he charged into battle, his war cry echoed across the land, his army thrilled by the sound.  Adrenaline charged through the young chief's veins as he –

"I made that myself, you know," a voice interrupted.  "Just yesterday, in fact."

Startled out of his daydream, the young man dropped the figurine.  It hit the floor with a loud 'crash!' and shattered into thousands of clay shards which flew in all directions.  Mortified, the young man apologized, "I'm sorry!  I will have that cleaned up right quick!"  He bent to pick up the pieces, but a hand grasped the back of his shirt and lifted him up.

"The pieces are sharp. You'll cut yourself.  I'll get you a broom," boomed the voice that had spoken before.

The young man nervously looked up into the face had spoken, an edgy grin resting on his lips.  He saw an old man of about seventy or eighty standing next to him, arms crossed indignantly.  His long hair, which still held some black color in it, was pulled back into a thick plait that hung to the middle of his back.  Wrinkles creased his face around his eyes and mouth, his expression plain.  Deep-set eyes glittered out at the young man, showing no sign of age or frailty.  It was deeply evident that he was a man of pride and power, not to be taken lightly.

"I'm terribly sorry, sir," reiterated the young man with a bow of his head. "The name's Bowman - Christopher Bowman.  I'll pay for the damages."  He extended his hand.

The older man completed the gesture and frowned.  "All right.  I'll get you a broom and you can take out your wallet.  Come with me."  He lumbered towards the back of the store, his long strides forcing Chris to nearly skip to keep up with him.

"So, are all these sculptures yours?" ventured Chris in an attempt to start conversation.

"Many, yes.  Many more belong to my ancestors."

Chris nodded, and then became momentarily distracted as he spotted a shelf brimming with old-fashioned woven baskets.  They appeared elegantly and expertly crafted, probably capable of holding water.  Some were painted with earthly tones like brown and green, while others held the bright colors of flowers and the sun like blue, orange, and purple.  He imagined some of them to be a hundreds of years old, surviving the test of time in the hands of the posterity of their original owners.  Many a time they had been filled with nuts or berries to save for winter or with water to cook.  They appeared so authentic, in fact, that it seemed if he turned away, and then quickly looked back, he would see the baskets once again filled to the rim with newly-ground corn meal or berries.

In this short moment that he was distracted, however, he managed to trip over an unseen object and crash into the man in front of him.  "I'm so very sorry, again!" apologized Chris as he attempted to pick up the pieces of his broken pride.  He glanced across the floor and spotted what he had stumbled over: a doll.

"Clumsy fool," muttered the old man under his breath.

"Look… guy," Chris placed an emphasis on the last word as a reminder of the old man's current anonymous state, "it's not my fault that you leave your stuff lying around for people to trip over."  He picked up the doll and stood.  Its round, clay face stared up at him from where it rested in his large hand, meticulously-braided black yarn hair falling lazily over his fingers.  Chris' imagination went to work again, and he envisioned it to be a valuable artifact that belonged to a young Native American girl once upon a time, when the land was new.  He imagined her holding it as she scampered through the village with her friends while the women of the village ground corn for meal or tended to the children.  The men of the village were out on a hunting trip, far away from the peaceful sanctuary of their homes and families.  Masters of the hunt, they tracked deer and other large game like elk, or even smaller game like rabbits if they could.  Hidden by the paint on their faces and the darkness of the woods, they crept along the forest floor.  There, they waited.  They waited for hours, maybe days at times… waiting for their prey, whether it be bird or beast.  Once the time was right, they would strike quick as a flash with a yell of triumph and the waving of weapons.


Chris nearly dropped the doll in alarm at being jolted from his imagination once again.  He turned his doe-eyes to the old man and choked out, "Excuse me?"


"Yes, I heard what you said," reiterated Chris, "but I don't know what you mean."

"My name is Akecheta.  It means 'fighter'," explained the old man, eyes glittering. "Do you want the doll?"

Chris looked down at it, and it looked up at him.  "Sure.  My house could use a little nature in it."

Akecheta smiled.  "How about a deal?  You buy the doll and pay for the broken sculpture, and I clean up the pieces?"

"Sounds like a deal." Chris shook his hand.

"Good, good!"  Akecheta led him the rest of the way to the back of the store and stood behind the register.  "Ten dollars."

From his pocket, Chris produced his wallet and pulled out a wrinkled bill. "Ten dollars," he repeated as he handed over the money.  "You've got a fine business here, sir."

Akecheta's grin faded a little, his shoulders slumping and the crease in his brow deepening slightly.  "I've owned this fine business for fifty odd years.  I make most of the merchandise.  Some I just can't part with."  He held up his hand, showing Chris a thick ring situated on his forefinger.  "And some I can't get rid of."  His hand waved across the air, making a vague gesture to a case of antique rings.  "Everyone's mind is full of wire and electricity these days."

Chris nodded thoughtfully, the wheels turning in his head.  "You know, a little publicity would get this place going.  Maybe a story about the importance of the artifacts here?"

Akecheta shrugged and replied, "Maybe."

They stood in companionable silence for a few moments, and then Chris returned his wallet to his pocket and announced, "I'll just be on my way now."  He turned around to look out the front window.  "The rain's stopped."

"Thank you for your business," said Akecheta with a slight bow.

Chris grinned and left the store.  From there, he ran all the way home, splashing through mud puddles and dodging cars.  He bounded up his steps to his house, unlocked the door, and hurried into his study.  His laptop sat waiting on his desk, his latest attempt at a book sitting on the screen.  Hands flying over the keyboard with excitement, Chris opened a new document and began to type a new story.

"Many years ago, when the land was new, there was a small village nestled in a valley between two hills.  In this village lived a young girl with a clay doll made by her father of clay and yarn.  Every day, the small girl would grip the toy in her hands as she ran through the village with her friends.  Her mother would grind corn…"