by Donna Glee Williams
When did Len first see how far the path would take her son? No Far Walker had been born in Home Village for many years. But everyone knew Shreve Far Walker, from Third Village Down, who often passed through as she carried loads between High and Low. When nightfall caught her near Home Village, she would stay over, taking dinner and giving back news. She wasn’t by nature a talkative person, but she understood the duties of a guest. Len would crowd with the others to hear Shreve’s account of the Far Villages.
So Len had some notion of the life of a Far Walker, though her own range was a modest seven villages. When Cam began to show unusual aptitude for climbing high and descending very low, she wondered. Like all parents, Len had observed Cam closely from his earliest tottering steps as he followed her to First Village Up. She had shared discreet smiles with the other parents as their young ones tried on the new costume of adulthood to see how it would fit them, daring each other to range ever farther from Home Village on spurious errands
There would be a jaunt proposed, a clamor of assent, and a rush like a group of startled goats when Cam and his friends hurried off. No packing or planning was needed as they carried no real loads and it was understood that they would stay in whatever village they were closest to when night fell. Families who housed a youth from another village tonight knew that their own children would find food and a pallet where they needed it tomorrow, and the balance would be kept.