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The story of Thomas’ bad choices and good conversations in the face of lights in the sky, on a dark and rainy reservation night.
Uncle Tells the Seventh Story
“Well, on that I had nothing to say.”
Uncle leaned back and breathed out the smoke he had held in as he spoke. The cough that shook him drove him nearly from his chair as he struggled to remain upright. The children rushed to Uncle and held him up as he cried and shook with the power of his cough. The dark smoke slipped near the fire and hovered.
Uncle’s red eyes took in the dark room and the faces of the worried children. His few pieces of furniture were shadows in the night, mere blobs of darkness around him. The fire crackled, and orange light danced along the walls around him, ensuring that not all around him was secret or hidden. Not that any part of the room was secret to Uncle. He had lived in this room for so many decades, he could point here and there with unerring accuracy and tell you exactly what his finger pointed to. He was proud of his few possessions and put each in its place.
For all things have a place, a way to exist in this world. The plates might fit in the wrong cupboard, but that did not make it their place. Their place must be found, and for the plates that place was the cupboard. It was not enough to find a place to fit; one must find the right place, and this took time, time that Uncle had taken for each item in his home. He had moved his cups four or five times before finding the perfect spot, and even now, he regularly adjusted them by small degrees, finding that perfect placement.
Uncle gave a considered look at the children gathered to help him remain upright. “The stories you are hearing tonight… The narrator is not right that things do not have a place, but live wild and willy-nilly. You children must be careful when listening to such nonsense, or it will give you the wrong ideas. We do not serve chaos and disorder, but are here to help all things find their best path. Things have their places, and this person whose stories I am telling has not yet learned that, and it looks as if he might never have the chance.” Uncle’s face grew serious and sad. “Let us hope he does not regret the things he did not do, or the things he did.”
Uncle did not control the smoke, but he helped to guide it along from the fire back toward his face. He twirled it and played with it. The children moved quietly back to their places near the fire, though one small girl lay her head on Uncle’s shoulder. “This smoke dances around, and we cannot control that, but we guide it. There are many things in life that we cannot control, things that we feel like we cannot live with, but we can; we can live with anything and overcome it. Finding yourself brave enough to talk about the impossible and painful makes them solvable. Anything mentionable is manageable.”
The smoke slowly turned here and there. It curled around and around in slow, undulating folds of life. The sound of quiet laughter escaped from Uncle’s mouth as he let his fingers dance with the smoke. Its inky blackness was spotted through with grey, and for a second, it resembled nothing more than Uncle’s hair, and as if he had heard that statement, he laughed again.
“Some things, children, are foundational to all the rest.” Uncle jerked forward and snapped his mouth around the smoke like a child going after cotton candy. His hunger for the smoke shone on his face, and he savored the moment that the smoke sank into his lungs. It took a moment, and the smoke seemed to have struggled; it stretched this way and that, trying to get out. He held it in and giggled around it. His eyes closed, and the world blinked.
When his eyes opened, a teen filled with happiness and openness stared out. That teen’s face looked pure and happy to be alive. It was a face that would laugh if it saw a puppy. The face broke now into a grin as it stared at the young girl on his lap with her head on his shoulder, and when the grin broke, the voice began.
“I was fifteen the night I stayed in the car and then got out… “
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