Darkest in the phase of the new
moon the Iowa night spawned a thick mist that shrouded the water to muffle any
sounds. The lights of Ottumwa glimmered in the distance, but no light reached
this place. Sparks showered off the shovel blade as it clanked against the hard
rocks of the dam, but the strident sound and the brief spark drowned in the
gloom. Nobody saw the spark. No ears but his heard the strike. From a backpack
Jimmy Honoki extracted a package and placed it very carefully in the hole and
packed rocks around it. He hoped it would be enough. His future depended on
this night and this small package. Dry mouth afflicted him as he struck a
match. He hoped the fuse would burn as it should in this heavy atmosphere, so
exposed to the elements. The supplier had assured him it would.
struggled to shove aside the heavy fog as he climbed into his rusty pickup and
settled into the deep indentation his Father’s backside had put there over many
years. His head leaned against the cracked steering wheel as he thought of his
Fathers, his birth Father and his Father of the Heavens and the Earth. This act
was for Them, and for his Son. Finally he raised his head and a song formed
unbidden on his lips, a haunting chant, a primal rhythm. His body swayed in the
confines of the pickup cab and his eyes stared into the unfathomable distance
beyond the cracked windshield. The Song did not belong to him but came from his
Ancestors. He did not know what it meant but it had to be Sung.
gearshift went into reverse with a grinding that wrenched his soul. His Father
had used up this truck many years ago, but it was all he had. Now Son followed
Father in the claustrophobic shell of the rusting heap. Father’s pipe still sat
in the ashtray no longer wafting its tendrils of fragrant smoke through the
air. He took the pipe in his hands, lovingly, although he had never smoked. He
felt its rough textured bowl and the smooth stem scarred at the tip by years of
teeth marks. He held the bowl to his nose as he inhaled the smell of his
Father, the essence of his Earthly self. His eyes teared.
old Ford rattled and banged down the rough path away from that hated place.
Nobody saw his passage; the place was secluded and empty of all but the rabbits,
coyotes and deer. Red eyes reflected low at the side of the path as a small
creature flicked its long ears before turning and bounding away. He smiled at
Rabbit and wished him grace. Rabbit, in turn, gave him a small slice of his
Soul in parting.
The Birth of the Prince
Jimmy Honoki held his newborn Son,
wrapped tightly in a swaddling cloth, and swayed to the rhythm of the song on
the radio. The boys from Alabama sang,
“All the gold,
Is sitting in a
bank in the middle of town
In Beverly Hills
Jimmy danced around the small
bedroom while the midwife watched with dark eyes. Plaited in a long braid that
hung clear to her waist her dark and lustrous hair swung gracefully. A bright
red feather from a Cardinal’s wing pierced the place where the braid started at
her scalp. It shone as a talisman when Jimmy looked at it. It held his
attention as he spun around the room in a Western two-step, his boot heels
stamped softly on the floor so as not to scare his Son and his Wife.
Native midwife stared into his eyes and saw the ancient Ancestors there, deep
and hidden away after years of living as if a white man. She put her hand on
Jimmy’s shoulder to stop his dance. She said nothing but placed a gentle hand
on top of his Son’s head, then peered deeply into the Son’s soul. She saw the
answer and she turned her eyes up to Jimmy’s. He felt her piercing gaze boring
into his subconscious. His limbic brain responded and Alabama’s song faded
while a new Voice took over.
two-step changed rhythm and became a shuffling, crouching, swaying to a natural
beat. The big drum pounded in his ears and a low growling hum filled his chest.
The Native midwife swayed her long skirt, canted her hips and stamped her deer
hide moccasins in a backbeat counter. Her right toe tapped on the floor while
her hands and arms writhed back and forth in a hypnotic way.
Honoki raised her sweat-soaked head enough to watch. Her pain subsided as she
marveled at the scene before her. Strawberry blond hair lay in wet strands
about her freckled face as she propped her still heaving body up on her elbows.
A bloody, slimy sheet between her legs confronted her eyes and she smiled. Her
swollen breasts began to leak milk and she looked with loving eyes at her
husband and her son.
voice took on a haunting chant using words he did not know. The midwife keened
and wailed quietly and something clutched at Francine’s heart. She was not sure
what was happening but something magical was going on in the room. She sensed
an invisible presence but some undeniable force there. The three people formed
a tight knot across the room and seemed surrounded by an aura of some kind. And
Son began to wail. Jimmy’s tear-streaked face angled down to the bundle in his
arms and he saw the questing lips nuzzling against his hairless bare chest. He
smiled and laughed, “No, Son. That is not the nipple you want.”
midwife took his Son gently from him and carried the squirming bundle back to
Francine. Reaching eagerly Mother took Son to her breast and thrilled as the
tiny mouth closed over the pregnant nipple. Milk flowed strongly and Francine
could feel the tingle deep in her loins, and she shuddered with pleasure. All
the pain and the long wait were gone in this moment of bonding: Her son, her
baby, her life.
watched proudly as his Son suckled. His gaze took in his Wife’s radiant face
and then the afterbirth spewed out of her womb. The Native woman scooped up the
placenta and wrapped it in a rabbit hide carefully prepared for the occasion.
She pinned the hide together at the opening with small, bone hooks, carefully
carved by hand. Decorated with beads in an ancient pattern passed down from
Native birther to birther over the centuries, the designs came from knowledge
gleaned from the Ancients.
woman gathered up the hide and the mussed sheet, handed them to Jimmy and
motioned with her head to the door. Francine, engrossed in her son’s feeding
did not notice them leave the room. Her body swayed as she crooned a love song
to her baby, her life. The two went outside into the dusty yard with their
bundle. Jimmy grabbed a shovel by the front door and strode out into the yard,
his naked chest gleaming in the sunlight. The midwife stopped at a certain point
in the yard and faced each point of the compass, then stretched her arms out in
supplication to the unseen. Jimmy watched and waited; his black eyes squinted
out the bright sun. A prayer was offered to the Sun and the woman pointed to
placed the sheet and hide gently on the ground and plunged the shovel into the
soft Earth. The hole was not deep but Jimmy could feel the power emanate up
from the Earth through his shovel handle that made his hands vibrate. The woman
nodded and Jimmy stopped digging, gathered the two items and laid them gently
in the hole. Another prayer was offered and Jimmy covered the essence that his
Wife provided to give life to his Son. Consecrated forever the holy place
surrounded by smooth, colorful river stones became a monument to new life.
sat on the second floor deck outside his bedroom gazing across the sloping
landscape of his farm toward the placid blue waters of the lake. Yesterday the
lake had been crowded with holiday celebrants as jet skis and powerful boats
churned the water to a muddy froth. Labor Day weekend was always noisy and
pretty much disgusting around David’s farm. The drunks would often pull up in
the cove on his land and get out of their boats to heed the call of nature.
David would go down later today and clean up the mess they had made. Bottles,
beer cans, condoms, toilet paper, shit, they left it all. It was the really bad
part of living near a popular lake in Iowa. For some reason people seemed to think
they could dump anything in a lake and it would disappear forever. But David
knew better. Some of that junk would be there for all eternity except for the
small amount he picked up.
now the lake looked beautiful in the bright sunshine of early morning. That was
the tradeoff. David had a great view of both the beauty and the ugliness of a
modern day lake, its earthen dam choking off the narrow valley a few miles
away. As he sat there he heard his five-year-old son get up and go to the
bathroom, then flush the toilet. David rose from his Adirondack chair and went
in to find his son rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, wandering down the hall
in his Spiderman pajamas. His tousled blond hair stuck up in something that
resembled horns on a Viking helmet as David gathered him into his arms in a
sweeping hug that spun the youngster off his feet.
my big man this morning,” he said into the pristine shell of an ear nestled in
the fragrant hair. He kissed the boy on the cheek and held him out at arms length
five feet above the floor.
his son writhed in his hands and held his threadbare stuffed bunny out to his
am I supposed to hug Oscar too?”
golden curls bobbed as his son nodded enthusiastically. David dutifully put
Hugh down and grasped the blue bunny giving it a big hug and kiss.
that? Are you guys ready for some breakfast now?”
kitchen was small and utilitarian, but clean. David liked to keep things clean.
The windows looked out over the barnyard so his mother could keep track of his
dad’s whereabouts as he did his chores. When Dad finished and began washing up
at the hydrant by the gate Mom knew it was time to put breakfast on the table.
Dad would walk in, pull his chair out and a big, hot breakfast would appear as
if by magic. He never said “thank you,” or acknowledged in any way that his
wife provided for him. But watching him satisfy his hunger was enough for her.
It was the way the people from the old country did things. The man did the
heavy work and provided the livelihood while the wife did the cooking,
cleaning, child-bearing, child care, shopping, and helped with the chores when
needed. Nobody really thought about how his or her roles could be any
different. Things worked better this way.
now Dad was gone to his reward and Mom whiled away her time in a lonely bed at
the nursing home. David kept the farm and the house with his son. Hugh’s mother
left to seek a different role for her life two years ago. Farm life in Iowa
seemed okay for a while but raising a son and living in the middle of nowhere
just didn’t suit her anymore. David had full custody of Hugh who hadn’t seen
his mother since she left. Nobody in David’s family really knew where she was
or why she left. But the emptiness in the house still chafed at David’s heart.
away the frustration and loneliness, David bent to the task with Hugh. Pasting
a big smile on his face he settled Hugh on his booster seat, tied a napkin
around his neck and gave him a kiss on the cheek. Hugh giggled and rubbed his
cheek where Dad’s whiskers had tickled. He put out a hand and rubbed his dad’s
like Daddy’s whiskers?”
just giggled again and gave Dad’s face a tiny slap, then looked at his palm as
if the whiskers would suddenly appear there.
about some waffles or pancakes this morning?”
tousled the lad’s hair and said, “What’s wrong with your voice, boy? Cat got
your tongue?” He playfully poked a finger in Hugh’s mouth to find the tongue.
don’t,” Hugh mumbled around the offending finger.
not? My finger is clean. Is yours?”
The protest dissolved in peals of giggles again.
so the cat doesn’t have your tongue. How about you come over here and help me
make some good pancakes?”
scrambled up on a step stool by the counter while David got out flour,
buttermilk, good, real maple syrup, and the baking soda and eggs. He gave Hugh
the measuring cups and said, “Okay, now. We need a cup of flour. Which one is
held up the smallest device for Dad’s inspection.
see these numbers here? It says one quarter, one with a slash and a four. That
is too small unless we used it four times. Try again.”
hand hesitated over another of the orange plastic cups. He glanced at his Dad’s
eyes and didn’t see approval there, so he hovered o