Reckonings: Contemporary Short Fiction by Native American Women

By Hertha D. Sweet Wong; Lauren Stuart Muller et al. | Go to book overview

Bush’s Mourning Feast

Linda Hogan

Sometimes now I hear the voice of my great-grandmother, Agnes. It floats toward me like a soft breeze through an open window.

“The house is crying,” I said to her as steam ran down the walls. The cooking stove heated the house. Windows were frozen over with white feathers and ferns.

Bush said the house could withstand it. She had black hair then, beautiful and soft. She stepped out into the cold and brought in an armload of wood. I caught the sweet odor of it and a wind of cold air as she brushed by me. She placed a log in the stove. It was still damp and when the flame grabbed it, the wood spat and hissed.

I didn’t for a minute believe the house could withstand it. I knew already it was going to collapse. It was a wooden house, dark inside, and spare. The floors creaked as she swept about. The branches of trees scraped against the windows like they were trying to get in. Perhaps they protested the fire and what it lived on.

Bush unjointed the oxtails and browned them in suet. She worked so slowly, you would have thought it was swamp balm, not fat and backbone, that she touched. I thought of the old days when the oxen arrived in black train cars from the dark, flat fields of Kansas, diseased beasts that had been yoked together in burden. All the land, even our lost land, was shaped by them and by the hated thing that held them together as rain and sunlight and snow fell on their toiling backs.

The shadows of fish floated in the sink. Bush did her own hunting then, and she had a bag of poor, thin winter rabbits. She removed their fur the way you’d take off a stocking. She dredged them in flour. In the kitchen, their lives rose up in steam.

Day and night she worked. In her nightclothes, she boiled roots that still held the taste of mud. She stirred a black kettle and two pots. In her dark skirt, she cut onions. I didn’t understand, until it was over, what it was she had to do. I didn’t know what had taken hold of her and to what lengths she must go in order to escape its grip.

She folded blankets and clothing and placed them on the floor in the center of that one dark room. She took down the curtains, shook out the dust, washed them in the sink, and hung

-123-

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Reckonings: Contemporary Short Fiction by Native American Women
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Credits vii
  • Contents xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Paula Gunn Allen (1939–) 1
  • Burned Alive in the Blues 3
  • Deer Woman 17
  • Beth E. Brant (1941–) 25
  • Turtle Gal 27
  • Swimming Upstream 38
  • Diane Glancy (1941-) 45
  • Minimal Indian 47
  • Stamp Dance 54
  • An American Proverb 59
  • Anna Lee Walters (1946-) 61
  • Buffalo Wallow Woman 63
  • Las Vegas, New Mexico, July 1969 75
  • Apparitions 80
  • Janet Campbell Hale (1947–) 85
  • Claire 87
  • Linda Hogan (1947-) 111
  • Descent 113
  • Bush’s Mourning Feast 123
  • Leslie Marmon Silko (1948–) 129
  • Storyteller 131
  • Mistaken Identity 143
  • Patricia Riley - (1950-) 151
  • Damping Down the Road 153
  • Wisteria 166
  • Joy Harjo (1951–) 173
  • The Reckoning 175
  • The Crow and the Snake 182
  • The Woman Who Fell from the Sky 185
  • The Flood 189
  • Letter from the End of the Twentieth Century 192
  • Anita Endrezze (1952–) 195
  • Grandfather Sun Falls in Love with a Moon-Faced Woman 197
  • The Humming of Stars and Bees and Waves 204
  • Louise Erdrich (1954–) 211
  • Le Mooz 213
  • Summer 1913/Miskomini-Geezis/ Raspberry Sun 222
  • Almost Soup 234
  • Lazy Stitch 239
  • Kimberly M. Blaeser (1955–) 245
  • Like Some Old Story 247
  • Growing Things 252
  • Misha Nogha (1955–) 257
  • Memekwesiw 259
  • Sakura 263
  • Beth H. Piatote (1966–) 265
  • Beading Lesson 267
  • Life-Size Indian 270
  • Reid Gómez (1968–) 279
  • Electric Gods 281
  • Touch. Touch. Touching 289
  • Author Biographies and Bibliographies 293
  • Anthologies of Native American Literatures 303
  • Index 307
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