“You have to do your Sun Dance. The modern world has alienated you from your true self. Your mother was stolen from her people, just as I and many of my ancestors were stolen. The Great Forgetting has overtaken people of the modern world. “ Cop had asked Tante her story, something no one had ever done before. She’d always done all the asking, and his straightforward manner appealed to her.
He was also kind of cute.
“We dance in the sun a lot, or at least when it shines, which isn’t all that much in Mendocino, but we get some, and it’s really nice. So I don’t think that’s it.” She’d not yet gotten to the place of shutting up and listening very well.
Tȟašúŋke gave her his best Bad Cop stare. She shut up; he was good. The battle axe in his holster was pretty impressive, too. She didn’t dare ask about the, uh, furs he had hanging from his belt.
They were sitting in a Yurt at a state park in Pennsylvania, listening to the water flow as Baltha munched on some oats from the pouch Cop had provided for her. She didn’t want Tante to know she was with her. After all, the Sun Dance was no walk in the park.
No, it wasn’t a bowl of cherries, at all.
“You know nothing of the Sun Dance. To spend the full day, in the baking sun, bones piercing your skin, bound to a pole, dancing, making the music with your breath, no food, no water, just pain, and dance, and brotherhood, and blood, and dance, until your skin is ripped from your body, your sacrifice to the great spirits made!” His voice boomed.
Tante puked into the fire at the center of the structure.
Cop laughed, poured some water from the jug by his side into an old tin cup for her.
“Oh, don’t worry old Crone, you’re not of my people. Your Sun Dance will be different.”
“But what? That’s the problem, I just don’t know what to do!” She almost whined.
“I cannot tell you that. I can only tell what I see, what I know from my own people and our ways. They’re very different from the ways of those who’ve taken over this country. Our entire worldview and values are different. Your symbols are strange to us.” He gave her a look as indecipherable as that of a cigar store statue.
“Are you from here?” Suddenly it occurred to her that she might be dealing with another exo-dimensional. She’d been so long with the small group in Mendocino that she’d almost forgotten what a great big cosmos it is. Still, she didn’t want to let out any secrets. They guy was, after all, a Cop.
“Not Philadelphia, no. My people are from the Great Plains. Once we roamed, followed the bison, lived with the land. Now, well, some have scattered, some still live on what the Wounded Ones, those who have lost their place in the circle that is life, have thrown to us. Their wounds come from blindness, they don’t see themselves within the larger context of the world that holds us, they see themselves as above it all. Some of us, well, we still live real life, not the no life most people here live.” He frowned.
“What do you mean, no life?” She was still rinsing the acid from her teeth. Yuck.
“Sitting in a cubicle all day, staring at a screen? Working like a slave to grow another family’s food, while yours goes hungry? Working your fingers to push buttons, working to put water into plastic, and not with your arms, to gather grains, hunt game? Playing guard, baby sitting children who should be home with their tribe, running in the world all day, learning what they need to know of life, real life, not sitting in a square box with no windows learning false histories?” Cop had been a teacher before walking away. He was a rent a cop for the convention in Philadelphia, hired by no one in particular.
“Well, from what I saw wandering around in San Francisco and Philadelphia, the people who won’t be slaves to the system don’t have it so good. It seems that some in the system have far too much, those who live in the great towers, more than any sensible person might need, while others can’t get out of the cold at night. I met some people who work in cubicles, and you’re right, that’s awful, worse in many ways than to die in the gutter. It’s as bad as the way they raise food. I’d rather sleep outside than be enslaved in a cubicle, but then, I grew up in the Outback, among my mother’s people.”
“The culture that has taken over this land sees no alternative to itself, it cannot imagine a way out of the mess it’s in, or doesn’t even see the mess. Blindness, perhaps. It kills anything that it perceives as enemy, not knowing that it only kills itself. They don’t recognize that gopher is a cousin, fungus a wise elder.
“Modern culture puts a price on everything, when it doesn’t even know the price it’s paying, it sees everything but self as dead, or unconscious, it tries to outsmart even death. It is so blind it doesn’t even see that what it values most, money, is nothing, not even paper any longer, not even usable to wipe one’s ass.” He sighed.
Tante sighed, too.
“So, you don’t know what I should do, either. Or what we should do. My friends and I have thought a lot about this, it’s why we were in Philadelphia. It seems like being the Auntie Christ ought to indicate some kind of significant role in this story line for me, but maybe that’s just ego.”
“Oh, are you the Auntie Christ?”
“In that case, you need to start walking. It’s a long way to Mendocino.” He winked at her.
“Say what? Walk? To California? From Pennsylvania? We flew here, it took quite some time!” It suddenly occurred to her that the convention was over, and they’d ridden for a full day to get to the Yurt they currently occupied. She’d forgotten all about Ja and Arnold.
“Well, you could hitchhike, but it’s going to take you a while to get to the Interstate. It’s around three thousand miles, cross country, as I recall. I’ve got to get back to Philadelphia, return Crazy Horse to the police stables.”
“But hitchhiking is dangerous!” Tante did not want to walk, or hitchhike, especially given her bad shoe, it had half a sole on one foot, she was still carrying the peeled off part, planning on fixing it. “And my shoe is broken!”
She waved the sole at him.
“It’s not dangerous for an old Crone like you. People see you out on the highway, they see an old black woman down on her luck, rode hard and put away wet, a lot like Mother Maka. You don’t have anything anyone wants.”
“But there’s time pressure! That woman with the pants suits is evil! The man with the false hair and false skin tone, well, at least he tells ugly truths, his own, more attractive to many than the lies of the woman, but both are so……so…….so………”
“Time. Bah. That is the linear thinking of the Wounded Ones. Time comes and goes and comes again, there are no points in time, only a flowing circle. The water in the stew was once a cloud,” he pointed to the meal they’d shared, “the meat was the clover in the field before it was rabbit, the pot that it was cooked in was once the stone that we stand on and will be again, long after we are gone. We are all the same. Still, rabbit was a brother, he gave of himself to us, as much so his sister’s children might live as anything, but just the same, we are thankful. The wounded ones have forgotten this.”
“So being the Auntie Christ means something?” Tante was so exasperated, and tired, and confused, she just wanted some answers.
“Sure it does. Just like being the guy with the Crazy Horse means something.”
He pulled some duct tape from Baltha’s saddlebag and repaired the shoe.
“Well, there you go. I’ve got a date with a Mermaid. Good luck now, see ya!” He smiled at her as he handed back the shoe.
He leapt onto Baltha and rode off into the sunrise. Tante decided to curl up in the Yurt and think about it for a while, maybe until someone made her move. Or maybe she’d just set out in a few hours, none too happily, but none too sadly, either, see if she could find her way home, wherever that was. Maybe on some distant exoplanet, far away. Maybe in her dreams.
She thought of Baltha, back in Mendocino (she thought), and the others, and really, they were her family now. She wondered about Virginia and Josef, how they and their new baby were doing.
Suddenly, she realized that she was completely on her own, out for a walk across this land not hers, but not Woman of Big Butt hiding pantsuit’s land either, nor the man of Orange and Foul Face Mask’s land, but all of their’s, and gopher’s and water’s and mushroom’s, too.
She hummed a Woody Guthrie tune, not realizing it, never having heard it before.
At least her shoe would function adequately, for a while. It was time for her long walk.
The End is Near