Offcourse Literary Journal
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The Raid, a story by Eugene Garber.

"The Raid" is one in a series of stories that take place in or near a tribal compound (woshana) in Upper Amazonia. The protagonist of the stories is a bi-sexual American anthropologist, K. Each of the stories is punctuated by quotations from the writings of a famous philosopher — in this case Ludwig Wittgenstein's "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" (1921). Thus philosophy, anthropology, and narrative fiction carry on an extended conversation, often tense. K's brand of ethnography is "etic" — observational and objective. He abjures the "emic" — interior and emotional, and all congress with metaphysics.

Wittgenstein's Tractatus is often characterized as an astringent treatment of the relationship between language and reality, approaching logical positivism and entirely eschewing metaphysics, in which case Wittgenstein and K may be seen as brothers in thought, and the raid can be described accurately with some carefully constructed propositions. Readers will judge the accuracy of these statements.

The raid in the story is a reprisal for an ambush perpetrated on the Roirúa-peo by the Mureka-peo.

 


Eugene Garber's newest book, "Beasts in their Wisdom", was reviewed in Offcourse Issue#19 . His stories have appeared in Offcourse#17, Offcourse#13 and Offcourse#10. Eugene Garber has published two previous collections of fiction: "Metaphysical Tales", winner of the AWP Award for Short Fiction in 1981, and "The Historian", winner of the William Goyen Award in 1992. His fourth collection, "Vienna ØØ", is forthcoming later this year from Spuyten Duyvil Press. His fiction has been anthologized in The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Fiction, Best American Short Stories, and The Paris Review Anthology, among other compilations.


 

1.The world is all that is the case.

          1.1 K is an accomplished linguist.

          1.2 K has constructed a grammar and lexicon of the language of the Roirúa-peo. Colleagues attest that his phonetic transcriptions are ear perfect. Consequently, his exchanges with tribal members are free of significant distortions. Only Korakama’s speech patterns manifest some variance, especially in the harshness of the affricatives. Korakama is the tribe’s mystery man. The story is that Korakama was born from an anaconda and grew up with monkeys until one day he walked into the woshana. His body had been painted with beautiful designs by Yara, the river goddess. Nobody touched him.

2. The facts in logical space are the world.

            2.1 Korakama is a master rhetorician.

          2.2 Korakama tells K that he keeps his arguments near his hammock in cubby holes only he can see. He takes them down carefully, rubs them until they shine and puts them under his tongue. K’s knowledge of rhetoric is limited. He believes in logos, not ethos or pathos. Etic. Korakama’s cubby holes, he says, hold a myriad of truths, each cubby stuffed with luminous sayings, red, green, blue and many compounds. “You cannot give your dead free to the Mureka-peo,” he tells the tribesmen. His words fly to their ears like darts feathered with toucan plumes, gold and azure. “The spirits of Pydora and Rwoto and Sinaw and all of them are all crying to be released by payment of blood. Do you not hear them?”

            “Eyo cototo! Eyo cototo!”

3. The way a picture attaches itself to reality is by reaching directly into it.

            3.1 Korakama has three pots of color—red, green and blue.

            3.2 Korakama throws the colors into the eyes of the tribesmen before they can blink and then he paints. “You who pulled the spears out, did you not follow with your eyes the red life running out? Did you not see their ash after the pyre, gray and without life? Did you not see their wives become black heaps of weeping? What kind of men see their brothers’ smoke rise up into trees and sky and lie in their hammocks doing nothing? Soon you will be as blind as grubs. You will not see the spear points come over the woshana wall or the enemy take your wives.”

4. It is said that God cannot create anything that is contrary to the laws of logic.

            4.1 K asks Korakama if the gods have created more than one world.

                        4.11 “This is a question only a non-human can ask.”

                        4.12 K understands why he is not human here. He is ghastly white. Hair grows on his body as on a monkey’s. His fecal matter breeds green flies.

                        4.13 “I must ask the question anyway.”

                        “There are many worlds, but we do not know this because we live in this one.”

                        “Have you ever seen another world?”

                        “Yes.”

                        “Was it like this one?”

                        “Yes, only upside down. The river flows to the mountain and the rain falls up.”

                        “Do you know anybody that lives there?”

                        “No. They are the ones that walk on their heads.”

                        “Then the Mureka-peo live with you in this world.”

                        “Yes, but they are evil. We must kill seven of them and take three women.”

                        “Why would you want evil women?”

                        “They would not be evil here. Evil is in the Mureka-peo place. But if they remain evil we will rape them and kill them.”

5. An audio tape, the musical idea, the written notes, and the sound-waves all stand to one another in the same relationship that holds between language and the world.

            5.1 K tapes all important conversations.

                        5.11 K plays back the tape of Korakama calling the Roirúa-peo tribesmen to revenge. In the background he hears men pounding their chests and shouting angrily. K remembers that the men were suddenly struck motionless in various bellicose postures. Bowakawo is in the center of the woshana holding a spear up high. Korakama is standing nearby looking intently at the tableau vivant of war that he has created.

                        5.12 “Why did you make the men stop still?”

                        “I did not do it. The spirit did it.”

                        “What spirit?”

                        “Here.” Korakama pounds his chest so hard that a loud mantel of sound spreads over the woshana. Korakama hums and hunhs. He makes the sound of thrashing spears. Then, from its concealment behind his back comes a machete. He slaps the flat of the blade against his thigh.

                        “Where did you get that?”

                        Korakama laughs. His teeth are stained bronze from chewing caibo. “From the non-humans. I traded a woman, good and young.”

           

6. In order to judge a logical proposition we have to station ourselves outside logic, that is to say, outside the world.

            6.1 K goes on the raid with his camcorder.

                        6.11 K will not carry a spear or kill any Mureka-peo or take any women. K will station himself outside the world of the raid. He will record it. Then he will construct logical propositions. Etic.

                        6.12 There are twenty-three men, some armed with spears, some with bows and arrows. Bowakawo leads. Korakama is in the rear just ahead of K and just behind Rosowara the shaman, who brings his hollow reed and a supply of ebene. When the time comes he will blow it into the noses of the warriors so that they can call up many Kekuxa.

                        Before K begins to record, he looks through the field lens of the camcorder at the backs of the warriors as they course the jungle floor. There is a green light around the framed field that defines the world that K is not in. Etic.

7. If a god creates a world in which certain propositions are true, then by that very act he creates a world in which all the propositions that follow from them are true. Similarly, he could not create a world in which a proposition was true without creating all of its objects.

            7.1 If the raid is part of an ongoing protein war, as K believes, then raids will continue indefinitely unless an abundance of protein is found or the technology for acquiring protein is radically improved or the consumers of protein are vastly reduced.

                        7.11 Suddenly there is a shout at the head of the column of warriors, which then veers off into the forest. Bowakawo has spotted a fallen tree now rotted and punky and full of grubs. The warriors, digging with spears and arrows, pluck out the grubs, pull off their heads and entrails and eat them voraciously.

                        7.12 Korakama gives a grub to K. “Even a non-human will like grubs.”

                        K eats the wiggling grub. It tastes creamy and sweet, something like a raw oyster. “Very good, Korakama. This is good land with much to eat for many peo.”

                        Korakama smiles. “I know the non-humans’ Kekuxa give them speech that does not mean anything.” He laughs raucously. Milky white grub juice spills over his bottom lip.

8. Free will consists in the impossibility of knowing actions that still lie in the future, which we could know only if causality were an inner necessity like logic.

            8.1 K finds that he learns much by making observations that he knows are off the mark. He says to Korakama, “I think that Bowakawo will turn us back now to the woshana.

            “No, because this is begun right. If a thing begun right is stopped, your penis dies.” Korakama grimaces. “The penises of non-humans are different. You can go back now and have many women in the manioc garden while we are gone, but do not take them in your hammock. That is different.”

            “I do not want women.”

            “Now you like boys but you will come to women. This is the way of non-humans.”

            “What will the judgment of the raid be if one of your warriors is killed?”

            “It is a bad raid. But I cannot know that time.”

            “Do you think it is better not to go into a time you do not know?”

                        8.11 “I will tell you something of time but I do not believe a non-human can understand it.”

                        “Tell me.”

                        “Once everything was gray. A god that was a woman bled and color came. Then time was a river without banks. You could go anywhere in it without bumping into anything. Then things got divided. Eels and anacondas and men in canoes came and cut the water apart. Time had banks and falls. Gray mists came and hid dangers. That is how it is now, divided and hidden. Only Rosowara can sometimes go to the old time but not for long. He can see into it only a little way. You say a warrior can be killed. Even Rosowara can not see that in this time of divided waters. We must do it.”

9. How can all embracing logic, which mirrors the world, use such peculiar crochets and contrivances? Because they are all connected with one another in an infinitely fine network, the great mirror.

            9.1 K knows that it is virtually a straight line, like a well executed argument, from the woshana of the Roirúa-peo to the woshana of the Mureka-peo.

                        9.11 After the feast of grubs the warriors do not reassemble in a column to resume their march. They burst apart slobbering grub milk, laughing wildly as if they had ebene in their nostrils. They fan out into the forest yelping like dogs. A warrior spots a monkey and gives the call to action. “Eyo cototo! Eyo cototo!” Others come running. A swarm of arrows flies up at the monkey, which falls to the ground dead. The creature is held up triumphantly by the tail. It is the size of a human infant.

            9.2 All of this K records in his camcorder, neatly framed in luminous green brackets. When the exultant clamor at last subsides, the warriors gather up their spent arrows from the forest floor. Several are lodged in the tree. A nimble youth climbs up and frees them. Some of the arrows are particularly valuable. They were shot at the moon in eclipse and gathered in the morning, their accuracy guaranteed.

                        9.21 K will plumb the logical connection between the raid and these seemingly curious diversions, grubs and monkey. Maybe the connective is protein.

                        9.22 Before dark they come to a lagoon where a loosely packed school of small piranhas swims in desultory circles. An older warrior pricks his wrist with his spear and drops blood into the water. A sudden alertness electrifies the fish, then an atrocious thrashing. Korakama leaps forward with his machete and slices through the roiled mass. Within moments it is a vortex of cannibalistic red so bright that it spills over and obliterates the green brackets in K’s camcorder, the camera oscura now a chamber of blood.

                        9.23 K will plumb the logic of these discursions—grub, monkey, and fish. Some kind of rehearsal?

                        9.24 Shortly after nightfall they reach the woshana of the Mureka-peo. Quietly they surround the manioc garden and lie in wait. The underbrush is sparse. Each warrior must choose and arrange his cover carefully. Bowakawo inspects each covert, occasionally directing Korakama to cut with his machete some foliage to improve concealment. Then all settle down.

10. If there would be a logic even if there were no world, how then could there be a logic given that there is a world?

            10.1 K knows that in a matter of a few hours much blood will be spilled.

                        10.11 The logic of grubs is protein.

                        10.12 The logic of the monkey is rehearsal.

                        10.13 The logic of piranhas is blood.

11. Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.

            11.1 It is not the job of the ethnographer to anticipate but to observe. Etic.

                        11.11 K looks through the green frame of his camcorder. All is dark, the top of the Mureka-peo woshana hardly a shadow against the black forest behind. All is quiet, supper inside the woshana done, the people asleep in their hammocks.

                        11.12 K falls asleep though it was his intention to stay awake all night. In a dream state K’s sees the hours climb toward the future along the face of a wall woven of bamboo and palmettos. He tries to pull the hours down off the wall by its tail. But its prehensile hands and feet are too strong for K. They continue to climb.

12. How things are in the world is a matter of complete indifference for what is higher. God does not reveal himself in the world.

            12.1 Just before dawn Rosowara goes around with his hollow reed and blows ebene into the nostrils of all but K, who waves him away.

            12.2 The sun slices into the manioc garden like Korakama’s machete.

            12.3 The Mureka-peo men and women come to empty their bowels and to complete trysts that are not permitted in their hammocks.

            12.4 K looks through the green frame of his camcorder.

                        12.41 The steadiness of K’s recording is disturbed by a twitching of his nostrils.

                        12.42 The odor of feces is pungent and vegetal.

                        12.43 The odor of semen is rich, heady and erotic.

                        12.44 The odor of blood is like salt-corroded metal.

            12.5 The spears are sharp and draw howls and blood. The arrows are piercing and draw shrieks and blood. But there is nothing in the garden like Korakama’s machete. A head severed from its body does not howl.

            12.6 Korakama and Bowakawo are true to the plan. When seven men lie dead and three women are chosen to be taken away, the rest are allowed to escape back to the woshana. And then the Roirúa-peo warriors and their captives run like river rapids. The women are struck across the mouth and understand that they must run silently.

            12.7 The forest floor streams across the green brackets of K’s camcorder like a swift river of earth and grass. He snaps off the camcorder, slings it across his back and runs. Rosowara the shaman runs ahead of him. K’s shod feet are clumsy compared to those of the barefoot coursers, but his legs are strong so he is able to keep up. Soon they will re-enter in triumph the woshana of the Roirúa-peo.

13. It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists.

            13.1 K is not an ignorant man. He has heard the question propounded: why is there something instead of nothing? It is a pseudo-question of the kind that is always creeping like a lizard out of the miasma of metaphysics. Emic, or worse. His job is to describe the raid with the help of his camcorder and analyze its internal logic.

14. What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

 


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