A Dance for Eototo

Submitted into Contest #53 in response to: Write a story about another day in a heatwave. ... view prompt




Writing prompt #202

Write a story about another day in a heat wave.

A Dance for Eototo by clcronan 2020

She was certain she would not die. Every time the creator, whom she called Grandfather, tried to dry her up like bones bleached white in the desert sun, then Grandmother, the soul of the natural world, would blow the whisper of a breeze, or she would bring a hot rain shower, or even better, a cool one. Wa-ti would do as she had always done, and spend the day moving her chair slowly around the outside of her trailer, following the slender ribbon of shade that offered a degree or two of relief. At the full hight of the mid-day sun she was left trying to make the best of the whisp of shade provided by the frame of the old awning that held only a few taters of a blue plastic tarp. It was the hardest part of the day. The sun showed no mercy. The large-faced thermometer, propped up on old car tire, had been broken for years. But she didn’t need it. She knew.

She was long past wondering when the water delivery truck might come. Her cistern had been dry for a few weeks. Sometimes the government did not send the check to the water trucker, so then he could not go off-res to fill the truck. Sometimes, like this time, the whole village had run dry, so it took three trips before her turn came. She would wait because there was nothing to be done to change the way things had been for all of her memory. 

She sat in her splintery chair, draped her arm across her eyes to give them a rest, and listened. No hawks or buzzards, but maybe the thermals had carried them too high to hear. A few house flies. She always wondered what kept them here, but they were always here. Her trailer creaked from heat expansion, but that was not a sound that would take her mind off the heat. It sounded like a critter was scratching under the scrub brush off near the lowly knoll, but she didn’t feel like taking the trouble to look. Her mouth tasted metallic, her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth, and on her teeth, she could feel the grit from the dust that defined this piece of dirt her family had called home for decades now.

Back in 1931, her father bought this trailer - a very slightly used 26’ Trotwood trailer - for $400 - with his bootleg money. When prohibition became law out off the reservation, her father knew he could get rich selling moonshine. He had no trouble until about two years in. Then he got caught, and put on trial in the white man’s court, and was given the maximum sentence. He never came home again. Prohibition ended in 1933, but that didn’t bring her father back.

He had gone against the wishes of the elders when he started his moonshine business, and they told him he would be forever banished from the adobe pueblo at the top of the mesa. He defiantly moved down into the valley, miles from any other village, and lived in a lean-to until he could afford the trailer. It remained a symbol of his independence (all the relatives say pig-headedness,) until his last day there. 

Now it was a sad, sun burned, wind burned, faded, rusted, leaky, peeling, bucket of bolts that she called home. She was born in 1932, just at the height of her fathers good run of luck, but before the end of her first year, he was gone. She had two older sisters, the eldest, Kaea, (meaning wise, tortured,) had been forced to go to the white mans boarding school. At 12 years old, she chose death over being exiled from her Hopi kin and then forced to assimilate into white culture. Tuwah, (meaning earth,) the second sister, caught TB and was kept separate in a tent next to the trailer so that “the baby” would not get the death-cough. She had only her mother and the weather to keep her company until she passed to the lower plain when she was 15. The last baby was named Mausi, (meaning a plucked flower,) and as the last child at home, needed to care for her mother as she grew feeble with age. 

Mausi was the name chosen by her father. When she was 12, her mother conducted a traditional coming of age ceremony for her. She was made to grind corn for four days, and on the fifth day her mother set her hair for her in the squash blossom design which is the Hopi symbol of fertility, and the mark of a maiden. And while she worked on setting the hair style she told Mausi that her name was now Yamckah (blossom,) because her womanhood had come, so now she could marry and have children. She never married because she was from a family of outcastes among the villages in every direction. She never had children. She never changed her hairstyle. She wove baskets and tended to her mother who passed on just after her 100th year. Remembering that now, still a raw and painful feeling, gave her the wry smile of one who endures.

The people of the nearby villages only ever called her Paalagpu Taawa Wuuti, (the red sun woman,) or Wa-ti if they were on familiar terms, because her hands seemed to soak up all the red when she dyed her reeds for basket weaving, and she always sat in the sun while she worked.

In her youth, her fingers would fly in and out and around the reeds and stems and grasses as if she were a bee sipping nectar from every flower at once. She sold enough baskets to keep the home going. She was proud of her independence and she hoped her father’s spirit was pleased with her too. Her mother lamented that without a daughter to pass this gift on to, the basket tradition of the Hopi People would move closer to extinction. Wa-ti had always known this truth.

At 88 years, her hands and fingers fumbled all too often. She did not see well, even in the sunlight, so her patterns were no longer intricate. She had to rely on a young man from the village to gather her materials from the desert, because her footing had become unstable, and she had fallen enough that she knew she had transformed from a young jackrabbit to an old tumbleweed. 

And now, again, she had no water to make her dyes with. She had no water to tenderize the reads and branches so they would bend to her will. She stared at her hands, where once there was magic, there was now only great effort, and much pain. And age spots.

She thought it might be time to dance for Eototo, the weather spirit, to ask if the heat might break so the the rain could come. She smirked at the thought, but she pushed herself up from her chair and began to sing, very low, very rhythmic, as if calling forth her ancestors to sing with her. Then she lifted one foot ever so slightly off the ground, and raised a small cloud of dust when she stomped it down. Then she raised her other foot and stomped it back down. She moved her feet in this way as she began to move her body in a circle around the empty fire pit. Her singing grew steadily louder, her arms stretched out like wings. She closed her eyes, and continued dancing as she entered a trance-like state. She enjoyed dancing for the spirits. She enjoyed dancing with her ancestors.

The heat overtook her. She was so dizzy she was seeing strange colors. She was so thirsty she felt a wave of nausea. She made her way back to her chair and took in gulps of air that parched her throat.

She passed out.

She did not know how much time had passed when she felt a small hot drop on her eye lid. She wanted so desperately for it to be rain, but knew full well it might just be a bird dropping. She brought her arm up to wipe across her eyes before she opened them, just in case. Then another small hot drop fell into her palm. Her heart thumped against her ribs from the trill. She closed her fist around the drop, and slowly opened her eyes. There was a cloud above her. It reached up over the north masa, and out toward the west mesa. It was not thick enough to block all of the sun, but thick enough to give hope. 

Wa-ti remembered her dance. She remembered becoming overwhelmed. She wondered if the spirit of Eototo had tried to speak to her, but she had not been strong enough to travel between the worlds. She closed her eyes again and waited with great anticipation for each rain drop to fall. She took deep breaths of the changing air, and relished the scent that the hot sand and rocks gave off to the rain. The scent was as precious as that from any flower. She listened to hear where drops fell, she heard the blue tarp strips begin to flutter in the subtle breeze. She opened her eyes again and watched each drop leave it’s mark upon the parched ground, if only for a moment, before the arid, cracked dirt sucked it in with a seemly unslakable thirst.

The droplets became drops, the sun shower filled into a steady rain. Wa-ti danced. It was a dance of thanks for Eototo and Grandfather and Grandmother. Her skin soaked in water and felt rejuvenated. She kept her head tilted back and her mouth wide open because she new that water was life.

When she heard the water delivery truck making it’s way across the valley she was not surprised. The water gate had been opened by the spirits and the time for plenty was at hand. When he finally closed the gap between the road and her home he got straight to work connecting the pump hose. Then he joined her in the dance of gratitude. She mixed a jug of lemonade for them to share. 

The gully that had been dry so long ran with first a dribble, then soon a shallow rivulet, then a small but steady stream. The air no longer hurt to breathe. And beyond hope, the temperature dropped a few degrees.

Wa-ti waved to the back of the truck as it reached the road and turned toward town. She sat in her chair and poured herself another glass of lemonade. She felt peaceful. 

August 06, 2020 21:07

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Here in New Mexico we are careening towards a water shortage, and it is likely that this experience you have written about could return to the reservations if the next few seasons are just as dry. Great job capturing the truth and essence of that world!


Cynthia Cronan
20:09 Aug 21, 2020

Joshua - It is so great when a reader understands the spirit of what is written. I appreciate your having taken the time to read the story and to send such a thoughtful response. WRITE ON!


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Sue Marsh
20:08 Aug 13, 2020

Very nice story Cynthia, the storyline is well thought out, and the writing is good, if you're not to busy would mind checking out my story? Have a great day.


Cynthia Cronan
21:30 Aug 13, 2020

Sue - I not only read your story, I followed you : ) WRITE ON!


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Doubra Akika
13:31 Aug 09, 2020

Very beautiful ! Loved the pacing. The opening was very well written. And your manner of writing is very good. I really enjoyed this! If you’re not too busy, would you mind checking out my story? Have a lovely day!


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Cynthia Cronan
19:48 Aug 08, 2020

Deborah - Thank you for your kind words. I will be happy to read your story too.


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Deborah Angevin
11:46 Aug 08, 2020

The opening was strong and well-written. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the tale, Cynthia! Would you mind checking my recent story out, "(Pink)y Promise"? Thank you :D


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