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In a town of wires and winter snows L. worked in the way of his people in the shelter of mats and posts.

There was the way of his people and the way that he felt. Also there were stories. Everyone told the same stories and he had heard them all many times. He understood the stories changed: morals turned off different tongues.

The story of the salamander. One day a neighbor told him of the salamander and that taking any life, the smallest most insignificant life, can leave a mortal stain on the conscience. The next day the baker told him the same story, to remind L. that even the murder of one’s own kin may be the lesser of two evils. L. couldn’t help but believe them in turn.

Stories changed as well with the passage of time. The tellers divined new details, curlicued tangents.
The old man in the square always told the story of the hill. How it bedded the cloud. How it grabbed at the sun. How it exuded the gloom. Each time L. looked to the sky and saw the change.

Old threads looped like twisted organs, atrophied, and fell away. Truth remained uncertain until the voice of the story had quieted.

He could not help but listen. L. loved how the people spoke. The changes held him in suspense. He revisited certain words for hours and days, working dilligently through his silences, reconstructing his day. He experimented with what could be felt, how much could be thought, where the difference could be seen.

Every storyteller needs practice. However L. did not like to speak.

L.s’ brother was much older than him. His father was dead. His mother was silent since his father was dead and his brother lived in the field. Three times a week his brother came and brought milk for their dinner and told the story of family, sometimes about his elders and sometimes about his kids and after that there was only silence.

One week L.s’ brother came with the bucket of milk and as they sat down to eat he looked at his plate and began telling a new story called Distance.

We are the people of Tall Grass, he said, we have our animals fields and homes, and Distance is everything else. We know the clouds and the blue and the black and the yellow sun, and Distance is what we don’t know. We’ve seen spring time, calving and decay, Distance is what we’ve never seen. And so on, the brother told the story of Distance. L. had never heard it told that way.

L. went back to work the next day, loading flour at market. He said to himself: Thomas and William and Katherine spoke today. Distance is what they did not say. Thomas and William and Katherine spoke today. Distance is those who were silent.

L. left the settlement and was gone for many years. More people talked about the distance and they talked about L.

And L. learned to tell stories. He told stories about his people and changed them as he felt.

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