An Unlikely Choice

04 Jan 2007

The day of Choosing had arrived.

All of the boys gathered in the center of town, carrying only small rucksacks with food and essentials. Their eyes darted to one another, then back to the ground as if examining the already familiar scuffs and scrapes on their shoes. The town square buzzed with excitement, murmurs were traded by the townspeople and blended with the din of animal sounds. Each grown man was accompanied by his totem – the animal that complemented him, giving balance to his personality and strength. These men had all been through this ceremony, the passage from being a boy into becoming a man.

Most of the boys knew which animal would choose him; it tended to run in the family. If he got the same totem as his father, the family’s status in the town would be sustained. Some families lost out in the process, others made significant gains.

The crowd split, opening a path to the main road out of town. The boys began to shuffle out in a pack, heading toward the forest outside of town and to the plains beyond. Some were more mature than others, striding at the front of the pack like men, even without their totems. Others still had the wide eyes and big feet of adolescence, their slightly oversized clothing hanging from shoulders and bunching around ankles, hats pulled low around their ears. Erman Desedo, the smallest boy, skinny, and shorter than the rest, tried his best to stay in the middle of the pack. It was as if he thought he’d be lost on the outside.

The boys were gone for three days, as it was written and as it had always been. Those who had led the pack as it left led the pack back into the town. They strode toward the town square accompanied by lions, wolves, and with eagles perched on their shoulders. One rode a black stallion. Behind them a group of boys had razorback hogs trotting at their ankles, small dogs scampering aside them. One had a large snake that coiled around his body, another simply carried a frog in his hands. The smallest boy was missing; he had not yet come out of the forest. Occasionally there were boys who didn’t come back. Part of the Choosing was that the boys split up once they got to the forest, their totems always chose them when they were alone. Some boys couldn’t survive in the forest on their own, especially if their totem didn’t choose them before the final night. Being alone for that time period could certainly be deadly. Writ dimly on the brows of many townspeople was the thought that little Erman Desedo may be amongst the lost.

Then the trees at the edge of the forest shook, relieving themselves of their leaves. Branches began to part as if shoved aside by the hands of an invisible giant. Then a true giant appeared. A massive elephant began to lumber out of the forest. As it came closer a dark spot could be seen on its back. As the spot took form, the spot became a wide brimmed hat accompanied by a long staff, almost as long as the elephant itself. A slumped body rocked in rhythm with the loping stride of the elephant.

Erman’s father moved to the edge of the town, his lemur perched on his shoulder and squinting like its master. His eyes misted and began to tear. Others nearby glanced at him, some with admiration, others with jealousy. No matter their reaction they now knew that this child was stronger than any could have imagined, they now knew this child would lead them.

Translated from the original text by Robb C.


  1. […] It’s no secret that we like to throw down; one could even call it a part of our company’s culture — an ingredient of the Desedo mystique. So when we teamed up with the good folks at Oddcast and Fuel Industries to sponsor an evening of Rock Band, we knew the scores would be high and the charisma flowing (along with the Newcastle). We couldn’t have predicted, however, that by the end of the night the ladies would have frozen the fellas out from the game console. Shaking his head, our ancestral forbear Erman might have pulled at his thin beard wistfully saying, “así es la vida.” Such is life. […]