Hey Friends! If you’re new, here’s the scoop: We’re taking a walk through the book of Proverbs along with a girl named Eleanor. In Eleanor’s imaginative life, she is heir to an island chain. In real life, she is a freshman at an arts school—a seeming dream come true that will turn into her worst nightmare if she isn’t careful.
Proverbs 3:3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.
Eleanor followed Mr. Washington through a maze of dancers. The other students had been left in the entrance lobby. The crowd was a pulsing rainbow of Spandex. Techno music electrified the air. When Eleanor spotted Talia and the three North High students, she was disappointed to see that they looked like everyone else, but that triggered another thought. She walked in front of Mr. Washington and blocked him.
“What are you going to do to them?”
Mr. Washington stopped walking and closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose for a moment. “I brought you along to observe, Miss West. To learn about leadership. Not for dramatic interference.”
Eleanor sucked in her breath, stricken, but then nodded. “I understand. But I just had a thought. A picture.”
“Go ahead.” His eyes looked past her to where Talia and the students stood stretching.
“We’re already here, Mr. Washington—you, three decent dancers, me, and five brilliant students in the lobby. We’re in a building full of look-a-likes with computer generated tunes.”
“That’s the vision?”
“No, the vision is buckskin dresses, braided hair, a giant drum, and a singer. Something different. Something beautiful.”
Mr. Washington’s lips were a straight line. Eleanor knew she was being stupid; there was no way she could change the course of things. She was a freshman. She had no real power. Why should she even care?
But then in a flash she saw the Kaufman Center, the layered ears, Io’s poem telling her to listen carefully, and Principal Solovanka telling her to do whatever it took. This was it; this was Eleanor’s moment to act.
“I know this is insanity, but let me go talk to Talia. I don’t know anything about this competition, but I think we can win it.”
Mr. Washington opened his mouth to speak just as a burly man came up and slapped him on the back. “Danny!”
Mr. Washington stumbled forward.
“I thought I might see you here.” A great mass of gelled white hair framed the tanned face of a man wearing sunglasses. He spoke with a Russian accent.
“Crete.” Mr. Washington didn’t smile with either his face or his voice.
Crete laughed a cold, pointed sort of laugh. “They tell me, ‘Come here. Big talent here.’”
Mr. Washington’s reply rolled out like the careful strokes of a paintbrush. “Perhaps you will yet see the sun.”
Mr. Washington turned to walk toward Talia.
“I come here from great distance, only to find flea-bitten old farm dogs.”
Mr. Washington kept walking, kept his face straight ahead, but spoke in a low voice to Eleanor. “Do whatever it takes, Eleanor.”
The Island of Endeni
When the lids on the two chests were opened, the children screamed with delight and raised their hands. Gye Nyame tossed golden necklaces heavy with diamonds, silver bracelets dotted with pearls, rings with enormous, glittering stones.
Starla looked over at the sleeping pirates, then back to Gye Nyame. Then she thrust her hands in the air like the children. Gye Nyame nodded approvingly at her and pulled an intricately crafted, silver tiara from the chest.
The Tufe traveled on for many hours. The children played with their jewels and the pirates slept on. Gye Nyame gestured to Starla to join him near the lamp stand.
“You are not one of these pirates.”
“Then who are you?”
“Ah. It is your flock they have brought here.”
“My flock is here?”
“Did they not tell you? Yes. Your flock is here. I can take you to them.”
“I desire this above all else, but I am not eager to part company with you, sir. I have many questions.”
“Voice them, daughter.”
Her heart stuck in her throat for a moment.
“Sir, what is the fuel that drives the Tufe?”
He eyed her sternly. “One must dig deep to find this fuel.”
“Show me, sir. It would be of great benefit to my people.”
“Your people.” He looked away, across the horizon.
Starla looked over at the slumbering pirates.
“Clearly, the pirates are not your people, but do not be too hard on them, shepherdess. On the ocean, they have gathered the forsaken gandas* and brought them here.”
He looked at her, his eyes pitying.
“These pirates are driven by a force that I do not truly understand. I think you will be surprised by their reasons for doing the things they do. There is a great darkness coming. They believe your muvvons may be the key to stopping it.”
Eleanor doubted this.
“What is your drive, country girl?” he asked.
At the center of her soul, she found no answer. Only a rock.
After a long time, he spoke again. “You seek to know what drives the Tufe. First, I think you should discern what is driving you. This fuel is good in the right hands, but it is a force of destruction in the hands of the blind and unknowing.”
*Swahili word for pods. In this fictitious world, children are a gift from the Great Creator, sent to the chosen ones in pods that float on the oceans.