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Some dreams stay with you your whole life, and for Thomas his dream of being wanted and accepted by those around him on the reservation is a dream he just cannot shake.
Uncle Tells the Eighth Story
“I would face consequences the same way I caused them—alone.”
Uncle leaned back and breathed out the smoke he had held in as he spoke. The cloud swooped out and toward the body on the ground, but Uncle swooshed it away with his hands and feet. Tears burned in Uncle’s eyes, and the fatigue of the night was plain upon his face. He looked into the fire and spoke to the wind and air.
“Now, I know it has been a tough night, but we are close now, close to the end, and close to the beginning. You are dying from regret, and we must lance these wounds and let them bleed.”
The children took a quiet breath, as they knew that Uncle was tired and the night would come to a close one way or another. The stories would once again end, until next time. Uncle lifted the girl on his lap gently into the air and set her upon the floor as he shuffled toward the table and more coffee, his hairy legs bared to the darkness of the room.
A small long-haired boy gathered wood and tossed it in the fire, and it was a statement to tiredness that Uncle neither commented on the type of wood or its placement. Instead, he merely sipped his coffee and lit a cigarette. His face went slack and pure as he took a deep drag from the smoke. A steady drag in, and a long breath out. Uncle shook with the power and simplicity of such a simple thing. He laughed and wiped his eyes clear.
His old body turned and shuffled back toward his chair with the clump-clump of his bare feet upon the wooden floor. He stopped once, taking a break only to breathe in again a long, deep breath. Uncle settled into the chair with a loud humph and a quiet creak. The chair protested loudly at the sudden weight, but Uncle paid it no mind. The chair leaned to one side as he took another drag and pushed his body backwards against the chair.
He sat like that for a few minutes, his body relaxed and languid, his very essence ready to rest. But then, he huffed up and forward, placing his elbows on his knees and leaning forward, looking down between his legs. Uncle laughed for a moment and took a long drag that did little other than to add smoke to an already smoky room.
Uncle approached the body lying prone near the fire, and he gently grasped the stone on its chest and blew upon it until its dark red heat grew again into the bright red of a roaring furnace. Placing the stone in a new position, Uncle blew here and there upon the body, watching as mist and smoke danced here and there along the skin.
When Uncle finally spoke, it was with a sigh and a sadness. “If we are to finish, we must begin. No point in putting off what we dislike, when the only way past is through.” He nodded quietly and reached down toward the smoke cloud that was slowly crawling toward the body near the fire. Uncle tsked at it and lifted it up into the air, staring into its smoky depths. He sighed wearily, and the smoke seemed to do the same. Uncle moved from the body and back to the chair.
“Some stories are happier than others, and less happy than they appear.”
Uncle breathed deeply of the smoke, and with it, he began to cough and cry. His body jerked this way and that before coming to rest gently hunched in the chair. The children grew frightful at his stillness, and a small girl walked over and ran her finger along his cheek, and finally touched, full-handed, his face.
Uncle jerked up and stared into the girl’s eyes, his left foot tapping its hard hoof wall against the floorboards. He idly wondered what it would be like to have more human feet. The voice which spewed out from his mouth was like nothing any of them had heard before. “All stories entwine and tell each other; they hold up the whole of our lives, backwards and forwards.”
A sharp cough spewed smoke from Uncle’s mouth before that same smoke reared up and dove back through Uncle’s mouth and nose. It seemed to never stop filling him, as it twisted into him, and the constant inhale took what seemed like hours to stop. When it did, a simple voice the children were now used to spoke, and with it came the story that was the beginning and the end of the first night. The voice was now childlike and beautiful.
“I was five the night I truly fell in love.”
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