Tiputa Pit Stop

— Chapter 5 —

A creature, feared by all, because of its horrid stink. The pomparu likes stinky things, it is drawn to them. The word ‘pomparu’ is sometimes used as an insult to mean foul-smelling.

Tiputa, along with other towns like Kippu, Tiu’va, Inepril, and Renate, exists primarily as a relief station for travel-worn visitors.
    The town’s shops line a single road, suggesting that a traveler would leave as quickly as they have come, with every service just a short walk away. All the buildings are triangular, built with a slant pointing saa’ta as to align with the prevailing winds. Strong winds, known in these parts as Shriekers, pass through every 10 days, and during this time all activity in the town stops. Many travelers come through Tiputa to re-supply, to repair, but take off as soon as they are able to avoid the Shriekers.

Today Finiku workers are outside, with their banabo leaf brooms, brushing the sand from their storefronts, beating the dust out of their floor mats and window shutters, knowing that all of this work would be likely undone the next day.
    No one seemed to mind having to redo the work. Each could start a small task and finish it moments later, with plenty of time to start and finish many more. Savoring a cup of tea was counted as a task task, so was buttering a slice of muckwheat33 bread with bonan34 puree. Some argued that every bite or sip or breath or step ought to be tallied and counted, others preferred different metrics, such as making someone laugh or smile, like brushing the dust from a mat, it serves to embellish the town.
    Eka was wandering through town, eyeing the yellow sand clinging to every house, filling every crack, as if looking for a way inside. Eka appreciated the desert filling gaps as its way of helping to strengthen old structures. People on the street stopped their work to wave and say a friendly “yora’!” A diligent troupe of children armed with brooms furiously brushed the sand away from the main road, laughing and telling jokes as they did, making a game of the task.
    The main road was made of flat stones. Eka enjoyed the sound the dry fronds produced when brushed against them. The children were not aware of it, but there was a rhythm to their brushing. A song came to Eka’s lips then:
    “Brush the sands, sweep the lands,” Eka’s voice got louder, “-brush, brush, brush,” and then went lower, “sweep, sweep, sweep!”

“Brush the sands, sweep the lands! Brush, brush, brush! Sweep, sweep, sweep!”

Busy singing, Eka didn’t see that someone was standing close by. A Finiku with a long white river of hair blocked the path. The stranger stared at Eka’s sweater. A pair of eager hands hovered close to it.
    “W-w-werr did you g-get d-dis?!” said the Finiku in the Common Tongue. They wore a red jacket overlapping a shirt of delicate soft thread and ending with frills at the neck and cuffs. “I will do anyting to get dis shirt! Wat do you want for it?”
    The Finiku was gripping the sweater now, feeling the threads with greedy fingers.
    “You want coin?!”
    With every question the Finiku’s stream of hair became more and more disheveled. Eka tried to back away, but the stranger still held onto the sweater.
    “It isn’t mine to sell,” Eka managed to say.
    Most would think it easy to break away from someone so little, but the stranger held on, as if hanging from a cliff.
    “Please! I must have it! I’ll do anything to get it!”
    With all of that pulling, the seams at the bottom of the shirt ripped. The Finiku let out a horrified squeal. “Wat did Orin do‽”
    Eka put a finger through the hole in the sweater, wiggling it on the other side.
    “This is unforgivable. I am a monster. Orae! I will mend it.” Orin said, addressing the sweater. Eka did not think this was necessary, but the crimson-clad Finiku would not listen and led the sweater, as well as its wearer, over to one of the triangular houses.

The house had a red roof and outer walls. Eka wondered if everything inside was also red and imagined a house with objects, walls and floors that were so red that they were indistinguishable from one another. A carving over the entrance to the house read ‘Orin, the Tailor’, with a second one underneath it with the words ‘Now Retired’. The signs had green lettering, dispelling Eka’s fantasy of this place being an all-crimson fun house.
    “You make clothes? Convenient.” Eka said.
    “Orae, orae. Well, I used to. Mind da low ceiling!”
    Eka entered the space on two knees, and could only stand up fully once reaching the centre of the house, the area where the ceiling was highest. Orin’s workshop had angled walls filled with spindles of colourful fabric. Between the spindles lay frames with endorsements of past commissions from various famous characters, including a signed portrait of The Luminary Moera35. On the ceiling hung clothing Orin had made, favourite pieces from past and current projects.
    In a far corner of the house was a small mattress, and a table with a giant empty bottle, that Eka was certain once contained bonan wine. There was no room to cook, and no food either. Eka had seen a small restaurant on the other side of the road which likely doubled as a community kitchen.
    The tailor grabbed a needle, and then reached for a thread wound around one of the many spindles on the wall. The dark-coloured spindle Orin chose had very little thread left and was soon empty, all of it now bound to Orin’s needle. The tailor’s hands were shaky at first, but steadied when the point of the needle came in contact with the shirt. The tailor, moving with machine-like precision, the thread, disappearing into the sweater, and the hole quickly coming to a close. The thread on the needle was the same colour and material as the shirt, Orin had just enough fibre to finish the repair. In the end, it was like it had never ripped at all.
    Orin used to live in Edonor, a place that, Eka made a point to say, made the very best peagram36 pancakes. The Finiku’s great-great mapa opened a shop there many annums ago. Because the shop was so popular, Orin had had no time for anything other than clothes-making. The tailor had an itch to make different sorts of clothes, more risqué items, but the customers always asked for the same thing: copies of copies of copies, all copies of past works, nothing new, nothing exciting. It was then that this tailor decided that it was time to retire to Tiputa, where Bou, a relative, now lived. Orin did not produce new clothes anymore, but continued to help mending holes or strenghtening seams.
    “I’m sorry I can’t give this shirt to you, my friend’s mapa made it you see! After I get some new clothes, it won’t be mine to keep,” Eka explained.
    “I understand. I apologize for my un-towardness. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen isilk, but no matter,” while saying this, Orin glanced at Eka’s frame, already making calculations, “you want an outfit? I will make you desert travel set. I have a tread eer that would suit you. Orae, orae! Come, come!”
    After picking out some colours the tailor pulled out a flat banabo braid, each division with markings at specific lengths indicated by red stitches. It took some time to measure Eka’s frame, because unlike Orin’s usual customers Eka was tall. The redhead sat on a stool, extending an arm or leg forward as required.
    “I never see anyone with round ears like you.”
    “That is due to centuries of erosion.” Eka said.
    Orin laughed. “Bou own repair store next door, you stop by after, you two will get along” After jotting down all of the numbers, the measuring braid returned to Orin’s belt, secured alongside a set of assorted needles in a shroo leather sleeve, and a single bobbin.
    “You keep these with you always?” Eka asked.
    “Never leave widout dem! Dis is the tailor’s weapon!” Orin went to stand on another stool, a hand over the heart. “As long as I live, no fabric will be left unsown, and no pant leg left askew! Ianae! I will not allow it!” Even if standing on a stool, Orin still had to look up at Eka. “It will be ready after tomorrow’s second sunrise.”
    As payment Eka offered to help at Bou’s repair shop, Orin agreed. There was always a lot of work to do there, and with the Shriekers coming in three days Bou would have a lot of customers.

Eka wandered over to the repair shop next door, which used to be green, Eka could tell, but like Orin’s place most of the colour had been ground off. There was still colour left around the door and windows, and on the underside of the roof, but there too had begun to flake off. Like the interior of Nono’s sandfin the little workshop was full of tools. Instead of thread and clothes, the ceiling and walls were covered in bits of metal and wood. There was some order to the chaos, with objects organized by shape and material. All the long cylindrical objects shared space on a shelf, coiled lines of varying thickness, colour and length populated another.
    The owner glanced at the tall stranger who stood there at the door. “Come back later. No time today.” Bou was dark haired, pale-skinned, and enveloped in a pair of tattered overalls, which were stained with grease and covered in holes. Those tears must be torture for Orin, Eka thought. How had these openings escaped the tailor’s needle?
    “Orin is making some clothes for me and I offered to help you here in your shop as payment,” Eka said, knees on the ground and wearing a great big smile. “Yora’nae. Eka’re.”
    “Yora’. Bou’re.” Bou craned a large head to one side to see the part of Eka obscured by the top of the door, “Eka know it dirty, dirty work orae?”
    “That’s okay,” Eka copied the head motion, “a favour for a favour!”
    “In Tiputa no one do work widout promise of coin. Hope Eka like grime, grease and gross. Today we have pomparu problem, it stuck inside sandfin sand scupper. Den, we fix broke water pump, owner tink it smart to press juice out of plumpkin. Dis list, it go and it go. Still want to help?”
    Eka nodded. Bou looked at what the outsider was wearing, and walked in close to touch the fabric of the sweater Orin had mended. For a second, Eka feared the same reaction in Bou.
    “Blue isilk,” Bou said. The greasy shop owner’s green eyes went round. Bou’s eyes had a wonderful shine to them, they appeared glass-like with minuscule herb gardens growing inside of them. “Volare Verido make dis for you? Verido no export isilk anymore.”
    Not many people could tell the shirt was made from Ilk hair, even fewer knew that the hair of the desert walkers had a a subtle pigmentation, it could be either blue, green or red. Eka wondered what the tailor thought of Bou’s profession, they were family yet their lives were so different.
    “This belongs to my friend,” Eka explained, “Orin really loves isilk huh?”
    “Hm. Orae. To Orin mapa, seeing isilk… it like finding a frend you tink dead.” Bou’s fingers brushed over where the hole in the sweater had been. This repair was visible to experienced eyes. “Gran-mapa Nok own store in Edonor. One day, Nok bring back spindle of blue isilk. Suspicious no? Illegal, Bou tink. Later Orin inerit business, but blue isilk? It all gone by den. Nok make isilk suit, then jump into Rupture while wearing it. Orin is sad to see isilk so fine fade into notting. Never make big project wit it, never will because Verido no trade it now. Bou think Eka need know dis.” Bou didn’t give Eka a chance to reply, and walked over to a closet, pulling out a large pair of brown overalls and a mostly clean undershirt. “Because it dirty work, Eka need wear dis.”
    Eka changed into Bou’s undershirt and overalls. The clothes fit, but there was a lot of room in there for another Eka or two, and the pants had turned into shorts. Seeing this, Bou gave Eka two heavy notcott knee-pads.
    The first task, was to try and get a pomparu out of a pipe. The sandfin was moored in front of the shop, its owner was at the snack bar having a drink, Bou waved from across the street, shouting a word in Finic to say that the work would likely be done today. Both moved to the back of the sandfin, once there Eka caught a whiff of the pomparu and gasped, hands moved to cover up both the mouth and nose. It had been a long time since Eka had encountered one.
    “Nohi sosae’ia’re dae’na? Pomparu smell burn da nose. First time Bou smell dis, no eat for many day. Smell make all food taste like rot.”
    Bou grabbed a jar from a pantleg pocket, dipped a finger in it and scooped out a thick glob of purple gel. Then, without warning, Bou smeared the purple gel under Eka’s nose, near and around the nostrils. Now both had a thick purple mustache. “Better, orae?”
    “Lavendiri37 flowers! Good trick!”     The fresh scent would help cover up the nasty pomparu fumes. Bou also had a thick scarf on to keep the smell out, and passed one to Eka. The scarf was just enough to block the stink entirely while keeping the lavendiri gel from drying out too quickly.
    The butt of a plump pomparu was sticking halfway out of the scupper, its four back legs were dangling in the air while the four forward legs were wedged inside. The pomparu’s colourful spots were hard to see because its body was brown with dirt.
    “Pomparu like strong smell. Sandfinner ferment bobonion38 aboard, dis one try follow smell but now stuck.”
    It was common for people to make a pile of rotting food outside of town to get their attention, and to keep them there. Tiputa did have a pile like this, Eka had seen it, but this sandfin had acquired the pomparu while on transit.
    “Is it dead?” Eka asked, noticing its legs weren’t moving.
    “Iane. If pomparu dead we no stand around to talk about it. It make lavendiri gel rot, and we go bury face in sand. But even like dis, it no help, smell stay.” Bou paused, recalling something that happened. “Frend find dead pomparu once, smell so so bad dat dey rip nose off. Crazy’di’naa? Pomparu smell bad, but Bou blame da crazy on Kavava39. Kavava make brain loopy, Bou friend chew it too too much.”
    Eka’s eyes widened, imagining someone without a nose. “How horrible.”
    “Wen it come to pomparu, some say no nose better! Bou carve new nose for friend out of banabo and add color wit ground lavendiri flower. Friend love it, call it poronoso’di’no, to mean my special purple nose. Tawari’ia’di. No touch pomparu. Eka say goodbye to all friend if do dis. The smell, it no come off!”
    “So, um. Shall we do this thing then?” Eka’s nose was eager to move on to some other task, it had no desire to be replaced with a poronoso’di.
    Bou covered the inside of the scupper opening with avoka oil, and reluctantly did the same for the area around the pomparu’s body, all while wearing multiple thick pairs of pinny-tarred hempa gloves. Then, Eka shoved the small end of a broom through the pomparu-free end of the opening while Bou held it down with both hands.
    Eka pushed with such force that the pomparu came flying out and went rolling inside of Bou’s workshop. Bou shrieked, tore the broom from Eka’s hands and ran inside, but it was too late. The floor was covered with a stinky green discharge, and some had slipped under the various piles of materials. The slimy curvaceous thing was pushed with the bristled end of a broom, out of the workshop, out of the city, away from all the houses. Already some of the villagers were outside, noses pinched and afraid of what this smell would do to the town’s shops. They all scurried about, covering the pomparu drippings with ground lavendiri leaves and other strong-smelling herbs, while others scooped it up with shovels and brooms, that would have to be discarded after. All had purple gel mustaches.
    Bou took Eka’s side, the broom was at the edge of town with the pomparu, marking the spot where it was so no one would go near it. Those creatures were slow, and Bou had plans of putting a bowl of soured muckwheat far out into the valley to lure it even further away.
    Eka looked at the putrid drippings it left behind. “Wow. All this came from one pomparu?”
    “Look like Bou add ‘burn workshop’ to to-do list…”

  1. Muckwheat Grain-like seeds with a nutty taste, used to make breads and stews.↩︎

  2. Bonan A berry with soft flesh rich in starch covered with a rind, which may be orange or purple when ripe.↩︎

  3. Moera Moera, also known as The Luminary, and The First Light, is the first ruler of the Iridi people.↩︎

  4. Peagram A type of pulse growing from a thorny bush, with large seedpods filled with a green liquid that contain 10-15 peas.↩︎

  5. Lavendiri A purple bulbous flower that is often dried and used in homes to cover bad smells, or to freshen a room↩︎

  6. Bobonion A spicy octagonal vegetable, enveloped in a thick black rind. The inside is soft, and can be scooped out with a tool.↩︎

  7. Kavava An addictive root that when chewed numbs the mind and body, it can also cause minor hallucinations.↩︎

Continue to Chapter 6