The Glittering White World
By: Dawn Bear
Coyote shook the fur from his human body like a molting bird. He brushed the whiskers from his chin and cheeks with a paw as it slithered and formed into a human hand.
“That took long enough,” he said, as he watched the lightning bolt behind the chapter house. He fell to his knees as the ground shook, not use to his human form. He’d spent many centuries as a dog always named Nizhoni, waiting to return. He put on the clothes he had snagged from a clothesline at a nearby hogan as the first raindrops began to drop.
“It’s time to make my move.” He shook the rain off like a dog, slipped on the loose fitting jeans and t-shirt and ran toward the road.
The first of the trucks that had gotten supplies was leaving to escape the rain and he put out his thumb to signal his need for a ride. It stopped, though it seemed too far in the distance to see to him and he jumped in the bed. He knocked the rear window and the truck drove in the direction of the cone, where the Twins had gone.
Big Giant looked compacted even in his large Ford with an extended cap. His belly rested on the bottom of the steering wheel as the truck bumped across the dirt road. An old fashioned mud hogan stood in the distance, silhouetted against the setting sun. Smoke danced from the opening at the top to the sky.
He stopped abruptly, the driver’s side a quick two step from the moth eaten blanket that covered the entry. He pushed it aside, hunching over to enter the darkness of the hovel.
An old woman in tattered silken skirts stood over the pot belly stove, stirring something in a large cast-iron pot. It smelled of earth and rot in the enclosed space.
Big Giant took a handkerchief from his pocket and covered his nose and mouth.
“I thought you’d come sooner,” the old woman cackled.
“With all the work you’ve been doing lately, I’d think you would’ve traded in this hell hole for something a little more…well, better.” His eyebrows gathered in disdain.
She turned from the stove to face him. Her cheeks were sunken like her skeleton was too large for the skin that covered it. Eyes bulged from darkened caverns. Wrinkles smothered her face like worms and moved as she chewed on the end of a reed. “It’s home,” she shrugged with a playfulness that seemed unnatural to her demeanor.
“I need a favor,” he said, leaning against the door frame. It groaned against his weight, like at any moment it’d give. Instead of moving away, he relaxed more into the frame.
“A favor?” she asked. Her smile was absent of teeth.
“Just a small one.”
“Does he know?” she asked.
He batted away the question like a fly. “Wouldn’t you like a little revenge?”
“Unlike you, they spared me,” she said as she arranged threadbare cushions so she could sit. A cloud of dust exploded from the cushions as she plopped down. “I don’t need revenge.”
“But they made you cower into the shadows, you can’t forget that.”
The old woman craned her neck birdlike. The reed bounced as she vigorously gnawed on it.
Big Giant moved closer, kneeling on a cushion near her.
“It’s just a tiny favor, and with all the work you’ve done lately, it’ll be your crowning moment.” His hands cuffed air like power balanced between them. “It won’t take much. It won’t take near the amount of power it took for you to bring cancer this way. That was a nice touch by the way.”
The old woman nodded, the corners of her lips upturned. “It took a long time to work that one up,” she said with pride.
“Just a little famine, nothing big.”
The old woman took the reed from her mouth. “I have a few more tricks up my sleeve,” she said. Her dark eyes sharpened.
“Then its a deal?” he asked.
She spat into her palm and held out her hand.
“A bit old fashioned, but alright.” He shook her hand trying to hold back his disgust.
Big Giant stood, taking the handkerchief to wipe the blackened spittle from his hand. He paused in the doorway, the stars glittered like fireflies in the background. “One more thing,” he said. “It has to be done by tomorrow.”
The old woman flew from her position to the stove, her laughter echoing off the mud walls as the giant strutted back to the truck.
Chapter Eight: Coyote Visits
The sun was setting as the twins pulled up to their home. The smell of burnt sheep still stuck in the air: musky and stifling. Worsened by the dampened earth. The rain had stopped, but the roads had given them trouble on the way home, immediately flooded in some areas from months of drought and then turned into to pits of mud with large divots driven through like ditches. They had to stop to pull a few cars out and the ones that weren’t successful, they volunteered to take home.
“All I want is a shower,” Arianna complained.
“You can have that shower, I’ll take some food,” said Bryant, as he shut the door to the truck.
The sky was shrouded in purple but their home was crowned in orange. Ariana shuffled her feet across the paved driveway to get the mud offer her ruined sneakers. She was glad she had worn one of many pairs of her black and white converse and not the pink Nike’s her Grandma had just gotten her, those were dirty enough.
She kicked off the converse at the doorstep, socks slithered off, wet and brown. Bryant followed suit. She reached for the doorknob but she was stopped by Bryant.
“I know you don’t want to talk about.” He’s eyes focused on his wiggling toes. “But how did you do that?”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“You did!” He planted both hands on her shoulders. His walnut eyes centered on her. “I even felt it. It was like we were all the same. Like we all shared were one somehow.”
Ariana bit at her crumbling nail polish, the islands almost demolished from her noshing. “I just remembered what Esther said to me once and how it helped and I thought that it could help Tarrah, but only when I started to say it, the words took over. It was like the words knew that she wasn’t the only one who needed to hear them and I couldn’t stop.”
She spit out a piece of the polish she’d manage to take off and looked at her brother. A familiar tingle began to swell in her shoulders, like a static shock. She removed his grip from her shoulders and took his palm in both of hers.
“You know what,” she said, patting the top of his hand. “It felt like an old friend was returned to me. And I think a friend is returning to you too. That storm was one of us, and I feel like it was you.”
Bryant yanked his hand away from hers and elbowed her in the chest playfully. “You’re starting to sound like Grandma,” he said as he pushed the the door open.
Their laughter echoed through the hallway as Grandma hollered at them to make sure not to track in any mud.
“It’s the end of the world, Grandma, and you’re still worried about mud?” said Bryant.
She bustled in around the corner from the kitchen, skirts first. “We still gotta live here until it does,” she said, laughing.
“At least you two still have your spirits,” Grandpa said. He was in the den, but even the week old newspaper couldn’t hide the smile projected in his voice.
Ariana took a seat in the den as Grandpa folded his newspaper and set it aside. “Why is everyone in such a good mood?” she asked.
“We have a visitor,” said Grandma.
Bryant planted himself into the seat next to Ariana and let out a pained groan, the laughter from his face gone.
Grandma skirted over to the newspaper and swatted Bryant’s knee with it.
“What was that for?” He said, holding his knee exaggeratedly like it was in pain.
“I’m with Bryant on this one. The last visitor we had just brought trouble.” Ariana pouted.
Grandma raised the newspaper.
Ariana shielded her face and mocked a face of horror like she’d seen in silent films. When Grandma lowered the paper she smiled knowing she had won.
“Who’s the visitor?” Bryant whined.
“Grandpa’s right there,” said Bryant.
Ariana began to stand up. Grandma was going to be as cryptic as ever and she wasn’t in the mood. “When you’re ready to tell us, then let me know, I’m gonna jump in the shower.”
The newspaper rose again.
Grandpa laughed. “It’s your Grandpa Nizhoni, that damned dog finally came home.”
“I thought Nizhoni was a girl,” said Bryant.
“You’re really more concerned about Nizhoni’s sex than a dog being our grandpa?” Ari jabbed at her brother.
He hugged his shoulder like he had his knee. “Let me guess,” he said. “Nizhoni is Coyote.”
“Smart boy,” said Grandpa. His laughter was deep and cavernous, like it came from the roots of his belly.
“But I thought Coyote was a trickster and did bad things,” Ari said.
“Trickster, yes,” said Grandma. “But not all bad. His tricks have proved helpful at times.”
The door croaked open and bare feet shuffled across the linoleum floor. All Ariana noticed was the yellowed toe nails that seemed more like claws than nails and the frayed heels of his jeans that barely covered his callused feet. He looked much too young to be a grandpa. Young like her mother and aunt, with long, inky hair pulled back in a low, disheveled pony. His eyes were large, with irises the size of a walnut but dark and curious that overlooked a nose with widened nostrils, slightly crooked, like he’d been punched more than a few times.
“Yá’át’ééh,” he said, bobbing his head up and down, fidgeting with his hands.
Bryant got up and reached his hand over. “Hello, Grandpa.”
A high pitched squeal filled the room. “Grandpa,” Coyote said, batting the expression away with his hand.
“Would you prefer we call you Nizhoni?” Ariana asked, smiling as she released his extended hand.
Coyotes cheeks trembled for a moment before another squeal of laughter escaped and he sat between the twins resting his long arms across the back of the couch.
The couch immediately began to smell of wet dog. Ariana tried to maintain her composure and breathe through her mouth.
“You know that Grandpa of yours has a sense of humor,” he said, scooting in to grab their shoulders and bringing them in closer. “He didn’t like all the trouble I got into and so he found a way to trap me here as a dog. I was stuck here as his pet dog for gosh knows when, at his beck and call, as his dog Nizhoni.” He shook his head smiling. “That was a good one Grandpa. Very humiliating. This one here,” he pointed to Bryant. “Even thought I was a girl, but as luck would have it, you need me now.” He clicked his tongue. “I bet you didn’t think I’d be coming back after I disappeared.” He hugged them even tighter.
Grandpa laughed. “It was just a little joke. You gotta admit you were a pretty bitch.” He winked.
Silence spread in the room until Coyote laughed again. “You’re lucky I came back.”
“I wasn’t worried,” Grandpa said. “I knew you’d come home. It was the right thing to do.”
“I’m not here because it’s the right thing to do,” said Coyote.
“Then why are you here?” asked Grandma.
Ariana was pulled in tighter. She could feel the heat from Coyotes armpits and the thought made her gag.
“Man, don’t you ever shower?” Bryant asked, pushing Coyote away, gagging exaggeratedly.
“Bryant!” Grandma said, smacking the newspaper across his knees.
Coyote chuckled. “Because this is going to be fun.”
“You’re here just for fun?” asked Ariana, tactfully scooting toward the armrest, a comfortable distance from him.
“Every beginning and end has fun,” he said hunching over his knees.
“It hasn’t been fun so far,” said Bryant, losing the gleam of happiness that had briefly overshadowed his sadness and anger.
Silence engulfed the den.
Grandpa stood, brushing off invisible particles from his wranglers. “Coyote has always had a wicked sense of humor.”
Ariana raised an eyebrow, trying to remember their emergence and how Coyote was involved. She knew he had done things in a chaotic fashion, but some of those things ended up good for their people. She got up and left in Grandpa’s wait, not bothering to excuse herself. She needed a shower, food and rest, but worry took over her thoughts. She couldn’t help but wonder how his turbulent behavior could cause more destruction than good.