The rest of the valley quickly learned of Ulaylee’s useful skills and began to trade her cooked food for rope and baskets. Ulaylee couldn’t believe her good fortune. She could spin or twist rope or weave all day while other people brought her family food. She could not ask for more. Soon her happiness surpassed her dreams when she realized she had a baby growing inside her.
More changes came to the valley when Aunt Stout who lived a six hour walk from the S’TOs came to visit her S’TO cousins bringing her youngest daughter S’BeL to the valley that seemed to be populated with many marriageable young men.
Hauk waited two days before he proposed to Cousin S’Bel. Aunt Stout stayed long enough to see her daughter married, congratulate Ulaylee on her pregnancy and discover that Ulaylee’s crippled mama-in-law was cross. Before she left, she took her concerns to Marina and Sabrina. “Your sister is a good woman. It’s too bad she is forced to suffer with such a mama-in-law.”
Marina answered, “She spends most of her day out-of-doors and the mama is confined to her bed indoors. She says she works all day without hearing her new mama. Still, it angers me that Mama S’TnG is not thankful for all Ulaylee brings her family. They eat better than ever before.”
“But to be pregnant around such a woman. The baby will be fretful.” Aunt Stout continued to fuss for Ulaylee.
Sabrina joined the discussion. “I worry about Ulaylee. She is much older than us. Mama S’TO says it’s harder for older women to have babies.”
Aunt Stout watched the sunlight leave the hills across the valley then announced. “When I get home, I will send a healer to visit Ulaylee. Perhaps a healer can fix the mother-in-law or help Ulaylee keep the baby safe from cruel words.”
Thus, a couple weeks after Aunt Stout returned home, the valley people were amazed to greet a new visitor. For the first time in the lifetime of many valley people, they saw someone who wasn’t related in any way to any valley family. They had thought they were very modern when the young men married outsiders, but a total stranger that was unheard of. This stranger wore his long gray hair in many braids twisted with ribbon. He wore a leather loincloth and sported the most amazing leather boots that rose to the tops of his knees. Some valley people grew immediately suspicious of the outlandish stranger and secreted rocks in their foraging bags to stone him if he attacked anybody. Some innocent soul who never thought of rocks volunteered to take the stranger to Ulaylee’s hut as he had asked. A small collection of Valley People followed the stranger and his guide all the way to the fence around the S’TnG hut.
Ulaylee sat in her yard humming to herself and carding goat wool. With her kitchen full of food her neighbors brought in, Ulaylee had learned to be gracious. She offered her guest and his guide a meal.
While he ate, the healer named G’RT asked Ulaylee questions about her pregnancy. “What was the phase of the moon when the baby was conceived?”
Ulaylee didn’t really understand the question about conceiving, but she did know about the moon. “Full moon.”
From inside the hut, the querulous voice of her mama-in-law called out. “How would she know that? Those two do nothing but try to make babies.”
Ulaylee blushed. Her mama-in-law made something beautiful sound dirty.
G’RT continued, “What was the phase of the moon during your last bleeding.”
Ulaylee did know the answer to this question. “new moon”
“Stand up. I need to see how tall you are.” G’RT brought out a piece of twine with knots tied at equal intervals and measured Ulaylee from the ground to the top of her head. “What is your order of birth in your family?”
“Huh?” Ulaylee didn’t understand this question at all.
“How many older brothers and sisters do you have?”
“None. I’m the eldest, but I have five younger sisters.” Ulaylee volunteered the last without being asked.
“Younger ones don’t count,” G’RT almost snapped at Ulaylee who was getting tired of the questions and beginning to feel like crying.
“Show me your hands.”
Ulaylee held out her hands. G’RT looked at them closely both the palms and the back.
Next G’RT measured the length of Ulaylee’s hair then he sat down on the ground and took two pebbles from his bag. He rolled them between his palms and threw them down on the dusty ground. He squinted up at the sun then drew in the dirt first a sun then a full moon. He used his string to measure the distance between his drawings, divide that in half then draw a perpendicular line through the first line. He explained to Ulaylee. “The bottom part of this line is your height and the part above the axis between the sun and the moon is the length of your hair. This will tell us when your baby will be born and if it will be a boy or girl.”
Beyond curious, Ulaylee followed every word G’RT said and almost wept with excitement.
“See here how the black stone falls above and to the right of the lines? You will have a boy.”
Ulaylee clapped her hands.
“Now, the day the baby will come is harder to determine. It will be after the harvest.”
Ulaylee nodded. She knew this much from talking to her sisters and Mama S’TO.
“Yes, on the second new moon after the harvest you will give birth to a baby boy.”
“Will he be healthy?” Ulaylee gasped.
“That depends on the old woman inside. I’ve heard her voice. We’ll see what can be done about her.”
At this point, G’RT went inside the hut and commanded the old woman to stand up.
She whined, “I’ll fall. I can’t stand. I always fall over backward.”
“I’ll catch you if you fall. Stand up.”
The old woman managed to stand facing G’RT she placed her hands on his shoulders as he instructed. He put his hands on her hip bones and commanded. “Now, step toward me with this foot.”
She wailed but took a step forward. At his command, she walked with her hands on G’RT’s shoulders all the way to the front of the hut, weeping and wailing with every step
Ulaylee forced herself to smile when her mama-in-law showed up outside the hut.
G’RT announced. “It is as I thought from the sound of her voice. You have a dark spirit in the hut. She once broke her saddle bone, but that has healed. It is the evil spirit that keeps her sick. You must burn this hut and everything in it to be rid of the spirit and have a healthy baby.”
Ulaylee looked toward the small shelter of sticks where she kept her spinning and weaving supplies. “What about my things? My weaving? My wedding dress? Must I burn them too?”
G’RT narrowed his eyes at Ulaylee. “You’ve have kept these things separate from the hut?”
Ulaylee nodded. “Mama S’TnG particularly hated my wedding dress, so I brought it out where she can’t see it. I like to look at it while I work.”
“I see you are wise and have the gift of a seer. That spirit must be afraid of your gifts and that is why it speaks to you through the voice of your mama. It would particularly hate the bright colored dress.”
Ulaylee’d never been called wise or gifted before. Again her eyes filled with tears as she nodded. “I understand. I did notice things that went wrong when I couldn’t see how that could happen. We will burn the hut immediately. Can we remove today’s food?”
“We will remove anything that has not been in the hut overnight.”
Tik S’TnG made a habit of scanning the horizon when he watched his goats on the mountainside. Thus when he saw the first puff of smoke that went up from his hut, he started to run toward home. Other valley people saw the smoke and started to run toward the fire. Tik reached his home before any of the others. He had time to see his mother standing on her own two feet near a tree before his wife threw herself into his arms. He very much wanted to rush to the hut and put out the fire, but Ulaylee kept talking about baby boys and evil spirits.
Tik had just set Ulaylee aside when G’RT with his braided hair a beaded necklace and high leather boots came stomping from behind the hut shaking a rattle. Tik stopped cold in his tracks at the apparition more strange than his house burning.
Soon neighbors arrived with what tools they owned to help put out the fire. G’RT explained about the evil spirit making the old woman sick, “See how she stands in the sun now that I have delivered her from the spirit. It pained her greatly to obey my command, but she will soon be free from the pain that held her to her cot.”
The valley people looked at the old woman who could stand on her own two feet for the first time in many years. As they looked at G’RT, some people fingered the rocks they still carried in their foraging bags, but most people nodded wisely and whispered to their neighbors, “I thought it might be an evil spirit.”
The neighbors whispered back, “I’m glad it was only an evil spirit and not a demon.”
Hau S’TO nodded then asked, “Should we not water the ground around the hut so the fire doesn’t spread?”
G’RT answered. “The fire will not spread unless the evil spirit tries to escape then the fire will follow him. Now, look here and see how Ulaylee has kept her things separate from the hut…” The healer went on to tell the valley people that Ulaylee was wise and could detect evil spirits. “You must come get her if you think there is an evil spirit in your homes.”
Tik put his arm around his wife and puffed out his chest. After looking into her eyes with adoration, he kissed her full on the mouth. His mama wanted to say something to draw her son’s attention to herself, but just then a muscle cramped in her leg and she slid to the ground thereby attracting the attention she wanted.
The healer announced, “Ah it is as I feared. The spirit still had some tentacles in her legs. They hurt her because the spirit is burning. She will be free when the menace is consumed. She will be weak for many days, but if she walks every day, she will get strong again.
At the end of the day, things occurred as the healer predicted. The fire did not escape the hut. Mama S’TnG stood again when someone helped her to her feet.
Rue S’TO had thought to bring the wheelbarrow to the fire so they placed Mama S’TnG in the wheelbarrow and wheeled her back to the S’TO house on the hillside.
The next day, the valley people arrived to build the S’TnG family a new house on the other side of the clearing from the burned hut.
Ulaylee loved her new house with its small separate room at one end for Mama. Everything about her new house seemed fresh and clean. She grew confident that she could sense evil spirits and at least once a week visited a neighbor who worried about evil spirits in their home. Almost always, she assured her fearful neighbors she saw no signs of evils spirits or demons. Occasionally she told them to burn a particularly putrid possession.
On the second new moon after the harvest, Ulaylee delivered a healthy baby boy. The delivery went well and the new mother recovered quickly, just as G’RT had foretold.