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"Dance. I dance, Charlie. If you want to put that down as my occupation, go ahead, it's all I do, it's all I've done for sixteen years, since I was seventeen. I didn't go to college, didn't even finish high school. I never married. I danced. During the day I danced with other dancers, at night I danced alone."
"How'd you end up in Tennessee, isn't that where all this started?"
"Three months ago the grandfather asked me to move to Tennessee."
"Did he tell you why?"
"He gave me money to rent an apartment, he gave me money to live on, he asked me to wait, but he didn't tell me why, no."
"You move from Montana to Tennessee without knowing why?"
"Yes, because the grandfather asked me to. The apartment I found in Nashville, there was no place to dance outside, so I danced in my apartment until the woman below me complained. I would watch the window for her car to leave, then I'd dance while she was gone. I know all the dances, Charlie. I wanted to ask you -- in prison will I be allowed to dance?"
"You think you're going to prison?"
"It depends on how much of what you're telling me checks out."
"And how much is just me being crazy."
"What's the grandfather's name?"
"I won't tell you that."
"When I cut you down, you said you'd tell me everything."
"No, I said I'd tell you the truth."
"How about the woman you were traveling with, the prostitute, what's her name?"
"Elena. I was never told her last name, I'm not sure if she had one."
"And she came with the grandfather to your apartment in Tennessee?"
"Yes. At three A.M. She had fish eyes."
"What does that mean, fish eyes?"
"At the outside corner of each eye, two black lines intersected, one that had been drawn above her eye and one from below. These intersecting lines looked like the tail of a fish, the two fish facing each other across the bridge of her nose."
"What did he say about her, about why she was there?"
"The grandfather introduced her as God's whore, he said her mother sent her to see the ghost dance."
Copyright © 2005 by David Martin
I told the grandfather that dancing at three A.M. would make the neighbor below me pound on her ceiling with a broomstick, but you have to understand, Charlie, I would be ashamed not to do what he asked.
When I was sixteen and living alone in a trailer, when I was incorrigible and drunk and had dropped out of school, the grandfather came to me. I figured he had been sent to deliver a lecture about staying in school and bettering myself, this lecture I had heard many times from the apple Indians, those who are red on the outside but white inside, and from European teachers, from Christian ministers.
I invited the grandfather into my old trailer, a hunter's trailer without power or water, and out of respect for his age offered him a chair and then I put on my Indian face. It's the face I wore when you first began questioning me, a good face to show during grandfather lectures and government interrogations.
The grandfather asked if I knew how to read. I said I did. He told me, "We Indians believe in the words a man speaks looking us in the eye. But the Europeans will tell one thing to your eye and then write another thing on paper and then it is the written word they swear by. So it is good you can read what they write. Each morning I walk to the library and read yesterday's Jew York Times. You can trust the Jews to write the truth, they are a tribe."
I think you will meet the grandfather before this is over, he is negotiating on our behalf, and when you see his face you will see how old it is, how dark, creased by ravines, and I believe you will trust him.
The grandfather delivered a lecture brand-new to my ears, saying it was good I quit school, good I refused job training, good I would not work for wages, good I spent all my time hunting and fishing and riding horses. The European ways must be rejected, he told me. Especially their poison. I had beer bottles everywhere on the floor, lined up and leaned over.
The grandfather explained that tolerance to alcohol increases with a people's exposure to alcohol. He said that the ethnic group that has used alcohol the longest will have the lowest rates of cirrhosis, dementia, public drunkenness. He said he was thinking of the Jews again, who have been drinking wine for thousands of years and have a low incidence of alcoholism. But for a people newly exposed to alcohol, it is poison to them. Europeans knew this intuitively, which is why they gave us alcoholism along with other diseases for which we had no tolerance. He said I could not be a ghost dancer if I kept drinking alcohol, it would disrespect our ancestors to ask for their resurrection while I was drunk.
You asked me, Charlie, why the little whore's mother wanted her to see ghost dancing, why I have spent so many years ghost dancing. Let me tell you.
In 1889, the Paiute medicine man Wavoka had a vision during a solar eclipse, and in this vision Wavoka saw the new world rolled up and, underneath, the old world revealed as it once was, with fish in our rivers and lakes, game in our forests, and buffalo, not Europeans, by the millions on our land. In this old world, occupied only by Indians and by those we call our friends, we would be reunited with our resurrected ancestors. All this would be brought about without violence, without war, without killing.
The promise of ghost dancing required two things of the Indians. One was rejection of everything European: their culture, their money, their jobs, their religion, their alcohol. Their law, too. The grandfather asked me many times how can you trust a legal system that says if a man has committed a crime but you can't prove it, then that man is not guilty.
The second thing required of the Indians was ghost dancing.
Ghost dancing is unlike our other dances. It is slow and without instruments, not even the drum, and women are permitted to ghost dance. We move in a circle following the sun while singing softly our resurrection chants.
In 1890, ghost dancing appealed to the defeated Indians of the American West. Many whites called ghost dancing the messiah craze; it was said Jesus had given up on the whites and was coming this time to the Indians.
Why did ghost dancing frighten your ancestors? Think of it, Charlie. You have defeated a proud and fierce people. They have become compliant. They line up for Army beef and stay drunk. But then, because of some crazy dance, these former warriors sober up, no longer tame. Now these Indians are keeping their own counsel, rejecting everything European. And they dance, Charlie. I think maybe it reminds you of those long hot nights on the plantation when you heard jungle music from the slave quarters.
No, of course, your ancestors didn't own slaves, I know that, Charlie. They were innocent.
When the great Sioux medicine man Tatanka-lyotanka, the one you call Sitting Bull, began ghost dancing, the Europeans became even more frightened. He was an old man but he had been at Greasy Grass, what you call the Little Bighorn. For the sin of ghost dancing, Tatanka-lyotanka, sixty years old, was arrested and killed while resisting arrest. Shot in the back by tribal policemen.
Trying to stamp out the ghost dancing messiah craze, the U.S. Army rounded up Indians at Wounded Knee Creek. Five hundred Army troops with four rapid-fire Hotchkiss guns surrounded four hundred Indians, men and women and children and babies in their mother's arms, many of the Indians without blankets or food. The Army was so afraid of ghost dancing that even the Indian women were disarmed of cooking knives and sewing awls. While the Indians were being disarmed, a shot went off and the Army opened fire. When women and children fled into the ravines, they were chased down and shot in the head, in the back. Twenty of the soldiers were awarded Congressional Medals of Honor for shooting women and killing babies held in their mothers' arms.
The chief they called Big Foot died at Wounded Knee as he rose from his sickbed. And now at gas stations and drugstores in the western states you Europeans buy postcards with the picture of Big Foot's frozen body. I don't know what you do with such a profane image. I think you must take it home and gloat.
The Indian dead at Wounded Knee were left where they lay for three days in the snow, more than three hundred murder victims. When a hired burial party finally arrived, four starving babies were found still alive, wrapped in their dead mothers' blankets. The grandfather said this again reminded him of the Jews and how a few of them were on occasion found alive in Nazi burial pits.
White curiosity seekers came to Wounded Knee to snatch up souvenirs. Indian babies whose parents had been killed were adopted by white families but the Indian babies were said to be like certain wild animals, cute while young but unmanageable when mature.
With the Europeans' grisly sense of history, they called this massacre the Battle of Wounded Knee. Not even the Nazis were so indiscreet as to call Auschwitz a battle. It is dangerous to make the comparison, but six million Jews were killed by the Nazis, more than ten million Indians killed by Europeans in the conquest of the Americas.
If the Nazis had won the war they might have put up monuments to the Final Solution. The Europeans, who did win in America, put up a memorial marking the jumping-off spot for settlers, explorers, prospectors, soldiers, and others who were heading west to complete the genocide of Indians -- and that memorial is the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, and that's why the whore and I cracked its ribs.
The grandfather brought her to me in Tennessee. At his request, I showed Elena the ghost dance. After a few minutes, before the downstairs neighbor began complaining, the grandfather said, "You can stop now. The promise of ghost dancing has come about."
I asked him, "If I walk outside, will all the apartments and houses be empty of Europeans, will the roads be empty of their cars?"
He said in good time. "God's whore will explain everything."
She was too young, Charlie, just a teenager. And I couldn't imagine her being interested in ghost dancing, she spoke into a cell phone and chewed gum and played with her hair. She was little, maybe a hundred pounds. Dressed in a short red skirt and tight white T-shirt and wearing knee-high white boots. An underage whore. Her face was made up with thick red lipstick and blue marks painted like diamonds and stars. Her eyes were strangest of all. Yes, those fish eyes. She had outlined them with thick black streaks. Yes, I know. I've already told you this. It is our way. We handed down our history by repeating its stories. Which is why you never hear an Indian say, "You already told me that." When her eyes crossed, which they did frequently, these two fish looked as if they were staring at each other past the bridge of her nose. Her voice was high and chirpy and frequently profane on the phone.
The grandfather asked me to take her to California, where she would meet with her mother.
"My mother is a fucking saint," she got off the phone long enough to say.
Irony? I don't know, Charlie. All of this was being laid on me without warning, a couple hours before dawn, the grandfather saying he wouldn't be going with us, he'd be returning by Greyhound, and that the whore and I should leave immediately because there were people who would try to stop us from reaching California and we needed to get a head start. I filled a garbage bag with my things.
Her car was a big black ten-year-old Thunderbird, which she had left running in the apartment complex parking lot. The little whore got in the driver's side while I took shotgun, throwing my garbage bag in the backseat and telling her, "I don't have any money."
She was adjusting the phone book she sat on to see over the steering wheel, then looked at me as if she hadn't understood what I'd said. I was mesmerized by her fish eyes, which at the moment were fully crossed, making me think I should volunteer to drive.
I rubbed my thumb against my fingertips to indicate money and told her again I didn't have any.
She laughed, turning to study the gear shift as if this was the first time she'd used it. She finally dropped that big V8 in Drive and took off with tires squealing, barely missing parked cars, straddling the center white line, and when she remembered about headlights, she took her crossed eyes off the road to find the right knob.
I grabbed the wheel and turned us out of the path of an oncoming car, which blared its horn. She looked up at the road, slapped my hand off the steering wheel and laughed again, shouting and swearing.... Charlie, it was the damnedest thing.
Copyright © 2005 by David Martin
Posted December 9, 2008
How did the St. Louis Memorial Arch turn black has puzzled scientists and FBI Agent Charlie Hart. Lakota Sioux ghost dancer John Brown Dog claims he caused it to happen and also insists the only way to return it back to its former state is to wash the arch with non-pasteurized milk. Still Charlie interrogates John to learn more about what chemicals he used and how dangerous they pose to the public. Instead of direct responses or even ignoring the Fed, John rambles all over the place including weird references to meeting God¿s whore Elena in Tennessee. Charlie admits he has no idea what John is telling him especially about controlling shape shadows. --- Frustrated Charlie gives up and assumes the guy is a lunatic. That is until John conjures up the shape shadows. Meanwhile a freed John heads west to vandalize other American monuments and warns the descendents of the founding fathers that unless DC cedes all public forests and other Federal/State lands to the Native American population, no newborn will grace the country except the offspring of a select small band of Indians. --- Readers will agree with Charlie and the power mongers that no way will a biblical level disaster occur like John claims will happen. Yet somehow David Lozell Martin locks in his audience who follows the suspenseful goings on to observe what impossibility will next occur because hooked fans will start to accept that John has the power through the shape shadows to enact revenge on those who have destroyed the Indian way of life. This action-packed thriller is a cautionary tale that asks humanity ¿What¿s Going On?¿ as we destroy the planet and head towards extinction. --- Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.