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Piqued - A Toki Ponist Adventure
Chapter 10: Insta-dam

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nimi telo li ken ala telo.
Toki Ponist Pu

Tipi avoided walking in the stream itself, but with the trees and rocks in the way and the hurry he was in, he jumped in. The cold shock subsided and the heaviness of soaked shoes and numb feet became a fact of life. He could now make headway again on his path. Of course, he was not sure Julian went this way at all, but the two women and the dream girl told him that the boy would be. In the water, Julian would not leave any footprint or trace of any other kind.

After a few hundred meters, he stopped. Julian couldn’t have gone this far. Close by, he heard the unmistakable sound of rocks tumbling down into the water and onto themselves. It was further up. Tipi reached around the corner and saw a man with knee-high boots and an orange polyester shirt balancing a pile of stones. Tipi looked around if he could see Julian.

“Oh hey,” the man said when he turned around to see who was making the sloshing sound behind him. The pile of rocks varying from fist-size to skull-sized tumbled again.

“Did you see a small boy walk by?”

“Nope. It’s just been me and my rocks for the entire afternoon. To be honest, I tried to find a spot where a constant flow of loudmouth hikers would not bother me.” He looked at the flustered and ramshackle appearance of Tipi. “But you’re welcome to sit and watch.”

“I have to find my boy,” Tipi said. He looked around. Should he go back or find the nearest path? He could be anywhere by now.

Water splashed behind him. “Tipi! Tipi!”

“Julian, where the hell were you?” He ran up to the boy and hugged him.

“I saw you walk away, so I followed you, but you went so fast. I thought you wanted to get rid of me.” He tried to hold himself in, but soon tears flowed. Tipi took the boy to the side and climbed on a large boulder where they could sit and rest. They also had an excellent view of the stone balancer in the water.

“What’s that man doing?” Julian said when he had dried his tears.

“He’s building a tower of rocks.”

“I do that. But he’s a grownup!”

“Whatever a child likes to do, a grownup likes to do too. The only difference is that a grownup will too serious about it. You build small towers and dams in the water. This guy operates on a next level. Look.”

The orange man found a flat rock in the center of the stream that stuck out just above the waterline so that water rushed by left and right but not over it. With a sleight of hand, he placed a fist-sized rock on the flat bottom. Then he grabbed a rather flat rock from a pile that had collapsed moments before and balanced it on the smaller round rock, in such a way that one side of the flat rock stuck out to one side.

“That will never work,” Julian whispered to Tipi.

“Watch.” The balancer did not let go of the flat rock. Instead, he took another odd rock and placed it on top of the flat rock as a counter-balance. His hands caressed the stones, feeling when the rocks did not want to move on their own anymore. He let go, and the stack remained. Then he stepped away and took a larger, heavy boulder with both hands and turned it over so that only a narrow protrusion stuck on the bottom side. With patience and care, the man brought the boulder over to the stable stack and after a long inspection of the surface on the top-most rock, he placed the boulder on top. He did not let go yet. In utmost concentration, he danced with the boulder for at least three minutes. Then he let go. The stack remained.

“Whoa,” Julian said. “It looks impossible.”

The man first took a few careful steps back and then ran to a camera that he had set up beforehand on a tripod. He took a few snaps and a short video. Then, without an obvious cause, the stone structure collapsed.

“Yes!” the man exclaimed. “Got it.” He walked up to the two spectators with his camera and showed them the picture. “Complete balance.”

“Until it toppled over,” Tipi said.

“Amazing,” Julian said. “How do you do it?”

“You’ve got to feel it, kid. And years of practice. It’s all in the grooves too. It looks like the top rock is balancing on a tiny point of contact only, but its sides touch small dents in the rock below. So it’s more like placing a small chair than balancing a needle.”

“Do they always fall down like that,” Tipi asked.

“You’re fun company, aren’t you?” the man said. Then he turned to Julian. “Some of them can last for years, but the most spectacular heaps are the crazy ones. The piles you think are magic. They get the most likes.” He showed a few pictures of gravity defying constellations on his smart phone.

“It will ruin their lives,” Tipi said.

“Right. They put a like on my pictures to feel rotten.”

“You sell them this image of balance, as if it is something you can attain.”

“But you can attained it, I just showed you.”

Tipi stacked two plain boulders on top of each other. “I can attain this kind of balance, but nobody is seeking that. They seek the balance for a life that looks like one of your contraptions. A superb job, meaningful hobbies, noble friends, exemplary children, a solid bank account, far away travels, and some spiritual glue to stick it all together. They want to balance all that and they think it is something that you crawl towards and then have it forever.”


“But it’s unstable. It crumbles. Most often before you ever get there or else soon after you think you have it all balanced out.” Tipi points to the camera. “In your pictures, the balance is eternal, but in reality it’s instable as hell.”

“What do you expect me to do about it? People know they have to work hard.”

“You can work hard for it, and you can keep working to stay in equilibrium on top of your self-made mountain. But the minute you slack. You fall off.” Tipi threw the stones he had stacked into the water. “If you can’t enjoy the balance, it’s not much of a balance.”

“To each their own hobby.”

Tipi had out outstayed his welcome with his critical words and turned to Julian. “I think we should move on now. The afternoon is ticking away.” Julian, who had been poking with a stick between pebbles in the water, returned to Tipi.

“Good man, how do we get to the nearest trail?”

He pointed them up a slope. They followed his directions until they found a gravel path wide enough for a car to drive on. They followed the path downhill for a few minutes. Their feet were wet and their shoes squeaked from the water that got stuck in all the pores and crevices of their footwear. It was becoming very uncomfortable and cold.

Something on the side of the path caught their attention. It looked like an animal. A dead one. “It’s a pig,” Julian exclaimed. “Ew, they’re eating it.” Several black birds hopped left and right around the open carcass of the diseased boar.

“They are crows,” a dark voice said. A shadow passed over them and the scavengers. Tipi shook up and only now noticed the two bird watchers standing right behind them. He had to curtail his instinct to get away from them as soon as possible. “People say crows are an omen for bad fortune and death,” one of the bird watchers said. “But of course those are just folk tales. Do you like birds, young man?” he said to Julian. Tipi grabbed Julian’s arm, even though he was not sure what he had to protect Julian from.

“Did you know,” the other bird watcher started. “That a group of crows is called a murder? A murder of crows.” He laughed.

Tipi didn’t hesitate. “Run!” he yelled to Julian. Tipi turned Julian away from the boar and pulled him into a dash up the slope. They ran and ran. At the sound of loud cawing and wings flapping, Tipi looked over his shoulder to see the murder of crows scatter into individual crows. The two menacing binocular men had vanished. When Tipi and Julian arrived at a crossroads, they stopped.

Julian looked up at Tipi with sad, questioning eyes. “I don’t know,” Tipi huffed. “These guys looked like bad news.” A crow landed on a low-hanging branch right in front of them. Tipi yelled and screamed at the animal until it flew away.

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