Problems and Solutions
By the time Samuel was eight months old, Patrick had determined five more cases, only two of which were ‘simple’, the others being both time-consuming and complex. Rachel was working hard on the revisions of the Dupain and the Williams chapters of her dissertation. So Patrick had spent an increasing amount of time caring for Samuel – and once Samuel was into quasi-food, six or seven hours at a time. “Quasi-food” -- pureed vegetables, fruit and meat; Cheeri-Os, pieces of bagel; then bits of meat, poultry and fish.
Rachel got the Dupain chapter Okayed the second time she revised it and went directly to Williams, using the New Guinea photo and the London pen-and-ink that Gordy had noticed as transitional works.
Samuel liked to play peek-a-boo and seemed to listen when spoken to. And suddenly he seemed to understand some words: ‘shoe’ and ‘juice’ and ‘foot’ seemed to be first. And he began to make repetitive noises: ‘dadada’ and ‘bibibi.’ And he’d hold up his arms to be picked up. And, before his first birthday, he produced ‘hi’ and ‘dadada’ and ‘mama.’ He was well on his way to real communication.
“Is he developing right for his age?” Rachel asked.
“Young wedge-tailed eagles depend on their parents for food for up to six months after hatching. They leave the parental nest only when the next breeding season approaches,” Patrick responded.
“Don’t be an ass!”
“Let me look at the book ... It says that boys fourteen months old average ‘just over 22 lbs.’ ... and ‘the average length for these boys is almost 31 inches.’”
“How much is that?”
“Unh ... just over ten kilo and 78 centimetres.”
“Well, then he’s too tall. He was about 10018 grams at the pediatrician’s an hour ago but just over 80 centimetres.”
“Did she seem unhappy?”
“Not at all.”
“Then I wouldn’t worry. What did Sam say?”
“He said ‘Hi, lady.’ And ‘bye.’ And ‘Home now?’”
“Sounds OK to me.”
“What did the doctor say?”
“Six months unless there’s a problem.”
“Well, there you are. You produced a healthy boy who’s marginally taller and heavier than the average. He’d have to be over 12 kilo and 82 centimetres to be in the highest 5%. I guess he won’t be a professional basketballer.”
“Don’t make fun of me!”
“I’m not, I’m just an out-of-work lawyer.”
That evening, Patrick told Samuel an eagle tale from the Pacific Northwest. In it, eagle and raven attempted to recover the spirits from their island. But on the return flight, crow found his basket very heavy, so he stopped and put down the basket and opened it a crack, and all the spirits escaped and returned to the isle of the dead.
“Interesting. Just like Orpheus looking back.”
“Or Lot’s wife.”
“Yes. Transgressing the rules is never good.”
“Pandora. Sisyphus. Prometheus.”
“Next month I want to take Samuel out late and show him the stars. He won’t see Aquila, but that’s OK.”
“The Eagle. I will need to introduce Samuel to his totem. He will need to know about his totem. It’s one of the 48 constellations described by Ptolemy, the second-century astronomer. It had been earlier mentioned by Eudoxus in the fourth century BCE. The Greek Aquila is probably based on the Babylonian constellation of the Eagle, which is located in the same area as the Greek constellation, though not the same stars.
“It is often thought to represent the eagle which held Zeus’s/Jupiter’s thunderbolts in mythology. Aquila is also associated with the eagle that kidnapped Ganymede.
In Hinduism, the constellation Aquila is identified with the half-eagle half-human deity Garuda.
“In Ancient Egypt, Aquila was seen as the falcon of Horus.”
“What about Garuda?”
“According to the first book of theMahabharata, when Garuda first burst forth from his egg, he appeared as a raging inferno equal to the cosmic conflagration that consumes the world at the end of every age. Frightened, the gods begged him for mercy. Garuda, hearing their plea, reduced himself in both size and energy. Garuda had six sons (Sumukha, Suvarna, Subala, Sunaama, Sunethra and Suvarchas) from whom were descended the race of birds. The members of this race were of great might and without compassion, subsisting on their relatives the snakes.”
“You’ve been studying.”
“I’ve nothing better to do. I’m waiting for a job offer and being a child-care worker in the interim. If Samuel is Bunjil, we should know about it, lest the eagle devour our snakes.”
“Aesop tells us
An eagle swooped down upon a serpent and seized it in his talons. But the serpent was too quick for him and had its coils round him in an instant. There ensued a life-and-death struggle. A farmer, who was a witness, came to the aid of the eagle, and succeeded in freeing him from the serpent, allowing him to escape. In revenge, the serpent spat some of his venom into the man’s drinking-horn. The man was about to drink from the horn when the eagle knocked it out of his hand, spilling its poisoned contents upon the ground.
“What’s Aesop’s moral?”
“One good turn deserves another.”
“Right. Can I abandon you with Samuel tomorrow?”
“Yes. But why?”
“There’s a gallery opening. I’ll cover it, do a 650-word piece and send it in. Easy money and it keeps my career on track.”
“You don’t need it.”
“Yes I do! I’m not an idle dependant!”
“You know, there’s another of Aesop’s fables:”
An eagle, seized a lamb and carried him off in his talons. A jackdaw, witnessing the capture of the lamb, was envious and decided to emulate the strength and flight of the eagle. He flew around with a great whir of his wings and settled upon a large ram, with the intention of carrying him off, but his claws became entangled in the ram’s fleece and he was unable to let go, although he fluttered with his feathers as much as he could. The shepherd, seeing what had happened, ran up and caught him. The shepherd clipped the jackdaw’s wings, and took him home at night, giving him to his children as a pet. On their asking, “Father, what kind of bird is it?” he replied, “I am positive that he is a daw; but he would like you to think that he’s an eagle.”
“And you’re lovely.”
Patrick was reading The elephant’s child to Samuel one day, when his phone rang.
“Good morning, Patrick Hollister ... Yes ... Yes ... I don’t think so ... I’m licensed only in New South Wales ... Oh? Really? ... Yes, I’m willing to meet ... Tomorrow morning? ... Yes, I think so. The Court building on Phillips? 1100? Yes, I’ll be there.”
“Daddy go bye?”
“Tomorrow, Sam. Let’s find out what happens to that elephant with ‘satiable curtiosity’ right now.” And they finished the book. Samuel had a drink and went down for his nap.
When Rachel got home, Patrick told her they had much to discuss.
“I got a call from a bloke in the Ministry for Aboriginal Affairs for Western Australia. He’s here meeting with Mrs. Mitchell. Apparently, they have a problem and he’s seeking help. Mrs. Mitchell told him to talk to Jason and to Sean. Don’t laugh! Anyway, both of them referred him to me. He wants to meet with me tomorrow morning.”
“Well, I’ll stay home with Samuel. No problem there.”
“And if I need to fly west?”
“We’ll manage. I can easily get my mum to come for a few days or a week. I bet I could get Sayuri to help out.”
“Is your pin-stripe clean?”
“Yes. You’re going to dress me up, eh?”
“Right-o! Patrick will dress to impress.”
Patrick returned home after 1400. “Well?...” was Rachel’s greeting.
“I don’t know. I really don’t know. It’s very complex. And, strangely, I know about it.”
“I think you need to explain a lot.”
“OK. You remember Rob?”