Monday, September 16, 2019
Coyote Blue Chapter 6~7
CHAPTER 6 A Malady of Medicine Santa Barbara Ã¢â¬Å"Look, Sam,Ã¢â¬ Aaron said. Ã¢â¬Å"I can see that you're not thrilled about the buy-out. So be it. I understand that you've put a lot into this agency. I can give you forty cents on the dollar, but you'll have to take a note. I'm a little cash poor since Katie made me put that trophy room on the house.Ã¢â¬ Sam looked down from the deer head. Ã¢â¬Å"Aaron, I didn't hire an Indian to attack Jim Cable. I still had half of the deal wrapped up with Cochran, which would have put me in the door at any time in the future to close Cable. I wouldn't have jeopardized that.Ã¢â¬ Aaron took two hand mirrors out of his desk drawer and began to juxtapose them to get a glimpse of the back of his head. Sam was used to this Ã¢â¬â it was Aaron's hourly balding check. Ã¢â¬Å"Cochran's secretary saw the Indian get out of your car,Ã¢â¬ Aaron said matter-of-factly. Then, looking back to the mirrors, he said, Ã¢â¬Å"I've been mixing Minoxidil with a little Retin A and that stuff the Man from U.N.C.L.E. sells on TV. Do you think it's working?Ã¢â¬ Sam thought of the feather on the car seat. He was sure he'd locked the car; there was no way the Indian could get in without setting off the alarm. Ã¢â¬Å"I don't care what anyone saw, I didn't hire the fucking Indian to attack Cable and I can't believe you bought their story without asking me.Ã¢â¬ The anger felt good. It cleared his head a little. Aaron put the mirrors down on the desk and smiled. Ã¢â¬Å"I didn't buy it, Sam. But if it was true you can't blame me for taking a shot at your shares.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"You greedy little fuck.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Sam.Ã¢â¬ Aaron lowered his voice and took his Ã «fatherlyÃ » tone. Ã¢â¬Å"Samuel.Ã¢â¬ A little wink. Ã¢â¬Å"Sammy, hasn't my greed always been in your best interest? I'm just trying to keep you sharp, son. Would you have had any respect for me if I hadn't tried to make the best of a bad situation? That's the first thing I taught you.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"I don't know any Indian. It didn't happen, Aaron.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"If you say it didn't, it didn't. You've always been straight with me. I don't even remember the time you cut all the cords off those smoke alarms we were selling because that lady wanted cordless models.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"You told me to do that! I was only seventeen years old.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Right, well, how was I to know she smoked in bed?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Look, Aaron, I'll find out what happened at Motion Marine and take care of it first thing in the morning. If they call back while I'm out, try not to sign a confession for me, okay? I've had an incredibly shitty day and I've got to meet someone on upper State Street in a few minutes, so if that's allÃ¢â¬ ¦Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"You really like the new head?Ã¢â¬ Normally Sam would have lied, but with so many questions filling his head his highly developed lying center seemed to have shut down. Ã¢â¬Å"It sucks, Aaron. It sucks and I think you should sue the Man from U.N.C.L.E.Ã¢â¬ He walked out as Aaron was snatching up his hand mirrors. Gabriella was just hanging up the phone when Sam walked in. Ã¢â¬Å"That was the security director from your condominium association, Mr. Hunter. He'd like to talk to you right away. The association is holding an emergency meeting tonight to discuss what they are going to do about your dog.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"I don't have a dog.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"He was very upset. I have his number, but he insisted upon seeing you in person before theÃ¢â¬ Ã¢â¬â she checked her notepad Ã¢â¬â Ã¢â¬Å"Ã¢â¬Ëlynch mob gets hold of you. Ã¢â¬Å" Ã¢â¬Å"Call him back and tell him that I don't have a dog. Dogs aren't allowed in the complex.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"He mentioned that, sir. That seems to be the problem. He said that your dog was on your back patio howling and refused to let anyone get near it and if you didn't get up there he would have to call the police.Ã¢â¬ All Sam could think was Not today. He said, Ã¢â¬Å"All right, call them and tell them I'm on my way. And call the garage down the street and have them come up and fix the flat tire on that orange Datsun out front. Have them bill it to my card.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"You have a three o'clock appointment with Mrs. Wittingham.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Cancel it.Ã¢â¬ Sam started out of the office. Ã¢â¬Å"Mr. Hunter, this is a death claim. Mr. Wittingham passed away last week and she wants you to help fill out the papers.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Gabriella, let me clue you in on something: once the client is dead we can afford to be a little lax on the service. The chance of repeat business is, well, unlikely. So reschedule the appointment or handle it yourself.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"But sir, I've never done a death claim before.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"It's easy: feel for a pulse; if there isn't one, give them the money.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"I am not amused, Mr. Hunter. I try to maintain a businesslike manner around here and you continually undermine me.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Handle it, Gabriella. Call the garage. I have to go.Ã¢â¬ It was only five minutes from Sam's office to his condo in the Cliffs, a three-hundred-unit complex on Santa Barbara's mesa. From Sam's back deck he could look across the city to the Santa Lucia Mountains and from his bedroom window he could see the ocean. Sam had once rented the apartment, but when the Cliffs went condo ten years before he optioned to buy it. Since then the value of his apartment had increased six hundred percent. The complex offered three swimming pools, saunas, a weight room, and tennis courts. It was restricted to adults without children or dogs, but cats were allowed. When Sam first moved in, the Cliffs had a reputation as a swinging singles complex, a party mecca. Now, after the rise in real estate prices and the death of the middle class, most of the residents were retirees or wealthy professional couples, and the cooperative agreement they all signed set strict limitations on noise and numbers of visitors. A team of security guards patrolled the complex in go lf carts twenty-four hours a day under the supervision of a hard-nosed ex-burglar named Josh Spagnola. Sam parked the Mercedes by Spagnola's office in the back of the Cliffs' clubhouse, which, with its terra-cotta courtyards, stucco arches, and wrought-iron gates, looked more like the casa grande of a Spanish hacienda than a meeting place for condo dwellers. The door to the office was open and Sam walked in to find Spagnola shouting into the phone. Sam had never heard the wiry security chief shout. This was a bad sign. Ã¢â¬Å"No, I can't just shoot the damn dog! The owner is on the way, but I'm not going into his townhouse and shooting his dog, rules or no rules.Ã¢â¬ Sam noticed that even in anger Spagnola remembered to use the word townhouse to refer to the apartment. No one wanted to pay a half-million dollars for an apartment; a townhouse was another thing. People were touchy about how one referred to their homes. When Sam was selling to people who lived in trailers he always referred to them as mobile estates. The term added a certain structural integrity; you never heard on the news of a tornado touching down and ripping the shit out of a park full of mobile estates. Ã¢â¬Å"I am listening, Dr. Epstein,Ã¢â¬ Spagnola continued. Ã¢â¬Å"But you don't seem to understand my position on you missing your nap. I don't give a desiccated damn. I don't give a reconstituted damn. I don't give a creamed damn on toast. I don't give a damn. I'm not entering Mr. Hunter's home until he arrives.Ã¢â¬ Spagnola looked up and gestured for Sam to sit. Then he grinned, mimed a mimic of the caller he was listening to, looked bored, feigned falling asleep, gestured the international sign language for being jerked off, then said, Ã¢â¬Å"Is that so, Doctor? Well, as far as I know I have no superiors since the Crucifixion, so give it your best shot.Ã¢â¬ He slammed down the phone. Sam said, Ã¢â¬Å"Got something on Dr. Epstein?Ã¢â¬ Spagnola smiled. Ã¢â¬Å"He's porking the Cliffs' highly ethical Monday-Wednesday-Friday masseuse.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Everybody's porking her.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"No, everybody's porking the Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday masseuse. Monday-Wednesday-Friday is very exclusive.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"And highly ethical.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Says so in the brochure.Ã¢â¬ Spagnola grinned, then casually picked up a legal pad from his desk and looked it over. Ã¢â¬Å"Samuel, my friend, your puppy has kept me on the phone with charming folks like Epstein all day. Shall I read you the log?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"I don't know what you're talking about, Josh. I don't have a dog.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Then you will want to notify security about the large canine that is currently on your back deck disturbing Dr. Epstein's nap.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"I'm not kidding, Josh. If there's a dog on my deck I don't know anything about it.Ã¢â¬ Sam suddenly remembered that he'd left the sliding door to the deck open. Ã¢â¬Å"Christ!Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Yes, the door is open. I've told you about that before, it's an invitation to burglars.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"That deck is twenty feet off the ground. How did a dog get up there? How did it get in my apartment without setting off the alarm?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"I was wondering that same thing. If it isn't your dog, how did it get up there? It looks bad. The other association members are having an emergency meeting tonight to discuss the problem.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"There isn't a problem. Let's just go get the damn dog and take it to the pound.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Yes, let's. I'll read the log to you while we walk over.Ã¢â¬ Spagnola rose, picked up the legal pad, and led Sam out the door, then paused, locked the office, and set the alarm. Ã¢â¬Å"Can't trust anyone,Ã¢â¬ he said. They walked brick paths shaded with arbors of pink and red bougainvillea while Spagnola read. Ã¢â¬Å"Nine A.M.: Mrs. Feldstein calls to report that a wolf has just urinated on her wisterias. I ignored that one. Nine oh-five: Mrs. Feldstein reports that the wolf is forcibly having sex with her Persian cat. I went on that call myself, just to see it. Nine ten: Mrs. Feldstein reports that the wolf ate the Persian after having his way with it. There was some blood and fur on her walk when I got there, but no wolf.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Is this thing a wolf?Ã¢â¬ Sam asked. Ã¢â¬Å"I don't think so. I've only seen it from below your deck. It has the right coloring for a coyote, but it's too damn big. Naw, it can't be a wolf. You sure you didn't bring home some babe last night who forgot to tell you that she had a furry friend in the car?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Please, Josh.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Okay. Ten fourteen: Mrs. Narada reports that her cat has been attacked by a large dog. Now I send all the boys out looking, but they don't find anything until eleven. Then one of them calls in that a big dog has just bitten holes in the tires on his golf cart and run off. Eleven thirty: Dr. Epstein makes his first lost-nap call: dog howling. Eleven thirty-five: Mrs. Norcross is putting the kids out on the deck for some burgers when a big dog jumps over the rail, eats the burgers, growls at the kids, runs off. First mention of lawsuit.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Kids? We've got her right there,Ã¢â¬ Sam said. Ã¢â¬Å"Kids aren't allowed.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Her grandkids are visiting from Michigan. She filed the proper papers.Ã¢â¬ Spagnola took a deep breath and started into the log again. Ã¢â¬Å"Eleven forty-one: large dog craps in Dr. Yamata's Aston Martin. Twelve oh-three: dog eats two, count 'em, two of Mrs. Wittingham's Siamese cats. She just lost her husband last week; this sort of put her over the edge. We had to call Dr. Yamata in off the putting green to give her a sedative. The personal-injury lawyer in the unit next to hers was home for lunch and he came over to help. He was talking class action then, and we didn't even know who owned the dog yet.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"You still don't.Ã¢â¬ Spagnola ignored Sam. Ã¢â¬Å"From twelve thirty to one we had mass sightings and frequent urinations Ã¢â¬â I won't bore you with details Ã¢â¬â then one of my guys spotted the dog and followed it to your building, where it disappeared for a minute and reappeared on your deck.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Disappeared? Josh, aren't you screening these guards for drug use?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"I think he meant that he lost sight of it. Anyway, it's been on your deck for a couple of hours and all the residents are convinced that it's your dog. They want to boot you out of the complex.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"They can't do that. I own the place.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Technically, Sam, they can. You own shares in the whole complex, and in the event of a two-thirds vote by the residents they can force you to sell your shares for what you paid for them. It's in the agreement you signed. I looked it up.Ã¢â¬ They were about a hundred yards from Sam's building and Sam could now hear the howling. Ã¢â¬Å"That apartment's worth five times what I paid for it.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"It is on the open market, but not to the other residents. Don't worry about it, Sam. It's not your dog, right?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Right.Ã¢â¬ Outside Sam's front door thirty of his neighbors were waiting, talking in heated tones, and glancing around. Ã¢â¬Å"There he is!Ã¢â¬ one shouted, pointing toward Sam and Spagnola. For a moment Sam was grateful that Spagnola was at his side, and at Spagnola's side was a.38 special. The ex-burglar leaned to Sam and whispered, Ã¢â¬Å"Don't say anything. Not a word. This could get ugly Ã¢â¬â I see at least two lawyers in that bunch.Ã¢â¬ Spagnola raised his hands and walked toward the crowd. Ã¢â¬Å"Folks, I know you're angry, but we need Mr. Hunter alive if we're going to deal with the problem.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Thanks,Ã¢â¬ Sam said under his breath. Ã¢â¬Å"No charge,Ã¢â¬ Spagnola said. Ã¢â¬Å"It never occurred to them to kill you. Now they'll be embarrassed and go home. Lynchings are so politically incorrect, you know.Ã¢â¬ Spagnola stopped and waited. Sam stayed beside him. As if the security chief had choreographed it, the people in front of Sam's door began to look around, avoiding eye contact with one another, then shuffled off, heads down, in different directions. Ã¢â¬Å"You're amazing,Ã¢â¬ Sam said to Spagnola. Ã¢â¬Å"Nope, it's just that for a lot of years my living depended on the predictability of the professional class. Now it depends on the predictability of the criminal class. Same skills, less risk. You want me to go in first?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"You have the gun.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Okay, you wait here.Ã¢â¬ Spagnola unlocked the door and palmed it open slowly. When the door was open just enough for him to pass, the thin security guard snaked through the opening and closed the door behind him. Sam noticed that the howling had stopped. He put his ear to the door and listened, forgetting for a moment that he had installed a soundproof fire door. A few minutes passed before the latch clicked and Spagnola poked his head out. Ã¢â¬Å"Well?Ã¢â¬ Sam said. Ã¢â¬Å"How attached are you to that leather sofa?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"It's insured,Ã¢â¬ Sam said. Ã¢â¬Å"Why, did he tear it up? Is he in there?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"He's in here, but I was wondering if you had some sort of Ã¢â¬â well Ã¢â¬â sentimental attachment to the sofa.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"No. Why? What's going on?Ã¢â¬ Spagnola threw the door open and stepped out of the way. Sam looked through the foyer into the sunken living room, where a large tan dog had his teeth dug into the arm of the leather sofa and was humping away on it like a furry jackhammer. Ã¢â¬Å"Josh, shoot that animal.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Sam, I know how you feel. You go through life thinking that you're the only one, then you walk in on something like this Ã¢â¬â it's a blow to the ego.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Just shoot the damn dog, Josh.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Can't do it. California law clearly states that a firearm may only be discharged in city limits in cases of imminent physical danger. Doesn't say a word about protecting the honor of someone's couch.Ã¢â¬ Sam ran down the steps into the living room, but as he approached the dog turned and growled at him. The dog laid its ears back against its head, narrowed its golden eyes, and, still growling, began to back Sam into the corner of the living room. Ã¢â¬Å"Josh! Does this qualify as imminent physical danger? Please say yes.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Getting there,Ã¢â¬ Spagnola said, very calmly, as he drew his weapon. Ã¢â¬Å"Don't let him see you're afraid, Sam. Dogs can sense fear.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"This isn't a dog, this is a coyote. This is a wild animal, Josh.Ã¢â¬ Sam was flattened against the fifty-two-inch screen of his television and was still pushing so that the television was tilting back, ready to fall. He could smell a foul, musky odor coming off the animal. Ã¢â¬Å"Shoot it, please. Now, please.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Quiet, Sam. I'm aiming. You can't shoot them in the head. They need that to see if it's rabid. Coyotes aren't normally aggressive. I saw it on PBS.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"This one didn't see the program, Josh. Shoot him.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"It might take two shots to drop him. If he leaps, cover your throat until I get the second one into him.Ã¢â¬ Spagnola fired and the TV shattered behind Sam. The coyote stood its ground unaffected. Sam backpedaled over the destroyed television as Spagnola fired again, taking out a vase on the mantel. The coyote looked at Spagnola quizzically. The third shot shattered the sliding glass door, the fourth and fifth punctured a stereo speaker, and the sixth ricocheted off the fireplace and out over the city. When Spagnola's revolver clicked on an empty chamber he turned and bolted out the front door. Sam climbed off the broken television and braced for the coyote's attack. His ears rang with residual gunfire but he could hear laughing from across the room. The coyote was gone, but sitting on his couch, dressed in black buckskins trimmed with red feathers, was the Indian, his head thrown back in laughter. Ã¢â¬Å"Hey!Ã¢â¬ Sam shouted. Ã¢â¬Å"What are you doing?Ã¢â¬ In an instant the Indian leapt up and ran through the shattered glass door onto the deck. He looked over his shoulder and grinned at Sam before vaulting over the railing and dropping out of sight. Sam ran to the deck and looked over the rail. The Indian was gone, but he could hear his cackling laugh echoing down the canyon into town. Sam stumbled back from the rail and into the house, where he sat down on the couch and cradled his head in his hands. There had to be an explanation. Someone was screwing with his life. He riffled through his past as far as he would allow himself, looking for enemies he might have made. They were there Ã¢â¬â competing salesmen, angry customers, angrier women Ã¢â¬â dotting his life like dandelions on a lawn, but none would have gone to such elaborate measures to cause him trouble. In an honest assessment of himself he realized that he had never really been passionate enough about anything to really make that big a difference to anyone, good or bad. Since he'd run from the reservation he couldn't afford the high profile of passionate behavior. Still, there had to be an answer somewhere. Sam thought about prayer, then faith, then remembered something that lay tucked away in the back of his sock drawer. He ran up the stairs to his bedroom and threw open the drawer. He removed a small buckskin bundle and untied the thong that held it together. Objects he had not seen in twenty years Ã¢â¬â teeth, claws, fur, and sweet grass braids Ã¢â¬â spilled out on the dresser. Among them lay a red feather that he had never seen before. Sam looked at the coyote medicine and began to tremble. Coyote Makes the World A long time ago there was water everywhere. Old Man Coyote looked around and said, Ã¢â¬Å"Hey, we need some land.Ã¢â¬ It was his gift from the Great Spirit that he could command all of the animals, which were called the Without Fires Clan, so he called four ducks to help him find land. He ordered each of the ducks to dive under the water and find some mud. The first three returned with nothing, but the fourth duck, because four is the sacred number and that is the way things go in these stories, returned with some mud from the bottom. Ã¢â¬Å"Swell,Ã¢â¬ said Old Man Coyote. Ã¢â¬Å"Now I will make some land.Ã¢â¬ He made the mountains and the rivers, the prairies and the deserts, the plants and the animals. Then he said, Ã¢â¬Å"Guess I'll make some people now, so there will be someone to tell stories about me.Ã¢â¬ From the mud he made some tall and beautiful people. Old Man Coyote liked them very much. Ã¢â¬Å"I will call them Absarokee, which means Ã¢â¬ËChildren of the Large-Beaked Bird. Someday some dumb white guys will come here and get the translation all wrong and call them Crow.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"What are they going to eat?Ã¢â¬ one of the ducks asked. Ã¢â¬Å"They have no feathers or fur. What will they cover themselves with?Ã¢â¬ asked a second duck. Ã¢â¬Å"Yes,Ã¢â¬ said a third duck. Ã¢â¬Å"They're pretty, but they won't be able to stay out in the weather.Ã¢â¬ Old Man Coyote thought for a while about how much he disliked ducks, then he took some more mud and made a strange-looking animal with a thick coat and horns. Ã¢â¬Å"Here,Ã¢â¬ he said. Ã¢â¬Å"They can get everything they need from this animal. I'll call it a buffalo.Ã¢â¬ The fourth duck had been standing by watching all this and smoking a cigarette. Ã¢â¬Å"It's a big animal. Your people won't be able to catch it,Ã¢â¬ he said, blowing a long stream of blue smoke in Old Man Coyote's face. Ã¢â¬Å"Okay, so here's another animal that they can ride so they can catch the buffalo.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"And how will they catch that one?Ã¢â¬ asked the fourth. Ã¢â¬Å"Look, duck, do I have to work out everything? I made the world and these people and I've given them everything they need, so just back off.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"But if they have everything they need, what will they do? Just sit around telling stories about you?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"That would be good.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Boring,Ã¢â¬ said the duck. Ã¢â¬Å"I'll make them a bunch of enemies. They'll be hopelessly outnumbered and have to fight all the time and do all kinds of war rituals. How's that?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"They'll get wiped out.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"No, I'll stay with them. The Children of the Large-Beaked Bird will be my favorites, although some of their enemies can tell stories about me too.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"But what if the buffalo animals all get killed?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Won't happen. There's too many of them.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"But what if they do?Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Then I guess the people are fucked. I'm tired and dirty and cold from standing in all that water. I'm going to invent the sweat bath and warm up.Ã¢â¬ So Old Man Coyote built a sweat lodge out of willow branches and buffalo skins. He heated the rocks in a fire and put them in a pit in the middle of the sweat lodge, then he and the ducks crawled inside and closed the door, making it completely dark inside. Ã¢â¬Å"Hey, put out that cigarette!Ã¢â¬ Old Man Coyote said to the fourth duck. The duck threw the cigarette on the hot rocks and smoke filled the lodge. Ã¢â¬Å"That smells pretty good,Ã¢â¬ Old Man Coyote said. Ã¢â¬Å"Let's throw some other stuff on the fire and see how it goes.Ã¢â¬ He threw on some cedar needles and they smelled pretty good too, then he threw on some sweet grass and some sage. Ã¢â¬Å"This stuff will be part of the sweat ceremony, too. And some water Ã¢â¬â we need some water so it will really get hot and miserable in here.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"And we can get truly purified and clean?Ã¢â¬ asked the third duck. Ã¢â¬Å"Right,Ã¢â¬ said Old Man Coyote. Ã¢â¬Å"First I'll pour four dippers of water on the rocks for the four directions.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"And the four ducks.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Right,Ã¢â¬ said Old Man Coyote. Ã¢â¬Å"Now I'll pour on seven dippers for the seven stars of the Big Dipper. Then ten more because ten is a nice even number.Ã¢â¬ He handed each of the ducks a willow switch to beat their backs with. Ã¢â¬Å"Here, wail on yourself with these.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"What for?Ã¢â¬ asked the second duck. Ã¢â¬Å"TenderizeÃ¢â¬ ¦ erÃ¢â¬ ¦ I meanÃ¢â¬ ¦ it brings up the sweat and purifies you.Ã¢â¬ Then, when the ducks were beating their backs with the willow branches, Old Man Coyote said, Ã¢â¬Å"Okay, now I'm going to pour a whole bunch of dippers on the rocks. I'm not even going to count, but we are going to be really hot and really clean and pure.Ã¢â¬ Then he poured and poured until it was so hot in the lodge that he could not stand it and he slipped out the door, leaving the ducks inside. Later, after he had plunged into the river to cool off, he ate a big meal and laid down to rest. Ã¢â¬Å"That was plumb swell,Ã¢â¬ he said to himself. Ã¢â¬Å"I think I'll give the sweat to my new people. It can be their church and sacrament and they can think of me whenever they go in. It is my gift to them. I guess no one really needs to know about the ducks.Ã¢â¬ Then Old Man Coyote picked up a willow twig and picked a bit of duck meat from between his teeth. Ã¢â¬Å"The sage gives them a nice flavor, though.Ã¢â¬ CHAPTER 7 The Children of the Large-Beaked Bird Crow Country Ã¢â¬â 1967 Samson Hunts Alone sat on a bench by the sweat lodge behind his grandma's house, watching as Pokey carried the hot rocks with a pitchfork from the fire to the pit in the sweat lodge. Samson was supposed to be paying attention to the ritual that Pokey was performing and preparing himself to pray to the Great Spirit to bring him good medicine on his fast, but more than anything he wanted to be inside with the little kids and the women watching ;Bonanza; on television. Grandma had cooked up a big batch of fry bread for the meal after the sweat and Samson's stomach growled when he thought about it. Pokey, straining under a pitchfork full of red-hot rocks, said, Ã¢â¬Å"Can't nobody cross my path between the fire and the sweat during the first four trips.Ã¢â¬ Uncle Harlan, who was sitting next to Samson, let out a sarcastic snicker. Pokey looked up at him, his brow lowered in reproach. Ã¢â¬Å"The boys have to learn, Harlan,Ã¢â¬ Pokey said. Harlan nodded. On the other side of Samson sat his two older cousins, Harry and Festus, thirteen and fourteen, who had been through the sweat for purification and prayer for their success on the basketball court at Hardin Junior High School. They had come the fifteen miles down to Crow Agency with Harlan, their father, to participate in Samson's sweat. Uncle Harlan didn't believe in the old ways. He often said that he didn't want his boys to grow up with their heads full of ideas that didn't work in the modern world. Still, because of the obligations he felt to his family he often drove down for sweats, participated in ritual gift giving, and never missed the Sun Dance in June. He lived in Hardin, north of the reservation, where he rebuilt truck engines during the day and drank hard in the bars at night. He fought often and lost seldom. When he was drinking with Uncle Pokey, the two of them lying on the bed of Pokey's pickup staring into the limitless stars of Montana's big sky, passing a bottle of Dickel Sour Mash between them, Harlan would talk of his time in Vietnam, of the two brothers he lost there, and of the warrior blood that was part of the Hunts Alone family. Pokey would answer Harlan's painful pride with parables and mystical references until Harlan could stand it no longer. Ã¢â¬Å"Damn it, Pokey, can your medicine fix a Cummins diesel? Can it fill out a tax form? Can it get you a job? Fuck medicine. Fuck fasting. Fuck the Sun Dance. If I thought I could do it, I'd take Joan and the kids and go a thousand miles from here.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"You'd be back,Ã¢â¬ Pokey would say. Then the two of them would lie there drinking in silence for long minutes before one of them would bring up basketball, hunting, or truck engines Ã¢â¬â some topic safe and far away from Harlan's anger. Some of those nights Samson would crawl out of his cot, sneak past the six cousins that slept in his room and out into the yard, where he would lie by the wheel of the old truck and listen to the two men talk. Harlan was the only adult Samson knew who would talk about the dead, so the boy would lie there with his face against the cold grass hoping to hear something about his father or his mother, but mostly he heard about his two uncles, dead in the jungles, or his grandfather, who died piece by piece in a white hospital of diabetes. His father had died too young to leave many stories or a strong ghost. Not that Harlan would admit to believing in ghosts. Ã¢â¬Å"If I'm haunted,Ã¢â¬ he would tell Pokey, Ã¢â¬Å"it's not by my unrevenged brothers, it's by you and your back-assward ways.Ã¢â¬ After time and hangovers passed, Samson would ask Pokey about Harlan and always get the same answer. Ã¢â¬Å"Poor Harlan, he is out of balance. I should dance for him at the Sun Dance.Ã¢â¬ It was no answer. Samson remained confused. Samson watched as Harlan rose from the bench and undressed for the sweat. He was tall and lean, his skin deep red-brown in the firelight, his eyes and hair black as an obsidian arrowhead: pure Crow brave. But as Samson undressed he wondered why his uncle seemed so unhappy with his heritage. He treated his Crow blood like a curse, while Pokey seemed to see it as a blessing. They were half brothers, sharing the same mother, belonging to her clan, growing up in the same house; why were they so different? Why did neither one seem to be able to live comfortably in his own skin? Naked, they all entered the low dome of the sweat lodge and sat in a circle around its perimeter. Pokey placed a bucket of water by the fire pit, then he pulled down the door flap. He added sweet grass and cedar to the hot rocks and fragrant smoke filled the lodge as he sang a prayer song. His prayers were in English, which Samson knew embarrassed him some. Pokey, like Grandma, had gone to a boarding school run by the BIA where Indians were forbidden to speak or learn their own language or religion. In this way the BIA hoped that the Native American culture would disappear into the larger white culture, assimilated. Harlan, on the other hand, was ten years younger than Pokey and, like Samson, had been taught Crow in school as part of the BIA's move to preserve Indian culture. Pokey poured four dippers of water onto the rocks and Samson lowered his face to avoid the steam. As Pokey sang, Samson let his mind wander to the Ponderosa. He would like to live on that big ranch in that big house and have his own room and two guns like Little Joe Cartwright. Until Grandma had taken all their per capita money a year ago and bought the big black-and-white television at the Kmart in Billings, Samson thought that everyone lived in a small house with twenty cousins and five or six aunts and uncles and their grandma. Everyone on the reservation seemed to. Before the television arrived Samson did not know he was poor. Now he spent every evening piled in the front room with his family watching people he did not know do things he did not understand in places he could not fathom, while the commercials told him that he should be just like those people. None of those people ever took a sweat. Pokey had poured the seven dippers and the sweat lodge was so hot that Samson's mind went white. He lay down on the floor to breathe some cooler air. Someone lifted his head and asked him if he was okay. He answered yes and passed out. -=*=- Water was being splashed on his face. Samson came to and realized that he was being held in Harlan's strong arms. Ã¢â¬Å"We did a naming ceremony for you, Samson,Ã¢â¬ Harlan said. Ã¢â¬Å"From now on you shall be called Squats Behind the Bush. And you owe each of us a carton of cigarettes and a new Ford truck.Ã¢â¬ Samson saw that Harlan was grinning at him and he smiled back. Ã¢â¬Å"If I don't take the name, do I have to give you the gifts?Ã¢â¬ Harlan laughed and set the boy on his feet by a fifty-five-gallon drum where Harry and Festus were pouring dippers of water over their heads. After they were dried off and redressed Pokey moved the rocks out of the pit and replaced them with hot ones from the fire so the women could take their sweat. Pokey finished and led them into the house, which was surprisingly quiet. The little kids were in bed and the women filed out to the sweat silently as soon as the men entered. The cheap Formica table was set with five plastic bowls around a big pot of venison-and-cabbage stew and a basket of fry bread. Harlan poured them all coffee from a big black urn on the counter while Pokey dished up the stew. Samson attacked a piece of fry bread and was tearing away at its stretchy, donutlike crust when Harlan sat down next to him and said, Ã¢â¬Å"So, Squats Behind the Bush, what are you gonna do tomorrow if you see Old Man Coyote in your vision like your Uncle Pokey did?Ã¢â¬ Festus and Harry giggled. Samson answered the sarcasm in earnest. Ã¢â¬Å"Pokey's the only one with Coyote medicine. Pretty Eagle said so.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Good thing, too,Ã¢â¬ Harlan said. Ã¢â¬Å"Some of us have to live in the real world.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"Harlan!Ã¢â¬ Pokey shouted. Ã¢â¬Å"Let it go.Ã¢â¬ Ã¢â¬Å"It's gone,Ã¢â¬ Harlan said. Ã¢â¬Å"It's as gone as can be, Pokey.Ã¢â¬ They finished their meal in silence, Samson wondering what Harlan meant by Ã¢â¬Å"It's gone.Ã¢â¬ Later, as he fell asleep listening to the soft breathing of his cousins, he imagined himself living on the Ponderosa; sleeping in his own room, herding cattle on his own black horse, carrying two shiny six-guns, practicing his fast-draw, and always staying on the lookout for Indians.