Woman Who Walks On Stones – The Return
By Brother Theo
Mandi blinked. The cat was impossibly big, she had felt its hot breath on her face, seen its fangs, incisors at least as long as her forearm. She had smelled it; the overpowering odor of a huge predatory feline killing machine. It had been right there, inches from her face, its enormous head blotting out…well, everything. In its place was what had become her reality in the last few months; the thin wooden slats of her porch rail, the newel post painted an incongruous orange, the wind chimes hanging between the steps and the corner of the porch roof. The familiar, comforting hum of reality, her reality lay just outside the threshold of her yard.
” What is happening to me? Am I sick like before?”The words bounced aimlessly around in her head. When she had been a small child, only seven, she had awakened in her bed feverish, speaking gibberish and nonsense. She had been fully clothed, and from the scratches and bruises on her body it had been clear that she had spent the night before out in the open desert. Her mother had demanded she be taken to the white doctor at the clinic in Milan, the nearest white medicine available to the people in their village. Her anali hastin, or paternal grandfather had said that she would recover if she was allowed to talk of what had happened.
Her Father began drinking despite the poisonous look mother had shot him. So the three adults sat in her bedroom and listened incredulously as she spoke of seeking the path to answering a question her heart had been insistently asking. She said that grandfather had helped, and described what had happened in the kitchen. Grandfather had nodded saying that it was so. She then told of taking a sacrifice to the mesa of the sacred mountain and her encounter with the coyotes and the great spirit cat.
As she told her story her mother’s face betrayed first disbelief, then worry, finally settling on anger. When the girl spoke of the name gift from the spirit cat, her mother spat the word out as if it had been a bug which had flown into her mouth. “Mandi!” Her face contorted in fury. “Your name is not Mandi, it is Mai! And it shall remain Mai until your woman naming, for you are my bright flower!”
For a moment her body sagged and her face looked exactly as it had in the girl’s vision; sorrow contested with despair on her features. Suddenly her deflated body seemed to have filled with rage until it seemed her skin would burst.
“You!” She spat: her fiery eyes locked on the old man. “You put these notions in her head with your sticks and your feathers. Your worthless stones and dried leaves. You and your nonsense about the old ones, and the spirits did this!”
Spying the makeshift bandage on her daughter’s finger she unwrapped it revealing the swollen red fingertip. “Blood sacrifice” she whispered gaze riveted on the black hole that tipped the angry looking wound. “Blood sacrifice in MY HOME!” The room seemed to shrink as her rage, finally free of it’s restraints flooded in to it.
Mandi saw her father stand and walk unsteadily from the room, his face an unreadable mask. “And with my daughter’s blood.” She hissed. “Poison you put on the thorn! Poison to make her spirit fly!” In a low voice fashioned from undiluted malice she said: “And now it has truly flown away from us and left this” Her hand cut the air in a gesture that ended in an accusing finger pointed at the girl. “This Mandi thing.” Suddenly she rushed at her father in law pushing him forcibly from the room. From her bed she heard her mother screaming curses as she banished grandfather from their home, forbidding him to speak to Mai again. It would be four years before Mandi heard her grandfather’s name again.
Four terrible years. Years that separated her from what she had been, and made her into what she was. Now, on the porch, her body, weak from the shock of this most recent apparition she spoke the dreaded thought aloud. “It is happening again.” Her body jolted fiercely when a voice beside her spoke. “Aho Tsosi” turning her head slowly, her neck so tight that the tendons in her neck sounded like poorly tuned guitar strings being plucked in her ears, she saw her grandfather sitting in the rattan papa sahn chair beside her. The cat, still quite large for a cat, but still just the cat that had become her companion lately, was stretched out comfortably on his lap, eyes closed and purring as her her grandfather, Din’e, or beaver to her clan, scratched behind its one ragged ear. In the silence of the moment the wind chime tinkled faintly as if to remind her politely that she was indeed sitting on her porch, and not dreaming.
Bill the Butcher