The Artifact (Book 2, Time Trilogy)

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Chapter Fifty-One: Birthday Presents and History Lessons

July 2023
Nellie Bay Golf Club
Nellie Bay, Virginia

}}}-----> MORGAN <-----{{{

Feeling more refreshed, Morgan meets Jessica, her mom, and the two boys in the club’s dining room, while they wait for her father to come out of the men’s locker room. She peruses the menu, deciding on the steak wrap and asparagus, then helps Andy read his menu, even though he knew he was going to get chicken tenders and fries before he had even arrived at the table. The restaurant is full today, but tucked away in the corner, the noise is muted with soft music playing over the sound system.

Finally, Brent arrives, fresh from his morning on the green. “I’ve improved my game, only losing ten balls to the water! And now that that’s over, I couldn’t ask for a better birthday - my whole family together!”

Morgan gets up and gives her dad a giant hug, then a kiss on his bearded cheek. “I’m just glad you didn’t get lost out there!” She laughs. “Happy Birthday, Dad!”

“Thanks, sweetheart,” he returns with a soft grin. “It’s good to have you here!”

After a few more jabs at Brent’s poor golfing skills, the family orders their food, enjoying a delightful lunch, filled with laughter and lighthearted conversation. Morgan asks about the family dental business, and all three of the adults regale her with stories of their latest adventures in dental hygiene. In response to the news about their new x-ray machine, Morgan asks Andy, “Have you gotten to try it out yet?”

The little boy, whose grandparents are dentists and mother is a dental hygienist, proudly nods. “Me and Curtis were the first kids to get x-rayed! And you know what? It can detect cavities twenty-five times better than the old x-ray machine!”

Morgan giggles at the pride both boys show in their dental knowledge and beams inside at the pride the rest of the adults have for the boys - they’re definitely not deprived of love.

Finally, it’s time for cake. The serving staff rolls the fanciful white and blue two-tiered dessert out, already lit with candles, and soon everyone in the room joins in on the “Birthday Song,” with a good-sized round of applause coming after the final off-key note. Morgan’s dad blows out the candles in one big breath, and after another round of applause from those at the table, Curtis asks his grandfather what he’d wished for.

“I can’t tell you what I wished for, Curt - otherwise it won’t come true.” Then his smile turns softer as he looks at everyone around the table, giving his wife’s hand a loving squeeze. “You know, I don’t really need to wish for a thing. God has blessed me with good health and a career that I not only love, but have done well in. And most of all, I’m blessed to just have all of you. A man couldn’t ask for a better family at fifty years of age.”

All three women find themselves a bit teary-eyed, and Morgan surmises that despite the ups and downs of life, they all really do have much to be grateful for. After one week with Wahya, she clearly sees that their lives, with all kinds of modern conveniences at their fingertips, are much less stressful, or at least easier to manage, in comparison to where he came from and the life he’s lived.

The restaurant begins clearing by the time birthday gifts are presented. Diane gives her husband tickets for a seven-day Caribbean cruise, which she says she’s already booked time off for on their work calendars, scheduling their backup associate to take emergency calls for their patients. Jessica presents a special men’s facial care package, complete with an ergonomic beard trimmer. And for Grandpa, the boys both gave hand-drawn cards and a gift certificate to the movie theater - enough for tickets, popcorn, and drinks for the three of them.

“This is from me,” Morgan says, handing her gift to her father. “Happy Birthday, Dad!”

Brent opens the small, elegantly wrapped box from his youngest daughter to find an antique pocket watch - the inside engraved with “Happy 50th Birthday, Dad! Love you always, Morgan.”

“I thought this one would go nicely with your collection!” She explains, knowing her dad had a penchant for old timepieces.

“Oh, sweetheart, it’s lovely! Thank you!” He pats her hand, then admires the miniature clock again before Jessica calls for a toast and the family members raise their glasses in honor of their patriarch.

Finally, as conversation winds down, the boys ask if they can go back outside, and beg their grandfather to come along. Looking at her watch, Morgan decides that now would be a good time to take her leave, for Wahya’s translation session with Tracie should be ending soon.

“Oh, Morgan, it’s Saturday. Are you sure you won’t stay the night and head home tomorrow?” Her mother asks.

“Yeah,” Dad chimes in. “Maybe we can talk your mom into fixing waffles and scrambled eggs for breakfast. We only get the fattening breakfasts when someone stays over.”

Morgan giggles at her dad’s attempt at bribery and to trick her mother into fixing his favorite breakfast. “As much as I would love that, I can’t. I have to get back...”

She trails off and her mother proudly, yet coyly fills in, “She’s got a boyfriend, dear.”

Brent raises his eyebrows in surprise, tentatively smiling. “How am I just hearing about this?”

Interrupting her parents, Morgan tries to hold back her blush, while Jessica tries to stifle her own smile. “Like I told Mom, we’re taking it day by day, so don’t go celebrating just yet.”

“Who said anything about celebrating?” Brent says half seriously. “What’s this guy’s name anyways?”

“Wahya!” Andy exclaims with pride. “And he’s a real Indian!”

Morgan feels even more embarrassed - her love life not being something she necessarily wanted to discuss at her father’s birthday - and her face goes red.

“From Columbia to be exact,” Jessica picks up for Andy.

And Curtis continues, “Andy says he helped bake cookies while I was at the hospital!”

“So, everyone knows about him except for me?!” Brent states more than asks with chagrin.

Morgan laughs suddenly, as she hadn’t been able to utter one word about Wahya, yet her family had somehow gathered enough information on their own to fill her dad in without her.

“It’s okay, Dad,” Morgan finally edges in. “I like him a lot, but things are complicated with his situation right now, so we’ll see how things go.” Addressing the entire family, she smiles, suddenly hoping that she just might be able to bring Wahya to see them one day. She stands. “I love you guys, but I must be off.”

After everyone had their fill of hugs and kisses, Morgan finally gets back on the road to Richmond City. She nervously watches the time and her phone, wondering what’s happening with Wahya, sure that James will call her when they’re done, if not sooner.

}}}-----> * <-----{{{

July 2023
Richmond City University’s Medical Clinic
Richmond City, Virginia

}}}-----> WAHYA <-----{{{

It was difficult to know where to start, as Wahya had so many questions for Tracie, James, and even Emory. Yet, what was frivolous, and what was important? He didn’t want to take up all of their time on silly questions.

James and Emory both sit to one side, while Tracie takes her desk, and Wahya across from her. The doctor reads Morgan’s note, figuring that it’s probably the best place to start.

So that Emory can take notes, she reads the questions aloud in English first, then repeats them in Tsalagi for Wahya to answer - the majority of them are simply confirmations of basic information in which they were pretty sure they’d gotten right through the drawings of the last couple days. When they finished these questions, with James and Emory adding to the dialog, Wahya takes his turn by asking questions of his own to fill in the gaps he’s had about his new friends.

“How do people get their food - I do not see anyone going hunting and the only crops I have seen worked was at Ned’s...? What about clothes and houses? Tell me about your society - how come people live by themselves, like Morgan? What happened to larger family groups, like how my people live… or lived?”

Tracie spends a long while explaining the social roles of contemporary American people as best she can, while talking about economics, a little about politics, and how the government is handled, as Wahya listens with fascination. James and Emory add their two cents, while James especially finds this topic interesting from an anthropological perspective. This is a first-person account of the differences in societies between time periods. Something that modern anthropologists never get to experience.

Finally, Tracie turns to the professor. “I saved this one for last. I understand where Morgan is coming from, but I wanted your thoughts as an anthropologist on the matter before proceeding. If Wahya is going to be staying here permanently, he needs to know about the history of his people from his time period to now. But, as we don’t know what forces brought him here, or if they’ll reoccur to take him back, should he be told everything?”

Emory smiles inwardly, knowing he’d planted that seed in Morgan’s mind yesterday, and he looks at James, knowing the ethical questions that are floating in both Tracie and James’ minds now.

“This is something I’d already thought about heavily, and a big part of me says, yes - we should tell him. Yet, if he ends up going back to his own time tomorrow, would knowing change history?”

“I say do it!” Emory voices his opinion eagerly. “If he can change history, it would only be for the betterment of the Native American people, right?”

James doesn’t answer immediately, but asks rhetorically in return, “But do we have the right to do that? For better or worse, is it our place?”

“I know neither of you are in the right field to know if I’m on the right track,” Tracie interjects. “But what if he’s already went back and created the history that we know. Kind of like a loop, if you know what I mean.”

When both guys return quizzical looks, she continues. “Okay, so when the Europeans came to North America, the Cherokee people were one of the primary tribes who took up the new ways of the country more quickly and easier than any other tribe. Most people don’t realize that before the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee in Georgia were reading and writing better than most of their White counterparts, amassed wealth, and some even owned plantations and African slaves of their own. They had sustained their own economy just as equally, if not better than the country’s European newcomers.”

“That’s right!” James recalls. “Sequoyah created the syllabary alphabet and reading and writing within the tribe spread like wildfire.”

Tracie nods. “Not that I’m saying someone like Wahya would have had to start a new mindset in the people for them to be ready to adapt to the changes brought on by colonization, but what if he did - or will?”

“So, then if we don’t tell him, we could be changing history!?” Emory connects her thinking.

“Wow,” James leans back in his seat, his mind blown at the concept. “That creates quite the conundrum, huh?!”

As they all grow quiet, Wahya speaks up. “Is there a problem?”

Tracie replies tactfully, “Not really a problem.” She tries with difficulty to give him a summed-up explanation of the ethics behind changing history and Wahya nods with true concern, wondering what in the world would be so monumental that his knowing might affect the progress of history should he be able to return home.

“I still say you should tell him,” Emory votes again. “Even if, on his own, he isn’t enough to affect history, apparently the Cherokee people were able to adapt as best as possible considering the obstacles of the American government. I don’t think it would hurt.”

James clears his throat and gives Emory a piercing look. “Perhaps it won’t hurt history, but do you realize what the sudden knowledge of the attempted genocide and removal of his people will do psychologically to Wahya personally?”

Tracie adds with a tone of sorrow in her voice, “It’s hard enough learning our history as a descendant. But knowing what your future children or grandchildren will have to endure would be quite upsetting for me. Yet, on that note, I do think he has a right to know.”

“Very well. Let’s do it,” James concedes after a moment.

Wahya knows that whatever they’re discussing must be deeply important, and when Tracie finally begins, she warns him that what she will say is very unpleasant and that all of them will understand his feelings. He swallows with apprehension, wetting his drying lips nervously. “Continue.”

It takes Tracie half an hour to cover the basic history of England, Spain, and France’s exploration and resulting colonization of the Americas, and the bringing of African slaves from a whole other part of the world that Wahya had never heard of. Then she carefully broaches the subject of the Native Americans’ history thereafter. Wahya listens intently, his face clouding over as she talks about the wars, massacres, and hatred between the European newcomers and the tribes of the Americas.

“Don’t get me wrong, Wahya, not everyone hated the tribes-people, and there are several instances where individuals from both sides were friends. Just as much as there were troublemakers on both sides. But as a whole, it was awful.”

She speaks about how President Andrew Jackson in the 1830s called for the removal of the Cherokee and four other tribes to land further west, and that thousands of people died either en route to Oklahoma, or because they wouldn’t leave their homes in the American south. And while her speech was stilted, Wahya understood.

“It was greed for land that brought about the near destruction of the Tsalagi people and other tribes. Tribes who were once enemies had to fight alongside each other to survive. The American government wanted our people to disappear, to be wiped out. In the end, Native Americans either sold out or were removed from their land, given poor pieces of land in return, and forced to publicly abandon many of their rights, beliefs, and languages. Many children were taken away from their families and given to White families to be raised in the new American way. My grandparents were part of that.”

Tears spring to Tracie’s eyes as she thinks about the hardships her grandparents endured, and those before them, and how blessed she is now to be able to hold onto her culture as civil rights movements have helped to repair some of the damage done to her people. Wahya goes from angry to sad, and silently angry again at the atrocities that his people have endured, and he knows that Tracie can only cover the big stuff in the amount of time she has and her limited linguistic abilities. It would probably take a lifetime to uncover all the hurt caused by greed and hatred.

“But you are a respected medicine woman and healer,” Wahya points out. “How is this?”

“Yes, I am fortunate to have ancestors who did not give up and were strong. In the last century, many people who have been wronged by society have made a stand, and slowly our rights and our place in this nation have started to make a comeback. But there is still a long way to go. Maybe someday we will have true equality and respect as a people.

“The Cherokee did not give up and kept their own government and language alive. But many smaller tribes are still not acknowledged by the American government and do not have the rights they should. And some completely died off long ago.”

Wahya thinks to his own time, and considers the political relationships between tribes. “And the Haudenosaunee [Iroquois] are no longer our enemy?”

Tracie laughs a little, “No, not anymore.”

Wahya sits silently for a moment, then glances to Emory and James. Even as a Cherokee woman, Tracie looks ‘different’ in a way, though her features are more similar to the women who raised him. He recalls all the people he’s seen in this time period, thinking about Emory’s blonde hair, Samantha’s dark red, and finally, Morgan’s gorgeous green-blue-yellow eyes.

His heart aches with the realization, but he has to ask, “My friends here... Are they all descendants of the, what did you call them? Europeans?”

“Yes, Wahya,” Tracie nods. “Even I have a grandmother on my mother’s side who is European. Much of the country is made up of the descendants of our tribal people, the Europeans, and the African people who were brought by the Europeans. And since then, people still come to live in America from nations around the world. Over a few hundred years, we’ve mixed our blood and families together, creating a very unique American culture. Each of us has our own unique ancestors and cultural traditions.”

Wahya thinks on this for a moment, then prods, “And there’s no more wars and fighting between the people here in America, then?”

“Oh, we don’t necessarily all get along. There is still hatred, greed, and fighting, but we have come a long way from the beginning of our coexistence. We have not had a war inside this country for almost two hundred years, though we have fought wars with other countries, across the water.”

“I see,” Wahya replies. “And do the Native and African people fight alongside the European descendants in these other wars?”

“Oh, yes. And quite a few Native Americans have been awarded for bravery and heroism.”

Wahya smirks at this, stating proudly and matter-of-factly, “Of course they have. We have been brave warriors since time immemorial.” He turns contemplative again, so many thoughts running through his mind. “This is a lot to take in. Not only do I learn of a great tragedy to our people, but that the world I was living in was far more complex than I realized. While the Cherokee and Haudenosaunee were fighting among each other, other people I never imagined existed were building their own forces and governments to conquer the world.”

He frowns, “As a brave, I understand the desire for land and conquest - that is a concept that is as old as man. As wrong as it is, it is the way of people. But I will never understand how they could tear children away from their parents to destroy our culture. I know of evil men who do cruel things to women and children - it is an abomination.”

Tracie nods, expressing her agreement, “I think most people today would agree with you, Wahya. Unfortunately, there will always be evildoers in the world, and that is what we all must fight.”

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