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Thomas’ experience of his place and life on the reservation is forever changed during a childhood game of war with unexpected enemies taking center stage.
Uncle Tells the Fifth Story
“I was a dream that believed itself reality.”
Uncle leaned back and breathed out the smoke he had held in as he spoke. The body before the fire let out a gentle cry, and Uncle kneeled before it and breathed upon the stone sitting upon its chest. The stone flared like a red ember straight from the fire, and Uncle coughed slightly as the smell of burnt flesh and smoke filled the air. Uncle flipped his fingers upon the stone and adjusted it to a new position.
The dark cloud of smoke Uncle had breathed out, moved with him toward the body, but Uncle waved it away. He flipped it through his fingers and gently shooed it from the body. It was not time, not time at all.
The dark room creaked and echoed as wind blasted it from outside. A storm grew upward and outward, and the single-room house shook with it. The night was not gentle; it was a rough mistress that gripped that old house and shook it with a fierce determination to tear it down. Uncle idly thought of the body’s friend, waiting somewhere outside, and then put thoughts of her out of his mind. He thought more of the children, as was his duty.
“Ah, kids, do not huddle in fear. Do not hide your heads and quake with fear. This is not our way; it is not our method. We are not the ones who hide in fear; we cause fear. That is the way of our people. The great night strives to destroy us, but this home will stand against it. We will stand against it. No matter how bad the night becomes, we will become worse. We are the People. Remember that you are from a powerful People, and there will be those that stand against you, but you are strong and powerful, so let it not bother you.”
Uncle sipped from his cup and leaned back into his creaking chair, head back, arms out. If he had been anyone but Uncle, one might think he was praying, but Uncle did not pray; he only gave thanks; he only opened his mind and heart as sacrifice. There were no gods that cared enough about what a human might say to listen. The gods out there held their own council, as did Uncle. So, Uncle was not praying, but sitting open and relaxed.
The children hugged each other and gathered again as Uncle giggled from this position and moved, whip quick, back upright, staring into the fire. It was like he had awakened from a long nightmare, and his body shook with the stress of it. He breathed out and breathed forward, breathed in and stretched out, before collapsing back against the chair in obvious fatigue.
Uncle lifted the hand holding his smoke up before his face, and he looked down once at the body at his feet. The body moaned, and the rock flared, but Uncle paid it no mind. He pulled the smoke to his mouth and breathed it in. He coughed slightly, but nothing escaped.
He leaned into the smoke, and when he leaned back, his face held the innocence of a child. The smile he gave to those around him was open and pure, with a touch of mischievousness. Uncle giggled once, and then began.
“I was nine on the very worst day of my life…”
This is a short story written as part of the book “This Life as Told by an Old Ndn.”
Find out about the rest of Thomas’ stories at ourorchard.co