Tas walked into the shade of a large tree, bigger than the others. It had strange markings, and the old man seemed to move slower than usual as the rose up the wooden footholds to the epicenter of the trees branches, which was a large platform. Tas knew there would be plenty of hiding places throughout the tree, this one seemed even more decorated than the last, in myriad and countless small ways.
He began to sit with the old man, but the old man moved quickly from his crouch and push Tas right in the chest. He tripped backwards and fell down the tree, tumbling head over feels onto the hard dirt below. Luckily, he fell down the side of a root and rolled well down the trees branches into a small thicket. He took a few breathes in the bush, making sure everything was okay and moved slightly. He could feel pain when he inhaled deeply, probably something was broken. He moved to stand and found the old man assisting him from the base of the tree, holding something to his head.
His vision grew blurry and he faded and laid against the tree, falling in and out of consciousness. He tried to wake up, but felt his head hit his shoulder and couldn’t remember why he should hold on.
He woke with a bit of a start, cold water dripped from his forehead, he tasted a bit, then opened his eyes. The old man pulled him up slowly, he could hear the laughing in the background. He grew angry, but was very groggy, so he soon forgot his anger.
A few minutes later, the old man pulled him to his feet. He was still a bit woozy, but he could see straight. The was a sharp, splitting pain in the side of his head. And he was quite hungry.
Disgruntled and determined, he pushed the old man in the back. He tripped and fell forward, though he braced his forearms for the blow. He rose slowly, grimacing, and looked back at the boy. He saw his face, then laughed and sat down. He motioned for Tas to do the same.
Tas sat as the old man gestured, no longer waiting for his permission. Their couple of months together had taught him enough about standing for what he needed.
“Why did you push me?” He asked the old man, confused, anger returning as he saw the nonchalant manner of the old man.
“You need little push.” He said, chuckling. “Me too.” He looked down at his forearms, scraped and a little bloody, but no serious injury. He laughed again.
Tas waited for something else, but he found that his anger left quickly. He didn’t seem to have sustained too much of an injury, but, he could not figure out the point in this lesson, it seemed so pointless. He looked long and hard at his master, as if willing him to answer with the force of his attention.
The old man, surprisingly, looked up at Tas. “Time for you to learn faster. You ready.” The old man nodded his head while studying the determination in Tas’ eyes. “I push because sometimes, you need push. Sometimes, life push when you don’t need. Good to be ready for pushes. So I help you be ready. Now, you need real push.” He laughed long and hard this time, his usual jovial and mysterious manner returning. “In the morning, you leave, big village, called Lothal. By sea.” He made a weird flowy motion with his hands, but Tas had no idea what he was referring to.
They spent the afternoon talking about what he would do in the city. He would bring back a big bag of rice and another of dried fruit. He would spend a month working and begging before to make enough money to buy the food and he would return with it. The old man knew an inn keeper that would give him a room, provided he gave him a silver each night. Each day, he was to earn 3 silvers.
Tas was excited, he felt as though he were finally doing something, far different from the last two months had been. He looked up to see the old man leaving, walking down from the tree and into the night. Tas couldn’t believe that he would go out into the desert while it was so dark, he knew that animals hunted. He could hear their cries at night. Yet the old man left without a glance back, his soft sway fading eventually into the dark of night.
Tas simply sat for a few moments, suddenly feeling so alone. He hadn’t realized it, but he had truly come to find the presence of the old man as comforting. They hadn’t eaten dinner either, and Tas had no idea where the rice could be hidden. He looked through a few bags, but found nothing. It was always hidden in such strange places.
He slept easily, with a bit of meditation before to forget his stomach. He would eat when he entered the big village the old man had called ‘Lothal’. He was to find a large man there, of dark skin, whose name was Shatar. He would be at a home with a blue door, and a sign above that called it ‘rest long, eat lots’. He hoped that eating lots could happen often, he was very tired of his small meals with nearly no variation. His body ached for more.
He walked from the tree wiping all traces of his passage, as the old man had taught him. His hunger was almost overwhelming, he hoped the city was not far. He set out towards the rising sun, where he knew to find Lothal in the east, by the sea.