They all prayed and fasted the next day, each soul its own private prayers, that Muleki’s new name might be revealed. They ate no meals, but worked with diligence and patience at their chores, dedicating their labors to Amos’ pink God. They bundled sheaves of cane and Muleki and Rafa balanced the roof beams to secure them with soaked roots and vines. They sang as it was happy and blessed work because of their fast.
They prayed together in the shade at noonday and again in the evening when they broke the fast with hot porridge and bread and honey. Come dark, they sat about the fire each lost in their own thoughts save the little girl Yula, who pet the white goat and tinkled the silver bell around its neck.
“No name has come,” said Amos as they found their beds, “and so we shall fast again tomorrow.” And so, with more prayers and fasting, they went about their labors come sunrise—but not the old man.
Amos climbed to a far ridge and spent the day in solitude. Before the family prayers in the evening, he returned peaceful and smiling.
“We shall anoint thee with a new name come nightfall. After our meal boy, go wash and make ready.”
Muleki went to the new little spring in the split rock and scrubbed himself with its clean waters. He took extra care with his ragged nails, then stood wet and naked in the moonlight and let a wind dry his skin and prickle it cold.
“I am Muleki no more,” he whispered to the Great God like a jaguar, “nevertheless, Muleki’s oaths shall always be my oaths.” And to his mother and father and sisters and to all the lost of his village looking down with their starry eyes, to all the ancestors he said, “Know you my heart—a heart bound by blood and love to your hearts. Say I to you that I am Muleki no longer, still, be I remembered by thee as the boy you knew and cared for. Love and watch over this new boy that Muleki has become as loved and watched you over the other. Forgive his sins of blood and savagery and hate. Forgive his willfulness and his faithless fears. Know that the boy Muleki’s great love of his people, the blood of his people, abides always in this new boy he has become.”
They were pretty words—still, he felt askew and unsettled, as though they were the borrowed words of another. He took a chotle leaf as his mother had so many times, as he’d watched the crones do, and dragged it across his forehead as the prayer for pure intent. He dragged it across his lips as the prayer for true speech and across his heart for devotion. Across his palm for honest endeavor.
He thought for a long while before dressing—holding the sash of his lost name. He fingered the knotted threads, tight and even as beads—the work of his mother’s hands—stitched and twined with her hopes for him, with her prayers for him. He touched the figures telling the story of his old life, the patterns grimed and frayed with the hardness of his journey. He held it with reverence and melancholy, mourning the loss of the boy he’d been. The loss of his innocence. At the last moment, he tied the sash snug around his bare skin where it would not be noticed and give offense. then slipped the loose linen robe Mishna had given him over it and rose to go to the house.
He sat with Mishna and her siblings round the evening fire which warmed his cold skin and his cold and uneasy soul. Amos prayed off to one side until he was ready, then he came to stand behind Muleki holding a small vial. From it he poured five drops of oil into his palm, dabbed a finger into it, then stroked it onto the boy’s head. In the touch, Muleki felt the old man's spirit like that of a goodly tree--the same strength and wisdom and patience. The same bridge between earth and heaven.
“I Amos, son of Benjamin, anoint thy head with oil and give thee a new name and a blessing. The name I give thee is Jeriah—meaning one led by God. And the blessing I give thee is one of peace—that your burdens henceforth might be light upon your back, that your heart might be scoured of self reproach—made clean and ready for the direction of heaven.”
These sealed the old man with another anointing of oil and a chant in a language Muleki did not understand. And it was done. He was Jeriah—a dark skinned boy in a pink man’s house, wearing a pink man’s robe with a pink man’s name chosen by the pink man’s god.