LACROSSE: Victory Forever ~ By John J. Stevens ©2022 |


Victory Forever

John J. Stevens

To Sister Rita Mary:

You told your class of sixth-graders that one day we would thank you for teaching us how to write.

OK, you were right: thank you.

To Karen:

It is true there is no heaven on earth, but, in my heart, you are as close as it gets.

The Math Of God

And so the Cosmic Clock clicks forward—a measured and perfect motion.

And the earth spins beneath us—

And one rotation of the Earth is designated a Day.
And the orbit of the Moon around the Earth is designated a Month, some 27 days.
And the transcribing wide arc of the Moon-orbited Earth around the Sun is designated a year, some 365 days.

And so our sister planets, they, too, circle the Sun.
And our Sun and its coterie of orbs rotates around the center of our galaxy, in a cosmic year.
It also spinning, also arcing, flinging spumes of star trails,
Spindrift of orbs larger and smaller, hotter and cooler,
Projecting outward at a scale incomprehensible to Man,
Casting star-stuff in a wild profligate abandon,
Spinning like a giddy child on a summer afternoon: arms extended, face to the light, reveling dizzily in the Joy of Motion…

And so the heavens sing—

And the math of Space and Time and Music vibrates in visible harmony—

And Venus rises: the Beacon of Love.

The soul-stirring harmonics fuses with the elegant exactness of geometry.
The air acoustic, a Hymn of all Creation!
An Unseen Force seems to hold it all.
The Great Similitude, Whitman called it, ordering it all somehow in Space and in Time.
The motions can be measured, the masses can be weighed, and, from these measurements, rules are deduced, glimpsed but dimly by the Mind of Man, aided by his tools.
The rules manifest on a smaller scale extrapolate to a larger scale, where they persist.

And through it all burning is the Fuse of Purpose, the Spine of Time, driving forward.
Yes, through it, but also beneath it, around it, in it.
Intelligence! Will! Purpose!
To Man in the Present, an inkling insistent. Beckoning from the Future, a beguiling whisper.

But in the Past?

A trail, a pattern, the wake of a plan spending itself in dwindling ripples.
White fading to Blue fading to Gone.

Looking back, we see but the busted pieces of a mission executed, the detritus of a dream made manifest, the scattered refuse of a celebration exploded in laughter and in passion.

What is left when planets collide?
When armies sprinting headlong toward each other clash?
When the Sun God meets the Moon God?
When the French meet the Haudenosaunee…

Chemin Creux—The Hollow Empty Way

Etienne Trottier and his father Bastien had walked several miles with their two packhorses and three of their sheep when they arrived at the market to trade for a load of tanned hides. There they met a man who told them that he knew of a place that had an unlimited supply of hides: the fur pelts of lynx, martens, muskrats and, most coveted of all, beaver.

Nouvelle France he called it, and he was an agent for a Captain who was staffing his ship for a voyage to this place. The Captain had been given a commission by the King, a monopoly, as the exclusive trader of furs in this bright new place of promise. And this Captain needed hands, indentured servants, no experience required as a sailor or a trapper, five years in service to the King and the Captain.

Then, freedom.

After the trade for the hides, Bastien got good-and-drunk at La Tuque tavern, seeking temporary release from the burdens of being a husband, father and clod-buster. The weights of these adult roles had bent him to the earth by insistent gravity over time and the heaping up of his faltering attempts to live up to them.

If only for an afternoon, the beer released him, and he floated up into the blank blue slate of a sky that was on this day enclosing them all in an azure surround—townspeople, traders and sheep.

Finished with his beer and bombast, Bastien, supported by his son, zig-zagged his way out of the tavern and back to the common road to lead the packhorses, now laden with hides, back to his cottage.

This was a road that, like himself, had sunk over the years from its burdens. Frequent travel and wash-outs from the rain had rounded this narrow road into a perfect half-cylinder. Underfoot, the dirt was packed smooth while the sides curved upward, five feet in height. In these curved walls were revealed the exposed roots of the trees and shrubs which stretched their boughs overhead, creating an overgrown canopy of what had grown into a perfect tunnel.

It was called by the locals the chemin creux—the hollow empty way.

There was a charming comfort to the phenomenon of this sunken tunnel-road. It felt protected and safe, with sunlight-dappled patterns dancing randomly along the way. But, as Etienne looked through the verdant tube, he felt only dread and panic.

On certain long straight stretches of the road, the tunnel perfected its perspective so that the horizon narrowed to a single point. Where there was a far-away turn in the road, it bent into…where? Nowhere. But, as he travelled past to where the road straightened out, past where the road-bend prevented him from seeing any further, here it would be again: the vanishing point, the narrowing to zero.

There seemed to be only two options: an eternal inescapable path into diminishment or an uncertain turn into nowhere nothingness. Never reaching the point, but ever traveling toward it.

If God had concocted a cruel joke to play on Man, this would be it: traveling on a road in one direction with a perspective diminishing to an extinguished point, but never actually reaching the end, the purpose. The further one travels, the same apparent distance the point remains: the very definition of Hell.

Chemin creux.

On the way home, Etienne and his father saw two travelers approaching them in the opposite direction. It was the Laine brothers. They, too, were leading a packhorse, in their case, loaded with freshly harvested chard.

There was no room in the road-tunnel for the two approaching parties to pass each other. One or the other would have to give way.

Bastien shouted to them in his drunkenness: “You there! Turn around now! We’re heading home, and we’re loaded up. Give way, before it’s too late, you skunks!”

There was no word back from the brothers approaching.

“Wait, I know you boys!” said the old man, brightening with recognition. “The Laines! I ought to have known: Huguenots—always heading in the wrong direction! Ha-ha-ha-ha!”

“And you old man? A papiste!” one of the brothers responded. “Too old and too slow to get out of your own way. We won’t be moving; it will be you that gives way.”

Etienne spoke up to his father: “Père, there’s a little break ahead. Let’s pull off to the side, and let them pass.”

“We won’t surrender to those blasphemers. I’ll not budge an inch, with God as my witness.”

It was the beer talking, of course, something Etienne had seen time and again with his father.

“Give way, blasphemous fools! You must give way to those traveling homeward!”

The Laine brothers continued, with no indication of backing down. The packhorses, sensing the tension, stamped their hooves and snorted anxiously. There was no one present to adjudicate this impasse, no third-party, no maréchaussée (French: police force) to intervene.

On approaching to contact, Bastien grabbed his horse’s leather bridle strap and lashed it comically at the lead brother.

“I’ll never give way to you, you brigand!”

Brother Laine raised his forearm to fend off the attack and returned with an attack of his own. He punched Bastien straight to the face, knocking him to the ground and began stomping on his stomach as he lay there with a bloody mouth. Young Trottier charged Laine like a bull, and they both tumbled against the upcurved side of the road. As the two wrestled, the second Laine picked up where his brother left off and stomped Bastien.

“Help!” cried Bastien, who had by now curled into a ball. “We’ve been attacked by thieves. Stop—you are killing me!”

Etienne disentangled himself from his adversary and ran to his father.

The Laine brothers withdrew—triumphant. They gathered their horse and continued down the road with one last choice rejoinder:

Imbécile catholique!”

“Brigands! Scoundrels!” Bastien sputtered. “Stomping on an old man?!”

But he could barely speak the words through the blood—flustered, shaken and in pain as he was.

“It’s true what they say about the Huguenots—inhuman devils!”

It was mostly bluster—it always was. But, as Bastien sat up, he groaned in pain and grabbed for his ribs. They had been at least bruised, if not broken. Etienne could see it was going to be a long slog getting his father home. The old fool was fagged-out from the beer, tapped from the exertion of the scuffle and in pain with each step.

As they hobbled forward, something started to break inside Etienne. A realization, like dawn displacing darkness, clarifying what had been vague, granting color to that which had been only in a spectrum of gray: he had to get away from his father. His ridiculous drunken sprees would never end; they would go on forever, like this road, and Etienne would always have to be there to help him out of the messes he got himself into. Why? Simply because he was there, and no one else could help him.

What had just happened with the Laine brothers was his father’s fault, but what was he to do? Leave him alone to die on the road? With night approaching? Drunk, bleeding and in pain?

These were existential facts, and he was the oldest son, after all. The farm was to be his. Of course, calling it a farm was a pathetic exaggeration, and one his father always threw about grandly. It wasn’t a farm at all, actually; it was just two long rows of cultivated land, selions, each one furlong in length and one chain (66-feet) wide scattered in and around hundreds of other rows farmed by the other families. His family, the Trottiers, had cultivated these rows for generations; they would likely continue to do so for generations to come.

The pointless ugly conflict between the Papists and the Huguenots, this was not likely to change either. This cloistered friction: it was like two men with their hands around each other’s necks, trying to choke the life out of each other, neither one wanting to relinquish first as the breath and the life is squeezed out of each.

He had to get off that road, that forever diminishing point into nowhere. This ground would only wear away further under his feet; over his head, the canopy would only thicken.

He remembered the man in the market talking about a New France. They were to leave soon, in April if they could.

Anywhere was better than here.

But was this just another chimère in his mind? A cruel hoax? Beguiling, but delusional? Ignis fatuus? (Latin: the light of a fool)

He was 16-years-old, after all, and busting inside with pressure to get going, to get on with his life, his real life. To be a man, not merely a yeoman.

Through a break in the tree-branch-canopy, he looked at the crystalline blue sky, a perfectly clear canvas, azure heaven itself, unblemished by even the suggestion of a cloud.

It was above the cloistered canopy, above the sunken road, above his father’s gimpy stump of a life. It was limitless, perfect, uncharted. Free.

At that moment, Etienne knew exactly what he would do. He would get his father home, tend to his wounds and help him to bed. Tomorrow, he would rise early as usual, milk the cows and finish his other morning chores.

Then, he will lay his tools down, walk back along that sunken road to town and find the ship’s agent.

If the agent would have him, he will sign up on the spot with the ship’s company—an indentured servant, a five-year term.

Then, sail to New France! Find the Northwest Passage to the Orient! Establish a colony for the King! Find gold and other treasures!

In his mind, there was a peace and a certitude to this that was unmistakable. Like that celestial-surround enveloping the earth, this notion was limitless in all directions and as sure as the color blue.

Goodbye to all this, Trottier thought.



Summer Practice—Thunder Moon

“Hit me. I’m free!”

The summer sun melted into the horizon, spreading itself across the western sky like a Creamsicle® dropped onto a hot sidewalk.

Dense and warm, the orange sphere sped silently through space, then tucked itself neatly into the leather cradle of Bruce Pomper’s stick. Prancing, Pomper peered over his shoulder at the goalmouth. One step, two steps, bang. Sinister and fast, the ball snapped cleanly into the upper right corner, popping the net cord.

“Brady, you so s-l-o-o-o-o-w!” Pomper crowed.

Sean Schipper scooped the ball with one hand and shoveled an underhanded feed back to Pomper who was crossing with menace again in front of the cage. In one motion, Pomper caught the pass and, without looking, slung a shot behind his head. Uncannily, it hit the far post and caromed into the net.

“Schip,” Brady squawked. “Get in here, and play some defense.”

Schipper never liked covering Pomper in practice, not even fooling around—especially not fooling around. Should he go all out? Half-speed?

He had no time to ponder this now. From the top of the circle, Pomper ran straight at him, deked to the right, spun entirely around, switched to his left hand and cocked his stick to shoot.

Schipper fell for the initial fake and was a half-step behind, but he recovered enough to flail a one-handed wrap-around check across Pomper’s chest. Schipper’s shaft abruptly pinned Pomper’s stick against his face mask.

Nice check!” Brady squealed.

Pomper leaped to the loose ball, scooped it up and, in a fit of rage, wildly wailed a whip shot at Brady’s head from no more than 20 feet away. The shot sailed wide and high, easily clearing the eight-foot chain link backstop some 70 feet behind the cage.

“Now, go get it, asshole,” Brady spit out.

Pomper jogged off, an arrogant half-smile visible through his face mask. Schipper had shamed him, and this was Pomper’s way to respond—just go wild, don’t care. That way, even if you lose, it feels like winning. At least people back off from you.

In the sky toward the west, a burgeoning mass of clouds swallowed the last quickening sliver of sun like a crumpled shroud pulled over the seething brow of a fading patient.

The three young men launched into a circle drill around the cage—jogging easily in one direction, flicking passes to each other—over, around, behind and in front of the goal. Then, without saying a word, they changed direction, like a flock of birds that suddenly decides to go this-way then go that-way.

Now they circled the cage in a counterclockwise direction, throwing passes with their stick on the left side. It was like a ritualistic dance, with slow graceful movements that mimicked actual game-play—the artistry of lacrosse isolated in timeless moments, existing alone in elegant simplicity as a testament to the style and integrity of the game.

To see these three in peak form execute this drill was to witness an engine of exquisite grace. At these times, Schipper, Brady and Pomper reached rarified heights together, where the world clicked into sync, where it seemed almost beyond one’s powers to drop a pass or throw the ball anywhere but where it was intended.

Brady narrated their little drill like a play-by-play announcer in the broadcast booth: And here comes Brady around the back of the netlooking, lookinghe sees Pomper alone in front. He hits him with a quick feed. Pomper looks for one more pass, BEHIND THE BACK, he hits Schip, on the money coming around the cage. It goes behind again! Brady with the dodge, goes by another defender. Pomper, all alone in front!”

His back completely turned to the goal, protecting his stick from an imaginary defenseman, only Pomper’s left eye, peering over his shoulder like an eagle, revealed any hint of his intention.

It was over quickly. Top left corner. Dead-eye…

It’s a goal!!!” Brady announced. “And the crowd goes wild. HAAAHHHHH!”

The spell was over.

Schipper noticed how oppressive the air had become. It was hard to breathe. The sweat poured off him. Thunder clouds had formed, an angry boiling mess seeking resolution. The sky was ugly.

“We better get out of here. Looks like it’s going to rain,” he said.

A low groaning rumble rippled its way across the sky, sounding like the first give-way of a colossal collapse.

“I’m thinking it’s not the smartest thing to do right now: run around an open field with metal poles in our hands in a lightning storm.”

“Pussy,” Pomper snarled.

Pomper scooped the ball from the turf, cocked his stick, skipped a little two-step toward the goal and launched a vicious whip-shot at the top right corner. Doink. The ball caromed off the crossbar and catapulted 30-feet in the air, the orange sphere almost reaching the clouds.

Now, we’re playing lacrosse, my friends!”

Pomper ran across the field extending his stick to the sky.

“It is Hino—the Thunder God—and he has come to play with us—Eeeey-aiaiaiaiai! Thank you, Hino—for your power, for your wonder.”

I can vanquish any opponent because thunder is my comrade.

The sky ripped open in a series of awesome light bursts, firing in sequence above the western horizon—a path of release, a popping spine followed by a shivering cannonade of thunder trailing behind the light-bombs.

“Pomper, don’t be an idiot!” Schipper yelled after him.

This was too weird.

“I’m leaving,” Schipper called out and jingled his car keys for good measure. “We gotta’ go.”

Just then, a lightning bolt, like a fiery arrow, streaked across the sky.

Aaa-ghhh! Can you see it?” Pomper screamed to the sky. “A blazing arrow! That is what I want you to call me from now on: ‘Blazing Arrow.’ I am no longer Bruce Pomper: I am Blazing Arrow!”

“Fine—get yourself killed, Blazing Arrow,” Schipper tried one last time. “We’re getting in the car with or without you.”

Pomper was lost to their appeals, so Schipper and Brady drove away as the clouds let go and drenched everything in gushing buckets of rain.

The sound of thunder is the White Eagle on fire.

Forward Atlantic Crossing



The Great Demiurge, it was said by Plato, at the Inception of the Universe, created at first two elements, Earth and Fire. This He did because nothing can be real, tangible, without having substance (Earth), and its substance cannot be seen without visibility (Fire). For balance, one of these is heavy, Earth, and the other is light, Fire.

In order to join these two elements, to create a line, there needed to be a third thing, something to create a “bond of union” between them. They could not form a line from one to the other without being joined.

To affect this, He created two other elements, those of Air and Water, and placed them between Fire and Earth. When the two lines thus made were intersected, each became the median for the other, so they formed a cross. The point of intersection between Earth and Fire, between Air and Water was chosen precisely to create the most stable and beautiful of proportions between these two lines. It is the Golden Mean, the Golden Ratio, Sectio Divina—the Divine Proportion.

The Golden Ratio is created when a segment is divided into two pieces in which the size of the whole length divided by the longer piece is equal to the longer piece divided by the shorter piece.

In this way, the four basic elements of the universe—Earth, Fire, Air and Water—He made as equal to one another in size and influence, in perfect proportion, creating union, stability and wholeness amongst all things.

With the Golden Ratio applied to the two intersecting lines of this cross, it assumed perfect proportions and became what is known as the Golden Cross.

The two intersecting lines represent two-dimensional space: width and height, the x-axis and the y-axis. The cross therewith also has four points representing the four directions of space: north, south, east, west.

So two points became a line, and two lines intersected became a surface.

But, in order to bring depth to the world, to create the z-axis, each of these lines He bent into a circle by curving one end of it up and over and connected it to its opposite end. So the starting point became the end point became the starting point. A circle.

With each of these two lines now a circle, He set them in motion. The Inner Circle He set rotating to the left—this He designated as the Circle of the Different—the Outer Circle He set rotating to the right—and this He designated as the Circle of the Same.

Angled at 90 degrees to one another, the two circles made a sphere, a perfect sphere—and depth was created.

Without beginning and without end, at every point on the surface an equal length from the center, entire and perfect, solitary, unified, with all things contained within itself, with no need of anything from outside itself, the form most like the Creator Himself—a Sphere: two points made into a line, two lines made into a surface, a surface wrapped around to become a body, whole unto itself—ALL.

Only the sphere can make possible both Time and Eternity.

The Generation of Time (that which was, and that which will be) belongs to the Inner Circle, the Circle of the Different.

That which IS (and which never changes) is reserved for the Outer Circle, the Circle of the Same. That which is immovably the same cannot be affected by Time. It is, and cannot be was or will be.

The orbs within the Circle of the Different—in their spinning, in their wide circular arcs—can be measured, and, in their measurement, they can be fixed in time, as was. They can be seen to have been, i.e., they existed as they are now, but at some different point in their rotation, in their arc.

And, in the measurement of their was positions, a pattern emerges. And from this pattern, a prediction can be made of where the orbs will be at some future point in their rotation, in their arc. As they were there and as they were then here, therefore, they will be there in the future, and, following the circular path, here again.

Only the sphere, the shape most like the Creator Himself, can make the past return to the future and can make Eternity, by revolving back to itself without end. Everything is both coming and going, and what went, comes back again. As Aristotle said, the sphere has “neither whence nor whither.”

And it is the sphere, the ball, that the Creator placed at the heart of the game He loves above all, lacrosse: the cross, representing all of space and time, and the ball, representing space and time rolled upon itself and placed at the center heart—the Soul-Sphere—to give Essence, Reality, to all things.

The Cross therefore is the Inception and the Basis and the Envelopment and the Culmination of…EVERYTHING—the Emblem of Life.

The cross—

No ship could sail without this form—think of the spars, O Captain!
And no true cause could be carried and defended without it.

The vexillum, the treasured standard, it, too, a cross.
Before and above the procession, now approaching the vessel at dock, the ideal, the true and noble thing worth fighting for, the insignia of one’s power.

The logo, the form, the consecration of the image,
(Logos, the word-form at the heart of it all.)

And there, affixed at the top of mast, see?
The pennant bares its forward-end to the West,
its forked tail extends back eastward.
Flaunting aft, a riband of color and glory.
Upon it, the red cross of Saint George on a white field.
Saint George—the warrior saint, crusader, vexillum beati Georgii.
This is our emblem, this is our flag, this is our highest totem.

And see there a man—the navigator at the bow—erect, with arms outstretched,
both an embrace and a challenge to the world.
And, at his center, his heart,
reflected in everything he sees—

The Center of Love…

And behold his face: the nose, the bridge of the eyes,
There, (the Golden Cross again!)
the mesmerizing symmetry, the beckoning harmony,
the Perfection of a Face.

And think of the totem atop the pole, now about to be encountered in the New World by these men,
With eagle’s wings outstretched, extending from it,
to which the Captain is about to speed like an arrow from a bow.
The totem: a true representation of the eagle and also of the essence of the eagle,
Atonhnhetshera (Mohawk: spirit),
the cross there, too: see?

“We cross the sea…”

And, as a last act before embarkation, the Captain writes to his Patroness…

“Queen Regent, we carry your banner before us. Resolute, we make our way through the impetuous waves, guided by His illuminated firmament and protected by His Mercy to realms and regions unknown. For the Honor of God and for the Welfare of France, we spread the peace and unity of Christ to all nations and raise the Cross of Christ in this New Found Land and plant the fleur-de-lis for your Everlasting Glory.

May it be His Will, and may it suit Your Majesty, we also endeavor forth to find a northerly route to the Orient, the Northwest Passage, the one that has eluded so many before us, a route that is to be shorter and less hazardous and that may yet result in greater trade with the Orientals and securing riches for His Majesty’s Kingdom.

Be it also known that we seek the Kingdom of Saguenay, a Golden City, it is told by the natives, where the streets are lined with gold, and the air is filled with the scent of burning incense. Of this, the Basque traders and of Brittany have spoken upon whose location we endeavor to provide sound proof.”



At last we are off and at sea, and, as we look from the deck at the Great Surround, just the sea and the sky and the junction between them, curving perfectly downward at the two far reaches of the navigator’s outstretched arms.

The ship is 31 feet in length; the mast is 73 feet tall from step to truck. And, from the top of the mast now at an angle one degree or two above the curvature of the horizon, can you see?

From whence we came? Still appearing, yet receding?

Our home, Saint Malo—Longitude Number One.

And so:

“Forth from the harbor we sail, and the land and the cities slip backward.” (Virgil, Aeneid)

It will neither drop nor will the horizon line raise. It is but the unbroken curve of the sphere’s surface that obscures it as we travel further from our home.

Proof alone is this that we sail upon a sphere: from the deck, the unfeatured horizon; from the mast, a last goodbye to our home.

To whither we go

And so we are traveling to a New World, and we will be New Men and New Women, leaving behind our childhoods, the homes we have known and the parents who raised us.

To leave the solid immovable earth and to sail on in everlasting motion!

The winds never-ceasing, the mounds ever-rolling—the ship ever-forward, at night forward, at day forward.

The best of all possible motions: Forward!

True, Aristotle spoke of only three possible motions—upward, downward and around, i.e, circular—but what of forward? The irresistible urge forward of Destiny!

The prow crushes cutwater through the yielding sea. The water gives way—it can do no other thing. Our wood, made from harder stuff, forcefully displaces it. Up the ship rears, and down it knifes, again and again—rearing up, knifing down.

We beat our way into the wind, too…

Steadily. Scornfully. Imperiously. Resistlessly.

And on the first day of our voyage, we plough proudly forward—like the metal edge of a clod-buster in Old France. Each brute surge another advancing notch, another fathom earned toward the goal.

Into the teeth of the West Wind, the wind the Haudenosaunee liken to a fierce and ugly panther, Dajo:ji

It is told by the Haudenosaunee, the people toward whom these men now sail, that Ga:oh, who was appointed by the Great Spirit to manage the wind, threw open the western door of his lodge and blew a shrill blast from his trumpet. Summoned by the sound, something dark and threatening stirred. Clouds, restless and unstable, covered the sky, and an ugly darkness subsumed the world. Shrill voices surrounded Ga:oh’s lodge, shrieking and snarling as in a whirlwind. Then, with the terrifying sound like claws tearing the heavens, Dajo:ji sprang into existence.

With one swipe of his paw, Dajo:ji can tear down forests and conjure up waves high from the sea. He carries a whirlwind on his back and scares tempests with a snarl. His very breath freezes the air. His feast is a dish of eyeballs from his enemies.

Ga:oh leashed Dajo:ji and set him into the western sky, making him the animal representation of the western wind. And so leashed, these sailors with their sails and these navigators with their math have harnessed Dajo:ji into employment, have channeled his power to their benefit.

In spite of itself, it is Dajo:ji who helps them to make headway…

Any there is who can master the wild cat?

The mizzen is flying—Shake it out, men!—the square sails now trimmed at a tight angle fore and aft. No snarling Dajo:ji now! We beat into a fair wind, Dieu soit loué (Latin: Praise be to God).

It is a glorious thing to be underway!

Foregoing the more favorable winds at the southerly parallels, we plunge knife-forward into the West Wind at the 48th parallel. Too, we beat smash-mouth into the North Atlantic Drift, snaking toward us around Florida at one knot.

So, yes, the forces above the sea surface—the winds—and the forces below the sea surface—the currents, the undersea winds—conspire in resistance, but what of the motive force in men’s souls?

Our wood is massive, our timbers hewn hard and heavy. The carpenters have worked their wills upon it. The water gives way, the current is no match and the West Wind itself is corralled to our purpose.

To us! To our will! To our Destiny! To Forward!

Heading: five points west. Wind from the west, steady, 13-15 knots. Three degrees leeway to a course made good at 56 degrees port to the wind. Waves three feet in height. Hold fast to this heading about an hour to our waypoint, then tack again to starboard.

It’s a simple calculus: Speed times Time equals Distance.

Our vessel Le Don de Dieu (Latin: The Gift of God) is making 4.1 nautical miles an hour, 4.1 knots. On our current heading, in an hour, we can make just over four nautical miles, before “Ready about!” to tack again to starboard. Then, “Hard-a-lee!” as we jibe across the wind and come about again to our new heading, three points west to the wind.

We sail as close as we can to the wind, as close as God’s Math will allow.

The reefer of the watch heaves the chip log from the stern and the sand glass is overturned. The sand in the upper globe of the glass spills out in 28 seconds. The distance between the knots tied in the line is 47 feet 3 inches.

This ratio has been carefully chosen so that the distance between the knots is the same proportion to a nautical mile as 28 seconds is to the 3600 seconds in an hour.

So, if one knot in the line unfurls during the 28 second interval of the sand emptying into the bottom globe of the glass, the ship is traveling one knot or one nautical mile an hour.

We match our math against water and wind.

And so the line uncoils,
And the knots whir out,
And the chip, a wooden quarter slice of a circle, a quadrant, drifts along the lee side of the vessel,
And the reefer of the watch calls out: “Three. Three and a half. Four and a fathom, sir.”

We sail the pathless seas.

We are the waymakers, calculating in live-time.
Our data spools out behind us, like the spurning of our busy wake, unraveling frothy and frolicsome behind the ship, settling into a type of organization and, ultimately, into meaning.

Our way forward: some 100 nautical miles a day. Here, at latitude 48, there are approximately 40 nautical miles between each degree of longitude. At a rate steady, we can travel 2.5 degrees of longitude a day. Meaning: we can reach our NEW FOUND LAND at longitude 53 in some 20 days.

Just 20 days from the Old World to the New—20 days! And now we have sailed four days already!

measure by measure, foot by foot, fathom by fathom, mile by nautical mile, league by league, meridian by meridian.

Observe. Measure. Record. Adjust. Repeat.

Steady on.

Forward, forever forward.


Romping along are we…

To his cheek, the navigator holds the cross-staff, radius astronomicus, and shoots the Sun.

He slides the transom along the staff where are the etched lines indicating values, numbers. This number is converted to an angle, in degrees to it from the horizon, and this angle tells him all he needs to know: which latitude he is on the globe; that is, how far north is his ship between the equator and the North Pole.

Forty-eight—that is the number—our parallel, the latitude of our home city, now farther and farther away in Old France, and this will be the number of our destination in New France. Forty-eight degrees north above the equator—48°N.

So, New France will be at the same latitude as Old France. Only an ocean separates them, which we are crossing now.

It is ours already! It is just waiting for us to claim it!

The prow rears and knifes forward. Hold fast at 48, just keep it at 48.



Now these young warriors—these sailors with their math, these pilgrims with their metal-work—they come from the east, from the Land of the Rising Sun. There, on the compass rose, which guides them through this universe of spheres, see?

The East, symbolized by a cross…

An east wind will come, the wind of the LORD coming up from the wilderness;
-Hosea 13:15

Rising from the Levant, they are, you might say, Easters

And to the north there, see? The fleur-de-lis, the three-petal flower, symbol of France, herald of the monarchy under whose flag we sail, symbol also of the Blessed Trinity—In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti—Perfection, Light and Life—Au nom du père et du fils et du saint esprit. The Lily, symbol of Easter, the Rising Son.

It is April now, the month of Easter and the breaking of the ground. Trottier allowed himself a moment’s pause from his watch, to recollect from whence he came, of his father, and the farm-rows they tilled. But Trottier would not be a clod-buster this April. No, the prow of Le Don de Dieu was his plow…

Too, April is the month of Venus. She, excepting the Sun and the Moon, is the brightest light in the sky. Trottier sees her now, risen as she is in the East. From the sea-foam she is birthed. She, the Goddess of Victory and Desire and Love. There—gentle, steady, warm and knowing—just as she was yesterday, just as she will be tomorrow.

She, too, is a pilgrim, blown across the resounding sea on a shell by the moist breath of Zephyros, the Greek personification of the West Wind. Venus is Love, is Purity, hers the diamond-point Light and Love of Paradise.

She carries these wayfarers as pilgrims across to the New Paradise, to the New Found Land, to the land before the Fall, to the land after the Fall, forward-back as on a sphere to the land of milk and honey, to where the streets are paved with gold—most virgin pure, crystalline light, Stella Maris, Star of the Sea, the pure sparkling emanation of Love, the changer of men’s hearts.

Venus, Morning Star!
Phosphorus! O, Beacon of Love!
Arise in the hearts of these brave explorers!
Out of the dark chaos, above the broad-curved earth, the rondeur,
Be the light-fire that powers their minds, the heated sword that pierces their hearts, the pulsing electric distortion that makes the distant near and the old new.



And on that same day, Day 11 of the sailor’s voyage, in the New World, Karon’hi:io (Mohawk: Beautiful sky), he of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk: The People of the Flint) was, like Trottier, looking at the Morning Star. His eye was fixed on it through the doorway of the longhouse—the very same star, pallid in the eastern sky, that was at that moment beaming on the People of the Cross.

But, to Karon’hi:io, it was not Venus, not Phosphorus, not the symbol of Christ rising in men’s hearts. He knew not of the approaching ship now wending its way toward him, nor of their ways of counting and naming stars.

No, to him, this morning star was the beguiling maiden Gend’ewith:a (Mohawk: she who brings the day)…

“Kitchi,” he called to his nephew, “I have a story to tell you.”

Kitchi felt honored to be sitting next to his uncle, cross-legged like him around the Council Fire.

“Kanontowá:nen (Mohawk: Big Mountain) has had a dream, a significant dream.”

Kitchi listened quietly.

“Soon, the chiefs of our clan and the chiefs of the other two clans, will gather around the fire to discuss this dream. We will talk it through as brothers, until we come to one mind on it.”

The fire crackled and sizzled. The smoke twisted, pluming inexhaustibly outward, filling the longhouse.

Kitchi recognized that half-look his uncle had, that all the adults seemed to have, like there was something else that they knew, some fuller truth that they had to withhold for his sake, things that could only be revealed in their own time.

“But do you know, Kitchi, where our Council Fire comes from?”

Karon’hi:io pointed his fire-stirrer toward the eastern door.

“It comes from her, Gend’ewith:a.”

Kitchi peered through the smoke, but, try as he might, he could not see any stars, he could not see the sky. He could barely see the door of the longhouse. Everything was obscured.

“I will now tell you the story of how Gend’ewith:a came to be there, in the sky, ready to bring each day.”

Karon’hi:io cleared his throat and shook a little, to compose himself before beginning.

“There was once a great hunter named So’son’dow:ah (Mohawk: Great Night). On one particular hunting trip in the forest, So’son’dow:ah saw something he had never seen before. As the first morning rays of sunlight penetrated the forest like arrow shafts before morning, he saw a magnificent elk illuminated in a wooded hollow. It was Oje’anehd:oh, the Sky Elk himself, who had lingered too long in the earthly forest from his celestial home.

“Sky Elk held himself proud and carried weighty antlers on his head with the bearing of a king. So’son’dow:ah was awestruck by this celestial being.

“But, impressed though he was, So’son’dow:ah was a hunter, a great hunter, and, true to his calling, he drew back his bow and aimed his arrow at Sky Elk.”

Though he is Sky Elk, I can by my skill take his body.

“But in honor of his hunter’s code, before shooting him unawares, So’son’dow:ah warned his prey by shaking a small branch to alert the elk to his presence, to give him a chance to save his life.

“Oje’anehd:oh heard the sound, raised his head and sniffed the air. He bound away suddenly, and So’son’dow:ah chased after him, slinging arrows as he went. But Sky Elk was elusive. He sprang over hollows, he leapt across streams. Through tangled ways the chase continued, but the arrows never reached their target. Now noon, So’son’dow:ah still followed, sure-footed, never-tiring, but also never getting close enough to Sky Elk, who seemed to mock him by keeping just out of reach.

“Then night filled the wooded ways. Sky Elk quickened his pace and leapt into the sky, the farthest part of the sky, to the place where the sun wakes the earth. So’son’dow:ah followed, on the wings of a nighthawk who carried him up in pursuit.

“But then Dawn arrived with great majesty, feathering in ruby ribs across the sky like the fletchings of a flaming arrow. The nighthawk that had carried So’son’dow:ah returned to earth which sent So’son’dow:ah plunging out of the sky.

“Dawn took pity on the brave hunter, this stranger to the sky, and rescued him from falling. She placed him as a sentinel to guard the eastern door of her lodge. She also assigned him to help guide the way for night hunters to follow their game. The night hunters would escort So’son’dow:ah from his post down to earth so that he could help them find their paths and to hunt game. But these visits only reminded So’son’dow:ah of how much he missed his home in the shady mazes of the forest.

“On one of his earthly visits, as the first hints of day arrived in the forest, So’son’dow:ah saw a lovely young girl by a river. Like a hunter’s arrow striking its target, So’son’dow:ah’s heart was love-wounded, and he was stricken with an immediate desire for her. He approached, but before he could make himself known to her, the wary night hunters escorted him back to his duty-post at Dawn’s lodge.

“There he moaned for the beautiful earth-girl through many agonizing night vigils and saw her face everywhere he looked. In the night sky, she was a constellation. In the morning mists by the riverbank, she was a haunting gray vision. In the forest, she was behind every tree.

“He was determined that he must see her again.

“When setting him as sentry at the door, Dawn had imbued So’son’dow:ah with one special power: although at night, he was a prisoner of the skies, during the day, he was able to inhabit the body of an animal and visit his earthly home. But he must always return before nightfall to assume his post again.

“So, one spring morning, So’son’dow:ah inhabited a bluebird and traveled with it to the river where he had seen the beautiful young girl. The bluebird sang its plaintive song as it went, and soon the maiden, hearing the song, appeared out of the forest.

“‘What a lovely song,’ she said. ‘It is the bluebird, announcing the arrival of spring!’

“She sang along with the bluebird and allowed it to perch on her shoulder. She nuzzled the bird with her soft cheek and caressed it with her hand. From within the bird, So’son’dow:ah beamed with love and joy. He felt her affection at last, but, sadly, he could not respond to her warmth.

“And now the sun was setting, so So’son’dow:ah was duty-bound to return to his sentry post at Dawn’s door. He flew off her shoulder, his sweet-sad song diminishing as ascended to his post in the sky.

“Later that year, in mid-summer, So’son’dow:ah became restless to see her again, so, this time, he inhabited a blackbird and perched in a tree by the river. The blackbird sang its song, and, as she had in spring, the maiden appeared and responded with a song of her own.

“‘It is the blackbird!’ she happily exclaimed, as she stroked its feathers. “You bring the sun to the berries; you help the corn grow. I love you, blackbird!” And she raised its beak to her lips.

“‘I love you too!’ said So’son’dow:ah from within the blackbird, but the maiden could not hear him. Sadly, the blackbird returned to the shadows of the forest and sulked there until the sun had almost fully dipped below the horizon, when he returned again to his sentry post in the sky.

“Then, in autumn, when the leaves had exploded in color, So’son’dow:ah visited the earth again—this time in the body of a nighthawk and at night, which Dawn had strictly forbidden.

“All through the night, So’son’dow:ah searched for the maiden, crying out a hawk-cry again and again, but she did not respond as before. Finally, just before sunrise, he saw her by the riverbank, asleep. The nighthawk swooped down, scooped her on its wings and flew her to Dawn’s lodge in the sky.

“When Dawn saw the sleeping maiden in her lodge, she realized that So’son’dow:ah had disobeyed her, that he had visited the earth at night.

“Dawn was furious. To punish him, she had So’son’dow:ah bound to his post at the door, so that he could never abandon his duty again. She then transformed the maiden into a star, Gend’ewith:a, and placed Gend’ewith:a on So’son’dow:ah’s forehead. In this way, bound as he was, with his love set permanently before his eyes, he must always see her, but never reach her, never have her, for all of Eternity.

“Dawn also gave Gend’ewith:a a flaming torch so that, if So’son’dow:ah should ever free himself and approach her, he would be immediately consumed by its fire.”

Karon’hi:io stopped now at the end of his story. His eyes, which had been focused throughout the tale at a place somewhere deep in the flickering layers of the fire-flames, looked away and found a new focus on Kitchi.

“The Sun himself lights his Council Fire from this torch of Gend’ewith:a just before He arises every morning.

“And from her, we, the Haudenesaunee, light our Council Fire as well.”

Karon’hi:io’s words reverberated through the air for a time, bouncing off the sides of the longhouse, and clanging around inside Kitchi’s head in multiple overlapping iterations, seeping deeper in descending waves—into his mind, into his spirit.

Then the smoke from the fire parted for a moment, revealing the eastern door.

Look to the morning star to guide your steps.



And, that very morning, when Kitchi had heard the story of the Morning Star, still at sea, approaching, the Captain of Le Don de Dieu mused…

The Earth is at rest, and everything but revolves around it?!

Perhaps then it’s true that my ship is at rest, and the New World rushes toward it, from west to east—

that the Earth-sphere revolves beneath it, with speed unsurpassable—

that the sea was created for it only, a dream-dance of surges and swells, unseen currents and swirls of immense magnitude—

A master-play just for us? For our entertainment?

No, the motion of our ship is reflected in all we see, and every nautical mile we travel confirms this. Yet how dim is our glimpse of His equations, and how thin is our grasp of His outcomes.

This much we know: that we are within the Sphere of the Different, the Celestial Sphere.

And that, at any point on the Celestial Sphere, a straight line to the beginning and the end of the diameter line of the sphere—i.e., the surface of the water—creates a right angle.

And that, if you can measure the angle from where you are on the diameter to a star-point in the heavens, you can calculate the distance to directly under that star.

And that, if you know during which season and at which time of night which point on the surface is directly below the star (which those who have gone before you have charted), and you measure the angle from your location to that star, you can know how far you are from that point.

And so therefore, you can know your location on that surface.

Near noon each day, we shoot the sun with the cross-staff.

Fifty-five degrees from the horizon,

then, 56 degrees,

then, 56.5 degrees,

again 56.5,

and again, the same.

Then, a declination, 56, then 55.5, then 55.

To determine a fact—the sun’s altitude at noon—we surround it with data, on both sides of the zenith.

But now we have it. That’s the highest point then: 56.5 degrees.

We check the nautical almanac: on April 30th the sun is directly overhead at 14.5 latitude north.


90° (the angle of the sun to the earth at latitude 14.5)


X (the distance between the ship’s location and latitude 14.5)


56.5° (the angle between sun and horizon on April 30th at noon).

90—X = 56.5.

X, therefore, equals 33.5.

Our ship at noon is 33.5° latitude north of the point at which the sun is directly overhead at noon on April 30th—which, according to the Nautical Almanac, is 14.5° latitude north.

So, to determine the ship’s location in latitude, the navigator adds 14.5 plus 33.5. That equals 48!

At noon, on April 30th in year of our Lord 1563, Le Don de Dieu is at 48° north latitude heading due west.

We are on course—Dieu soit loué (French: Praise be to God).

Deduced reckoning. Sailors call it “Dead-Reckoning:” the use of rational thought in the application of God’s Math to determine location on the sphere, reduced to a formula in scribbled markings with ink on a page.

The Math of God applied to the featureless reaches to the horizon, the blank fathoms of the deep and the invisible unknowns of the aether, in the hope that Man’s own reason can be trusted to know and apply these numbers, not with full faith, not with full confidence, but with enough of each to go forward.

And he is exhilarated as the prow plunges through the darkness;
and he is encouraged as the dashing spray explodes in all directions;
and he is comforted as the sails plume extending with the wind;
assurance enough for these brave sailors groping with their tools to travel a wide expanse of water—some 2600 nautical miles.



The spinning sphere on which they sailed completed another revolution, Day 13, and Trottier, with Brodeur his fellow watchman, kept to their prescribed duties during the watch.

The eighth bell of the previous watch was rung, and soon, at the first half-hour of their watch, the first bell will be rung. At the first hour of their watch, two bells will be rung and so on, every half-hour, from 8pm till midnight, when their watch will end.

With the bell rung, the glass is turned over, to measure the next half-hour. Gravity pulls the sand through the opening. Every grain obeys this attractive force and, by their ordered fall, accounts for the measure of the half-hour, 1/48th of the time period of the rotation of the earth-sphere.

Then, to the traverse board, to plot progress and direction, a wooden board some three-feet-wide and four-feet-tall, with the compass rose painted upon it. There the 32 points of direction and, in the center, the rose, the red heart.

And, at the cardinal direction north, the fleur-de-lis.

At the end of each half hour, in goes a peg to mark the direction sailed, based on the compass reading. Each peg is attached to the center by a string.

Each hour, Trottier measures speed in knots. This, too, is marked by a peg indicating speed in a row of peg-holes along the bottom.

At the end of their watch, the traverse board is handed to the navigator who records these measurements in the logbook: direction, speed, distance traveled. Their reckoning is adjusted to a “course made good” and a “speed made good.” And these are passed to the helmsman who adjusts the ship’s bearing accordingly.

Then, to the bell again, now eight times rung. And the glass is overturned one last time. Then Trottier and Brodeur turn over the watch to the next two sailors.

Four-hour watches, six of them, so the crew is ever on watch for the entire rotation of the globe, for the sun’s appearance in the eastern sky, to its arc-traverse overhead, to its descent and disappearance past the western horizon, to its appearance again heralded by fair Eosphoros up and over the eastern horizon.



Going forward as fast as the wind will allow, the Captain races to bring another day dawning, Day 14.

And the morning star rises in a field of darkness…

And, O, as we go, such beauty—

And so Eosphoros rises this morning.
She is the welcome harbinger of the Sun, the herald of the day!

O what delight!
The mad wanton profligacy of God!
Such transformations!
The concordant echelon of clouds: ribbed, fan-like, resplendent!
The wispy vapor trails: sinewy, bewitching, twisting.
Poofy tuftings lighter than air,
the sky vaults booming with indescribable processions of color, startling shapes, odd formations, ever outflowing newness, in combinations no human mind could concoct.

Yet Stunning! Yet Fresh! Yet Beautiful!

There is no transition, there is no delineation, there is no punctuation.
It is unending, it is spherical, it is Eternal.
And forever beautiful.
From grays and blues and blacks
to pastel pinks
to creamsicle orange
to radiation green
to dewy Easter purple.

Eosphoros: Dawn-Goddess.
Arise each day in golden glory!
Reach forward your delicate fingers, trailing rose-dust.
See, the magnificent all-surrounding effulgence.
Forever unfurling forward.
Stretch yourself across the sky!
Your robe in folds furrowing, crowned with a diadem of flowers.
The steeds that lead your chariot, Firebright and Daybright, gallop in vibrant saffron and rose and gold diffuse,
chewing up leagues in muscular lunges,
advancing the day,
greedily speeding,
a shameless extravagant promiscuous voluptuous display of Yourself!

Like them, your insatiable appetite drives you, your hunger for fine muscular heroes.
Spread yourself across the sky, scan the globe, search kindly for these fine Olympians, your stout Warriors.

Illuminate every crevice.

You are at once their soft mistress, their warm-surround, and their leading light.
Your love is so great for heroes,
that they, too, might be true to their calling,
that they too might advance in courage and beauty,
that they too might might evoke Eternity, the Sphere of the Same.

Your brother, the Sun: Helios; your sister, the Moon: Selene.

Eos, you lead the Parade of Time.
You are the advanced guard of Purpose.
You are the orbital proof.
You open the Gates of Heaven so that the sun can return again!
In you, the beginning meets the end.
In you, the Past revolves into the Future.
In you, freshness returns anew.

That you came yesterday and the day before yesterday and the days ever-before uncountable!
That you will come again tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the days ever-after innumerable!

That your beauty will span the sky again and again, in variegated glory—

O Wonder!

Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. (Latin: As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever.)

You, fairest Eos, are the mother of the winds, including Zephyrus—the West Wind—into which Le Don de Dieu now bears without relenting…



On Day 16, as on the other days before it, the wind from the west, a zephyr, blows steady dead straight from our destination.

But what of it; the Captain has set the course. The ship tacks its way, zigging to port, five points to the wind, zagging to starboard, five points to the wind.

Even the rotation of the earth itself spins toward us—rotating at a monumental velocity. No matter, it seems to slide beneath us, as if our ship were a solitary object unmoving, and the ocean were passing like a platform slide, and all of history were rotating up and around to meet us.

And Lady Luna makes her appearance this night…

O Lustrous Orb,
At times in gauzy gossamer cloud-vapors, like an illuminated veil, modestly shielding her, yet revealing her, she glides behind their beguiling forms.
She shines by night.
She fills the vastness with a clear pure light and saunters forward like a Grande Dame in a pallid graceful arc across the blue-black velvet backdrop.
She is a miracle of splendor; she is the Star of the Night; she is Beauty in black and white.

Trottier counts and measures and marks the progress of the ship. In the very face of Eternity, the Heavens fixed in a crystalline canopy above, the lower stars clocking forward at a regular rate and the planets speeding their courses, he measures the speed and the course, the set of the current, the direction and speed of the wind.

And so, the heavens, with such transcendent perfection, become for Trottier during those hours, those watches in the night, a visible god.

And, through unremitting contemplation of this celestial machine, as Copernicus said of all men, Trottier is stimulated inevitably to an admiration for its Maker. It cannot be otherwise. It is a true and eternal fact, where Trottier’s Essence, his soul-sphere, recognizes unmistakably Itself reflected back to Itself. The harmonic gong of recognition, the clear bell of Truth is rung.

Just as the bells of the watch were rung, so rang the gong of Trottier’s Soul.

And yet, despite the awe-inspiring Enormity, he kept to his instruments, he stuck to his math—measuring, recording, calculating. Trusting in Divine Providence? Yes, as well as any man can, but, yet, he double-checked and verified and confirmed and made sure.

Two-spirited man!

Alone among creatures, a part of both the mortal and the immortal, the worlds of both the generated and the ungenerated, of both Time and Eternity!
Split! Schizophrenic! With two eyes!
One to view the sun, and one to view the horizon, simultaneously.
Measuring feeble fathoms and leagues in front of the open blast furnace of Eternity!
Measuring a drift current of a knot while deaf from the blaring trumpets of heaven!
Given access to the Laws of Destiny and the Code of Life he fumbles with knots on wet lines and gauges their drag.

Man is, in this way, a Living Cross, nailed to the intersection of the Temporal and the Eternal, with a Mind for both Science and Philosophy, for both Commerce and Art.

In just this way, Man is created in the image of his Creator. And Jesus, the God-Man, both Son of God and Son of Man, is most truly this.

And the skies remained fair and the winds remained steady, now 17 revolutions clocking their voyage!

The prow crashed forward, now retracting, as if to take another breath of air, now charging forward again.

Galloping. Forward.

The ship stately, advancing its burly chest, the slanting mainsail bellying with the wind—dashing, frolicking in a fair wind.

The resistless imperious urge forward.

On his first watch, Trottier had recorded wind speed of 8 ½ knots. The following night, it was nine knots; the next, 10 ½. Night after night of steady sustained favorable winds. Even the Captain was astounded at their good fortune.

To the West, to where Le Don de Dieu speeds, is the land of darkness and of night. And, when the evening star appears there, on the 18th night, Trottier ignites the stern light, hung as it is out and away from the vessel, fueled by whale oil, on a gimbal for stability to offset the rolling motion of the ship. For safety, it is all the fire-light the Captain permits topside, but, like a single candle in a chapel at night, it provides, as it were, an infinite light, illuminating the entire aft of the vessel and its surround.

For Trottier it is once again Lucernaria Hora, the Hour of Light.

He keeps to his watch, through what the Blackrobes call the sixth to the eighth canonical hours. It is the time of vespers, evensong, the time of the Glorification of God, the Creator of the World and its Providence.

Again, to the place of darkness, to the time of deep prayer, to the West, to the vespera.

Stay here, and keep watch with me;
Watch and pray
Watch and pray

And my eyes were open through the watches of the night so that I meditate on you.
-Psalm 119:148

There above the deck, on this penultimate night of their voyage, in the silvery low illumination of the Moon,
a profligate profusion of stars,
a resplendent star-smear, the Milky Way—a titanic Fuse of Time!—smeared across the blue-black solemn mystic night, what they call in Old France “St. James’ Way,” in the water-waves a reflective luminance twitched and jigged all around,
and the stout little stern lamp, swayed and rotated wildly with the jostling of the vessel.

The night sky is limpid, lucid, clear, chill.
Its black-surround is not black, but a pure absence of light—true-black—speckled with bursts of light pointy and pure, life-lit by divinity.

Crystalline points emanating light.
The celestial sphere strewn with them, a delightful mad profusion, a wild abundant spillage,
Like a giddy child had upended a bowl of fireballs, just for fun, and left them there, to burn and to twinkle.
Rotating in perfect precision,
gigantic masses, orbiting with terrifying speed, generating light and heat and sound
- and the force of attraction.

An elegant dance-play on a TITANIC scale, each attracting each other.
God’s Clockworks.
Mass. Motion. Rotation. Attraction.

And there! See? Around which the Heavens themselves appear to rotate?

Polaris—seemingly affixed over the North Pole of the earth-sphere.

So, when the sphere had rotated such so that the ship was in night-shadow, the North Star became their trusted guide again.



And in that shadow of the sun, Trottier’s watch was visited by a celestial event: the aether went electric, and fire was everywhere.

Lightning revealed the vaults of heaven. At first, it lit but for a moment a glimpse of the very structures of the cosmos, an X-ray peek at the frameworks, the contours, the ramparts, the parapets, the immense cloud-gargoyles. They flitted visible instantaneously in a bombardment of light, explosions of terrifying proportions, rippling across the sphere’s interior, then disappearing. A flash revealing Structures of Awe, Vistas of Immortality.

And atop the masts, above the cross spars, above the pennant of St. George’s Cross, a glowing discharge, the blue transparent flame, the presence of the spirit itself, a cascading wavering miracle of light—there, see?

It is St. Elmo’s Fire, a sign from St. Erasmus—blessing our voyage, hearkening to our hearts.

The blue dancing apparition grows brighter, building in overlapping layers of phorophism.

Trottier remembered what the Bishop had said, that if fear were to grip his soul, he should return to the amulet hanging around his neck, the Lamb of God, and fires would be extinguished, floods would be stayed and miracles would appear as numerous as the stars in the night sky.

Trottier reached for the Agnus Dei amulet on his chest.

Then the sentry clambered forward through the fo’c’s’le and onto the beakhead, and there he held aloft his cruciform sword. With two hands around the grip, he extended it into the lucid darkness, the virgin cold—the tip of it—there, see?—it glows with the fire!

The spirit electric! There, most visible! The cruciform sword!

We carry it forward from the east, from the Levant we come. The emittance! The blue crackling fire! The visible manifestation of the spirit—Bonum Sancti, guide us!

In the night, He leads us with a light of fire.

And behind the ship now, the waters are afire as well, a milky luminescent trail in the water-wake of the vessel, a deep blue iridescent sea-sparkle, a sea-fire burgeoning in submerged blooms emanating beneath us and around us, dazzling luminous with light particles, a blue-white phosphorescence.

But, so soon, it trails away. And the fire in the sky travels off, diminished. And the blue electric phorophism is faded and gone.

We are alone on the ocean now, floating on a dwindling electric blue cloud. And our ship, knocked about, rocked about on the sea-surface, the rolling bulges, sliding underneath, lifting us gently as each passes by. Coming, then going, the ship groans easefully with each shift and twist of herself.

The ocean, an oily gelatinous roiling surround, gently patting and pelting the hull in a random tumult of benign rolls and lightly swirling eddies.

Bobbing lonesome in a vast surround, a heightened sense of EXISTENCE—palpable, unmistakable.

We ARE! This IS!
The sphere of BEING, the Soul infusing all!

And, in the east now, Venus transitions into appearance, already commanding the horizon, casting her own light-bridge on the ocean, summoning at first a green glowing eminence of color in the sky, melting outward on the horizon, a swirling array of pastels spilling out in every direction, extending, expanding, reaching—erasing the distinction between ocean and sky.

Now saffron, now rose, now cherry…

And so from Eos’ rosy fingers stretching forward to advance the day, to an enfolding embrace in farewell.
From a blaze of glory in a phantasmagoria of color, to a step into legend, heralded by flaunting banners of color, mellow hues of beauty and delicacy.
From the morning star Venus, to the evening star Venus, the Giant Orb rotates from Love to Love. Love in the morning at sunrise, Love in the evening at sunset. Love responding to love.

And still, through it all—forever forward.

Outward bound!

Under the great celestial dome, there overhead!
As in a dream—O, joy!
The magnetic urge—the True North of these men—
with the cross before them,
with Venus ahead there too in the sky,
the invisible irresistible magnetic alignment of Destiny.
They go…Forward.

Trottier looked at the cruciform sword again, now sheathed at the sentry’s side. It was no longer electric, but seemed to radiate a different kind of light: the phosphorescent remains of a recent event, the light-echoes of a fresh memory. This object was now different, he was different.

He looked around him—at the mate, at the sentry, at the helmsman. He looked at the men, sleeping there on deck—below being stuffed to the gunwales with provisions—and saw that he was surrounded by saints.

And the constellations clicked forward, advancing from notch to notch, with utter consistency, perfect balance.
And the heavens, as Pythagoras said, became one majestic musical chord,
with God’s numbers, the basic elements of all things, humming in unison,
chanting as a complex surround,
stirring concordantly as if every instrument in the Universe were emitting a different note simultaneously, yet fitting together,
each note rising to each other,
coupling together in natural and complex formulations, interlocking, outs pairing with ins, in the most natural and harmonious and ease-ful manner.
The inutterable vastness in a hymn of unison!
The galaxies each a tube in the cosmic pipe organ, the evensong.

The electric expanse surrounding and sustaining it all, powering it all and occasionally showing itself, as at the tip of the sword, at the point of the mast, and in the glimmering phosphorescence extending behind Le Don de Dieu—a celestial event, a visitation, something from outside of Time appearing in Time.

We come from the Levant. We are Easters of the Cross thrust forward like a swordpoint glowing with the blue flame of the spirit.

To the place of vespera, the evening star, at the time of vespers, to glorify God, into the darkness comes the light.

Forward is the direction of the soul.

Forever forward.



An image came to Trottier’s mind: the strange circle he had seen etched into the stonework of the chapel where the Blackrobes had ushered him and the other sailors into the sanctuary for the blessing of the voyage.

In the center of the circle had been chiseled a hole, with straight spokes emanating outward from it to the outer rim of the circle where they terminated into smaller circular holes—like an axle with spokes to the edge of a wheel.

The original etchings had been weathered by time and softly eroded through use. It was a pegboard of a sort, a way to track Time, but not Time measured by speed and distance, as with the traverse board the sailors use for navigation, but Time marked by praise and thanksgiving.

For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night.
-Psalm 90:4

To those who would worship, living as they do in their concrete surrounds, like quahog in its shell, marking Time with the rings of its enclosure, each day, each hour, this Spirit-Clock tracks the arc-traverse of the Sun-Sphere passing overhead, its direction clocking Time with thrown shadows.

The center-hole—the Soul-Hole—contains a cylindrical marker inserted to cast the shadow, which, as it reaches each notched spoke, marks another occasion for Wonder and Awe and Gratitude. The worshippers tracked the movement of the shadow with smaller pegs in the outer holes, like a watch on board Le Don de Dieu. God’s Clockworks: a circle of Holiness inscribed around the center Soul-Hole…

I have cleared the way to what will be and have freed the past from all error. I have obliterated the distinction between the Spheres, the lines of the Cross, the Past and the Future. I am not east or west or north or south but am, in truth, all ways. I am therefore the Alpha and the Omega.



And, on that Night of Fire, in the New World, eight chiefs of the three clans filtered into the Council House where Karon’hi:io and Kitchi were already positioned around the fire. Karon’hi:io was the ninth chief in attendance, the Sharenhó:wane of the Wolf Clan (Mohawk: Ronathahión:ni).

Everyone settled in anticipation and joined the two in a half-moon around the Council Fire. Tekarihó:ken, one of the chiefs of the Turtle Clan, (Mohawk: Ratiniáhton) took the pipe in hand and addressed the gathering.

“We will tell now of the dream of Kanontowá:nen.”

The concentration of everyone was focused by this announcement of great significance.

“His was a dream of a great White Serpent that comes from over the eastern horizon of the sea. This serpent glows with a great light that fills the sky with many spectacular colors—scarlet and saffron and gold—the colors of a king.

“In Kanontowá:nen’s dream, this White Serpent is greeted at the edge of the sea by a Red Serpent as a friend. He is housed in a canoe, nurtured and fed as a brother.

“But the White Serpent’s appetite proves to be insatiable. At first he eats only grass and bugs, but soon he progresses to muskrats and raccoons, then to elk and bear.

“Before long, the canoe can no longer contain him, so he is moved to a stockade pen. But he keeps growing so that even the pen cannot hold him. He becomes monstrous and begins to eat the small children of a nearby village and ravages the people who fight against him with their arrows and clubs, to no avail.

“The villagers argue among themselves about how to confront this serpent, but, ultimately, they flee their village into the forest.

“Then the White Serpent tries to choke the life out of its once-friend, the Red Serpent, and a battle ensues. It rages across the land with the two serpents locked in mortal combat. They leave a trail of wreckage and destruction everywhere the fight takes them, leveling mountains and causing the very rivers to boil. Trees and grass disappear and the scorched land is all that remains. They kill all the animals in their path, often not even eating the meat, but leaving it behind to spoil. An infestation of strange bugs dominates the landscape. The stench of death is so bad it sickens even the two combatants.

“This is a time of great suffering for the people of the village, the Haudenosaunee. Again they argue among themselves, and again they flee. This time they run from what was once the forest into the mountains.

“And now at that time of the villagers’ greatest despair, a Black Serpent from the south hears of all this and swims through the ocean to join the fight. The other two serpents, now battle-weary, succumb to the Black Serpent.

“Like a conqueror, the Black Serpent stands on the vanquished White and Red Serpents and looks to the East. As it does so, a bright light appears, a light that is many times brighter than the sun.

“The Black Serpent is stunned by the light, blinded and terrified, so it swims away to its home in the South, never to be seen again.

“The Red Serpent revives, and it, too, is fearful of this light. It slithers away through a forest trail to the North and is gone forever.

“The White Serpent wakes up. Like the other serpents, it trembles in fear of the light. It swims back into the sea, heading to the East from where he came, never to trouble the people again.

“Then the bright light glows even brighter. It becomes an all-encompassing mist that engulfs the earth. The mist transforms into a Great Cloud. Then, from within this cloud, a bright star forms, and, from within this star, appears a great bow, held taut by the will of a Mighty Hunter and filled with all the colors of creation.

“And, at that time, all the heavens are filled with music, like the voices of everyone who has ever lived singing in harmony. This music resounds like the great harmonic chord of a New Creation, as it was when everything was new, and when we as children thrilled with joy and wonder at the sensation of everything around us and within us.

“And the people shall return from the mountains, hand-in-hand. They will humbly gather under the great elm tree. Fear shall be no more; death shall be no more. Everyone will awaken in an instant, and the dream of horror and suffering will end.

“And, from the burnt corn husk of the Old World, a New World shall be born, where everything that is created is of the heart, and the spirit of friendship and brotherhood will be everlasting.

“Degan’awid:ah will be that light. He will return and deliver us.”


“Drop the hook! Lower the sheets!” the Captain commanded.

And there it is—the New World—in 20 days, a number complete and full. Ten days out from the Old World and 10 days in to the New; a full 10 in its inverse and a full 10 in its converse. Twenty—the universe.

To starboard, in the foreground, sparks twinkled from wavelets. And there above, arced magnificently, a rainbow, emitting the glorious colored spectrum of all visible light, connecting, it appeared, two continents across a vast ocean.

The chaplain mounted unto the fo’c’sle and faced the men:

“I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
-Genesis 9:13-15

“On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.
On that day, the root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
the Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.”
-Isaiah 11 1-10

The Ides of March

“You smell delish,” Alexa said to Schipper as she walked up beside him in the hallway.

She beamed with green doe-eyes framed naturally with dark black eyelashes. Around her neck, she wore a choker—a different one every day it seemed. Her red hair refracted every color in the visible spectrum. She was the prettiest girl in the grade, effortlessly.

“What is it you’re wearing, dah-ling?”

She walked with her head high and her eyes looking straight ahead. Supreme confidence is what she had—confidence that good things would come her way; so she could wait and be patient, therefore, when it came to the matter of a boyfriend. She knew God would send her a champion—so she was calm, preternaturally so.

“It’s Brut. My father’s…Brut.”

“Well, it’s delish. You’re delish.”

She flashed him a smile and a little eye-twinkle.

You could never quite tell with Alexa. Was she flirting? Or was this just one other passing encounter for her, as she flitted her way throwing merriment and enchantment everywhere, like little white and purple posies off the back of a horse-drawn carriage.

It was impossible not to admire her; even the other girls were charmed.

“God, today’s the worst day—everrrr.”

She didn’t wait for him to ask.

“Two tests in a row—American history, then French. Then I have to work tonight—till closing. With Larry the Letch.”

She had made the name up. It flowed out one day as part of her ongoing commentary on everyone and everything. But it perfectly fit the man—Larry the Letch. Brilliant.

Hallo! That’s gorgeous. Sean, look.”

It was the sky outside the glass windows in the corridor between the east and the west wing of the school. The sun was pouring powerful rays through a hole in the clouds, looking like one of those mass cards at a wake.

Schipper walked a few steps before he realized that Alexa has stopped. He looked back to her and saw the torrent of students pushing through the hallway split around her like a rock in a surging river.

God, her hair was dazzling, and her eyes—electric, neon, smoldering.

He thought of fighting his way back through the kid-traffic to her, but he was already late for Mr. Simpson’s class.

“Isn’t that awesome?”

It was awesome. She was right. And he wanted to go back, to let her know that he thought so, too. But to work his way through the mob, to stare at the holy sight, in front of everyone—it made him feel like a dweeb. He didn’t want to be a dweeb. He was the captain of the lacrosse team…

“Alexa, I gotta’ go. Catch you later.”

He saw a little cloud pass across her face.

“OK—nice walking with you, cutie.”

Schipper tried to walk cool and not look back, but, as he passed into Mr. Simpson’s classroom, he felt a little nauseous.

It smelled in there, always the same smell of…Mr. Simpson’s class. It wasn’t quite revolting enough to turn your stomach, like the smell of a rotting dumpster in a parking lot in August, but it was the low persistent smell of school-plague: all those bodies, all those germs, all that dust, all those years. You couldn’t eradicate that if you power-washed the whole interior with bleach. Kids brought food into the classroom all the time—drink bottles, snack bars, orange crackers and cheese. It was disgusting.

He was reminded again how the whole school thing made him sick: the throng of people crushing through the hallway from one class to another like cattle being herded through a narrow chute; everyone jumping like automatons when they hear the bell; the sick little things that the cramped twisted shrunken souls scrawl into the desk tops.

Mr. Simpson began droning—right on time, as usual.

There was NOTHING to look forward to here. For the next 43 minutes, he knew exactly what was going to happen. He was going to look out the window hoping to see something change. He was going to look at the dorky posters on the wall for the millionth time: the map of World War II battles, the photo of the goofy genius Albert Einstein and the diagram of the three branches of government—“How a Law Gets Made.”

Simpson squawked like a robot, and everything he did was so rigid, so systematized. This school was a minimum security prison—you had to talk the right way, dress the right way.

“Mr. Simpson, can I go to the bathroom?” Schipper asked while standing to leave.

“You just got here, Mr. Schipper. Couldn’t you go between classes?”

The thought of explaining to Mr. Simpson, as soooo many students had done before, that there wasn’t enough time to go to the bathroom between classes when you have to walk from the east wing to the west wing. But the better part of his brain overruled this impulse, realizing it was hopeless.

“Mr. Simpson, I really have to go.”

“OK—but we’re having a quiz on Friday, and we’re going over some material that you’re responsible for knowing.”

That’s another thing he hated. Can’t people just leave it alone? Did Mr. Simpson really have to twist the dagger like that as payment for granting his permission to go to the bathroom?

“Ok,” was all Schipper managed in response, thinking it was a small price to pay for this little piece of freedom: to walk through the halls while they’re clear and quiet.

Schipper walked as slow as he could, so he could stretch out his bathroom break, but, as he turned the corner, his legs almost buckled when he saw Alexa, still in the glass corridor, looking at the sky. The swarm of students that had surrounded her was gone. Now it was just her—in the exact same spot, looking up.


“Hey gorgeous. I know—I’m weird.”

“Where’d the sun go?”

“Don’t know, dude. It’s spring: sunny one minute; cloudy the next. Warm, then snow flurries. Mud-luscious. That’s how that poet described spring. I love that—mud-luscious.”

“I guess spring is kind-of over-rated.”

Yesss—oh, and do you know what day it is today? March 15th—the Ides of March. Remember? In Julius Caesar?

Beware the Ides of March.”

Her voice was faux-husky as she said this, falsetto. Schipper noticed again those eyes, swimming in a pool of fertility…

“In the Roman calendar, the Ides of March was the first day of the year. It’s the spring equinox, a perfect balance between light and shadow for everyone, everywhere.”

“It’s also the first day of lacrosse practice this season,“ Schipper said.

Coincidence?”—she used her ominous fake-announcer voice again—“More like: DESTINY!”

Without the sun, it was chilly now in the glass corridor. Schipper suddenly felt awkward. But Alexa seemed entirely un-self-conscious, self-possessed.

“We’re reading another e.e. cummings poem today in Ms. Singletary’s class,” she said, as she started to move away from him down the hall. “Make sure you sit next to me,” she sung over her shoulder.

The hair covering the back of her head swayed and sparkled like an invitation to follow.

“Hey, thanks for coming back for me,” she shouted back at him.

“I didn’t come back for you,” he responded defensively. “I didn’t even know you were still here.”

“You sure about that, muscles?”

She winked at him as she turned the corner in the hallway.

“Mr. Schip-ppp-errrrr? Isn’t there someplace you’re supposed to be-he-e-e.”

No mis-taking that voice; it was Ms. Kreinhoffner.

“I’m going to the bathroom, Ms. Kreinhoffner.”

“Doesn’t LOOK that waaaaay. Looks like you’re talking to girls in the hall-allllll.”

He hated that little sing-song she always put in her voice.

“I really have to go.”

“Hurry UP, thennnn.”

You can close your eyes when you don’t want to see something, but you can’t really close your ears. Schipper thought of that artist in Art History class who cut off his ear—at least he wouldn’t have to hear that VO-HOICE!

And stop rushing me. Why is everyone always rushing me?

Schipper knew she’d be hanging around outside the bathroom door while he pee-ed.

Just doing my jo-hobbb!


His sweatshirt suddenly felt too small for him.

They keep this bathroom so damn hot!

He pulled it off over his head.

Leslie Gould does the b-ball team, he read off the urinal divider.

I’m so sick of this

He felt like cattle again, between the urinals, in his pen.


When Schipper came out, Ms. Kreinhoffner was pretending to be enthralled with something outside the windows.

That’s the difference between her and Alexa, he thought. Alexa’s fascination is real; Ms. Kreinhoffner’s is false. Ms. Kreinhoffner was hopelessly trapped in the adult world, a miserable steel cage of phoniness and fraud, a dreary small place where you trade in your soul for, what?—a chance to pretend to be interested in something while you’re waiting outside the boy’s bathroom for some kid to zip up his pants?

I don’t care which way you slice it: that’s really pathetic.

He felt something inside give way suddenly—like those glaciers “calving” he saw in the video in Mr. Kelly’s science class. A big piece of him let go and went slushing into a frothy cold ocean.

“Miss something?” he asked Ms. Kreinhoffner.

He wasn’t sure why he said that; it just came out. And, when it did, it sounded a little menacing, and he liked that it sounded menacing. He was walking toward her, and he could see that she had been rocked off-kilter by his question—and the ensuing physical approach.

“What do you mean by that?” she parried.

He saw a brief flash of vulnerability in her eyes, but it quickly passed—her years of training in defending her long line of life-choices had kicked in. She was hopeless—he could see that now for sure.

“Time to get back to cla-hass, Mister Schip-pperr!”

“Thanks for keeping me company, Ms. Kreinhoffner…”

He walked slowly back to the classroom—achingly slow. He even paused for a moment to read one of those lame virtue posters.

Intelligence plus character—
that is the goal of true education.
-Martin Luther King

The Great Mystery—Snow Moon

“This is one of the great events of your life,” Kitchi’s grandmother Lakoiáner told him. “You must sacrifice to the Great Mystery the thing that is the most precious to you.”

Kitchi thought—his most precious possession?

“My bear claw, Grandma,” he proclaimed. “I will give up my bear claw.”

Lakoiáner placed two more pieces of wood on the fire; then stirred them absentmindedly with the fire-stick. The smoke from the new wood plumed upward and wandered toward the opening in the roof of the longhouse.

“Your bear claw is indeed precious, Kitchi,” Lakoiáner said, still looking into the fire. “Your uncle gave that to you—because you helped to kill with your arrow the bear that had been troubling us—and you were not yet a warrior—as you are not yet now—you will not be until you are ready—and you will not be ready until you sacrifice the thing that is most precious to you.”

Kitchi was puzzled; his mind flitted from one of his possessions to the other.

His string of feathers? Beautiful, yes, but they were missing an eagle’s feather—the one he truly wanted, the one he could only earn as a warrior.

His bow? Yes, he had used it to help kill the bear, but now it seemed puny—half the size of a real warrior’s bow.

Then he looked at Morgri. He was lying on the blanket, his head between his front paws stretched before him, facing the door of the longhouse. This is how his dog had always waited for Kitchi, just like this, in expectancy, waiting for the next grand adventure, always on-duty, alert, even in repose—waiting for Kitchi.

Kitchi looked again at Lakoiáner. She was still tending the fire, not looking at him.

“To become a great warrior, like Tagmuloc, like Miramatu, you must renounce all connection to the things of this world. You must demonstrate to the Great Mystery, that you are free even of the thing most precious to you—only then will you know Courage.”

The fire crackled and hissed, pumping ever more smoke into the longhouse. Kitchi could barely see what she was doing though she was only a few feet away. Her voice came again through the hazy distortion.

“You can choose not to take this path, but then you will have a pebble in your moccasin for the rest of your life that you can never remove. You will stand, but favor one side. You will walk, but every step will pinch. You will run, but slowly and with a limp.”

“I will do it, grandmother—but not now, not tonight.”

Morgri rolled over to have his belly rubbed, as he did every night at this time. Kitchi didn’t oblige. Morgri stood on all fours, shook himself and stared at the door.

Just then, the deerskin covering on the door pulled away and there stood his uncle—Karon’hi:io. But it wasn’t his uncle. He had been transformed into gagu’wara, a False Face. On his head was an oversized mask featuring a grotesque twisted sneering mouth, crooked nose, wild eyes. Its hair was made of corn husk fibers that flew out and away from its head in an incoherent mess. Plumes of moist vapor issued from the mouth-hole, like a dragon panting after a big meal. In his right hand was his tomahawk, adorned in ceremonial trappings.

Gagu’wara stood motionless, silent—the light and shadows from the fire danced across his chest and false face. Morgri approached him, sniffed and wagged his tail.

Then gagu’wara walked purposefully to the center of the longhouse, grabbed the wooden paddle and stirred the ashes of the fire, turning them over deliberately, and chanting in a low growl as he did so. He was thanking the Great Spirit for the new life that would be stirred up from the ashes. He took some of the burning coals in his hands and blew air on them to distribute the smoke throughout the longhouse.

Lakoiáner stared at the fire, saying nothing. Gagu’wara turned his oversized sneer to Kitchi. It was chilling, but its meaning was clear. Kitchi stood and walked to the door.

Morgri followed Kitchi and gagu’wara out the door into the night.

Lakoiáner took the dried gourds off their hanging place. She strapped the rattles around her ankle and began to prance, gently at first. A deep-throated murmur-chant emitted from her, like a voice from another dimension, into the smoke-fog. At first, her murmur-chant seemed discordant, chaotic, meaningless.

But after several passes around the fire, a strange harmony emerged—like a three-stranded cord. The ankle-rattles, the gourd-shakers and the murmur-chant seemed to merge. They collapsed into each other, then intertwined with the twisted braids of smoke, until they disappeared, no longer separate strands, but one cord.

Lakoiáner’s torso bobbed forward from the waist, then arched back, forward and back, her hands jutting toward the smoke-opening. She squatted to the ground and clutched some dirt with her hand and threw it upward as she sprang back up again. She twirled around, still accompanied by the cadence of the rattles and the chant, now no longer a murmur, but a yawp, a warble, a screech.

Outside, the drums were sounding, and the ceremony had begun. It was the time of Tsha’tekoselhΛ, the mid-winter moon, and they were to honor Sky-Holder, Teharonghyawago, the keeper of the day. For him, they would sacrifice so that Sky-Holder’s powers, weak as they were in the dead of winter, would grow stronger and bring all good things to everyone again.

What makes the moon long in the shape of a cresent?

Kitchi stood awkwardly to one side with several of his friends.

Morgri trotted out in front of the assembly. He had been painted white, symbolizing the ceremonial sacrifice.

Otetiana the Elder began:

“A dog can be a special friend to the Haudenesaunee here on earth. But he can also be a great friend to us on the other side. It is said that the two Great Dogs who hold the mighty log in their teeth will do so steadily to allow some souls to cross over the river that separates us from the other side. But, if someone did not share his food with his dog, or, if he did not give him a place by the fire on a winter’s night, the two Great Dogs will tip the log as the soul is crossing over, throwing it into the dark depths of the running river.

“Morgri here has been treated well by us and especially by his young master Kitchi, who has given him over to us for this sacrifice.

“He will no doubt go ahead of us all to the Happy Hunting Ground where he will take his place there as all dogs do. May he speak well of us to the Two Great Dogs, that we might all make that passage safely.”

With that Morgri was slain on the spot with a war club by one of the braves standing by him. The dog uttered no sound as he fell from the blow. Morgri had been brave, he had been true, to his last breath.

Kitchi watched without flinching, and the boys around him howled in tribute and in sympathy. It was over in an instant, but, for some moments after, Kitchi continued to stare without blinking.

Warrior Family

“Gentlemen, welcome to Warrior Lacrosse.”

Coach Aliperti paced back and forth in front of the players seated in the grandstands like he was pulling on a leash to break free. He was in great shape for, what, 45-years old? Block-solid. Eyes like lasers. He wore a branded short-sleeved golf shirt, silver-gray, with the Warrior logo over his heart.

“There’s a lot of talk these days trying to convince you that it’s ‘all about the journey.’ It’s not about the result, they’ll tell you. It doesn’t really matter how things turns out, as long as you have fun along the way, just enjoy the ride.

“But I challenge you to think about this with a fresh mind: a journey is, by definition, traveling from one point to another, with a beginning, a middle and an end. If there is no end point, it’s not a journey; it’s pointless wandering.

“If there is one thing I’d like you to come away with this morning, it’s this: the Sewanhaka Warriors are not about pointless wandering. The human spirit, to be fulfilled, requires a point, meaning. And our point, our purpose, is to become Warriors.”

His message cleaved the skulls of the young men listening like a bolt of lightning, and the sound of his words reverberated throughout the gym like thunder.

Behind him were banners of glory: 1973, State Lacrosse Champions; 1974, State Lacrosse Champions; 1975, Patriot Divisional Champions; 1977, County Champions—each looked the same: black border, silver-gray field, gold and black lettering.

“I’m going to get right to it, Warriors: I am here today to challenge you. And my challenge is for you to be the best you can be—on the lacrosse field, in the classroom and in every aspect of your lives.

“Because it’s all connected: you can’t be less than your best in the classroom or at home and then expect to be successful on the lacrosse field. It doesn’t work that way.”

He let his words chisel-in.

“Maybe on your way here today you thought you were going to learn to play lacrosse. Yes, you’re going to learn to play this great game—the Warrior Way—but, more importantly, you’re going to learn how to be a man.”

Schipper hated these kinds of speeches. They were always so phony; but this guy—he was from another planet.

“The very best man God created you to be.”

With that, he stuck out his jaw as if daring someone to tell him he shouldn’t mention God in a speech to young men. He stared them down for a moment, not in anger, but in a way that made the players squirm nonetheless.

“I’m going to raise my voice this season—it’s going to happen—and I might even raise my voice at you—but know this: if I’m yelling at you, I’m doing it from a place of love, not from anger, and definitely not from fear. I love all my players. Everyone who wears the Warrior emblem has my love, my respect and my loyalty.”

His chest puffed out a little with the Warrior emblem leading.

“If you lose my love and respect, you will also lose the Warrior emblem. You’ll turn in your uniform, your helmet and you will no longer be a part of this team—it’s that simple—I don’t make a big fuss over it. But, in all the years I’ve coached here, I can count the times that it’s happened on one hand.”

He’s talking about love?

“What town are you from, son?”


“Molloy, coach?” Aliperti asked for clarification.

“Molloy, coach.”

Family!” The word exploded out of Aliperti’s mouth like a firecracker.

He gestured to another kid in the stands. “What town are you from?”

“Kennedy, coach.”


“What position do you play?” he asked another player.

“Attack, coach.”


“And your position?”

“Middie, coach.”


Someone else: “Favorite subject in school?”

“Science, coach.”



“Gym, coach.”

“Ha-ha! Family!”

He pointed at one kid after another, like he was shooting imaginary rounds from his hand-shaped-like-a-gun, “Family! Family! Family! Family!”

When every kid in the bleachers had been zapped as family, Aliperti returned to his talk.

“You see, it doesn’t matter what position you play, what your favorite subject is, what town you come from, or what’s going on at home.

“Here,” he pointed to the black Warrior emblem over his heart, “we are all family—the Warrior Family.”

No one moved a muscle.

“We’ve all heard that word many times—family. But let’s take a closer look at what that means.

“Members of a family share the same values. We’ve heard that word, too—values. What’s that? Values.”

He said values like it was an octopus squirming out of this mouth.

Values are the principles that form the code by which a person or a group lives. I’ll say it again: values are the principles that form the code by which a person or a group lives.

“Values don’t have to be complicated; in fact, they should be simple. And in the Warrior Family, our values are simple. Here they come, y’ready?

“Hard work, respect—for everyone, including your opponent—and a dedication to excellence in all aspects of our lives.

“Repeat them now after me: hard work.”

“Hard work,” the players responded.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that. Hard Work!”


“That’s better. Respect!”


“Dedication to excellence!”


Before continuing, Aliperti waited until the echoes of that last statement rippled through the gargantuan enclosure of the gymnasium.

“Notice I didn’t include Victory as one of our values.”

He paused for effect.

“We practice for Victory—we play for Victory—ok, I’ll say it: we live for Victory—but Victory is the result of honoring our principles, of practicing our values. If we work hard, if we respect one another, if we’re committed to excellence, Victory will come.”

With that he gestured to the championship banners hanging from the rafters.

“And, I can assure you, that every member of the Warrior Family who played on one of those championship teams will never forget that feeling of Victory, that honor to be a part of a Team Victory. Personal bests are all great and good, but there is nothing so sweet as being part of a Team Victory.

“Some of you may know a player on those teams; they may be your neighbors, your older brother or the friend of a friend. Ask them what it was like. Ask them if they remember. Then stand back, and watch their face as they respond—just watch—and keep your mouth closed.

“Years later, even decades later, they will tell you the smallest detail of a big game: what the score was, how much time was left on the clock, the weather, whether they were going lefty or righty, the shoelace that was untied on their cleat. It never leaves you, never until your dying day will you forget those moments of Victory. They will become for you one of the proudest treasures in your mind and in your heart.

“And why is that? Why are these moments of Victory treasured for all time? Why do we hang banners in the gym? Why do we keep trophies in the trophy case?”

No one answered.

“Because, when you’re being your best, when you’re playing for it all, you are never more alive. You are aglow with life, burning white-hot like magnesium. And it burns the impression of everything—the sights, the sounds, the smells—and, yes, the feeling of Victory—into every fiber of your being. Every nano-cell of your body is forever altered—branded forever—as a Champion, a Warrior, a member of the Family.

“And, as long as you honor those values, you are a member of the Warrior family—forever.”

Total quiet.

“Look, we’re all human—we come up short, we make mistakes, we lose our cool, and, yes, we’re going to lose on the lacrosse field—but a member of the Warrior Family never gives up on a fellow family member. When a family member is down, the other members help him up; when a Warrior screws up, the other Warriors buck him up, back him up, give him an encouraging word.

“But family members also push each other to excel. We do so through our example and through our words. Those words may sting sometimes—expect them; they’re coming. But, let’s face it, sometimes we all need a good kick in the ass to get up, to go further, to achieve and excel beyond what we thought we were capable of. Our family members can help us to do that.”


“That’s the Warrior Family—those are our values. If you’re ready to honor those values, you’re in the right place; if not, here’s your chance to opt out. It’s a voluntary commitment, and it’s not for everyone. There will be no hard feelings, just the honest acknowledgment that this isn’t for you. You don’t have to do so now; you can come to my office and let me know privately if you’d like. But if you do choose to go forward, you’re in it all the way, full out, and I won’t accept anything less than a complete 100% acceptance and commitment to what I’ve laid out for you today.”

The echo of his words hammered deep into the spirit of these young men.

That’s why we break our huddle the way we do—all the time the same, at the beginning of the game, at the end of the game, if we’re fresh or if we’re tired, if the scoreboard says we’re winning, or if the scoreboard says we’re losing, a pre-season scrimmage or the championship game. One simple word—Family.

“So we’re going to practice our first drill of the season here in the gym. And this drill is called how to make a huddle and how to break a huddle. Ok, come forward now, and make a huddle here in front of the stands.”

The kids complied—a little creaky from having sat so long while listening—but eager to do this the right way for Aliperti.

“This might feel a little strange, but you’ll get used to it. OK, first: the captain calls out ‘Huddle-up!’ Everyone puts their hand in the middle—not your stick, your hand—touching at least one other family member’s hand. When everyone has their hand in the middle, the captain calls out 1-2-3 and, on the fourth beat, everyone replies with the key word—Family!

“For now, I’ll play the role of captain.

“OK—Huddle Up!”

The players scrunched themselves into a circle and extended their hands into the center together.


Finished, the players relaxed back away from one another.

“Huddle Up!” Aliperti barked again.

The players conformed into another quick huddle.


“Huddle Up!”



Again and again, one huddle-break after another.

1-2-3—FAMILY! 1-2-3—FAMILY! 1-2-3FAMILY!

Now the kid-pile was bouncing up and down as one big goofy unit. Some of the kids were laughing; others were practically screaming the word over and over again.

The huddle started swaying a little to the right, then back again to the left. “FAMILY!—FAMILY!—FAMILY!…”

It was silly, everyone knew it was silly, but they kept it going. Aliperti joined in, wrapped his arms around the pile and started bouncing along with it.


No one knew quite how to stop it, no one wanted to, but, after a time, the whole ridiculous thing petered out of its own accord and left everyone smiling and congratulating themselves, tottering like drunks at a frat party.

In the middle of the now-dissipating huddle-circle, Aliperti raised his arms for the team’s attention. They were all around him now.

With a big smile on his face, he exclaimed: “Gentlemen, I can tell: this is going to be a great season!!!”

The kids erupted into cheers; they jumped and danced around him like eight-year-olds. Pomper stuck his face into Brady’s face and screamed “FAMILY!” and worked his way around to every other player in the gym and did the same, skipping and jigging like a Mohawk doing the Smoke Dance as he moved from one to the other.

Aliperti looked around at the raucous celebration, and, for a moment, a feeling of satisfaction overcame him, but he quickly dismissed it. He knew what lay ahead for him and this season’s young men. They were going to need every drop of this early enthusiasm to carry them all the way through to the last whistle of this season.

Every. Last. Drop.

“There, we set up a Crosse…”

Soundings now, in sight of land, the line goes over and down. The leadsman stretches his arms—the very cross again—one fathom, release, then draw the line again, two fathoms, release, draw, extend again, five fathoms, four, two.

His eyes were dazzled blind by the dancing white lights on the sea surface—flitting, skipping, morphing—what is in one instant, is not the next—formed, re-formed—appearing, disappearing. Shape-shifter, self-supplanter, swale-swallower, spume-spewer, ridge-replacer—ever-new, ever-joyful, a playful inexhaustible fount of color, light and shape.

Nouvelle France.

New this goodly great gulf: Hochelaga, by native tongue. We name it after Saint Laurence who said: “These are the true treasures of the Church—the crippled, the blind, the suffering.”

New these great and high hills, and beyond them, the natives say, the promised Kingdom of Saguenay—an incorruptible City of Gold! A place where everyone’s skin is white and where they dress like white men and abide by the same laws as white men.

“Ach, ignis fatuus,” the sailers said in disgust.

New this island we name Assumption (for Her sinless soul and incorrupt body—Notre Dame). New this cape we call Saint Nicolas (a patron of all faithful sailors), this landing, this rock-strewn beach, this gooey ooze, this alluvial flat—this island, Saint Croix. This? St. Antoine’s Haven. This harbor? Saint Margaret.

“There, we set up a Crosse…”

To name a thing is to create it or to create it anew.

But these men, their minds grinding with science, were not alone. Unblinking eyes were upon them. From within a stand of solemn trees: eyes clear and steady.


We saw a great multitude of wilde men. Forty boats, fishing with nets for mackerel, some 200 in all, including some women and children. They approached our vessel, a little far off at first, then with greater familiarity. Soon their canoes were athwart our vessel.

“We gave them knives and combs and beads of glass. They were so happy to receive these gifts that they raised their hands to the sky and, as they could in their canoes, danced for joy and gratitude.

They were naked but for a small patch of animal skin they wore over their private parts. The men’s heads were bald except for one tuft of hair on the crown of their head, which they had all grown very long, like a horse’s tail. It was tied as in a braid and with leather straps coiled in a knot upon their heads. Some of the men had figures drawn on their bodies and painted marks on their face. The women had no marks on their skin.

“They gave us fish as a gift which they had caught in their nets in abundance.”

The Captain ordered the launch of a small barque of eight tons loaded with tools and supplies. The men hoisted it from the deck and lowered it into the water. They pulled away, four at the oars.

From the mast flew the herald of Francis, the three petals of a golden fleur-de-lis on a shield of royal navy. On the reverse, the motto of the company—In Mari Via Tua (Latin: Through the Sea Was Your Way).

They were all assembled at the shore singing and dancing as this barque of strange men approached. Most of the women stayed in the woods, but for a few. The Captain gave each of these a little tin bell and a comb, and they were overjoyed, chanting and swaying with their hands in the air.

Soon, the other women came out from the woods as well, to receive their gifts. They clustered around the Captain as he disembarked, rubbing his arms and chest, as if to cherish someone of great value, honor and authority.

The Captain commanded that a “goodly great cross” be erected on this point, high enough to be seen from far away on land, and plainly visible to those who approach by sea.

In the party were two sawyers, two carpenters, two soldiers and the Chaplain. Equipped with tools, they proceeded forward, parting the gathering of natives. They followed a path the natives had well-used into the woods about a hundred yards from the shoreline.

The men-natives watched and followed without speaking. From within the tangle of brier and vine that surrounded them now, they were solemn and wary.

The Captain’s party marched up an incline to a raised hillock on the point. Two sawyers with their axes approached a tree chosen suitable: a white pine, roughly 30 inches in diameter, with bark gray and gnarly, 60 feet in height, tall and straight. After removing and examining a limb, the carpenters knew that it was a good softwood, easily worked.

The Captain positioned the two soldiers, one facing north and one facing south, to guard the perimeter of the work area. They were dressed in their finery, helmets flashing a crimson tuft. Each held a musket at his side, an arquebus, ready as needed. These were awkward, ungainly, heavy weapons, but, loaded with lead and powder, the sound of its firing alone would be enough to terrify and scatter the native onlookers. The legs of a musket-rest were spread out on the ground.

The axes bit sharply. First one from the right side—then another from the left. Chips of wood, riven pieces of tree flesh, cleaved with each strike and flew away from its source. The tree grunted a brute dull protest with each blow, but it was only a matter of time. Resistance? Against the Will of Man? Blow by blow, weaker and weaker the tree became till the final sharp strike. Gravity, which the tree had defied all those years, asserted its inevitable dominion.

The lust for the ax, the slit-edged metal ax, gripped the heart of the native men. It is better than our stone ax. Our stone ax is now a clumsy clod—I don’t want it anymore—I want the metal one.

Prone now, a 30-foot section of this fallen behemoth was selected, and the two sawyers hacked the limbs from it. The other two men dug a saw-pit to one side, the full length of the log, and four feet deep. Two of the limbs cut from the trunk were selected for the saddle-blocks which were set horizontally across the pit by two of the men.

Then they set themselves to one side of the log and rolled it over and onto the saddle-blocks, the ‘dogs’ they called them, so that this cut timber was suspended on these two limbs over the saw pit. One of the sawyers scrambled into the pit, the bottom sawyer, and another stepped onto the log, the top man.

Four cuts is all it took for the post; another four cuts for the cross-beam.

The Captain had the carpenters cut a wooden shield, and on it carved the emblematic fleur-de-lis.

Engraved in relief upon the shield were the Latin words Franciscus Primus, Dei gratia Francorum Rex Regnat—Francis the First, King of the Franks, the Grace of God Reigns.

The Captain bid the men to raise the cross, toppling it forward into the post hole they had dug, hand-over-hand, man-over-man, until it slid on its own forward and downward into its resting place.

The men, abiding by the faithful adherence to an ideal, had subjugated the wood through the steady application of their tools—a paring chisel, a great gouge, an inch auger, a fore plane, a hatchet, a square and a crow.

And now this vision, implanted in the Heart of Man, is fully wrought, manifested, thrust upward to life like a seed stretching its first shoots toward the sun.

The natives were amazed; they had gathered around as the men worked. There was great consternation as the cross was raised.

Said the Captain: “Let this cross mark this land as a haven for all who seek God’s kingdom.”

The French kneeled around the cross and thanked God for his Goodness and Mercy, raising their hands to Heaven and praising Him upon Whom All Depends.

The Chaplain stepped forward and, in this most unlikely place, read aloud from Psalm 77:

17 Viderunt te aquæ Deus, viderunt te aquæ: et timuerunt, et turbatæ sunt abyssi.

17 The waters saw you, God;
the waters saw you and lashed about, even the deeps of the sea trembled.

18 Multitudo sonitus aquarum: vocem dederunt nubes. Etenim sagittæ tuæ transeunt:

18 The clouds poured down their rains; the thunderheads rumbled; your arrows flashed back and forth.

19 Vox tonitrui tui in rota. Illuxerunt coruscationes tuæ orbi terræ: commota est et contremuit terra.

19 The thunder of your chariot wheels resounded; your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked.

20 In mari via tua, et semitæ tuæ in aquis multis: et vestigia tua non cognoscentur.

20 Through the sea was your way;
your path, through the mighty waters, though your footsteps were unseen.

21 Deduxisti sicut oves populum tuum, in manu Moysi et Aaron.

21 You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Some of the natives, too, had knelt, and they raised their hands to the sky, but most just watched in amazement.

But then their sagamore stepped forward, Donnatangou. He was a giant of a man, well-formed and muscular despite what appeared to be an advanced age. He held himself upright and walked with a measured dignity. Evidence of his many honors adorned his head and body: colorful feathers on his head, enemy scalps in a belt around his waist, blue and white beaded strings as wristlets and anklets, the image of a great war bird, a thunderbird, woven into a sash draped across his chest and body art figures of two snakes on his forearms.

Donnatangou waited for the assembled to settle and composed himself before beginning. He was handed a richly decorated pipe and presented the pipe held in both of his hands to the sky above his head and then toward the four directional quadrants of the sky, all the while chanting in a slow murmuring salutation.

He filled the pipe bowl with a leafy mixture from his satchel which an assistant lit for him from a smoldering stick that had been carried from the bonfire on the beach. He exhaled the smoke in all directions—up, down, North, East, South, West.

He held up his two index fingers, in the shape of the cross and shook his head.

Then, in a series of body contortions and pantomimes, he gesture-said:

This tree you have chosen for your cross, this, to us, is a most sacred tree. It is the Tree of Peace. The Peacemaker has given us this tree. The bark is white; the roots are white. You see, the roots point in all directions.

Then he pointed with both index fingers to his chest symbolizing ownership and purposely banged his chest with both palms three times.

The chief opened his arms and gestured to all of his people gathered together around him in a type of broad embrace. He pointed to the Captain and his crew, and his face fell open in an exaggerated look of surprise. He propped his eyes wide open with his fingers and circled himself around and around pointing now to the mountain, now to the trees, now to the great river.

Then the sagamore raised his hands to the sky and uttered a baleful cry. He held the note steady, then modulated the tone in a grotesque and unexpected way, ululating alone in this sylvan forest.

His people looked intently at him and sometimes reflected his gestures with those of their own, nodding their heads or affirming his message with murmurs or little howls, but none threatened the primacy of his oration with a greater volume or more active gestures, but all showed the greatest respect and adherence to his articulation.

Then, with an exaggerated flash of grandeur, the chief extended both of his arms forward with palms open and brought them toward each other, clasping them together for a moment, then separating them back to the right and the left.

He raised his right hand to his forehead with his index and middle fingers extended upward, as in a V for Victory, and moved his hand over his head while spiraling it from right to left.

Our God Manitou is a Great God. He has given us this land, Great Turtle Island. He has given us the rain that falls from the clouds that moistens the earth, that helps to grow the Three Sisters—corn, beans and squash. He has shared with us oien’kwa (Mohawk: tobacco), that we might smoke it in thanks to Him, and in honor to those who came before us.

“It is His breath that makes the grass grow, that makes the trees raise themselves in praise and gratitude. The eagle soaring is a celebration of His goodness, the sturgeon gliding silently in the river, the giant bear scrambling down the rocky hillside and the coy fawn prancing in the glade. He is the God of our land, of our people, of those who have returned to the earth and those you see before you now.

Now Donnatangou puffed out his chest, raised his chin high and looked out over the heads of his people. He extended one arm straight with palm down. Then, in a slow and deliberate manner, he turned his arm upward so that his palm faced the sky. He rotated his trunk from the waist until he was facing the Frenchmen again.

“Your men have beards. They walk like blind moose tramping through the woods. Your boats are large, yes, but they cannot be carried from stream to stream, like ours can. You will not be able to journey any deeper into the woods, on our paths, without our help. We know nothing of your God of the Cross, but now you know our God of Sky and Earth.

“You can see we have not brought weapons of war, yet your men have weapons of war. We have come in peace, but you are prepared for war.”

Through the theatrical expressions of his face, the artful gesticulations of his hands and arms and the tone of his voice, the Captain understood the sagamore—not every word, but understanding every word was not necessary; it was the core of the message, its import, that was being conveyed, across the divides of language, of culture, of heritage.

With the raising of the cross, the French had set a significant marker of ownership, a claim to this land, and Donnatangou made clear that this land had in fact been given to his people by the Great Spirit, not the French.

Again, the Captain ordered his men to distribute gifts, which were cast among them. They grasped them greedily, staring with eyes and mouth wide-open, a look of joy on the faces of all.

This mollified the sagamore, and to this august warrior the Captain presented a special gift: a beaded lavaliere (French: necklace) hung with a cross of silver. The Captain raised the silver cross to his mouth, kissed it and said: “Vivant Dominus Jesus Christus” (Latin: Long Live Our Lord, Jesus Christ).

He stretched out his hand with the cross lavaliere to the sagamore and urged him to do the same. Donnatangou hesitated. The Captain looked directly into his eyes. It would be an affront to these pale visitors to refuse this gift and not welcome them with hospitality. The sagamore lowered his head and kissed the cross. The Captain draped it over the sagamore’s head-dress and around his neck, arranging it so that the cross hung over the center of his chest.

The Captain raised the sagamore’s arm into the sky and, with a grand sweeping motion, turned to the assembled natives on shore and in canoes and to his countrymen on board, as if he were presenting the sagamore as a debutante to society.

Both the natives and the French erupted in an explosion of joy. The sagamore smiled widely. He was thrilled and honored to be given the cross, a gift that was so obviously of great significance, though he was a bit confused by the quick progression of events.

“Donnatangou welcomes you. Let us be brothers and, like two fingers from separate hands, join together in a league of friendship.”

The sagamore took his two index fingers, that had formerly been in the shape of the cross, and slowly entwined them together. With a solemn and dramatic flourish, he raised his entwined fingers aloft over his head and displayed them to his people.

He took the hand of the Captain and wrapped his index finger around his own in a sign of friendship. Donnatangou raised the two arms high and presented himself and the Captain to the natives and the Frenchmen on board the vessel.

The native-men cocked their heads back and shrieked like wolves howling at the moon. The entire native-assembly along the beach returned with hoots of joy.

The drum-beaters were raised, and the drum-major growled his order to begin…

Tum-tum-tum-tum-tum-ta-dum, tum-tum-tum-tum-tum-ta-dum—an incessant, hypnotic rhythm.

Over this, warbling and trilling, the lead-chanter sang out: “Aaay-ooh, yaah. Aaay-yoooh, yaah, haah, yaaah. Hey-wooh-yeh, hey-wooh-yeh, Yo-ho-o-o-o-o-o-ah.”

Then the assembled, in turn, repeated each refrain. Back and forth: lead-chanter, then the assembled; lead-chanter, then the assembled.

The French could make no sense of it, except the unmistakable expression of joy and playfulness that can be recognized in any culture or language.

They danced with each other like playmates, shaking their turtle-shell rattles in the air. Together, they did a light-footed two-step—men in the middle of a rotating circle, women on the outside to their right. The celebration gathered momentum. The dancers showed no sign of weakness, the drummers no sign of relenting and the lead-chanter was full-throated and strong.

In the midst of this celebration on shore, the fiddler Jean Esprit came topside on the French vessel. He had removed his knitted wool cap and donned the cavalier with a blazing red feather jutting boldly from it into the sky, twitching jauntily with each step. Around his neck was a brilliant red neckerchief with a cream and black border. Over his everyday sailor’s shirt, he was wearing a long-sleeved royal blue waistcoat with gold fasteners.

Outfitted like an anointed peacock, he strutted royally over the deck. The men celebrated and praised him with mock adulation.

C’est Jean! C’est Jean! Jean le roi!” (French: “It’s Jean! Jean the King!”)

Esprit removed the instrument from its case and wiped the bow. He brought the fiddle under his chin and, with exaggerated gestures, began long slow strokes across the strings. It was a siren’s call to gather for the rest of the men.

The Captain took notice but saw that there was nothing he could do; let the men have their fun—bonne chére.

After the first few wandering notes, Esprit’s pace of play picked up and a melody emerged. One of the other men produced a washboard and began skitching-out a percussive beat; then another appeared with the piano accordion.

The barrel-chested Pierre stepped forward and, with remarkable timing, blurted out the first verse:

M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle,
M’en revenant de la jolie Rochelle,
J’ai rencontré trois jolies demoiselles.

Riding along the road to Rochelle City,
Riding along the road to Rochelle City,
I met three girls, and all of them pretty.

Then he raised his burly arm to indicate that all should join him in the chorus:

C’est l’aviron qui nous mène, qui nous mène,
C’est l’aviron qui nous mène en haut.

Pull on the oars as we glide along together,
Pull on the oars as we glide along.

The natives were stunned into a pause of their own celebration. As one, they listened and watched the party on board.

The French started dancing now, too. One man curtsied like a maiden to another who took him in his extended arms and began whirling him around the deck. Another placed his arms akimbo on his waist and skipped a two-step off to one side. The music accelerated; the French were not to be out-done.

Pierre belted out another verse, and the assembled responded again with the chorus—verse, chorus, verse, chorus—call, response.

C’est l’aviron qui nous mène, qui nous mène,
C’est l’aviron qui nous mène en haut.

Pull on the oars as we glide along together,
Pull on the oars as we glide along.

The chant-leader of the native band craned his neck back and howled: “Hallow-a-a-a-a-a-A-A-A-a-a-yah! Yah! Yah! Yah!”

The drummers lifted their beaters and began thump-thumping again. The dancers ching-chang-ed their rattles until, like a heaving engine, the forward thrust of their celebration charged ahead again at full throttle.

The players themselves—the French on the deck of their galleon, the natives in their casoyas (Mohawk: birchbark canoes) and on the rocky shoreline—altogether realized the magnitude of this moment and also its ridiculous hilarity. Each singing their songs, each dancing their dances, laughter and mirth abounding, together in the waters and forests of this shiny luminescent pearl of a New World. On a colossal stage, under the open universe, God’s children engaged within the embrace of it all, in playfulness and delight.

And, for a moment, the French got a taste of the native’s capacity for thanksgiving, with festivals that could go on for weeks. The natives, too, saw the artistry and good humor of these strange visitors, their joie de vivre, these people who measured everything and recorded it in their books.

In the midst of the celebration, the Captain saw on the beach one of the natives stand upright and still. This man turned to the west and then low-ran with his head away from the cacophony to the edge of the woods.

He was listening intently…

The Captain took note and observed as the commotion from both sides continued.

Not satisfied with his initial station, the man ran further along the shoreline and scampered up some boulders rising out of the surf. Two of his compatriots joined him there. They exchanged gestures and listened together. The three were suspended and still, all listening as if in different directions, scanning the horizon for sound from three discrete segments of space.

Then one burst out in a shrill cry: “Kahrhakónha Oríte!!!” and pointed wildly to the sky toward the west. “Kahrhakónha Oríte!!!”

His two compatriots turned back to the celebrants and whooped a warning.


Some of the native women took heed, stopped their dancing, and frantically gathered their belongings—almost running into one another in a mad scurry for cover. They scampered like banshees toward the woods, scattering the men as they went.

The Captain looked toward the western sky, but could see or hear nothing unusual. He ordered his men to stop playing, then raised the spyglass to his eye and aimed it at the horizon.

Was it thunder?

But the skies were clear, not even a wisp of cloud.

“Quiet!” the Captain bellowed with authority.

The men wound down their celebration, like an accordion exhausting air from its chamber.

Snapped into sobriety, they, too, looked to the horizon.

Still nothing.



What they heard sounded like persistent low thunder, groaning behind the distant hills. The Captain lowered the spyglass and cocked his head trying to make sense of the sound; an army on horseback? There was no clear reference to this of anything recorded in the folds of his brain.

It was getting louder, that much he could tell, and the natives were obviously alarmed.

The Captain shook his head as if to shed a bad dream upon waking. This is truly a magical land, he mused. At every turn, strange new fascinations, delights and terrors. He was dizzy from these sensations, overwhelmed, and felt himself sinking into a deep longing for his home where he could reliably read the currents, gauge the depth of the harbors and predict the weather. He thought of the farms of France, the solidity of land, the people of his town, bustling about their lives, unconcerned with little more than their own small circle of family and friends.

He looked at his crew who were looking at him; how vulnerable they all felt.

Damn this haunting itch of destiny! We are cursed with this yearning! We can no sooner ignore it then ignore a thunderclap, booming directly overhead. Every waking hour tormented by this madness. And where are we?

Forty-eight degrees latitude, -64.4 longitude, on the 24th of August in the year of Our Lord 1563. It is three o’clock in the afternoon. We are in 3.5 fathoms of water. We’ve been sent by the King himself to find the Northwest Passage, to claim this land as New France and to baptize these poor souls so that they may know Life Everlasting in the Arms of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

“There, we set up a Crosse…”

Now, a darkness had clearly formed in the eastern sky just above the horizon—a burial cloth, a black mass.

The Captain raised the spyglass again…

An amorphous mass undulating—the shape twisting, contorting—a living driven blob of life, coming like the relentless approach of a weather front.

They were birds! Millions of them! And the noise of their approach was a roar without precedent. His ears had been pummeled by a hurricane at sea, with wind screeching an unmitigated fury and punctuated with explosions of thunder. And he had thought at the time that surely such a tempest could never be outdone by anything natural for the sheer impact of sound. But this! THIS was a sound that bypassed the ears and impacted a man bodily, like a cannonball to the gut at close range.

Some of the men at first gaped in wonder, stunned into paralysis by the spectacle. Others scurried below, abandoning all pretense of courage.

Waves of these creatures suddenly dove together in one direction or another, guided by some interior group command, then returned to the flock as a whole, but no discernment of individuals in this maelstrom was possible.

Their numbers were astounding!

The flock was directly overhead now. It was complete madness, and no sense of order could be applied to the chaos. One of the men had enough wits about him to grab a longboat oar and wave it overhead. The oar easily collided with bird-bodies—the air was so thick with them—and soon the deck was littered two-deep with dead and injured birds, dinner for the men for weeks ahead.

It seemed like forever, but eventually the flock passed from overhead and, when it did, many of their number remained. Many hardly describes it; the trees were festooned with great quivering blobs of bird-bodies, jostling with each other for position, so much so that the tree limbs sagged precariously from the weight. Even the cross-beam of the newly-erected cross was thick with as many birds as could possibly fit standing there. The spars of the galleon were overpopulated by fidgety, fussing balls of feather—every usable inch filled with another.

The hell of this unknown want which had now brought us all here! Be gone, by God, be gone

“There, we set up a Crosse…”

Fight In the Classroom

What Alexa liked about Ms. Singletary was that she read literature out loud. If there was a particularly good piece of writing from a work they were studying, she would stop and say “Now listen to this.”

To Alexa, to hear with your own ears words—sounds—chosen so carefully and strung together so beautifully—without music, without images, not from a recording. They burned into her like a branding iron.

It prompted her one afternoon to ponder words in a way she never had before.

What are words, after all—a combination of sounds put together to communicate.

This sound is made by people using air passing by their larynx, modulated by their throat, their tongue, their lips, to get at…what? Concepts. Things. Emotions. Everything! To somehow articulate to other people—and to ourselves—the miracle of existence!

So, when Alexa heard Ms. Singletary read in class, not only was the sound lovely, but the meaning of it resonated with her like one of those gongs that emits a deep, low, ohm-like sound—the echo of her soul.

Today, Ms. Singletary was reading another e. e. cummings poem. Alexa liked the first one—about spring and the goat-footed man. Most of the kids dismissed it as “weird” and thought the goat-footed man was a child-molester, but Alexa didn’t take them seriously and thought the poem was quirky and fun. She was really looking forward to this new one now.


Alexa tried to quiet everyone with a finger to her lips. The other students usually obeyed Alexa, and today this shushing worked to tamp down the crowd a little, but people just-can’t-shut-up sometimes.

Spring was here—the days were getting warmer and longer. Winter, which felt like it would go on forever, was relinquishing, and summer was barreling toward everyone like a locomotive. This promised change in the weather spawned hope in Alexa, as it did all the other kids in school, which made everyone noisier than usual.

“I’ve chosen this for you because it’s another spring poem by cummings,” Ms. Singletary said.

The student-crowd groaned.

Alexa shushed again.

“SHUT. UP!” another voice entreated loudly.

“I’ll begin when it’s perfectly quiet,” Ms. Singletary said. This was a tried-and-true quieting tactic she employed, usually effective.

Ms. Singletary garnered an outsized respect from the student-mob, considering her size. She was small, yes, but small like a little brown mountain can be small—with a full face, a round doughy body and feet that seemed to root themselves with each step. She could be in her twenties; she could be in her sixties.

She wore little man-vests and smelled of patchouli. She never revealed much about herself personally in class, though the kids knew this much at least: she had never married.

The squirming subsided, the tittering diminished; then, a wedge of quiet breached through the noise.

She began to read out loud a poem about a woman unfolding beautifully like a delicate rose…

As the words flowed out from her and filled the room, Alexa tried to surrender herself to them, but it was no use. The boys were fidgeting like caged morons.

After the final line of the poem, Pomper blurted out air through his nostrils; he just couldn’t hold in the nervous laughter anymore, and it exploded out along with, it sounded like, a blob of snot. His idiot friends thought this was the funniest thing they had ever heard, and they started laughing, too.

The whole class fell apart.

Alexa was furious. The blood rushed to her face, and she felt ashamed to be a part of such a cruel and dumb group. There was no stopping them—everyone was laughing now. She looked around to see if there was someone—anyone—who wasn’t laughing along.

“Very funny, Mr. Pomper,” Ms. Singletary stammered, her voice cracking. “VERY. Funny.”

“SHUT! UP!” Alexa tried, but her command got swallowed by the general hilarity. “Shut. The Heck. UP!”

“Who elected you Queen of the Prom?” said Melissa, the class guttersnipe.

“Hey, Melissa, pipe down.” It was Schipper. He stood up, squeezed through a row of desks and approached Melissa at her desk.

“Mr. Schipper—sit down!” commanded Ms. Singletary.

Schipper caught himself and stopped his approach.

“Think you’re so tough,” Melissa said, breathing fire. “Pickin’ on a girl!”

“If you were a girl, that might be true,” Schipper said and turned away from her.

Pomper, Melissa’s sometimes boyfriend, jumped on Schipper from behind. Schipper had somehow anticipated this and shrugged Pomper off and over his side as the two tumbled across one row of chairs, then another. A melee ensued with some of the bigger jocks diving into the pile to pull the fighters apart.

What had seemed hilarious moments ago was now deadly serious. A half-circle of horrified onlookers formed around the pile of wrestling bodies. The combatants struggled for leverage against clutching arms and the weight of the bodies around them.

Pomper shrugged free of the mob and emerged from the scrum with blood under his nose, spitting venom. Schipper had cut the knuckles on his right hand and was blinking away something in his left eye.

Ms. Singletary pressed the red button under the speaker on the wall, calling for security.

“You’re ass is grass, punk,” said Pomper, pointing his finger at Schipper. “When you least expect it!”

Schipper just stared, breathing hard, his fists at his side, three guys standing between him and his once-good-friend Pomper.

Sans roi, sans loi, sans foi

Wematin, Ahanu and Kitchi clustered in a rock-face crevice some 20 yards from the river’s edge. They bade Trottier to join them.

Kaniatarowanenneh they called the river or “Big Water Way.” The Captain had dubbed it Le Fleuve san Lauren, after Saint Laurence, patron saint of sailors.

Here, the banks of the river approached each other and a tumultuous water-ribbon squeezed through it, gathering speed into a reckless headlong gallop. Osheaga (Big Fast), the natives called these rapids.

This frothing tumult created a wall of sound that surrounded the four men with a force and a mass all its own—sibilance amplified.

But where the men huddled, the audio-wall was diminished, and the enclosure swallowed them as a buffer from the sound. It was clear that the natives were familiar with this place. There were carbonized tree limbs from past fires here, encircled by some smooth stones and smudged red figurines that garnished the rock-face, a pictorial record of past encampments.

Ahanu slid from his quiver a small hardened flat plank with a circular groove in it and scratched out the carbonized plug in the hole with his fingernail. A stick shorn of bark was placed point-down in the circular groove. A small length of hemp-rope was looped around the stick-shaft, and Ahanu began twirling the rope, wrapped around the stick-shaft, back and forth, back and forth. Zzzzzit, Zzzzooot, Zzzzit, Zzzzooot

Soon the friction generated heat between the stick and the hole, and Ahanu quickly bunched a small clump of dry-grass at the friction point.

IGNITION!—a small poof of smoke. Then, COMBUSTION!—a spry orange flame leapt into existence.

“Ho!” said Wematin in approval. They added leaves and small twigs, slowly nurturing the flame into a campfire.

Ahanu, Kitchi and Trottier gathered a tidy supply of dried wood from what they could find easily around them and placed it in a pile by the fire.

The four men sat cross-legged and stared at the flames impassively for what-seemed-like a very long time. No one spoke. Occasionally the natives closed their eyes—were they sleeping?—or were they tapping into a deep and hidden part of themselves accessible only through quiet contemplation.

For his part, Trottier dared not disturb what was going on. Clearly this was something important to these men; their mood was reverent, solemn.

Then, without any apparent trigger, Wematin, the oldest of the three, began a slow murmuring moaning sound, punctuated with varying wobbles. The other men appeared unsurprised by this sudden yarbling. They continued to stare at the fire while the ululations went on.

Outwardly, Trottier appeared calm, but, inside, he was on high-alert. He was utterly alone with these men in a foreign wilderness. He didn’t know their language; he didn’t know their customs. And, though they had appeared friendly enough, Trottier felt for his knife and reminded himself of the location of his rifle, powder and shot in case he needed to access them in a hurry.

Wematin stood from his position, reached into his satchel and withdrew a pipe, the ganondaoe, what Trottier and his countrymen called a calumet.

The pipe was made of clay, about eight inches long and featured a simple functional design. The bowl of the pipe was hollowed out sufficient for its task, tapering outward as it rose from the stem. The stem was wider at the bottom of the bowl and then narrowed smoothly into a neat little mouthpiece. There were a few notched incision-patterns in the rim and in the stem and from it hung three feathers of an eagle. Other than this, it was free of ornamentation, except for one outstanding feature.

Carved into the bowl, on the side which faces the smoker as he inhales, was a grotesque visage. Its mouth was deformed into a twisted fiendish cackle; its eyes were stretched sideways and contorted into curving oblong openings that seemed to mock the Pain of Man. On its head was not hair, but a sharp-beaked raven with piercing eyes that emerged from the skull of this creature.

The effect was positively unnerving.

Wematin stuffed the bowl full with a weedy fragrant mixture of leaves and herbs from a small pouch strung around his neck. With a lit branch from the fire, he held a flame over the mixture and inhaled robustly through the mouthpiece. He puffed several times till he was satisfied the mixture was well-lit. Then he exhaled the smoke over the fire and, holding the pipe at each end in his outstretched arms, raised it to the sky—Father Sky—and sang in reverence and thanksgiving.

Still holding the pipe in both hands, he lowered it toward the ground—Mother Earth—and again sang the low chopped cadences of the Thanksgiving Song. He puffed and exhaled the smoke downward to the ground.

Then he held the pipe aloft in the fire’s smoke to the East (to the Thunderbird, the eagle), to the South, to the West, to the North, with each successive iteration smoking, blowing, singing, praising.

He handed the pipe to Ahanu who was seated on his left, a little giddy. With all the solemnity he could muster, Ahanu accepted the pipe, put it to his lips and inhaled deeply; the red glow in the bowl came alive. Ahanu softly exhaled the smoke over the fire and watched it twirl and twist away.

As Trottier watched the patterns of the swirling smoke—spiraling, criss-crossing, defying gravity—the smell of the burning mixture ignited a memory, like that so-recent dancing flame that appeared as if out of nowhere from the stick-shaft and the dry-grass. And this memory instantly dilated to full-flame and catapulted him to another time and place…

It was the cathedral at St. Malo, the day the Bishop had consecrated their voyage. Up and down the aisles of the chapel the Bishop teetered as he swung the silver incense burner by its chain. The smoke from the incense ball trailed out through the openings, and, as it reached the apex of each swing, a stout puff of fragrant white smoke surged outward and upward.

As the Bishop swung the censer with vigor, he recited the blessing:

24 benedicat tibi Dominus et custodiat te

24 The Lord bless thee and keep thee:

25 ostendat Dominus faciem suam tibi et misereatur tui

25 The Lord make his face shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee:

26 convertat Dominus vultum suum ad te et det tibi pacem

26 The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace.

-Numbers 6:24-26

Like prayer the smoke was, lighter than air, traveling upward to be heard. After a time, the smoke was no longer contained to the isolated billow-clouds that issued from the censer; the entire interior of the chapel was enveloped in a thickening smoke-haze. And yet the Bishop continued his paces, swinging the censer back and forth, adding fresh infusions of incense-smoke to the air and reciting the blessing again and again.

The effect was stupefying, and soon Trottier surrendered himself to it and the solemnity of the moment.

Then the Bishop beckoned everyone to line up and approach him at the altar, one-by-one. The altar boy attending to the Bishop stood by and, at the Bishop’s summoning, withdrew a chain necklace, upon which was hung an amulet.

First the Captain approached the Bishop and bowed. The Bishop draped the necklace around his head and held his two hands over him for a blessing. Trottier heard the words: Agnus Dei (Latin: Lamb of God) repeated three times and a request that the Captain be protected from all evil, particularly fire, flood and storms.

Quorumcumque indemnitatis ex procellis peste, respondent diluuiis et conflagrationibus.

The Bishop dipped his right thumb into the oil and on the Captain’s forehead inscribed the sign of the cross.

Then each of the sailors likewise approached the Bishop and received the same blessing, the amulet and the sign of the cross in oil—including Trottier.

When he was done with the blessing, the Bishop took out the Book and read:

19 et ponam in eis signum et mittam ex eis qui salvati fuerint ad gentes in mari in Africa in Lydia tenentes sagittam in Italiam et Graeciam ad insulas longe ad eos qui non audierunt de me et non viderunt gloriam meam et adnuntiabunt gloriam meam gentibus

19 I will place a sign among them; from them I will send survivors to the nations: to Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands which have never heard of my fame or seen my glory; and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations.

-Isaiah 66:19

The smell of the incense lingered on Trottier for days afterward, even to the day he and the other men cast off the lines of Le Don de Dieu from St. Malo.

And now, sitting around this fire, in this strange world, with these strange men, Trottier felt underneath his clothing for the amulet. There, in relief on the face, he felt the lamb and the words Agnus Dei over his heart. Above the lamb and behind it were St. George’s banner and staff.

The Bishop had instructed them as to the nature of Saint George. He is the Warrior Saint: conquering, vanquishing, winning, through Love, Gentleness, Prayer and Faith—a Warrior of Love. He is the patron saint of warriors and scouts who go before others.

“There are many names for Jesus,” the Bishop had told them, “Prince of Peace, King of Kings, the Word Made Flesh—but perhaps none more illuminating than this: the Lamb of God—white, pure and sinless, but also the epitome of obedience to the Voice of His Master- even unto slaughter.

“The final plague before delivering the Jews from slavery in Egypt was the most awful. God himself was to visit the Egyptians at night and kill the firstborn of all men and beasts. The only houses He would spare were those that had spread the blood of a slaughtered lamb on their doorposts and lintels. Moses and Aaron were told by God how to prepare this lamb, so that His People would be saved.

“This became known as Passover—Pesach—and this great victory was thereafter celebrated on the full moon of the first month of the year, Nissan. On the Gregorian calendar, this is around March or April.

“To commemorate their deliverance, each year the Israelites would slaughter a lamb as a sacrifice to God, to help atone for their sins.

“Jesus came to assume this mantle, the Lamb of God, the dear one of God who would be sacrificed so that everyone might be saved from death: Jew and Gentile, saint and sinner, native and newcomer. Through his sacrifice, through His Blood, the Sinless One, the Unblemished Lamb of God, is the Savior of the World, the savior of everyone in the world.”

In the midst of this reverie of the Bishop’s message, Trottier saw Ahanu through the fire-smoke pass the pipe to Kitchi, who accepted it with a stern bearing. Kitchi’s right eyebrow raised a bit as he inhaled; then he pushed a smoke-shot out from his mouth and watched as it forwarded like an arrow over the fire.

Kitchi handed the pipe to Trottier with an arrogance that brooked no refusal. Trottier held the pipe before him and looked directly at the cock-eyed face mocking him from the pipe-bowl. Wematin, still chanting, eyes facing the fire, looked from the corner of his eye at the pale newcomer. He looked as if from a third eye, gauging Trottier’s nerve.

Trottier decided to brave it out. He took a deep draught from the mouthpiece as the others had. The smoke tasted caustic and bitter and immediately triggered a coughing fit. What smoke there was in his mouth and throat blurted out through his lips and nose. He gagged and tried to hold the pipe upright, but it tipped sideways, flinging the smoldering mixture in all directions.

Ahanu giggled and slapped his thighs like a happy child. Wematin rolled onto the ground holding his stomach in merriment. Only Kitchi seemed unamused. He grabbed the pipe from Trottier, to keep it from further harm, and swept off the burning weed that had fallen onto his leggings. His face was red with rage and discomfort.

Trottier coughed spasmodically till the fit had run its course. As it subsided, so did the laughter around the fire. Wematin dusted himself off and resumed his cross-legged position, his laughter re-occurring now and again in reduced little chortle-spurts, cherishing the memory of what had seemed so funny just a few minutes ago. Ahanu’s eyes were teary, as he tried to suppress what was left of his giggle-fit. Only Kitchi dissented; he sat upright, bolt straight. Having decided not to laugh at the ignoramus when it first occurred, he was not going back on that decision now.

Wematin relit the pipe and, without speaking, took another draught and exhaled the plume over the fire. This simple act seemed to resettle everyone to a focused point. He arose with the pipe in both hands and extended it high over the fire, an offering to the sky.

He began chanting in a loud ceremonial voice, not to those assembled but apparently to some spirit who would hear him from high above. There was a plaintive, sonorous tone to his voice with an element of gratitude implicit in the sound. His eyes were closed. He was thanking his god, Manitou.

Wematin gestured of the wide river, Kaniatarowanenneh; he gestured of the boiling rapids, Osheaga; of their cayoga sluicing through the narrow shoot, then gliding peacefully again; of the broad sky and the sun beaming warmly. He raised his two arms high over his head with his palms forward, his fingers outstretched, his eyes closed again, and he released a torrent of sound in full surrender, with no concern for appearance or propriety.

Now finished, Wematin went silent and lowered his arms. The two seated natives said “Ho!” in approval.

It reminded Trottier again of the mass at St. Malo: he was once more embarking on an uncertain journey that required divine protection.

Trottier hoped at that moment, as the other three did, that Manitou had heard Wematin’s pleadings and would respond with the hoped-for protection. Was it so strange to believe that God, Yahweh, had seen him through the Atlantic crossing, but that, here in this strange New World, Manitou could be called upon to do the same?

In any case, he was going to need it: Trottier did not know how to swim…

Tekakwitha is Discovered by Blackrobe

Tekakwitha (Mohawk: she who walks searching in front of herself) donned her scarlet tunic, ahdeadawesa. She and her aunt Numees had woven it one winter. Tekakwitha had done most of the beadwork and had discovered in the doing that she was skilled at the task. It was not a chore for her, as it was for some of the other young girls.

“I work and my spirit sings,” she said to her aunt one day.

Her needle was a tiny bone from a leg of a deer and the thread was the twined sinews of the same animal.

The patterns in the fabric were herself wrought into life; something beautiful and delicate and clean and pure; something to be admired, to be honored.

Twenty diamond-shaped clasps twinkled down the front. The collar featured a decorative border of a stunning rich blue, a bold compliment to the scarlet, spangled with delicate white stars. A petite white frill hung downward from the border with dainty white bead-shells woven neatly into the pattern, all the more precious because of their tiny size.

The tunic had a simple opening for her head, but what Tekakwitha loved about it most was the hood that Numees thought to include. She wore the hood up over head whenever she wore the garment, even inside the longhouse. The hood hung loose with plenty of fabric so that its folds could be draped over her eyes to shade them from the light, which pierce-burned, and lower still, so that the disfigurements in her face, the pock-marks, could not be seen.

“You should create your own clan, the owl clan,” the other children mocked her. “That way you only have to come out at night, so you don’t have to cover your eyes and your face, too!”

The taunts stung, but Tekakwitha found some comfort and protection under the hood. She was most happy when doing her beadwork or fetching water from the stream and wasn’t that interested in playing with the other children anyway.

Each day, she would take her pear-shaped pottery jug, kátshe, and walk through the path into the woods to get water for her clan, the Turtle Clan, Wakeniáhten (Mohawk: the keepers of the land).

The jug was bordered with incised lines and a ghastly skull-like visage with dark hollow eyes and its mouth gawked open. It was awkward to carry, especially when full, but Tekakwitha had learned to manage it. In fact, she looked forward to this chore because it got her away from the noise and smothering closeness of the longhouse.

Along the way, she passed the pond that had pooled upstream from the beaver dam. The snow that had fallen overnight smothered the ground like a plush white fabric pulled to the edge of the pond. The pond was oblong, but not perfectly so; the border between it and the shoreline arced in broad delineations, pinching inward at places. The water was perfectly smooth and unsullied but for the rippling caused by a mallard couple, following each other without urgency as they paddled along in broad meandering curves.

Tekakwitha paused there by the margin-growth of the pond. She was alone so there was no one to fret that she had stopped for a moment from her chores. She looked up and saw a break in the cloud cover. To clear eyes, the hole appeared as a curt rending, like an abrupt tear in fabric, through which one could see the blue sky behind.

But to the eyes of Tekakwitha, it was a bright painful schmear of blue within a soft white field, an intense spike of light and color that caused her eyes to tear. And the image spawned in Tekakwitha thoughts of Sky-Woman, who had fallen to earth though such a hole in the clouds…

Her name was Ataentsic (Fertile Flower). She was of the Karionake (Mohawk: Sky People), beings with supernatural powers who lived above the clouds. They knew not pain, nor tears, nor death. Presiding over the Sky People was the Great Spirit.

Tekakwitha was often told the story of how Ataentsic lived happily in the clouds with her husband, the Sky-Chief. One day it was discovered that Ataentsic was pregnant. Sky-Chief raged when he found out, suspecting that the pregnancy had been the result of an illicit connection with another.

In her pregnant state, Ataentsic craved sweet foods, but what she wanted most was the sweet bark of the Great Tree planted there in the clouds, the tree that the Sky People were forbidden to touch. This was the very Tree of Life from which all fruits and flowers grew. The glow generated by the blossoms and fruit of this Tree provided light for all of Sky World.

Venting his anger, Sky-Chief tore the tree from the ground, revealing the roots that were covered by the sweet bark. When Ataentsic looked into the hole to see what he had done, her husband pushed her into it.

Ataentsic frantically grasped the tree to keep herself from falling and, as she did, grabbed from it the seeds of the strawberry, corn and tobacco plants. But it was no use; she fell through the cloud-hole.

At that time, the Lower World below the clouds was filled with darkness and water. There was no sun, no moon, no stars. There was no land. All was a chaos of wind, water and thick impenetrable night. The only animals that lived were water animals: turtles, beavers, muskrats, otters and some water fowl. There were no people.

The birds could see that Ataentsic would not survive her fall. So they joined together to support her body with their wings as she descended and lowered her slowly downward. The loon asked the Great Turtle for help, and he said that he would. So the Great Turtle rose himself to the surface of the water, shell-up, as a type of platform, and allowed Ataentsic to land on his back.

Then the water animals tried to retrieve mud from the bottom of the deep water and put it on the turtle’s back so that plants might grow for Ataentsic to enjoy and eat. One by one the water animals dove into the water—the little toad, the beaver—but none could dive deep enough to get to the mud. Then the muskrat took a deep breath and dove down. He was gone for a long time, but finally he did emerge, with some mud held between his tiny paws!

The muskrat patted the mud on the Great Turtle’s back. Ataentsic was overjoyed and started singing and dancing, and, as she did, the dirt on the turtle’s back multiplied. The earth grew and grew and became what the Haudenosaunee call Great Turtle Island (North America).

Then Ataentsic planted the seeds she had carried with her from the Sky World, and they started to grow right away. Quickly they multiplied as far as the eye could see and became every kind of grass and tree and bush.

Soon after, Ataentsic’s child was born, a girl, who was named Tekawerahkwa (Breath of the Wind). Time went by, and the little girl grew into a young maiden. She was told by her mother never to walk toward the west because there lived Dajo:ji, the ugly and fierce panther, the West Wind, whose breath tore like sharp icy claws and whose voice snarled and shrieked like a demon legion.

But one day Tekawerahkwa disobeyed her mother and did exactly what she was told not to do; she walked toward the west. When she did, Dajo:ji stirred from his lair, the West Wind kicked up and a cloud started to move toward Tekawerahkwa, a cloud in the shape of a man.

Tekawerahkwa was so frightened by his approach that she immediately fainted. When she awoke, there were two crossed arrows on her stomach, a sign that she had been taken by the West Wind and had become his bride. She was to have his children: twin boys.

One of the twins, the right-handed twin, was born in the usual way, but the other twin, the left-handed one, was rebellious from the start. He was jealous that his brother had been born first so he came out of his mother through her armpit. This was so painful and traumatic for his mother that she died birthing him.

She was buried in the New Earth and from her grave grew the Three Sisters—corn, beans and squash—sacred plants that sustain the Haudenosaunee to this day.

The first son, the right-handed twin, the good twin, became known as Sky-Holder, Teharonghyawago, the keeper of the day, and the second twin, the left-handed one, the evil twin, became known as Flint, Tawiskaron, the keeper of the night.

Flint convinced Ataentsic, his grandmother, that Sky-Holder was responsible for his mother’s death, which was a lie, but Ataentsic was fooled. From then on, she favored Flint over Sky-Holder.

Being good, Sky-Holder set to work making all the good things of creation: flowers, gentle hills, quiet brooks. He was the earth-shaper, the spirit of life, the warmth of a summer day.

Flint in turn made all the bad things of the world: snakes, disease, winter. He was a malevolent trickster. Whatever Sky-Holder made, Flint tried to undo, diminish or restrain.

Sky-Holder made the rose, but Flint put thorns on it. Sky-Holder made fish, but Flint put bones in them. Sky-Holder created rivers, but Flint filled them with sharp and dangerous rocks. Sky-Holder created trees, but Flint put knots in them and made their bark gnarly and crooked. Sky-Holder created humans, the caretakers of creation, but Flint put in their hearts jealousy, hatred and violence.

Everything the Good Twin created, the Bad Twin sabotaged. Sky-Holder molded the animals, gave them traits, breathed life into them and created in them a soul; Flint imprisoned them—the deer, the elk and all the animals of the forest. He kept them for his own personal use and would not share them for the benefit of all, as the Great Spirit had intended.

Sky-Holder created orenda, the positive life-force that animates all things, that is responsible for the miracles of healing and of blessing; Flint created otkon, the inverse, a negative force, an evil energy that can be used to curse people and cause them harm.

Otkon is not a separate force from orenda, but a distortion of orenda, a malignant and destructive use of the force that Sky-Holder had created.

Everything—trees, animals, people, plants—possess orenda, and all of nature is considered to be in a perpetual struggle of orenda. In this way, the orenda of a successful hunter can overcome the orenda of his prey; the orenda of an entire nation can prevail in war against the orenda of an enemy nation. A shaman is considered a powerful master of orenda if he can summon it and apply it to healing.

One day, Sky-Holder was wandering in the forest dis-spirited that his brother was successfully scuttling all his plans. He was winning at everything it seemed.

Then, a mysterious figure appeared to him in the forest. It was a noble spirit, the Great Turtle.

“I have seen your distress and heard your cries,” the Great Turtle said to him. “I have seen the unkindness of your brother and grandmother and their unfair treatment of you. Be of brave heart; persist and I will protect you. Your brother’s ill-treatment will continue. Bear these injuries with steadfast patience and, at the time I have appointed, I will deliver you.”

With that he gave Sky-Holder the gifts of arrows and corn: arrows so that he would be successful in the hunt and corn so that he would be sustained even if the hunt was not successful. These two gifts symbolized Sky-Holder’s mastery over all things of the sky and the earth.

One day, Sky-Holder decided to free the forest animals cruelly held captive by his evil twin. It took some cleverness and persistence to do so, but eventually Sky-Holder was successful, and the animals were set free.

When Flint found out about this, he was furious and immediately plotted his revenge against his brother.

One day, Flint attacked Sky-Holder, and they fought each other for a very long time, wrestling and brawling all over the earth. Back and forth the battle continued, with the two brothers rumbling and tumbling like giants. At times, Flint had the advantage; at other times, Sky-Holder had the upper hand. At last, Sky-Holder prevailed. He defeated his brother and banished him to live in a dark cave beneath the earth—where he lives to this day.

From this cave, Flint sends emissaries to earth to conduct evil. He created the Stone Coat Giants, a tribe of primeval beings twice the size of normal men, covered in stony scales to repel attacks. They are voracious man-eating monsters who prey on the Haudenosaunee as they venture in the forest. Occasionally Flint’s anger shows itself in the form of a volcano.

Eventually, Sky-Woman died, and Sky-Holder flung her head into the sky, where it became the moon, Grandmother Moon.

There, she reflects light at night and keeps company with her favored son, Flint, the keeper of the night. Grandmother Moon helps to keep time, controls the tides and regulates the monthly cycle of women so that new life will continue to be born in the world.

Many times Tekakwitha had heard this story, the Creation Story of her people. It explained so much. And here, as she stood on the trail by the beaver pond, the story had suspended her in a time-shifted reverie. But, as she woke to her surroundings again, she could see that the hole in the cloud had morphed in shape during her recollection and was now almost wholly covered.

No one else was around the pond but her, so she walked to the edge. A shy turtle dolloped under the water at her approach. Tekakwitha removed her wooden cross, tekáyahtsq:t, from beneath her tunic and held it in front of her eyes. She had trouble focusing on it; her eyes burned. Then she saw its reflection in the surface of the water.

There was no inverse to the reflected image. The cross was the cross, the left side was left and the right side was right, whether seen in her hand or in the reflection in the water. It didn’t criss-cross; as it passed from the real world to the reflected world.

And a simple cross it was: just two cedar sticks, cut to length that were lashed together at their conjunction with a strap of deerskin. The deerskin lashing, wrapped up, over and around the sticks, had shrunk over time as intended, so that now it held fast tightly the two pieces of this most elemental of symbol-objects.

The two parts conjoined permanently: the straight line extending vertically between earth and sky, the longer of the two, and the straight line traveling horizontally. The vertical line is Grace, Love and Blessing passing directly from God to People, a Deo in hominem; and returning from People to God, de homine ad Dei, as Thanks, Praise and Worship. Then the horizontal line: the spreading upon the earth of the same love, from person to person, ab homine usque ad hominem.

The two commandments represented:

First, vertical: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.

Second, horizontal: “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
-Matthew 22:37-40

God and Man conjoined as well, vertical and horizontal, held fast tightly with the Blood of the Lamb, the incorporation of opposites, hanging between Heaven and Earth, both the Son of Man and the Son of God, more than merely attached together, but subsumed into one another. Sin subsumed into Mercy, Flesh subsumed into Spirit, the obliteration of Duality into the Wholeness of Peace, re-unification back to Innocence and Love.

It is both Victory and Death, both Jew and Gentile, Christian and Haudenosaunee.

But, though the cross is a unification of opposites, it is also a separator among people. When Jesus was first presented at the temple, a man named Simeon prophesied that His Mission would be a contradiction, that He would be the cause for both the rising and the falling of many.

And that has certainly borne out to be true. Those who accept the cross are on one side, and those that do not are on the other side. Like a thrasher, the cross separates the wheat from the chaff.

Tekakwitha started walking again on the path that circled the pond. As she did, she felt the slow easy rhythm of her footsteps, one following naturally after another, and the relaxed rolling of her hips. She felt strong and happy. She knew this path well.

She started humming a melody. At first, she was unsure of its origin, but after a time, she remembered: it was the lullaby her mother Pittaraskissi (Flower of the Earth) would sing to her every night. It was her Mother’s Song. Though each night it was the same song, Pittaraskissi would vary it with slight improvisations which Tekakwitha loved. The words told of her mother’s joy and gratitude to God that He had given her such a fine daughter, a daughter who filled her with pride, that her mother was so lonely before her daughter’s birth but now she knew, really knew, the meaning of the words Pride and Joy.

The melody was as soft as beaver fur, and it made a mess of Tekakwitha’s heart every time she heard it. It was so sweet and so sad at the same time, she almost couldn’t bear to listen to it. And coming from her mother! Pittaraskissi! Solid and sturdy like a hill, warm and enfolding like a free afternoon in summer.

Her round open face hovered over Tekakwitha’s prone body like Grandmother Moon herself in the night sky, every night the same face looking down at her placidly. In winter, Tsha’tekoselhΛ, Midwinter Moon; in spring, Wahsakayú:tehsé Thunder Moon; in summer, AwΛhÍhtéi, Strawberry Moon; in fall, YeyΛthókwas, Harvest Moon—the same.

Arcing across the inside dome of the night sky, always with her face turned toward the Great Turtle Island, Grandmother Moon keeps perfect time: now is the time to plant, now is the time to reap, now is the time to hunt, now is the time to tell stories. Now is the time to say ‘thank you,’ Nia:wen. Merci. Gratia. Eucharisto (Greek: Grace, Joy, Gratitude). It is always the time to say Nia:wen.

The melody and the meaning of the words marinated Tekakwitha’s heart and soul, the echoes of which still to this very day, this very hour, reverberated like circular pond ripples forever expanding. The melody had a resonance that worked its way like plant tendrils into the heart-center of her inmost being, like beans growing their way up a corn stalk. She was imprinted with it, branded. It was a tattoo riven into her skin, a mosaic of emotion, meaning and melody that could never be eradicated.

The song-story always ended the same way, with her mother speaking directly to Jesus, giving her life back to Him who had given His life for her, so that she might have life, and thereby give life to her daughter.

“Jesus, I am not my own, but that I belong to you.”

She kissed her cross, then offered it to Tekakwitha to kiss as well, which she did. Young Tekakwitha could tell how important to her mother was this cross, this Jesus. She could see as well how her mother had to hide her devotion. Her father, Cerf (Stag), chief of their tribe, at best, tolerated his wife’s practice of the religion of the tulhaesaga (Wyandot: morning-light people, pale faces). What her people called “the prayer” had insinuated its way among their people like a white virus. Like a benign wind from the east, from the place of the morning light, it billowed the white man’s cloud-sails, unbidden and invisible, and slinked like a white serpent into their camp. There is no stopping the wind, Cerf knew, and, like all serpents, there was an undeniable life force about it. So Cerf and his wife had come to an uneasy understanding: as long as “the prayer” was kept for the most part hidden, at night, at her daughter’s bedside, he could overlook it.

Her mother’s cross was now Tekakwitha’s cross which she held now in front of her. It was a precious object. Her mother had received it from the Blackrobe before the burning of her village that horrible night in which everything of her life had ended and everything about her new life had begun.

Her mother had told her this story, how the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk: The People of the Flint) had come in revenge for the killing of one of their own, how the flames had engulfed every longhouse in the village, how the forest reflected a crimson rage, how Pittaraskissi had been found, seated, cross-legged, huddled with the cross in two hands pressed to her heart, praying for Jesus’ protection—Blackrobe had told her that if she ever needed help, to call on Jesus. There she prayed by the side of her slain brother, her last blood-kin, now prone, a burned and mutilated body, brave though vanquished.

It was Cerf who had discovered her: on his head was the rounded cap of his people, marked with amulets of past glory in war, with one taut feather jutting aft, a belt of scalps around his waist, his eyes on fire, like everything around him, the fire of revenge, blood and slaughter. A softening glint passed across Cerf’s eyes when he saw her, and he hesitated for an instant. Pittaraskissi was afraid to look up.

“We are the Kanien’kehá:ka. I am Cerf, their Chief. Come with us to our village.”

She had to say goodbye to everything she knew; her village, her people, her belongings, her only brother.

It was Tekakwitha’s very own Creation Story, the story of how she came to be: born of fire, from parents of two different tribes.

Her father had explained it to her simply one day: “Our family does not live on one side of the river.”

Pittaraskissi gave herself wholly to her fate. She would live this life, not of her choosing, as it had been thrust upon her. That night, Cerf found her on her knees, praying with great fervor. He asked her what she was doing. She said she was praying to the Great Spirit in words Blackrobe had given to her. She also told Cerf that she would not be a slave, that she would rather die than be a slave. Cerf told her she would not be a slave, nor would she be killed. She was to become his bride. That night Pittaraskissi entered Cerf’s longhouse and prepared for him the sagamite, the corn-mash eaten by the Haudenosaunee that, when served to a man as Pittaraskissi served it this night to Cerf, signified her acceptance of him as her spouse.

From that day forward, she was Cerf’s, and she did as she was commanded. She did not resist capture, she bore her losses without complaint or regret, and she learned her new role as wife of the Chief. For this, she earned the respect and admiration of Cerf and everyone in the village.

But, though she belonged to him now, there was a pride and a nobility about Pittaraskissi that created a hard bright border around her that Cerf would never cross. It is true that the Kanien’kehá:ka are like flint—hard, volatile, sharp, effective—and none were more so than Cerf, but there was a flintiness to Pittaraskissi, too. In her stomach there was gravel; in her spirit there were hard shards; within, there resided an inviolable constitution in which principles were stacked like layers of stone that had been fired in a volcanic combine, ordered naturally and arrayed just so, by the powers of the inner earth.

Stout Cerf was not strong enough to affect this, implacable Cerf was not patient enough to wear it down. His pet name for her was onea, which means stone.

Together, they were like flint scratched across a hard stone, so that between the two, a new fire was born, a fire ignited by tragedy and inflamed by affliction, a fierce spark that leapt forth blindly and forked sharply into the future. She bore him a daughter, Tekakwitha.

Born of stone and fire by Cerf, the proud Mohawk chief, and Pittaraskissi, with the white man’s cross, from two sides of the river: Tekakwitha.

But now, poor Tekakwitha, her parents were dead, too, stricken as so many had been by the Red Plague—smallpox. No visionary could foresee its coming, no shaman’s magic could stop its progression, no dream interpreter could understand its motive or its message. There were no stories from the past to describe it, there were no offerings to appease it, there were no medicines to combat it. It slinked into the village unheralded, unsung, invisible and struck with lightning swiftness. Okton.

In the case of Cerf, one day the whites of his eyes suddenly appeared bright red, like his insides were blazing. Black patches appeared in the skin on his face. Five days later he was dead. Pittaraskissi’s last gesture for him, this noble man who had spared her, this warrior-chief who had protected her, her spouse, was to pour water over his forehead—to baptize him in her way for Jesus.

At that time, the virus entered Pittaraskissi, too. She breathed it in, and the monster greedily found its incubating medium in the mucus of her throat.

The variola cell, this pox virus, is designed with a crude efficiency. An unadorned little packet of death it is, built for a single purpose.

But its design contains a serious flaw: the inability to replicate in the normal way. This variola must force its way onto another cell, to rape another cell, in order to replicate, to fulfill its brute purpose.

The dominator latches onto a healthy host cell and uses a penis-like tube, an inner lance wrapped in an outer retractable layer, to pierce the cell walls and penetrate deep into the host cell, where it injects its genetic gunk. This gunk comes with instructions, a stealth code that compels the host cell to make new versions of itself, the invader virus. In this way, the life-giving power of the host cell is hijacked for the virus to replicate itself, to live on.

Sky-Holder made the host-cell—orenda; Flint, the invader-cell—okton.

Inside the host, the invader cells replicate rapidly, like production machinery gone haywire, till, in a matter of a few days, the infected cell can no longer contain the burgeoning virus replicates and bursts.

These newly hatched demons travel through the bloodstream seeking other host cells and repeat the wholesale rape of as many as they can. This is microbiological blietzkrieg, a massive overwhelming assault with a disorienting velocity and ruthlessness. The marauders fan out with unerring certainty as to which organs will achieve the swiftest means of success.

The invaders moved quickly to the lymph nodes in Pittaraskissi’s neck, swelling them like hard marbles.

This was an enemy unlike anything the Haudenosaunee had ever encountered: it was unseen, obscene, lethal. Where was it? Nowhere. It was everywhere. No wood-piked palisade could defend against it, no edge-sharpened hatchet could knock it back.

A bloody Red Scourge, it originated in the domesticated cow of the Old World. A mutated version found other hosts: the peasant-farmers of Old World Europe who lived so closely with their animals. The tulhaesaga had come to the New World not only with his iron, not only with his guns, not only with his cloud-like ships, but with a history of plague trailing behind him, already centuries long, infestation and death like a terrible black shadow that clung to him everywhere and at all times. But also, vitally, because of this, he came equipped with inoculation, resistance.

The weak among the tulhaesaga had already been destroyed by plague. Those who remained, those who now came to this New World, those who were now encountering the Haudenosaunee, were strong in this way, in a way that couldn’t be seen, couldn’t be known, couldn’t be felt. The bearded ones, the ones who made iron axes, the ones with pale faces, the ones from the sea, the ones always measuring, always writing, the ones who walked so clumsily through the forest, the ones who were shameful servants of their women, the ones of the Cross.

They were stronger in this way.

O, Destiny, a bloody hatchet you wield through Time!
A broad swath you cut, as you swing and swing. In your wake whole nations are mowed down.
And yet, you advance forward, indifferent to the broken trail behind you.
A higher value propels you, one that is the privilege of you alone to know, our crimped and blinded souls not expansive enough to see.
Would that we be like the Sky People to see to the horizon and beyond, without interference, with perfect clarity. To know with surety the advanced logic of these things.
But no, we are but left with a thin faith, a weak tea, consoling ourselves as we stumble our way through bloody Time, only half-blind, seeing forward but in glimpses, yet looking back with perfect clarity at the wreckage of history.

Pittaraskissi’s body felt like it was on fire, so she laid on her mat. A brownish-red rash appeared on her forehead. Gone quickly was the will or the energy to do anything but lay still and try to sleep. Tekakwitha tended to her, but her mother wouldn’t eat. She could barely swallow water. Then, for her, the longhouse began to swirl, and she vomited until everything was out of her stomach and then some.

By morning, pimply sores appeared on Pittaraskissi’s neck and throat. Soon after—Was it a day? Was it 10 days?—the skin all over her body had bubbled up, pimpled, pustulated, irritated in a grotesque distortion of how she had formerly appeared. Her eyes were now almost completely shut, barricaded behind pus-filled blisters.

One of the shamans visited her. He filled the smudge-stick with sage and cedar and, with the house-fire, lit the concoction and waved the stick throughout the house, issuing the smoke, chanting balefully as he did so. He waved the burning herbs around her body, her neck, her armpits, her genitalia, the base of her neck.

But, by the next day, she had gotten worse. Barely able to speak, she gestured to Tekakwitha for her cross, which she brought to her.

Hours later, Pittaraskissi breathed her last.

Soon after, in Tekakwitha, the disease followed the same fierce progression: attack, invasion, infection, replication, swarming, fever, weakness, nausea, pustulation, debilitation.

She was four years old.

Her father was dead; her mother was dead. A majority of the people in her village were by now either dead or crippled by this red lightning.

She felt it emerge from within her. First the little bumps appeared in her throat and in her mouth, then she felt one or two on her forehead. They were hard and horrible. She could tell her entire face was covered. Then she looked at her hands! She felt weak and woozy: so hot she threw off her blankets, so cold she clutched them tightly around herself. The longhouse seemed smokier than usual. She had trouble breathing; she had trouble seeing.

Her aunt Numees was with her. She was so kind. She dabbed a cloth wet with cool water across her forehead. When the water-cloth got warm from the fever, Numees re-dunked it into the pot and re-applied it to her forehead. She sang the same repeating melody while she did this, all through the night.

Tekakwitha shivered uncontrollably. The world was darkening, clouding-up; she was losing touch with it, dropping in a backwards fall, like Sky-Woman from the clouds, further and faster away from everything she once recognized. At one point in the ordeal, she asked her aunt to put out the fire. She wasn’t sure what was even keeping her alive. How far could she fall? How long would it take?

Then there was an enveloping darkness: had she fallen into the water world below? But it was a darkness that was not quite complete; she could still make out forms glowing in a weak light. They moved like forms she knew: spirits? She must be in the nether world, the world beyond the one she once knew.

Numees placed her mother’s cross in her hand.


Takakwitha lived on…

Somehow, breath followed breath, hour followed hour and moon followed moon. The fever broke, her body cooled. She did not die; the infection did.

The pustules that had covered her face and body opened, easing out a turbid ooze. Each left a crater, like the face of Grandmother Moon. Her eyes hurt. The corneas were inflamed by infection. When she dared open them and chance the pain, it was only by the thinnest of slits. The reconfiguration of her face would include a persistent squint.

There was also now a chronic tearing in her eyes, a crying without end. Tekakwitha would forevermore cry unceasingly for the rest of her life.

So, yes, she lived, but now she lived scarred, in perpetual shadow and unrelieved sorrow. If it could not take her life, it would at least ruin it. Her affliction did not strike and go away; it struck and stayed. Its effects continued to strike, an echo of an explosion that never stopped resounding. Okton.

When the muscle pain subsided, she was left weakened; her full strength would never return. When the blisters dried to scabs and flaked away, she was left skin-scarred; her smooth skin gone. When the infection in her eyes dissipated, she was left with corneal ulcers, a cloudy turbid mess that interceded between her and all the light of this world. She would never see the same way again.

Before, no pain; now, persistent pain.

The thought occurred to her that she would probably have been better off dead, like her mother and father. They had suffered and had at least died. They had gone to Karonhià:ke, back to the sky, to Heaven. She suffered and stayed on, bearing the visible marks of her tragedy, within a living memory of the scourge. She had been dipped into the netherworld, the dark Water-World, and never fully emerged. Her world would now be night-black, piercing-pain and alone-ness.

Poor Tekakwitha.

The women in the village gave her salves and herbs to heal her wounds, but they had little effect. The other children shunned her, thinking she was contagious, which she wasn’t, but they isolated her nonetheless.

She would live, but why. Why am I, when so many are not?

After the plague had passed, her aunt and uncle adopted her: Numees, who had shone her such kindness, and her uncle Nunking, remote and aloof, who seemed only interested in having her slave for him. He was cruel to both her and her aunt. Tekakwitha was sure he would take away her cross if he discovered it.

So Tekakwitha hid the cross under her tunic whenever she fetched water from the stream. She took it out on her walks only when she was sure there was no one around to see her. It was also why she kept it safely hidden under her bed-rack in the longhouse under some dry-grass. Her uncle rarely visited the longhouse, but she was taking no chances.

Her world now was an After-World. After the catastrophe, after the trauma, still this: a world of sunshine and flowers, a world of limpid blue skies and birds singing, a world where hope and happiness somehow prevail. Okton did not triumph, can not triumph; and none could know this with greater surety than Tekakwitha after the Red Plague had passed over her.

And where she found the most happiness was in her work. She loved especially stringing colored beads into wampum or stitching them into the hems of clothing, particularly beads that had been wrought from the quahog shell. Her chores—fetching water, planting—were interruptions, gaps, between and around the times she could work with the awl and extract from the quahog yet another gem of perfection.

To most people, the stones in the stream are the interruptions. Tekakwitha considered this differently. Her Work was the stone in the stream: everything else rushed around it, but her Work remained—unmoved, fixed, eternal—a Standing Stone. It was the stone that was most important to her, not the stream.

While she worked, she was in Eternity. The shadows shrunk or the shadows lengthened, the world brightened or darkened. These were the timekeepers in her working state, light and shadow, too slow to notice, too gentle to affect, too modest to interrupt.

It was only her body that would cause her to stop; it became cramped and pinched and numb and just plain tired, eventually asserting its authority and returning her to the world of Time and Gravity. She pushed back against the pain and discomfort, fought it off again and again, but it would come back hard like an inexhaustible enemy. When she started to make errors in her work—imprecise cuts, crude sandings—she knew it was time to stop. All other considerations aside, she wanted her beads to be beautiful. So she would temporarily cease doing the thing she loved. When she returned to her Work, the Standing Stone would still be there.

It was a welcome respite from the other children who made fun of the way she looked and laughed when she bumped into things. As often as she could, she withdrew into her work and stayed mostly on her mat in the longhouse. Even during festivals, she would stay in the longhouse tending to the house-fire.

When she grew into a maiden, the older women tried to connect her to any one of the young men in the village. Few were interested in her; her scars, her blindness and her strange ways were off-putting. The feeling was mutual. Tekakwitha was not interested in these young men either who seemed silly and unmoored. The older women in the clan encouraged her, nagged her, scolded her. One time, they even tried tricking her; to get her to serve the sagamite to a young man who was visiting the longhouse, a sign that she had accepted him as her spouse. But she was wise to the ruse and refused.

When Blackrobe came to their village, her uncle was suspicious. Blackrobe was granted the hospitality of all traveling strangers, given food and a place to sleep. But when he heard of this sickly young lady, who wore a hood over her head even in daytime, who rarely left the longhouse even for festivals, he asked for and was granted permission to see her. His hope was to win a soul for Christ, amongst the poorest of the poor, the forsaken, the damned.

She looked down as Blackrobe spoke to her, in modesty and shame for her appearance. There was very little that she understood anyway, very little she would see if she turned her head to him. He gestured, he cajoled, most of the time he seemed to be talking to the spirits of the air and not to her.

He seemed kind and all alone like her. She saw the cross hanging around his neck. She showed him her cross. Blackrobe was awestruck and looked at her like she had levitated right before his eyes.

He gestured: where did you get the cross?

From my mother.

Where had she gotten the cross?

From a Blackrobe, like you.

But where was she when she got the cross?

Across the Great River.

What happened to your mother?

She died of the Red Plague and my father, too, and many of the people of my village.

Blackrobe took this as a sign of great portent: that of all the Haudenosaunee he were to visit, he should meet this young lady, scorned and virtually abandoned by her own people, with a Cross of God in her possession.

“St. George, patron saint of skin sufferers, May God grant that you intercede on this young lady’s behalf.”

He reached out and, with his right thumb, signed the cross on her forehead. “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, Amen.”

Nunking stepped into the portal at that moment and witnessed the sacred prayers and signs.

At this, Blackrobe’s fate was sealed…

Naevus Flammeus

“Rose???? Are you with us? Earth to Rose!”

Ha—Ha. The kids laughed.

It had become a thing in second grade class: that Rose was a dreamer and that she always looked out the window and that Ms. Haudenchild had to bring her back to reality.

Rose tried to listen during class, she really did, but she preferred looking out the window—by far. It seemed more stable, less threatening. Reality, but slower, and framed in a rectangle, separated by glass.

There, the brown-brick building across the street and, hanging from it, was the familiar dented gutter drain, ensnared in a sordid clump of tangled wires—electric, cable, phone.

There, the birds she had gotten to know played hide n’ seek with each other in the bush-tangles, flitting and darting in the brambles, their spirits revving at full-tilt animation.

There, the telephone pole, listing precariously, weathered from brown to gray to now almost white. The lines it supported, supported it in turn and prevented gravity from asserting its dominion. At its pinnacle was a simple beam affixed to keep the telephone lines spread out. Together, yet-vertical pole and simple weathered beam made—a cross—that seemed to preside over this still-life window-picture for Rose.

One day she started doodling with her pen near the border of the paper.

She didn’t have a plan when she started. She just put her blue ballpoint pen down and let it happen. However the Great Mystery moved her hand, that is what she drew.

At first, she started with the outlines of familiar things—flowers and clouds and birds—but over time her doodles became more geometric: rectangles, triangles, diamonds, circles, curved arcs, horizontal lines, little stars—basic shapes that, when repeated, created involved complex, interwoven, patterns that were…Thought. Rationality. Reflection. Silence. Beauty. Power.

She was channeling something from far away, like hands on a Ouija board, something that was using her to get to the light of day.

It was as if her pen attracted all the jagged static coming out of the teachers and the other kids and grounded it, like a lightning rod grounds electricity, discharging it into the paper. It neutralized the air, shielded her. Doodling became for her the positive pairing for the unstable, mismatched negative ions polluting every classroom, and the output of this were… shapes, that, when strung together, created something mesmerizing, enchanting.

Just two colors: blue ink on white paper, in a tiny space on the far borders of the paper, and behold.

“Why do you do that?” Melissa asked.

She said the word do like she was talking about eating bugs.

“I’m doodling,” Rose replied.

Melissa was her friend who sat next to her in Ms. Haudenchild’s class. Actually she wasn’t really her friend—but she did talk to her sometimes. There was an astringent air about Melissa, like her soul had been scrubbed with lemon juice, which now eked out of every tight pore in her skin.

“What is that? On your face?” Melissa stared, considering.

The red staining started on her scalp and spilled its way over her forehead, surrounded her left eye and dripped down over her cheek. There were a few drops of it visible over her lips and on her chin. She hadn’t done anything to cause this. Her mother hadn’t either—the doctors assured everyone of that.

Her face was inflamed all the time. Naevus Flammeus.

She was used to it, mainly, and so was everyone in school, but her self-consciousness would flare up every now and then, usually when she met someone new. She could sense that little hitch in new people, a tiny pause, an infinitesimal double-take.

“I gotta’ go,” Melissa said, when she caught Rose looking off into the mid-distance fog.

There it was again—the “wonder wall”—rising up between Rose and everything around her. Somebody would say something to her, and, rather than blurt out whatever popped into her mind in reaction to this, she would be in wonder of this person, saying this thing, at this time. It was like she was outside of life looking in—in amazement—at a mesmerizing parade. She did feel like she should be in the parade with everyone else, but the parade itself was so fascinating.

The yin and yang of this conundrum tortured her to no end: in the parade or out of the parade, marching or watching, participant or spectator.

Now it was causing her to ponder talking. To Rose, it hardly seemed like it was talking that people do most of the time anyway. It was just spontaneous thoughts and free associations that seemed to lurch out of their mouths without consideration. No one actually seemed to listen and respond to what the other person was saying. Everyone was reacting—the more random, the better. Everyone she knew was hopped-up on this mad rush of reactionist conversation. It was a complete jumble; nothing made any sense. And it all moved so fast, like she was strapped to the front of a bullet train with a torrent of nonsense zooming past her.

Rose did try to stay in the moment, to let the past go. But the preciousness of everything was so great, she just couldn’t smash through it all with steel-tipped boots throwing elbows. She wanted to savor it, turn it over in her mind, look at it from several angles, like a luminescent purple pearl held between her fingers.

She felt like a recording device that was always in RECORD mode. At night her mind would be busy shuffling the files of all the impressions she had recorded during the day, organizing them in little piles so it made some sense. This offline activity often agitated her to wakefulness.

One night, she awoke at 2:30 a.m., and it was totally dark: the power had gone off. Her mother was still asleep. The house was as quiet as an empty chapel. Rose dug out her emergency candle and lit the wick.

The soft yellow jigging glow coming from the candle’s flame transformed all the familiar things of her room, making it look like she was in a museum—everything precious, everything glowing, everything holy—the pile of clothes on the back of her chair, the cluttered debris pinned to her cork board, her posters.

Perfect silence; perfect stillness.

She was alone, truly alone, away from the unrelenting chaos of school and home and TV and radio.



She felt a presence in the room, like someone who had always been there, cloaked and invisible, but had never been invited to make himself known.

Something’s happening

She was afraid of this. It felt like the occult. Had she unknowingly conjured up something?

She froze, sitting on the side of the bed and looked straight ahead at the candle flame, jigging and twitching.

It occurred to her that staring into a candle flame might hurt her eyes, so she forced herself to look away, but the impression of the flame remained on her retina. When she looked at her closet, she saw the flame; her wall posters, the same flame. So she closed her eyes, hoping to force-wipe the impression, but it was still there, projected onto the inside of her eyelids.

Was it an inverse image? A photo negative? What was light in the real world was now dark and dark, light. In this weird rabbit hole in which she had plunged, she couldn’t tell which was which.

Then, an overwhelming feeling of peace came over her, unlike anything she had ever felt before. It hadn’t come from within her. It was a visitation; something or someone had descended upon her and surrounded her with a cloak of protection and safety. She was sure that it wasn’t anything she did to cause this. This was an unsolicited, uncaused act of kindness and mercy from somewhere.

She didn’t want to open her eyes, afraid that might make it go away. She wanted to stay there within this zone forever, surrounded by warmth and joy and mercy and peace.

On the inside projector screen of her mind, she saw clouds in a blue sky, but it was like she was watching a sped-up film. The clouds flew from over the horizon and passed over her head, forming, shaping, contorting and whizzing by in power and glory, one after another in a spectacular never-ending display. The Mighty Clouds of Joy.

She understood Time; she felt Eternity. The clouds were the same then, as they are now, as they ever will be, forever. Time and Eternity were not just words to her anymore; she had been granted insight into their meaning, what they are in Actuality, and what they feel like in their Reality.

She was uplifted, transcendent, weightless, spirit-only. She felt as if she could fly with these same clouds. There were no words, there were no people, only the Mighty Clouds of Joy and this feeling of Eternity, this feeling of Peace.

She started murmuring: a low guttural emanation from deep within her. It sounded to herself like an animal. She became aware of this only after it had been going on for some time. It was sounds, not words, deep and low—burbling, groaning. She was afraid her mother would hear it and think she was really weird. So, even within THIS, whatever it was, she still cared what other people thought of her—she was still Rose.

The flame, the clouds, the murmuring, the Joy—it all lasted for some time, perhaps hours. When she opened her eyes, the candle was still lit, but it was shorter. The wax had gobbed-up around the top edge like the spires of a Gothic cathedral. Soft extruding blobs of wax had oozed down the side and onto the dish that supported it. The lights of the house were on now.

Rose felt spent, charred, as if she had been burning all night, too.

She wasn’t sure what time it was because the power outage had stopped her nightstand clock, frozen time, but it felt like her mother would be soon waking for the new day.

She didn’t want her mother to see the candle, so she blew out the flame and hid it in her bottom drawer.

The next night Rose woke at about the same time. The house had power, but she lit the candle anyway…


And in the darkening of the day on the lake Oniátarote (Standing Lake), Kitchi was hunting a monster. He stood in his casoya looking past the rippling surface of the water. In his left hand was a lit torch; in his right hand a spear. Chaousarou is cunning, it is true, but Kitchi is smart, too, and also patient.

Standing, waiting, drifting, alone, Kitchi believes that chaousarou will come to the fire that is bedazzling at the surface—perhaps tonight, perhaps even now.

Here, in the murky green waters of the lakes and rivers of the 49th parallel, lives chaousarou who has little concern for the extinction of the large reptiles. Its kind has outlived them all and, who’s to say, may outlive us humans as well. It is a creature which has long since passed into legend. This is its lair and has been so for hundreds of millions of years.

Chaousarou is a long, thin, tubular twang of taut muscle, built for speed and sharpness. A twitch of its length, and it accelerates forward, piercing through the water with precision and celerity. It is silver-gray, shiny like metal and covered with bone-hard scales.

The French called chaousarou the “armed fish,” but bypassed their own tongue for the name and opted instead for the Latin: piscis armatus, which was a better way to describe such a creature that seemed to emerge from the very archives of prehistory. Today, it is known as the garfish, garpike, longnose, needlenose or billfish. Lepisosteus osseus.

The beast can grow in size to four feet, five feet, 10 feet—who knows how large it can get. Sighting reports are wildly distorted by the fog of legend and the natural inclination of all fishermen to deceive and exaggerate.

And it is a fish, yes—mainly—but the gar seems to have been cobbled together with parts from many different animals. It’s true it has gills to breathe underwater and fins for swimming, so a fish, but it can also use its swim bladder to breathe air and has been seen for long periods with its bill pointing high out of the water gulping and snorting the air.

And it is this bill, a long snout really, that also belies its categorization as a fish; it is long and narrow and rimmed with a double-row of sharp serrated dagger-like teeth. It looks like the beak of a bird—a pelican’s beak minus the pouch?—but, yet, it’s hacked onto a fish, a fish that can breathe air.

For a five-foot specimen of this Goliath, its head and snout represent some two feet of its entire length, disproportionately large for its body.

An apex predator, even the birds fear chaousarou. When wanting to dine on bird, a gar will slither into the shallow shore-side reeds, post its snout into the air and open its mouth, posing as another half-sunk tree branch that looks like a solid thing for a bird to land on. It will stay statue-still this way for a long time.

The unsuspecting bird may stop a while, standing on the gar’s snout, to do some hunting itself for small fish hiding in the reedy shallows. For the gar, it’s just a quick flick and a clamp-down with its jaws, and the deed is done. The beast drags the wriggling bird quickly down into water, its favored element, and drowns its prey before devouring it.

This chaousarou was the trophy that Kitchi’s eyes strained to see. But, as daylight dwindled, it became harder and harder to do so. What was a cloudy green opaque medium some short time ago was now a black abyss, lit just a few inches deep by his torchlight.

Kitchi thought he saw a form, but had he? Was it?

He raised the spear slowly, retracting it straight back away from the water, his meaty arm in a coil at his shoulder. He reminded himself that, should he see chaousarou, he must throw fast, not strong, but fast.


Some 12 feet away, chaousarou broke the surface. Kitchi was astonished.

The mythical chaousarou of which he has been told, here before his very eyes! No other fish in this lake was as large as this. But what struck Kitchi at first was not its size, but its manner. The fish was surprisingly unhurried, lolling there with its beak out of the water, snuffling-up the evening air. Kitchi was out of his mind with excitement at this encounter, but chaousarou obviously was not.

The hunter tried to regain a clear mind. A throw from this distance would be unwise; 12 feet from a floating canoe? It was too far to risk it, and he would only get one shot at it. Yet, if he waited, chaousarou might simply swim away, a chance lost forever.

The lithe wet muscular length of its body bobbed at the surface for a moment and submerged just below again. So confident was this fish, that its presence alone was intimidating. Kitchi had heard stories of chaousarou and even seen bones from a specimen that were used as needles by the women in his clan, but seeing an actual one, here on the lake, in its natural environment—it was like approaching a King…

Kitchi noticed that the lake was still, but for the gentlest of breezes, a mere poof of little significance, but it was traveling in the direction he wanted to go, straight toward chaousarou.

Kitchi decided to wait while the wind pushed his canoe closer to it, shrinking the distance incrementally between him and his target. As he drifted, almost imperceptibly, he did his best to work the orientation of the canoe with his bare feet, so that, as he approached the floating leviathan, he would do so from a broadside, the side he was facing with his spear.

A gap of 12 feet became 10 became eight became seven became six. During this agonizingly slow drift, Kitchi stayed coiled to strike. Chaousarou still slurped and snortled at the surface, apparently mesmerized by the fire-light.

Now Kitchi, now!

He flung the spear fast and true, and it dug into the side of chaousarou. The mighty fish twisted and flailed, but Kitchi had carved the spearhead according to the ancient ways; it was not going to release. He kneeled into the canoe for better leverage and grabbed the twisted hemp rope with both hands.

The King would be taking him for a ride.

As chaousarou pulled him and his boat in a soft glide around the now-black lake, Kitchi felt the fish’s ancient strength like gravity itself pulling him downward and onward.

Connected to the fish, the rope became a line of communication between the prey and the hunter. Feeling pulls and twitches, dives and turns, Kitchi could interpret the fish’s intentions; now it seemed confused, now it thought to tangle itself in the lake-grass in the shallows; now it waited, a dead-weight on the end of the line; was it thinking about its next move? Now it headed to deeper waters.

At one point, Kitchi was sure the spear had come free, the rope was so slack, but it was an old trick, retrieved from the long-ago recesses of chaousarou’s piscatorial brain. It had doubled back from some 55 feet away to where it was now directly under the canoe. Kitchi pulled in all of the slack rope, coiling it dripping back into the canoe, till he felt again the heft of chaousarou.

Its slack-rope ruse foiled, chaousarou shot up from the deeps and blasted out of the water, thrashing madly in the air in a desperate attempt at wriggling the spear free. Lit by moonlight, it was a menacing spectacle, over in a moment, but branded forever in Kitchi’s memory like a well-carved spear-point that lodged into his soul. Chaousarou splashed loudly back into the lake, and the spear remained embedded.

The great fish panicked, lurching in one direction, then another. Then the tugs became less frequent; Kitchi could feel the resignation on the other end of the line. Was it another fish-trick?

In the struggle with chaousarou, Kitchi hadn’t noticed how the light around him had changed: the night had passed from dimly lit, to a darkling dream, to true-black, to what it was now: more than just the absence of light, it was an opening into the Unknown itself. The sliver of a moon that had risen over the undulating outline of the surrounding hills, smeared a shimmering path on the lake surface with dappled and darting light reflections.

Then a story bobbed up into Kitchi’s conscious mind like chaousarou coming out through the surface of the lake. It was a story Kitchi had been told as a young boy, the story of Oniare, the great horned serpent who lived in the waters of the Ontario (Beautiful Lake)…

His uncle Karon’hi:io told him that one day a young hunter was traveling in the woods when it starting to rain heavily—a terrifying thunderstorm. From the sky, he heard a voice, which told him to follow.

This the hunter did, until he found himself in the sky himself, at the height of a small mountain. There he found a group of men surrounding him in the air including one who seemed to be the chief of the others. It was Hino, the Thunder God, with powerful wings and lightning arrows clutched in his talons.

Hino asked the hunter to look down and tell him whether he could see a large serpent in the waters below. The hunter looked down, but could not see him, so Hino anointed the young hunter’s eyes, and, when he looked again, he could indeed see the serpent. It was Oniare—whose breath was poison and who without warning toppled canoes and swallowed human travelers.

The Great Chief ordered any one of his men to kill Oniare, but they all failed. Then he ordered the young hunter to try. The young man bravely drew back his bow, aimed as straight and as true as he could and let fly the arrow that slayed Oniare.

The hunter was returned to the earth a champion.

That, it was said, was Man’s first encounter with Hino the Thunder God, and it was then they learned that Hino was a great friend of the Haudenosaunee, who would protect them from serpents and dangers of all kinds.

Kitchi was jolted out of his reverie by a tremendous exertion at the other end of the line. He was equal to it, just barely, having wedged himself into a stronghold position in the canoe. He held on tight for what seemed like many minutes, then he felt a release. The great fish’s strength was waning—there was no mistaking this now—and Kitchi started to pull him in. Chaousarou managed a few last feeble escape attempts, but it was hopeless. Man had won; the prized trophy was his.

When Kitchi returned to the lakeside, his uncle was there waiting for him. His smile was as big as the lake was round.

“It looks like you have caught the great-grandson of Oniare himself!” Karon’hi:io said beaming.

It was a great catch, there was no disputing that, and Kitchi bloomed under the sunshine of respect he had earned from his uncle for his prize. Word spread, and soon much of the tribe surrounded Kitchi on the shoreline. They helped him bring the great fish on land.

Then the sagamore stepped forward through the crowd, raised his hands to the sky and gave an impromptu blessing of thanksgiving.

“All of you who are gathered here pay close attention to the words of my mouth; you whose feet are resting on Mother Earth as our Maker intended and, yes, even you little children.

“Let us with one voice and one mind return our thanks to our Creator, using the words that are pleasing to him:

You, who have molded the mountains—Nia:wen,
Who have created the waters so that they are separate from the land—Nia:wen,
Who have flung the stars into the sky—Nia:wen,
Who have created the sun—Nia:wen,
Who have created all the animals of the waters, such as chaousarouNia:wen,
And all the insects and the birds of the sky and all our brothers who like us trod paths here on Mother Earth—the bear, the beaver, the deer—Nia:wen,
And the whole of your creation—Nia:wen.”

Dried, the meat of this fish would be welcome, but what Kitchi’s clan was most interested in was its jagged-toothed beak. It was highly valued, a sacred object with great power. For this, they had a particular purpose.

When cleaned, it would be strapped to a corn cob, forming a double row of stalactite points, like a comb, that was well-suited to its task: the scarring and bloodying of the contestants before the sacred match, the Tewaarathon (Mohawk: lacrosse game), held as part of the Wahsakayú:tehsé (April) moon celebration, one month from now.

Wahsakayú:tehsé signals the coming of the spring rains and the return of the Thunder God Hino, who had helped Kitchi vanquish chaousarou. Kitchi was convinced of this; it was Hino who had helped him.

It was he who had conjured chaousarou from the deeps and brought it to my canoe; it was he who had helped me throw my spear straight and true, like Hino’s thunderbolt; he who had made sure that my spear held fast. Fierce in his aspect and terrible in his power, Hino was nevertheless a good god, as the elders had told him; it was true.

Kitchi felt a tether between the Haudenosaunee and Hino like that spear and rope that had connected him to chaousarou. Kitchi could feel the intentions of Hino through this tether, and Hino could feel Kitchi’s—he in his world, we in ours. If our intentions are honorable, if our aim is true, if we are patient and trusting in his providence, Hino would know, and he would protect us and provide for us.

It was incredible to Kitchi looking back at what had just happened, only a few short hours ago, in front of his own eyes, through the work of his own hands.

Kitchi looked to the sky and said “Nia:wen.”

It was said by Kitchi as if for the first time. He now knew in a true way its meaning.


Pomper Gets A Mohawk

Pomper showed up at school the morning after the Schipper fight with a Mohawk haircut, dyed a flaming red.

He didn’t announce it in advance; he didn’t explain it to anyone when he arrived. It was just there. He had shaved all the hair off his head except for a swath at a uniform width from his forehead over the top and down to the nape of his neck.


“Doooode, what did you do-o-o-o-o-o to your d-o-o-o-o,” Brady said, chortling at his own cleverness.

“You have a problem with it, animal?” Pomper snarled.

That wiped the smile off Brady’s face and terminated all further questions from his stunned classmates.

Mr. Bulberi was clearly unnerved by it; you could see him flipping through the school regulation codebook in his head to check if there was something he should do about this. It’s not a hat which he could ask Pomper to remove; hats weren’t allowed to be worn in school. It was Pomper’s hair, and he could wear it any way he wanted—couldn’t he?

As he took attendance, you could tell that Mr. Bulberi was trying to act as if it didn’t really matter—we’re all tolerant of everyone’s differences, aren’t we? The hallway placards encourage everyone to celebrate people’s differences.

But you couldn’t get around the fact that Pomper was upping the ante in his feud with Schipper. And he didn’t care what you thought about it.

I’ll wear my hair the way I want; you have to deal with it, not me.

Pomper had learned about Mohawk haircuts in Mr. Haggerty’s class on local history.

“As an everyday style, the Kanien’kehá:ka wore their hang long,” Haggerty said, as he stepped through the visuals projected on the screen in front of the class.

“They believed their hair was a connection to the Creator.

“But in preparing for war, they would style it in a special way, sometimes in what-we-now-call a ‘Mohawk.’“

The visual showed a side-by-side of a punk-kid with a spiked-up band of hair, colored orange, and a real Mohawk warrior, with a solemn look on his face, his face streaked with war-paint. The kids in the class tittered at the contrast.

“The Haudenosaunee had other hairstyles, too, that they displayed when going to war,” Haggerty continued as he changed the visual. “They were also known to style it so that there was a round patch on their head from which grew a long tail of hair. This was done so that if a warrior were killed in battle, it would make it easier for the vanquisher to cut off his scalp. Their enemy could grab the long braid of hair and remove the small patch of hair from the skull easily with a knife or an ax-blade.”

“Gross,” one of the girls said.

“For the Haudenosaunee, it wasn’t enough to just kill their opponents in battle. To truly defeat him, you had to go one step further and scalp him, humiliate him, take away his connection to the Creator.”

The visual on the screen changed.

“Scalps were trophies of prowess as a warrior. Men would adorn themselves with them, string them around their waists like belts or hang them proudly on the walls of their longhouses.

“So, wearing their hair in this way before going to battle was like an arrogant taunt to their opponents—a way of displaying courage—like a boxer who drops his hands to his side in the ring and sticks his chin out to make it easier for his opponent to hit him. It is not fear, not surrender; to the contrary, it is the ultimate display of confidence, a dismissive sneer of intimidation.”

See that I am not afraid of you. I’m not worried that you will end up with my scalp, so much so that I have prepared my hair just so for you. Come get it.

Visual change: a terrifying illustration of a Kanien’kehá:ka warrior, with a sculpted body rippling with muscle. In his right hand, hanging at his side, was a bloody hatchet; in his left hand, he held a long horse-tail of hair, with a bloody clump of human tissue at the end.

On each of his forearms was tattooed a green snake. On his face were three streaks of color—red, black and blue—running down each side from his forehead to under his jaw-line. On his taut stomach was tattooed a spoked circle. A turtle shell?

The weight of his body was tilted forward a little over his right foot which stepped confidently forward. He peered into the distance like there was a threat ahead, and he was stepping forward to meet it. But, despite the fact that he had just killed an enemy, and his hands were yet stained with his blood, there was a relaxed air to his posture. He was ready, alert and at ease.

On his head was a single feather—an eagle’s? Pinned through his hair-tail was the sharp end of the cartilage jutting forward and the feathered end pointing backward.

Here is my eagle feather. I am a warrior. And you?

“The eagle is a most significant animal to the Haudenosaunee. It is known as the Thunderbird, the imperious ruler of the heavens and the symbol of victory. The thunder in the sky is considered the war cry of the roused Thunderbird. Precise rituals were performed in order to appease the Thunderbird, so that he might grant victory.”

Pomper perked up at this last statement. He remembered his recurring flying dreams in which he soared like an eagle over forests, where he felt like an eagle had actually occupied his being, or he had occupied it. Now he was listening intently to Haggerty’s words, which seemed like they were meant specifically for his own ears.

“The Thunderbird is a symbol of strength and indefatigable fighting spirit. Under his eye of special favor, the warrior never gives up until Victory or Death is achieved. He is referred to as Hino and is said to be in everlasting conflict with a great horned serpent Oniare.”

That was the day Pomper decided to get a Mohawk hairstyle. But he didn’t do it right away: he waited for what seemed like the right moment. And the day after he fought with Schipper, his once-best-friend, he knew the right time had arrived.

He also decided what number he would wear on his jersey that season—22—double-deuce. The deuce is the second finger on the hand, the middle finger. So a double deuce is like raising two middle fingers to the world.

Pomper’s spirit had been cleft by a metaphysical tomahawk, and a chasm was widening between his new world and his old world, separating him cleanly from his former self. His wild red hairstyle marked the occasion for him perfectly and let the world know that he had officially jumped the gulf.

When I rise, it gives me life, and I take it.

Pays d’en Haut—Upper Country

“H-yoo-ah,” came a grunt from the other end of the unshod foot. Trottier, now rudely awakened from the kick, hustled his satchel strap onto his shoulder and scampered along behind his companions, as they crouch-walked single file back toward the river.

They turned to the right off the path and clambered up the incline of a stony hill. From there, they hustled through a craggly patch of brambles which led them down the other side of the hill into a marshy lowland, filled with reedy swamp grasses and cattails.

The turf was squishy, and the limbs of the few trees that called this marsh home hung low so that Trottier found himself ducking under them continuously. His companions seemed quite sure of the way, though, to Trottier, it felt like he was being led further and further from the river.

In the lead, Kitchi stopped once or twice to orient himself, but it was more to affirm the cryptic milestones he had been following in the moonlight.

At one point, he took note of a small pile of rounded stones. There was a smaller one stacked on top of a larger one and, to the right of these, was a third stone on the ground. The meaning? Turn right.

Later, Kitchi noticed what-looked-to-Trottier as nothing more than scratch-marks in the bark of a green sapling. He stopped abruptly as if there was danger ahead and doubled back in the opposite direction.

At a split in the trail, he sniffed the air like an animal; then continued on with greater confidence.

They came to a reedy tuft with tall grasses so thick it seemed impassable. Kitchi arm-swam into the reed-forest, sweeping them away as he went. The reeds closed in behind, swallowing him, and he was gone.

Trottier and the others waited outside the reed-cluster. They heard Kitchi working his way through the reed-grass: at first loudly, then faintly, then not at all.

Wematin and Ahanu seemed unconcerned. They waited, and, though the men were silent, the pre-dawn morning was not. It was filled with a chorus of unseen peepers and creepers, a kooky cacophony of pleadings, invitations, warnings and songs.

Then Ahanu snapped to a posture of intense concentration, as if he were trying to confirm something he had heard from afar. Wematin cupped his two hands together, held them to his mouth and blew into them creating short ululating whistles.

To Trottier, it was a sound indistinguishable from the chorus of whoopings and hoots around him. But, after a brief moment, there was a response of a sort, with the same warbling characterizations. Wematin blew into his hand-whistle again.

It was a call and response between Wematin and Kitchi, but, if Trottier hadn’t been standing next to the source of one side of this dialogue and seeing the sound being made through Wematin’s cupped hands, he would never have distinguished it from the early morning chorus.

Wematin and Ahanu set off directly toward the whistle and waved Trottier to follow them. They parted the way through the reed-curtain. Wematin occasionally called to Kitchi with his hand-whistle and received a guiding response.

Soon they sliced through another cluster of reeds, and—there was Kitchi—standing by two canoes that had been well-hidden in the marsh.

Wematin and Ahanu carried one of the canoes to the river; Kitchi and Trottier carried the other. These would be the pairings. Trottier would travel the river with Kitchi.

The canoe was light, made of birchbark, but the way-path was crooked and bumpy. The natives were in a hurry. Trottier stepped on a branch he hadn’t anticipated, snapping it. Kitchi looked back over his shoulder with a sneer.

For the most part, the Frenchman was able to keep pace with the others, but he was relieved when they reached the river. The sky was just beginning to brighten over this wide stretch of the waterway.

They quickly arranged their provisions in the canoes and slid them quietly into the river. Kitchi scampered into the stern position. He knelt on the bottom of the canoe, bolt upright. Trottier followed by getting in the bow, almost tipping the canoe over in the doing. Kitchi grimaced. He grabbed one of the paddles, and Trottier grabbed the other.

Trottier knelt upright and began paddling. The canoe was far less stable than he had anticipated, a slight shift in his weight tipped it immediately. And the bark of a tree was all there was between him and the river.

He looked at the other canoe to gauge the rate of paddling. It was way faster than the pace he would have chosen naturally, and he wondered why they seemed to be in such a hurry.

Wematin and Ahanu dug their paddles into the river in deep hungry swaths, retracted them, and dug them in again. They were in sync, each dipping when the other dipped, each retracting when the other retracted.

Trottier took note of the colorful decoration of their canoe. Even in the wan light of pre-dawn, he saw red and white stripes along the gunwale and the bow colored a shocking red, with the black figure of the thunderbird painted over the red field.

Mais bien sûr!” (French: But, of course!) Trottier thought. How perfectly suited these craft are to this world, rugged as they knife through these waters and light as they are carried through these forests on a portage.

“Ho!” Kitchi grunted.

Trottier had already picked up his pace considerably and was now being urged by Kitchi’s command to increase his tempo even more. He struggled for balance, for leverage.

Kitchi tried to keep himself and his pale partner in sync, but Trottier could feel him losing patience and the gap was getting wider between their canoe and the other.

Trottier knew that if he were to travel with them, he must paddle faster, he must maintain his balance, he must hold himself in this posture for hours. He dug in the paddle with renewed vigor. But this surge of effort resulted in disaster: off-rhythm, he clumsily scraped his wrist along the side of the birchbark and let go of the paddle with his banged-up hand.

He recovered, re-gripped the paddle and plunged it in again, but his insertion point was too far aft, causing his upper body to lurch forward. This collapsed his left shoulder into the canoe and tumbled him in an awkward bundle. He tasted birchbark.

By now, the paddlers in the other canoe were laughing at Trottier’s clumsiness.

“Ho!” Kitchi grunted.

He exaggerated his posture for Trottier to take notice.

Erect, like this! Shoulders up. Head up. Stomach out. Lower back curved inward, like this!

Kitchi pointed his index and middle fingers on his right hand to his two eyes. Then he pointed the same two fingers forward. Up the river. With your two eyes, look ahead!

He pointed his two fingers toward the surface of the water and shook his head.

Don’t look down into the water. Look straight ahead. Keep your head UP!

“H-yut.” Kitchi held the paddle with his right hand and, in an exaggerated motion, gripped it with his left hand at the top. He pointed to the muscles in his shoulder, his bicep and his forearm. Then he gestured grandly to grab the paddle with his right hand, lower on the shaft.

Don’t dip your shoulder. Use the muscles in your thighs, in your buttocks. Reach ahead to start your stroke.

He gestured to his torso and took a few strokes. Trottier felt the torque he generated with each turn.

Pull from here!

His lower body wound and unwound, generating enormous forward thrust, effortlessly.

He gestured to his shoulders, how they rotated forward to reach the paddle into the river and how they unwound again on the stroke pulling the water behind them. He gestured to his arms again—they stay straight!—something that hadn’t occurred to Trottier. Keep the shaft vertical, and keep it close to the canoe as you stroke. He held his hand out steady and flat—Stable!

“Hut!” Kitchi said. Lesson over, and off they paddled again

Kitchissippi (Algonquin: the great river) was wide and still at this section of its length, more like a lake than a river, so traveling up country as they were didn’t present too much resistance. But it was daunting to consider the muscular force that would be required to make forward movement where the river narrowed. Trottier chastised himself for thinking too far ahead and re-focused on his paddling technique.

How strange it seemed to him to be there in the canoe with Kitchi. The Captain had told him to go live among the natives, learn their language and to see if the stories were true about Saguenay, the fabled city of gold.

It was said of Saguenay that the streets were as wide as those in Paris, that there were mines overflowing with silver and copper, that the air was suffused with the scent of precious spices—clove, nutmeg and pepper, that the shorelines were littered with pearls as common as pebbles, that there were huge caches of beaver pelts as tall as a hill.

In Saguenay, there were kings borne on chairs of crystal, inlaid with red rubies six inches long, and even the common people could but walk slowly, so laden were they with jewelry of gold and silver and gemstones.

Trottier suspected that the story about the beaver pelts was true, though exaggerated. The impact of the beaver was everywhere to be seen, profound alterations of the landscape that had been wrought by the one the natives called tsyennito: groves denuded of trees, clear-cut for as far around as they could drag the trunks to their construction site. Huge swaths of land had been flooded for their use.

But what of the rest of the tales of Saguenay? Could the French dismiss it all as fable? Without at least investigating?

If this Saguenay had become a hub of sorts for the beaver trade among the natives, who knew the extent of the riches that could have been compiled there over the years.

This was truly a land of wonders, after all. To the French, anything seemed possible here, cut off as they were by a wide ocean from everything they had previously known. Each opening of the forest unveiled a fresh miracle, each vista another undiscovered phenomenon to bestow a new name upon. This was truly a New World, Nouvelle France, so who’s to say such a thing was not possible.

It was worth finding out and the Captain, on behalf of the king, had sent Trottier to do just that.

After a time, Trottier and Kitchi settled into a nice paddling rhythm. Trottier came to respect the superior strength and balance of the man behind him who spoke little, except for the sparse Hut! commands he would spurt out when necessary. Kitchi was alert at all times, even when they traversed big open areas with slow-running water, especially at those times.

Trottier was alert as well, but for a different reason. His eyes and mind were dazzled by the singular beauty of this new landscape. Here was a river that pierced through a forest primeval. The verdant hills, well smoothed by millennia, were kissed by the sun and dappled in a thousand shades of green. This is Nature as God intended it, Trottier mused, pure and unsullied by the hand of man.

Ah, but the hand of man was on this landscape, and Trottier was just learning to see it.

Up ahead, in a little swale between two morning-haze blue hills, Trottier saw a twist of smoke rising, a campfire. He caught a glimpse of Kitchi behind him fiercely eyeing the smoke-twist.

Kitchi pointed to the smoke column. He held his right fist at shoulder level palm facing Trottier and extended three fingers. Then he placed his right fist over his heart and slowly lowered it down his left side, opening his fingers deliberately as he did so.

Trottier looked back at the smoke: what had seemed before to be simply a column of smoke, now appeared ominously. The smoke column was separated into little groups of three puffs of black smoke in succession. There was a gap, then three puffs in succession again.

And Kitchi’s last hand gesture, Trottier had no problem interpreting: it meant bad blood or a bad heart, evil, danger.

What had moments before appeared to be an Eden-like idyl, had transformed in Trottier’s mind into a brooding nest of vipers. Now, as his eyes swept the forest grand, he conjured up a population of silent shadowy figures infesting it in every camouflaged nook. More than once, he thought he spotted a figure, a flit of recognition, before it disappeared in an instant. Was it real? The once clear distinction between fantasy and reality blurred into a bewitching interplay of lights and forms reflected on the river and the twisted morass of vine and branch that made up the forest.

Cloud-shadows crawled over the wavy green hills. Like them, pangs of yearning spread over Trottier’s spirit, searching for a return to the straight and cultivated furrows of his old homestead. He suddenly felt as lonely as a soul in exile.

But of this he mentioned nothing to Kitchi and kept paddling. From these people he was learning something of the value of stoicism. So much is a mystery in our experience that it’s better to stay still and quiet as these phenomenon of panic and wonder pass through us like these same bowling ball cloud-shadows rolling across this landscape.

This New World landscape was flattening Trottier’s inner man. The fresh river air evicted every last vestige of sea-salt from his lungs, and the sun burnishing his skin chased off the pallor of his former life below deck. The long lazy rhythms of the woods replaced the rigid time-keeping of life at sea.

He was learning what his fellow-travelers already well-knew—that the natural state of muscles is exertion and extension, not rest, and that, given normal conditions, his muscles could go on doing what they were designed to do almost without limit, like a river running, at times slower, at times faster, but always moving forward.

Then, just a league or so from where they had commenced, the river turned again to the west, revealing an immense sheer stone formation at the river’s edge. This rock wall seemed to have been cleft cleanly from some larger piece, like two massive chunks of quartz has been split by a thunderbolt. As it rose from the river, the rock-face leaned over the water so that, in a canoe at the base of it, the rock parapets towered directly overhead—a disorienting phenomenon.

The two canoes headed straight toward it, and the natives slowed their pace as they approached. There was a palpable sense of the holy about this place.

Wematin and Ahanu stilled their canoe as Kitchi and Trottier came alongside it. Ahanu strapped the two canoes together with cord. Wematin took out a small wooden plate from his satchel and passed it to Ahanu, who placed in it a sprig of tobacco from his pouch. Wematim and Kitchi did the same. When it was passed to Trottier, Ahanu added some of his tobacco for him.

Then Wematin stood in his canoe and held the plate filled with the offering in both hands in front of him. He began what to Trottier appeared to be the nonsensical chanting of low sounds. But, after watching his gestures, coupled with the expressions of his voice, Trottier began to gather some meaning from it.

This was clearly an offering to their gods, one that they were accustomed to making—a ritual of great significance. They were asking for protection from their enemies and for safe passage. The three stood now and raised their hands.

Ahanu motioned in the most innocent way for Trottier to stand and join them, so he did—as well as he could without toppling into the water. It was clear that Wematin was pleased at Trottier’s participation.

Wematin warbled the last verses of the chant up into the over-curve of the rock. When he stopped, the echoes of his voice reverberated over the river and into the hills on the other side. As they waited in their canoes, Wematim’s prayer returned again to their ears…

“Ho!” Wematim exclaimed.

Ahanu rummaged through his satchel embroidered with a warrior bird and pulled out a small bag containing some red chalky powder—onamin, they called it—and a little stone vial filled with a fishy smelling oil. In a concave rock paint-pot, he mixed the red powder and the oil with his thumb. Wematim paddled in closer to the rock face.

Ahanu raised himself with one foot on the near-side gunwale, and the other he braced against the far-side of the canoe for balance. Wematim held onto a small bush that had somehow taken root in a tiny rock crevice to anchor the canoe in place against the current. Then Ahanu began to paint.

He smeared his thumb into the paint-pot and scrawled the basic outline of a form, a human form with its arms raised to the sky. Then he used a small twig to sketch the details with the red ocher. To the figure, he now added spiral eyes and wiry hair that sprang in all directions. A lightning bolt seemed to be zapping the figure in the head.

In the human-figure’s outstretched arms, Ahanu sketched another form. It was holding something by the tail—an animal of some sort…a beaver.

Alongside the human-figure, Ahanu added a four legged creature, a dog?

Morgri,” Kitchi said and looked hard at the dog-figure with a quizzical crinkle in his forehead.

In front of this man-with-beaver accompanied by his dog, Ahanu drew another shape: a long cylindrical figure, with two pointy ends, one of which was clearly a head and, the other a tail, like a snake. He added an unusual detail—throughout the length of this creature, he added red spikes, like the dorsal fin of a large sea creature.

Chaousarou,” Kitchi said to Ahanu, in admiration of this last drawing.

Ahanu assented.

Then Ahanu drew what was to be the final figure in the mural—a bird, gliding in a fierce streak with pointed wingtips and a sharp beak. It was an eagle, akweks (Mohawk) which they also referred to as Rawenni:yu (Mohawk: great voice or great ruler) and Shonkwaya’tihson (Mohawk: the one who made us). It was the Thunderbird.

Ahanu leaned back after the eagle was added and seemed pleased with what he had created. There it was: a man, a beaver he hunted, his dog who helped him, the lurking chaousarou ahead and the Thunderbird zapping the man with his lightning arrows.

Trottier recognized what he had overlooked before: these men were on a quest themselves. Wematim was their guide, a spiritual guide, and Ahanu, who had seemed to Trottier before as just an unserious young man, was this shaman’s apprentice. Kitchi was their warrior-protector.

Wematim raised his arms to the open river. His gestures were grand, but his voice was low and measured.

“Who is it that makes the river flow? It is Shonkwaya’tihson who makes the river flow.
Who is it that makes the moon long? It is Shonkwaya’tihson who makes the moon long.
Who is it that makes the beaver and the moose? It is Shonkwaya’tihson who makes the beaver and the moose.”

Wematim paused, lowered his arms, and the three assented with a single syllable:


The Goo of Defeat

Aliperti was running the man-up and man-down drills for what felt like the fortieth time that week. Nobody wanted to do it. Aliperti had his cap visor pulled low over his eyes and his sweatshirt hood pulled over that, toughing it out doggedly.

“It’s a simple equation, gentlemen: success is the result of practice, and repetition is the essence of practice. Therefore, repetition equals success. It’s math.”

It’s far-eeeeezing out here! Schipper thought.

“And math cannot be denied any more than you can deny gravity. If I hold this lacrosse ball at shoulder height and drop it, (You gotta’ be kidding me!) the center of the earth is going to pull it to itself. And it does so at a uniform predictable rate.

“Likewise, the team that practices best, plays the best—it’s an equation. I want you to know man-up and man-down situations so well that you’re thinking about them before you drop off to sleep at night, that they become a part of your dreams, that, when it comes to game-time, you will know where the ball is going before a pass is thrown; you will know where a player is moving before he even knows.”

The grass on the practice field bore heavy damage from cleat spikes. In the high traffic areas, including around the goal where Brady stood, the grass had been worn away completely, and all that remained was hard-packed dirt, littered with pebbles. This dirt patch emanated from the goalmouth to the restraining line in an expansive V shape, inscribing the zone of greatest action, the angle of activity. When it rained, this patch became mud, but it hadn’t rained in some time. So now it was just dry dirt, hard as concrete.

The wind barrelled around the school building, strafing clean the parking lot and steamrolling over the practice field. Occasionally the force of it whipped up little dust devils, swirling mini-tornadoes. Conjured up from the turf, they traveled downfield a-ways, petered out and disappeared.

There was a persistent hollow roar in Schipper’s helmet made by the wind finding its way through the ear holes and face mask. The skin on his legs was so dry it felt like the gnarly gray sharp-edged bark on a tree. His nose was running, his hands were numb, his eyes were tearing. Schipper felt like a scarecrow without stuffing, shaking in the wind.

It was mid-April—shouldn’t it be warm by now?

There was no fun here, no glory—just a grim determination to somehow get to the end of this practice, away from these bleak surroundings and to some food and warmth.

The season ahead seemed interminable. Practice every day? Games even on Saturdays?

When Aliperti wasn’t looking, to entertain themselves, the defensemen picked up pebbles with the heads of their sticks and threw them at the back-up goalie, Limoggio, who stood haplessly in one of the practice cages.

“Ping!” a rock bounced off his helmet.

Knock it off, O’Donnell!” Limoggio squealed.

O’Donnell’s response was to pick up another pebble and throw it at Limoggio’s head. Anything to break this monotony…

This season, like every season, had begun with a burst of enthusiasm—a type of Big Bang—where everything is possible, and every eye is sparkled blind. In early workouts, dropped passes can be forgiven, missed assignments can be corrected—no harm, no foul. Yes, the season opener is there on the calendar, but it’s an unreal abstraction, somewhere in the far-off. There is time to fix things

Scrimmages?—working out the kinks. Pre-season games?—they don’t count. A bad game early in the schedule can be excused in a hundred ways. Just ironing out some plays, the rationale goes, testing some midfield line combinations, haven’t gelled yet, haven’t hit our stride.

Even should a team lose all of its first three games, an incredible comeback can be imagined. It’s happened before: a team starts slowly, kicks into gear, then runs the table on the way to a championship.

But what if a team is 3-6, losing momentum and shows no real path forward to more wins? What if a look-ahead at the schedule offers scant hope of a comeback? Tough teams coming up, away games, morale is low.

Sooner or later, facts start easing in through cracks in the delusion. They fill in the spaces around each player, surround every available space, choke out the optimism. They ooze inextricably into the player’s ears and eyes. The plaster goo of reality begins to descend on an entire team.

At first, the coaches pretend not to notice. They hold it off by ignoring it, but the strain cannot be hidden: it’s in their voices, it’s in their eyes, it’s in the way they move.

It becomes increasingly disorienting as the defeats pile up.

This is a team getting plastered-in by the Ooze of Defeat. Everyone is hardened away from each other: coaches from players, players from each other, the team from the fans.

The air seems heavier, legs feel like lead, it becomes harder to simply run the field. The team starts to play for different reasons, to be a “spoiler” in the race to a championship, to play for pride, to win moral victories against teams that are clearly superior by losing to them by a score less than expected.

Only adults who are not actually winning try to re-define this as Victory. Worse yet, is to declare that the act of playing itself is somehow a Victory, regardless of the outcome. When adults do this, they have thrust their young charges into the Land of Unreality, a disorienting Hell of Frustration and Fog.

When a loss can be re-defined as a win, or, when merely participating can be called a Victory, this is a bizarre and dangerous distortion of what is Real. Games go on, whistles blow, play continues, but it all now unfolds on a play-stage, with cardboard goals, boundary lines that blow away like dust, scorecards that are never verified and results that are never entered into the Record of History. The Roll Call of Glory is emptied.

If Defeat can be re-defined as Victory, then nothing is real, including the young players themselves. Victory does not exist; Defeat does not exist; You do not exist. Everything you suspect is Real, including Yourself, is not—which is precisely the prepared ground Defeat needs to take hold.

Everything is still there, but it is frozen in a kind of limbo, nullified. You can see it, there it is, but it is no longer active. It is but a shadow of itself, a dull clinging reminder of the once live action persists, but it is no longer functioning. Action has been drained of color, neutered. It is worse than dead. To be dead would be a blessing, to go away forever, to leave the stage, that would be much preferred. No, this is more insidious: this is death in life, a mocking reminder of what was once alive, a hollow shell of the life that was once so full of blood, so full of vigor. Life is nothing if not action. Life is a verb.

In this way, Defeat builds upon itself and accrues mass. Uneven blobs slather themselves one upon another, until finally a tipping point is reached. The team collapses, falls into disarray; everyone is out for themselves.

This last layer of Hell can be recognized when the players are obviously intent on individual achievements; it’s not a team at all at this point but a loose assemblage of individuals who happen to be wearing the same color jersey.

On a losing team, the virtue of selflessness becomes ludicrous. Why should I pass the ball to a teammate who’s only going to drop it, or, worse, catch it and then selfishly hog the ball and take a bad shot anyway?

This is an odious cancer, and the evidence of it proves its inverse. Victory is that important, that, when all hope of it is lost, it corrodes the very morality of a young man. The virtues of Courage, Selflessness, Sacrifice and Honor disappear. They have been crowded-out, frozen, smothered, calcified by the sickening Ooze of Defeat.

The Warriors lost their first pre-season scrimmage against the Blue Devils. The final score was 13-5, but the scope of the defeat was actually greater than this lopsided score indicates. At one point, the Warriors were behind 13-2. A few meaningless garbage goals at the end of the game, after the benches had been emptied of scrubs, made the game seem closer than it actually was.

For the Warriors, this was a punch in the mouth, a stubbed toe in the night. It was sharp, abrupt and painful.

And what made it all the more so was the team that inflicted the blow, the Blue Devils, was their nemesis and arch-rival. The Warriors and the Blue Devils were the two teams in this division that perennially fought for the championship.

True, it was a scrimmage, where the coaches experiment with personnel and game-plays, but there was no denying it—the Blue Devils had drawn first blood this season, and they had done so in a way that stung.

The Warriors dragged their ragged asses back to the bus with attackman Eamon McEneaney herding them like a sheep dog, biting at their heels with his words.

That is the last and only loss we’re going to have this year,” he announced as his teammates trudged toward the bus.

Tired, bloodied and with bruised egos, to the team assembled, McEneaney’s pronouncement seemed at odds with all natural fact. It came out of nowhere, like a grenade lobbed from an alternate universe.

McEneaney peppered his teammates with non-stop chatter: words of reason, confidence, leadership and strategy spilled out in a torrent.

“Brady, we’re going to work on your clears. If the open pass isn’t there, hold onto it. Don’t panic. Worse comes to worse, launch it to me at the midfield line. I’ll find a way to get it in my stick.

“Your saves were fine. Just a little more work on the off-side shots, especially the bounce shots. The defense fell apart at the end there. That won’t happen again. Rigght Schip?”

“Right,” Schipper replied sarcastically.

“Dooode,” McEneaney punched Schipper in the chest to get his attention. “What happened to the defense today?”

The way he asked it, the question sounded not like a condemnation—which is how most people would ask that kind of question—it sounded more like McEneaney really wanted to know the answer: What happened to the defense today?

“I’m not really sure,” Schipper drolled while sullenly removing his helmet.

“No really: what happened to the defense today?”

“There were too many fast breaks.”

“That’s bullshit.” Schipper was blaming someone else, and McEneaney was having none of it.

“You’re not thinking. Think: what happened to the defense today?”

The chatter on the bus stopped as people started listening to McEneaney’s performance.

“We sucked?”

McEneaney paused—not funny.

“You’re being a pussy, Schip, and it’s pissing me off because you’re not a pussy. You’re the lead guy on defense and the captain of this team. And I’m asking you a direct question, a specific question: what happened to the defense today?”

“Eamon, it’s only a scrimmage. Give it a break.”

McEneaney said nothing; his intense eyes, non-blinking lasers of sincerity, bored into Schipper’s skull.

Schipper looked away from McEneaney and out the bus window. It was clear that he was now, in fact, thinking.

McEneaney kept staring.

“I didn’t step up,” Schipper finally said, watching the world fly by out the bus window. “I didn’t lead. I was hiding.” With effort he turned his head away from the window and faced McEneaney. His eyes were swamped in tear-water.

“Ok,” McEneaney said softly. “Now we’re getting somewhere.

“So what are you going to do about it?”

McEneaney wasn’t trying to badger him into a confession; he really wanted to know: What are you going to do about it?

“I mean specifically—specific actions—real things.”

Then McEneaney bit his tongue and waited for an answer; those eyes again, spokes of brown and green light radiating from his pupils, the unsullied pass-through to a clear soul and a clean conscience incising into Schipper’s being.

“After every goal, on the field, I think we should huddle up, just the defenseman and Brady. And talk about what happened.”

“I like that. That’s good. And…?”

“And…and we talk about how we can fix it, counteract it. Right on the spot, together, as a unit, on the field, the next whistle, the next play.”

McEneaney’s eyes opened wider. He’d hit paydirt.

“Schweitzer? O’Donnell? Come back here and talk to Schipper; he’s working something out on defense.”

The other two defensemen maneuvered their way to the back of the bus to sit with Schipper.

Everyone listened to McEneaney. He was such a natural at lacrosse that it gave him a leadership rank among his teammates. You could imagine that he was born with a lacrosse stick in his hand. He was good from Day One, through the youth lacrosse levels, on the travel teams, through middle school. There was an aura of inevitability about him, like a force field made room for him wherever he went, as if he moved within the surround of a golden halo.

His gifts on the lacrosse field could not be denied, and no one tried. Everyone was just happy to play with him, teammates and opponents alike.

But it was his gifts off the field that set McEneaney apart. He wrote poetry. He encouraged his friends. He lent money to people who needed it. He never took advantage of a girl. He showed up on time. He did the most work in groups and didn’t complain about it. He honored the Warrior alumni who had come before him.

He was a friend to all and a persistent challenge to those in his orbit—a challenge to be bigger, to be better, to be like him.

And the next teammate to be challenged on the bus ride home that day was Dietz, the face-off guy, who was sitting with some middies.

“Dietz, that guy was jumping your stick and putting his ass in your face every time. Why did you let that happen?”

Again, not a condemnation—he really wanted to know—why did you let that happen?

“He was muscling me.”

“Dietz you’re faster than him and smarter. Speed plus technique is greater than muscle. It’s a simple math equation—you taught me that, actually.”

He slowed the pace of his speech down so Dietz couldn’t miss the next point.

“And, besides, you’re stronger than him up here. (He pointed to his temple.) Dietz, you’re one of the smartest people I know: use your mind.”

Of course, Dietz had known that; intelligence and technique were the key parts of his approach to face-offs. McEneaney was simply feeding back to him his own Code. And Dietz was forced to admit that he hadn’t followed his own Code.

That’s what McEneaney was doing, marching his way through the ranks on the bus. He was holding up a mirror showing players how their actions on the field measured up to their own Code. The discrepancy between the two had to be recognized by each player. To take ownership of the problem, they had to see it as their own—not as a member of a team, but as an individual. They all wear the same color jersey, true, but there are individuals within those jerseys. Each must honor his own Code.

Astonishingly, McEneaney knew this—at 17 years old. He was an old soul in a young man’s body, an immortal living among mortal men.

Brady had panicked on some of the clears; the bravest player on the field had lost his nerve. Schipper had shirked his leadership role; he was to be their leader, but he had shrunk back. Dietz hadn’t used his mind; his way was to out-think his opponent to victory, but he had allowed someone to physically intimidate him into non-thinking.

On that bus ride back to Sewanhaka High School, McEneaney demonstrated that it misses the point entirely to posit whether a pre-season game “matters” or “doesn’t matter.” That’s idiotic: like shooting a lacrosse ball at a soccer goal.

What matters is that you recognize your individual Code of Honor and do everything you can, all the time, to live up to that Code. This Code of Honor includes knowing who you are, what you are destined to do, where you are going and how you are going to get there.

Defeat is not bothering to find out your Code of Honor or, perhaps worse, Defeat is finding it out, but not having the courage to live it out.

What always matters is your Code of Honor: knowing it, living it and, yes, if need be, suffering for it.

That is Victory—and it really doesn’t matter whether you do so in a pre-season game, a regular season game or a championship game.

And you better get on with it because, as McEneaney knew with deep certainty, Death is your shadow.


The men in the two canoes pushed offback into the river. During their portage and the break from the paddling, Trottier’s body had relaxed—slumped would be more like it—and it was reluctant to be pushed on to even more exertion. Perhaps they should look for a good place to camp for the night? His morale was flagging, like a mast pennant without wind. Worse yet, he saw choppy water ahead.

Kahnawatátie,” (Mohawk: rapids) Wematin announced. They were pushing up into a narrowing of the river, where it was starting to ripple.

“Hut,” Kitchi ordered.

Trottier was amazed at their stamina. They hadn’t eaten all day and had been trekking with gear since sunrise. When it was unbearably hot, they thanked the devil for the cool breeze; when they paused to adjust their posture, they said “Forgive me for not paddling harder.” They laughed at logs obstructing their way.

Trottier cupped some river water into his hands and drank from them generously. Then he dipped them in again and splashed it all over his face and upper body.

“Hut,” Kitchi said again.

Trottier paddle-stroked one more time, then another and another. He found that, if he focused on just that, the next stroke, he could go on for a very long time, perhaps forever.

Kitchi knew this part of the river better than the others, so his canoe took the lead. With Trottier at the bow, this meant he would be powering as the forward thrust into these rapids.

Initially the water was turbulent but manageable, and, though Trottier was exhausted, he was refreshed by the noise of the river and the swiftly moving air. At some point, however, manageable turbulence transitioned into a rolling boil.

In this test, Kitchi proved to be an impressive navigator. His instincts were uncanny. If there was a muscular torrent of water shooting between boulders, Kitchi found a patch of calmer backwater curling behind the obstructions. If there was flat water coursing over some hidden behemoth, Kitchi altered course well in advance. On occasion doubt entered Trottier’s mind that Kitchi had taken the best course, but he never spoke his concerns out loud, and Kitchi’s judgment in all cases proved to be correct.

He chose the right side of the river for the most part. This route was a wider swing as the river arced broadly back to the south, but Kitchi had prior knowledge that, though it was a longer run, it was also a safer one. At numerous points, Trottier thought they should drag the canoe out and portage past the rapids, but Kitchi’s strategy was clear. As long as they could go by river, they would go by river. It was faster and safer to do so.

As the sun dropped lower toward the horizon, then below it altogether, the available light diminished considerably. But their eyes adjusted along with it, and they kept paddling. The night peepers started the early notes of their evensong.

Kitchi suddenly wrenched the canoe to the right and pointed it to a flat pebbly patch of the riverbank.

Between the roar of the rapids and the failing light, their landing was well-camouflaged for both sound and sight. They reached low water quickly and pulled the canoe out of the river, lifting it easily to their shoulders, filled though it was with provisions. Wematim and Ahanu followed behind them.

This was clearly not a routine portage; there were no paths worn from prior travelers.

Kitchi led now in the carrying of the canoe. At a double-time pace, they trekked through the forest along the river. Trottier’s legs were creaky from their cramped position in the canoe, and it felt as though his upper thighs would burst. His mind screamed with fatigue, but there was no stopping here. On land, they were too exposed. He had to keep up with Kitchi.

He was comforted by the sound of the river to his left. Its presence gave him guidance, a touchstone of a sort that helped him stay oriented as they jog-hustled forward through the night forest. It gave him hope that they weren’t far from it so that, when the portage stopped, they could return to the river easily. But, after a time, they lost all contact with the river. The portage lasted longer than Trottier expected, much longer.

Kitchi knew where he was going, that was clear, but when he would stop, who knew. One can exert well past exhaustion when the endpoint is known. For a long distance runner, it’s great comfort at least to know when the running will end. But Trottier was in no like way comforted.

The moon was near full, so there was a silvery illumination in the clearings, but Kitchi avoided the clearings. He seemed to be avoiding the path as well, such as it was. Trottier was sure that Kitchi had actually doubled back at one point and started again forward on a different route.

As he had on prior portages, Kitchi stopped to examine a pile of stones—this one comprised of one large flat stone surrounded by several smaller ones. It looked to Trottier like a turtle with one stone representing the head and the others representing four feet and a small tail.

Kitchi looked at it with understanding.

Wematim and Ahanu caught up with them. They communicated only with hand gestures that seemed directional in nature—from where they had come and to where they were going, plus the location of the river. Satisfied, they set off again.

When they finally returned to the riverbank, Kitchi pushed his way through some low bushes and, in a little clearing, put down the canoe. But the spot was too small to camp, and the natives didn’t appear to be organizing for one. In fact, after a few whispers and gestures in the dark, they slid the canoes quietly into the river again.

Trottier felt happy to be paddling again, despite the pangs of hunger that distracted him. He was glad to see his old friends—the stars, the ones he had gotten to know so well on the ocean crossing. There they were in their same positions. He did a rough reckoning and confirmed that they were traveling up the river in a northwest direction.

Even in this light, in slow water, Trottier was aware of the reflection on the river. For some time, he became mesmerized by this optical phenomenon—this Inverse Reality. When he was able to shake off the hold the vision had on him, it would snap back to his attention again. The World and its Inverse, meeting there at the river’s edge.

His stomach was crying out for sustenance, and he noticed Kitchi periodically dipped into his satchel, pinched a few dried tobacco leaves and stuffed them into the side of his mouth. This seemed enough for him, so Trottier tried it. The taste was bitter, raw and awful at first, and it made him want to retch, but he fought off the urge. The saliva in his mouth softened it. He chewed the wad gently with his teeth until it conformed into a mushy little clump.

He discovered that it quelled his hunger for a time and boosted his energy, not quite food, but something that acted like food on his body.

Kitchi held three fingers in the air and marked them against his chest. Then he took two fingers and marked them across his legs.

Three days you will fast and paddle; then two days you will sit still.

On more than one occasion, he caught Kitchi staring at his rifle. Ever since he had demonstrated its power, Kitchi and the others regarded him with awe. It was months ago now, but the memory of the display of the gun’s ferocity was still vivid.

They had been in a clearing between the forest and the beach, and a small flock of geese were honking their way overhead. Trottier raised his arquebus to the sky and fired into the staggered formation.

The ear-splitting explosion of the powder was enough of a miracle for them, and they had scattered into the woods—including Kitchi wailing in fear. But when they witnessed the result of the explosion—that this “thunderstick” could make birds fall from the sky—that was a magic trick with no prior reference in their world.

From that point on, they had called Trottier manitourino (Mohawk: man of wonders).

And this reputation was reinforced again and again with his other tricks, such as his forever fire-starter he had demonstrated several nights previous.

In the moist evening air the natives had struggled to start a fire using their wooden hand drill to generate friction. But then Trottier drew out his four-inch brass tinderbox with the forged steel fire striker and the chunk of flint rock. Sparks showered from Trottier’s hands which ignited the piece of dry char-cloth he had stored in the box. He shared the flames with the dried grass and leaves they had gathered, and they had their campfire. Sure-fire. Manitourino.

In most circumstances, the natives maintained an aloof sense of superiority in relation to Trottier; he could barely paddle a canoe, after all. But along with their confidence in their hunting and survival skills, they maintained a superstitious quality that kept them in a primitive childlike state from which they could not escape. And when he displayed his magic, they would revert to a submissive awe of his gifts.

It was a contradiction. They felt both superior to tulhaesaga and yet wholly inferior to his strange magic.

But they were not averse to adopting these new tricks, trading for it if they could, or stealing it if they had to.

Kitchi directed the canoe to the northern side of the river. This being a haul-out, Trottier had expected a clearing, but what he saw were the smooth outlines of large stones in a chaotic rock-field. Oversized blocks bigger than a man had for millennia rumbled off the mountain incline to this spot by the river.

In the thin moonlight, the stones looked white-gray and chalky, the interstices of which were filled with smaller stones of the same texture and appearance, riverwash. The ground was covered with a coarse layer of gravel, smoothed over through the centuries by the applied scruffing of the river current.

“Ho!” Kitchi grunted, which Trottier understood as “Come, follow me with the canoe.”

They humped the canoe out of the water and up a few levels on the rockpile about eight feet above the surface of the river. There they came upon a perfect crease in the jumble-pile where one of the stones was cupped into an indentation providing a flat surface that was about 200 square feet.

They put down the canoe. Soon after, Wematim and Ahanu clambered up to join them.

It was a remarkable perch with a mountain-wall of rock behind it and excellent views up, down and across the river. What’s more, because of the formation of the stone parapet in front, the men and the canoes were completely hidden from any vantage point below.

In this light, there were no visible signs that Trottier could see of former camps here, though it was clear from the body language of Kitchi and the others that this was a common haul-out for them.

Looking back, it all made sense to Trottier—why the natives were in such a hurry. They were pushing as far up through the rapids as possible during the day because the portage through the woods, land travel, must take place during the night when it was safer. And the second leg of river travel took them through a segment controlled by tribes hostile to them. It, too, required night travel. All this, to reach the safety and seclusion of the rock perch before dawn.

As they settled in, Trottier recognized the first glow of a fair morning in the eastern sky. It heralded the arrival of something altogether different from what he could sense at sea, though what it was, Trottier could only know in disconnected parts and in incomplete glimpses. As the sky brightened, it outlined a most unusual stone-figure on the mountain-wall.

“Asferatu,” Wematim said in a low voice, naming the figure they were both looking at.

Then, to an exhausted audience of one, with fair Eos sweeping away the dark sky behind him, Wematim gesture-talked this story with a melodramatic flair:

“Asferatu had traveled on this river as we are traveling, but he failed to pay tribute to Manitou. The Stone Coat Giants appeared. They threatened vengeance on Asferatu for his disrespect. At first, Asferatu turned his bow on them, but no arrow can penetrate their armor. He fell to his knees in the position you see him and pleaded with them for mercy.

“But the Stone Coat Giants turned him into stone on the spot. And now you see him kneeling there, with his hands in the air and his head turned to the sky. His eyes and mouth remain open in wonder, and he will stay that way for as long as there is a moon in the sky.”

Wematim’s story carried such veracity that, when Trottier looked again at the stone-figure, he saw him exactly as Wematim had described. Shape-shifted, it was Asferatu. He had been turned into stone by the Stone Coat Giants. He was condemned for all time to kneel with his hands raised in awe and wonder for his transgression.

Trottier tried to stay connected to the reality he knew: it is just a stone, he re-assured himself, a stone that happens to look like a person on his knees with his hands in the air. But Trottier was having trouble focusing his mind and his eyes. They were both so exhausted, they yearned to simply shut down, to clap closed, and so he retained only a tenuous grasp of facts and basic sensations.

But the shift in his perspective brought on by his vision of Asferatu was troubling. Even that brief foray into the native world of spirits and superstitions, bewitching as the curling smoke from a campfire, had given him a glimpse into the alternative reflection of this New World. The light he had known was being bent, like an arrow part-way submerged in the water, its underwater part refracting sharply in a different direction.

And, as he lay on the blanket, he turned his head to face the rock-figure and kept his eyes open for as long as he could. The first light in the sky was but gray, followed by a faint glint of pastels. And there was Asferatu: a black statue silhouette stilled for all time as the world of light and color opens around him.

The World and its Inverse: the dazzling light and a sudden stony shadow.

With these thoughts, Trottier mercifully fell asleep.


Tekakwitha felt the rough ridges on the quahog’s shell. This one felt ancient; it was large and hoary, like an old storyteller.

From its anchored place in the mud bed, quahog processes…everything: water and sand and eggs and larvae and tiny fish and tinier plants and shell fragments and the waste products of every living thing swimming-in or flying-above the sea. The living and the dead, orenda and okton. Everything—even its own offspring—processes through quahog.

Quahog makes a record of events: of tides, of moons, of suns, of salinity, of turbidity, of temperature, of storms, of abundance, of scarcity. Indisputable evidence of Time, the progression forward of moments, a minute or so each day of additional darkness or additional light, a drive from what-was to what-is to what-is-to-come. Inundated with data like high water.

It also discharges everything. Everything, that is, but what quahog needs to go forward, what is required by the progression of Time.

From this data-set, quahog writes a record: a ring, one a year, of the everything of that year. Each of its ridges clocks 13 moons. Everything the following year: another ring.

Buried in the fine estuarine sediments, it counts the tides. Blind, it reads the rotating star-spheres. Deaf, it hears the seasons change. Insensate, it detects the tiny fractional differences in the orbital wobble as the planet whips around the sun, spinning furiously.

Some years the ring is lesser; others, the ring is greater. An arc, extending from the arc previous, just like the arc before that, but different: each the same, each unique, depending upon the everything of that year, in that one place.

The one now in Tekakwitha’s hand had long since had its soft-self consumed. Its two shell-sides awked half-open, its maw a lewd gaping display of its most private intimacy.

And what it revealed was a surprising display of pure color: a milky luminous white, one soft spread of whiteness atop another, each with a degree of opacity, allowing a version of the same color behind it to shine through, making the one color, white, vibrate with multiple versions of itself, layer upon layer of the same swirling color, intensities of greater or lesser.

Toward the outer edge of the concave pocket of the shell, the color changed suddenly to a dense dark brilliant staining of violet.

In its early years, the insides of the quahog are white, pure, virginal. Later, perhaps during a type of adolescence for the clam, it develops its characteristic purple staining as if quahog, like ourselves, with the formation of ring after ring, comes to recognize the darkness, the okton, of the world and, in processing it, stains its own deepest inner self, its once-pure interior, now bruised and sore from everything, covered with a spreading blemish of fallibility, sin and error.

So, on the outside, a rough gray recording of time, a relentless march forward of ridge-years. On the inside, a stunning and unexpected pure explosion of color—but only two: white for goodness, life and light and purple for war, grieving and death.

Through the processing of everything, what is left in the wake of the quahog is BEAUTY: light and color and form, precisely layered with indescribable patience.

An equation: Everything Plus Time Equals Beauty.

The beauty produced is unique and all the more precious because of this. Two quahogs, even two born from the same parent, anchored next to each other in the mud for 25 years, the same everything processing through them, nevertheless result in two unique patterns on their insides. Each is a quahog, yet each is its own masterpiece. Same, but different.

What is indisputable is that it is quahog; it is not chaousarou (gar); it is not tsyennito (beaver). It is quahog.

What is also true is that this pattern of light and darkness within quahog is beautiful; this everyone knows.

This pattern: binary oscillations of white and purple, vibrating back and forth in a never-ending dance of force and attraction with a zillion minute persuasions at play.

This texture: pure and luminescent, smooth to the touch, yet hard like flint. This is beautiful, all the more so because it is the result of an inexhaustible combination of everything that leads naturally and reliably to the same conclusion: Beauty.

A force as ineluctable as Gravity is Beauty, everything leads to it.

Beauty is indisputable: to the Haudenosonee and the French alike. It is True and Real and being so brings Joy. And it was this that drew Tekakwitha to the quahog again and again.

She thanked quahog for playing the role given to it by the Creator, for living patiently, with steadfast spirit, in the mud flats for so many years. She bent the two shell-halves back until they separated. She held them closer to her eyes and examined them closely. Then she set to work with her tools.

The large bone awl was her favorite to start with. It ballooned-out at one end into a textured stump—a joint from the animal bone—that fit easily into the palm of her hand, so she could work it with greater strength, precision and ease.

The pointed end would need some sharpening. She found it hard to contain her excitement at getting started but reminded herself that the work would go so much better with tools that are sharp.

Be patient, thought Tekakwitha. Like quahog. Because, just as Hayowetha once did, should I meet someone who suffers from grief as I do, I will offer these bead-strings to them. They will be like words, and, as I hold them in my hand, they will be only the most true words. And, as I give them over to the one under the dark cloud, these word-beads of Truth will lift the grief of the sad one who accepts the beads and hears the words. They will lighten the heart, they will clear the mind and they will bear away all sorrow and grief.

So, before beginning, she scraped at the bone-awl with the sharpening flint. Her fingers ached from the work she had done yesterday, and there was a twisted muscle in her neck from holding her head just so. And then there were her eyes, always her eyes, that hurt from the strain and the persistent focus on small objects in dim light, from squinting through the cloudy stain in her eyeballs, the after-effect of the Red Plague that had ravished her body some eight shell-rings ago.

But she was pleased with her progress thus far. There were 30 small cylindrical beads produced yesterday, each featuring the violet and purple swirls of the quahog in the delightfully random way of nature. Each were hard-fought ingots of perfection, and Tekakwitha was so satisfied to see them laid out one next to the other. She was building something: something of beauty, something of soul, something of meaning.

She placed a shell-half against the anchor-stone and positioned the sharpened end of the awl strategically at a point where the white transitioned to purple. Then she struck the handle-end of the awl with a stone. A course chip of white flaked away. She struck it again—awl in left hand, stone in right—doing her best to cleave the white from the purple, while maintaining the integrity of each color.

She chose the thickest segment of the purple-half, and, with the smaller double-ended bone awl, she chinked away, steadily gouging at it, trying hard not to shatter it. The gray ridges on the outside of the shell-halves she ground away, rubbing them with the rough resistance of the sandstone rock.

She plied a groove in the shell, wearing it away, applying force through a relentless application of the tool, until, when she felt she was ready, took the smallest of her awls, little more than a sharp stone spike, and cleaved the shell along its gouged line of weakened resistance.

Then she applied her sandstone shiner, a smoothing tool. Back and forth the sandstone face scoured the shell, buffing it. She blew away the sand and dust and rubbed the emerging cylinder with her tunic.

Now was the most delicate operation: the drilling of the string hole through the cylinder. Into her life had come a pointed metal awl made of silver—it had come from the tulhaesaga. Among her prized possessions, it was second only to her cross. One afternoon her uncle, Nunking, had simply walked into the longhouse, and, with his face unrelentingly stern—it never changed—he walked directly to Tekakwitha and handed her the silver awl.

There was no explanation. He simply grunted for her attention. Tekakwitha rose to her feet before him and drew back the tunic folds from her eyes. He held it out to her, looking straight in her face. Something inside of her leaped for joy. She reached out and accepted it from his hands.

What was it about his demeanor at that moment that caught her attention? Was it resignation? Acceptance? Dishonor? Shame? Surrender? Or simply kindness, perhaps the first kind thing Nunking had ever done for her.

Nia:wen,” said Tekakwitha, and Nunking withdrew from the longhouse as quickly as he had entered.

She could twist this metal awl like a drill; she could bang it forward like a pick. It was sturdy, it stayed sharp for a long time, it was stronger by far than the shell itself. The awl was brilliant, incredible, a great leap forward. When she held it in her hand, she felt powerful, like a Stone Giant. As soon as she started using it, she immediately wanted another one, even bigger, for the larger work. She mentioned this desire to her aunt, hoping it would get back to Nunking as a request of a sort.

She became greedy for it, enslaved to it. She kept track of its whereabouts always. It was the only thing—again, except her cross—that she would not share with anyone. She felt uneasy about her attachment to it. She thought about it when it wasn’t with her. If she was away from the longhouse, her mind checked back to it: had she stored it safely enough? Had anyone seen her put it away? Someone who lusted for it as she did?

Once, with some women from the Onyota’a:ka (Mohawk: People of the Standing Stone) who were visiting, she had worked with the metal awl, openly. They, too, had thought it a marvel. Would they think to sneak back and steal it? No, they were also of the Wakeniáhten, the Turtle Clan. They would respect this kinship—wouldn’t they?

It was as if the metal awl had carved a groove in her mind and soul, etching itself into her forever, not like a scar on her face but a scar in her mind. She craved it. The beauty it enabled her to create was addicting. It gave her soul such pleasure!

Her stone tools were immediately devalued in her estimation. Her former stone drill, puckwhegonnautick, she laid aside and never used again. If she could, she would do all her work with this metal tool, what the white man called a mux, but it was too small for some of the larger cuts. So she still suffered through with her stone tools when she had to. The metal awl was sharper, it was more durable, it saved time, it made cleaner lines, it made more beads and it made them more beautifully. It was a visitation from another world, a blessing dropped into her lap from many ridges ahead in the timeline. It was simply better, and there was no denying it.

This necklace she was now working on was to be her best, better than any she had created before. Why? Because she would include a centerpiece, an amulet, that surpassed anything she had ever used before.

Last summer, during the Ohyótsheli (Mohawk: green corn) moon, something happened to Tekakwitha that was most extraordinary. She and the other women were combing through the mudflats with their feet for quahog. There were dozens of little air holes in the mud, indicating where the quahog had buried itself. Once they felt the hard shells in the mud, they knelt to dig for them with their hands until quahog was revealed. Then they washed off the mud in the retreating tide and put the clam in the jug filled with seawater.

These were to be eaten that evening at the Bean Dance, made into a clam chowder to be shared by all. Once back at the village, the women settled on their haunches and, using á:share kanien’kéha (Mohawk: flint knife), pried open the quahog to reveal its meat.

Tekakwitha was unsure of her ability to do this cleanly, but the elders showed her how to do so, then left her alone to manage on her own. One after another, she placed the knife on the edge and worked it firmly until quahog popped open. She scraped the meat into the kettle and dropped the shells into a pile gathering at her feet. After a few dozen, it got easier and went faster.

Then: a miracle.

She opened another clamshell and inside was a pearl, a translucent luminous purple pearl, perfectly rounded, perfectly smooth. At first she thought it was a part of the meat, but then she grabbed it between her thumb and forefinger and held it against the daytime sky, close to her eyes. She rubbed it clean in her tunic and held it to her eyes again. Yes, it was real; it was a pearl, a most extraordinary thing.

Her first thought was that she should hide the purple pearl, keep it for herself. But the discovery was overwhelming; she had to tell someone about it. Tekakwitha stopped her work and searched out Numees who was busy preparing the chowder over the house fire. Numees’ eyes opened wide when she saw the pearl.

“I have seen many ohyótsheli moons, but I have never seen such a thing as this. I think you have been given a gift by the jogahoh (Mohawk: the little people). They have placed this for you in quahog. They favor you, Tekakwitha. On me, they play tricks, but you they favor,” she said with a twinkle.

“Who are the jogahoh?” Tekakwitha asked.

“They are tiny people with special powers. Some live in the woods, some under the ground, some in the rocks by the sides of streams and lakes and the sea. They whisper to the seeds and tell them when to grow. To the new shoots, yet under the earth, they point the way to the sky. They gently turn the blossoms toward the sunlight. They paint strawberries red and corn yellow. You can sometimes hear them singing their little songs if you listen quietly enough, but, if you follow the sound, they will scamper away and disappear before you reach them. They can fly through the air, they can pass through the rocks, they can dart through the water. And yes, if they want, they can enter quahog and place a gift inside for someone—a very special gift. They especially favor children, and, if a child wishes hard enough, with a pure heart, they will grant that wish. Yes, I think it was the jogahoh of the waterside who placed this pearl for you.”

It was this purple pearl from the quahog, given to her by the jogahoh, that she would use as the amulet for her necklace—a gift lobbed to her freely from the other side of the Universe…


In 7th grade, to entertain himself, Dietz, the Warrior’s face-off guy, started playing with a Rubik’s Cube and was soon solving it in under a minute.

“There’s an algorithm that governs the Rubik’s Cube. Once you know that, you can work with it and get your time down. Some guys can figure it out without advanced knowledge of the algorithm—that’s genius. Crazy.”

He said crazy a lot. Not Crazy! Not cr-r-a-a-a-zay. Just crazy—with a period, like a statement of fact.


Money was also a game to him—a complex fascinating game—but it was the Ultimate Game, a worthy challenge for his unceasing curiosity, a Rubik’s Cube on another spectrum, an invisible level that suffused everything—the Value Imperative.

“You need three things basically—a seller, a buyer and a market. Broker-dealers who want to offload a lot of stock will, like, unwind their position over time. They don’t want the stock to gap-down too suddenly. If it gaps-down too fast, it scatters the buyers, blows up the market. Now you’re hosed.”

He was headed to Wall Street where he would likely make 80K right out of the gate—that’s the bottom; it’s all north from there.

Male adults who met him wanted to hire him, even if they didn’t know what to do with him yet. No spot available? We’ll make a spot for him; better yet, he’ll make his own spot. Whatever, just get him on board.

Adult females could smell money around him, too. They talked him up to their daughters. He was interested in girls, yes, but he was also happy with his guy-friends and his intellectual pursuits. He wasn’t going to twist himself inside-out to appeal to the opposite sex.

Like, get an expensive car to impress girls? It wasn’t a good trade—it just wasn’t. But getting lessons to be a face-off artist? The most important guy on the field? And you only have to know about one thing? That’s a good trade, a crazy good trade.

In learning how to win a lacrosse face-off, Dietz deployed his mind, which functioned like a shiny steel trap fixed on all things real in this world. It was a voracious restless rotor that engaged, analyzed and consumed data from a broad range of subjects. Once his mind started to turn over the many facets of the lacrosse face-off, it latched onto to it like a pit bull clamping onto a juicy slab of roast beef.

And he was going to need that to focus now—for the opening face-off in the first game of the season against rival Sachem High School.

It was cold, 34 degrees Fahrenheit, and raining a persistent soaking mist. By the time the Warriors finished walking from the bus to the lacrosse field, their feet were already wet.

Dietz had often practiced in the mud and had even gone so far as to purposely soak his backyard face-off circle to simulate these conditions. This preparation helped him to focus now with a dry-hard discipline, to sear-through all external conditions to get at the physics and geometry of this particular face-off, at this particular time, against this particular opponent. The humiliation of his performance in the pre-season scrimmage against the Blue Devils was intentionally buried somewhere in a very deep and inaccessible recess of his conscious mind.

It was full-ahead forward from here…

“Down. Set. Tweet!”

Dietz exploded at the whistle, raked the ball forward, scooped it with one hand at a full gallop and found McEneaney lurking outside the goalmouth for a quick score. Ten seconds into it, the Warriors were already ahead 1-0.

The Sewanhaka Warriors had been ready to play at the opening whistle, and Sachem had not. It was a good start to the game, a great start to the season.

Midway through the second quarter, the Warriors built this lead to 4-1. Sachem was on their heels, reeling.

But then it started to snow—a spring snow, with large heavy flakes the size of quarters populating the air. Each flake was like a mini-snowball, wet and sloppy, thrown hully-gully by the jogahoh just for fun.

This kind of weather cannot be prepared for. It was hard to see more than halfway down the field, harder still to stay focused on the task at hand. It was disorienting, it was distracting, but it was also…FUN.

Now, it wasn’t just a lacrosse game, and it wasn’t just the first lacrosse game of the season, it was the first lacrosse game of the season…in a white-out!

The snow threw everything out of kilter. It dominated all awareness. It was like playing in a shook-up snow globe.

Passing, scooping, dodging, running—in a snow squall! The players on both sides were almost giddy, sharing the same heightened feeling of awareness. There was a freshness to it. Every well-rehearsed play was executed as if it was being done for the first time.

For the Sachem team the snow had served as a forceful punctuation mark: before the snow, they were moribund, listless, wooden; but, after the snow, they were weightless, quicksilver, lightning. The white cascade had become an eraser on the blackboard of the game, and, in one swoop, it wiped clean everything that had gone before.

Soon after the snow started, Sachem scored, 4-2; then, just before halftime, they scored again, 4-3. A game that Sewanhaka had dominated was now close, and Sachem had the momentum. Supercharged, the Sachem players bounced like rubber-footed men back to their sidelines at halftime, tapping each other on the helmet and doing chest bumps.

On the other side of the field, the Warriors seemed out-of-sorts, searching for something.

Aliperti preached “FOCUS” at half-time, but he cut an unlikely figure doing so, with the snow swirling about his head and his coach’s cap white with accumulation. There was even snow on his eyelashes.

The referee blew the whistle to call the players back to the field to start play for the second half.

“Huddle Up!” Schipper called out.

This, too, seemed new. Though they had huddled-up as a team over 100 times already—through the workouts, the pre-season practices, the scrimmage games—this huddle seemed real and meaningful in a whole new way. They weren’t on their home field; Aliperti wasn’t going to demonstrate what to do, as he would during practice scrimmages; there weren’t many friends and family who had made the trip on this weekday afternoon, in a snow squall, to cheer them on.

No, they were going to have to do this on their own, as a unit.

All the players seemed to realize this fact at the exact same moment: they had each other, that’s all.


Dietz won the opening face-off of the second half, but the offense quickly turned the ball over due to a sloppy pass. Sachem capitalized immediately with an up-tempo clear from their zone that transitioned beautifully into a set play they ran from behind the cage. Pass-Shot-Goal, 4-4.

Sachem won the next face-off, too. Fast break—goal. Sachem was ahead, 5-4.

Sachem’s momentum from the first half had clearly carried over. Their players practically skipped back to their positions for the ensuing face-off.

This kind of confidence is drawn from the powerful and mysterious game-force known as Momentum. Under the influence of Big Mo, the favored players feel as though they can do no wrong, yet these were the same players, the same team, that seemed so flat in the first half, before the snow. Before, they were tentative, cold and stiff; now they felt like Superman.

But to Sewanhaka, the snow had been their kryptonite, and thoughts started to creep into their minds about the “unfairness” of it. It was already forming into a plausible narrative to explain away a loss.

Every loss needs a narrative to give it a shape so that it can be filed away comfortably somewhere as a fully explained and justified phenomenon. They had been been ahead, they were winning the game, then, it snowed! Linkages were being forged in the players’ minds between this game and the bitterness of the pre-season scrimmage loss to the Blue Devils.

But Eamon McEneaney’s mind had a different turn. His mind was focused on strategy, on reason. He could see that the momentum had to change, and he didn’t want to hope that it would change on its own. He made up his mind to put a punctuation mark on this momentum; if not an exclamation point or a period, then surely a comma.

Before he lined up for the face-off, McEneaney grabbed Dietz by the face-mask and pulled his helmet to his own. He looked Dietz square in the eye.

“Dietz, when you win this next face-off, pop back and look for me. I’m going to cut to the sideline away from my man. Don’t worry, I’ll be open. Just get me the ball.”

Not if you win the next face-off, when. To Dietz, McEneaney’s confidence in him was like a bolt of lightning.

When the whistle blew, Dietz raked the ball eight feet behind him. He scampered back, scooped the ground ball and looked to the sideline. McEneaney was there wide open, just as he had said he would be, surrounded by his signature golden halo. Dietz passed him the ball, and McEneaney began to prance along the sidelines.

Remarkably, there was no hurry in him. To the contrary, he was purposely slowing himself down, slowing the game down. In a wide arc, he traveled behind the cage with the ball cradled in his stick. Then he changed direction, staying behind the cage. One minute went by, two minutes…

When the ref warned him about delaying the game, McEneaney signaled for Pomper to pop out for a short pass. He passed it off to him to avoid the delay of game penalty, then called for it right back. Pomper obliged. There was one player on the Warriors to whom Pomper showed deference—McEneaney.

Meanwhile, the snow hadn’t let up; if anything, it had intensified. It was everywhere all at once now. This unrelenting white sheet increased a general feeling of anxiety among everyone present. Snow was something to avoid, to seek shelter from. Parents on the Sachem side of the field starting to grouse at the ref. “Delay of game, ref! Delay of game!”

McEneaney seemed unmoved by the growing unease. With possession of the ball once more, he continued prancing, cradling his stick with one arm behind his body. He was measuring his defender’s rhythms. If he accelerated, how quickly did his defender respond? If he changed direction, did his defender cross one foot over the other? McEneaney could sense his defender’s mounting frustration. He had been following him around the field for some three minutes in a snow squall.

On the Warrior sideline, Aliperti kept his mouth closed. He was going to let McEneaney’s plan play out; he was going to trust his player. He knew that, as long as they held possession of the ball, Sachem couldn’t score. Their momentum was dissipating to zero.

Four minutes prior, the story of the game had been that the arrival of the snow had triggered a huge Sachem comeback; Sewanhaka was crumbling! Now, it was a test of wills: between McEneaney and his defender, between McEneaney and the Sachem sideline, between McEneaney and the ref, between McEneaney and the snow, a thickening layer of which was building-up on the untrod portions of the playing field.

McEneaney hung his stick behind his back, twirling it like the tail of a cat who’s trapped a rodent. His defender took the bait when he lunged with his long-pole defender’s stick over McEneaney’s head trying to check his stick.

McEneaney saw the move coming and ducked under this attempted strip of the ball. This left his defender stumbling and off-balance behind him and McEneaney free and unobstructed in his path to the goal. He zipped around from behind the cage and tucked a shot neatly behind the goalie before the other defenders could react to what was happening.

Tie game, 5-5.

McEneaney had stopped the bleeding. The avalanche of pain that had threatened to overwhelm the team had been arrested by the pluck and nerve of a single player. It was a punctuation mark in the game narrative all right: triple exclamation points in bold font.

McEneaney had made it clear to every player on the field that, snow or no snow, first game or not, this game was going to be played to win.

He had single-handedly dragged the contest to a dizzying height of competition, of drama. It was a bold, unadorned dare to everyone, including his own teammates: can you play at this level? Can you?

As Dietz and his opponent crouched for the ensuing face-off, it was as if it were the beginning of a new game. The atmosphere had changed once again; the stakes had been raised precipitously, and everyone could sense it. Both sidelines dug in anew, retrenching their view of events: this game was going to be epic.

The snow had changed its aspect, too—it was no longer fun. The white surround was now hemming-in mercilessly from all sides as if the game was being played in a rarefied place set apart from everyday reality, enclosing this field of drama in a white time capsule.

The snow had become a given in the game, but, as the game wore on, it was the mud that became a bigger factor. Cleats, socks, calves, even shorts, were flecked with ugly blobs of turf and mess. If a player tried to pivot in the muddy parts of the field, his foot would slide without traction. A loose ball would not roll, just stop, and it was a silly circus to scoop it into the head of a stick. Passing the ball also meant casting a stream of mud.

The teams alternated scoring throughout the second half, with Sachem having scored most recently and up by a goal.

Then, in the midst of this muddy mayhem, while scrambling for a loose ball on the far side of the field, Pomper lost his cool and retaliated for a prior hit. The ref called him for a “Loose Ball Push”—a 30-second penalty. For the Warriors, it could not have come at a worse time.

Aliperti called time-out. The Warriors surrounded him, short blasts of vapor huffing out of each player’s mask.

“Get some water, Warriors,” Aliperti said.

It was an instant relief to the players that Aliperti wasn’t panicked. They were behind 8-7, with less than two minutes to play. When the game resumed, they were going to be man-down for 30 seconds because of the Pomper foul. But Aliperti was cool, measured. That helped a lot.

“Ok, listen up: I’m about to tell you the most important thing you’ll hear today, perhaps the most important thing all season.”

For whatever important thing he was going to say next, he didn’t have much time before play was to resume.

“In the course of every season, there comes a few defining moments that determine the character of a team. These defining moments don’t always happen at the end of the season; sometimes they happen at the beginning of the season, even the first game. I think we are at one of those moments now, Warriors. I know we’re at one of those moments: a defining moment, a test of our character. Realize that, not just in your mind, but in your whole body and soul.”

The snow was still falling everywhere, but Aliperti was completely oblivious to it.

“Man-down team, we’re not changing anything. Just go out there, and do what you already know what to do.


Huddle u-u-u-u-u-p!” Schipper called out.

The team coalesced into a circle around him, hands in.


To start play after the penalty, the Sachem player was given the ball near the sidelines at midfield. He jogged the ball forward toward the opposition goal and, because it was only a 30-second penalty, started the man-up play right away by passing the ball to his right around the perimeter.

After a couple crisp passes, the ball was with the Sachem attackman behind the cage. He made a quick deke in one direction, then darted back to the other. Anticipating this move, the Sachem far-side midfielder cut down toward the goal from up top and received a perfectly thrown pass from his teammate in front of Brady some 25 feet from the goalmouth.


The ball whizzed past Brady—he didn’t have a chance—but amazingly it hit the far-side pipe, caromed across the goalmouth, hit the near-side pipe, then ricocheted toward the midfield line. A double-piper—no goal!

But where was the ball?

The coveted orb had squirted along the slick turf like a greased pig. Players from both sides scrambled for its possession—hacking, scooping, goosing, bumping, bending. A Sachem player momentarily emerged from the scrum holding aloft the ball gobsmacked with mud. With a stick-on-stick check, it was instantly dislodged, and the desperate scuffle ensued again. A buzzing cluster of bodies, waving and thrashing their limbs, traversed the field in a tangled knot.

When the mob crossed the midfield line, some players inside the formation lost track of where they were on the field. Sewanhaka players were off-side, Sachem players were off-side, but the ref called it on a Sachem attackman, who, in the push and bustle of the ball-scramble, ended up a step or two over the line.

Possession of the ball at this critical juncture of the game was therefore awarded to the Warriors with less than a minute to play, down one goal. Fortunately, they had practiced for this very scenario: what to do if there’s less than a minute to play, and you have the ball at midfield, and you must score a goal.

The answer was to get the ball to your best offensive player—that would be McEneaney—clear his side of the field, and let him work his magic. Aliperti’s thinking on this was to keep it simple—these are high school kids after all—eliminate a lot of moving parts, reduce the possibility of error, minimize confusion, but, above all, give your team its best chance at getting a quality shot on goal.

The Warriors immediately executed on the plan. McEneaney jogged to the midfielder and received a little flip pass. With the ball now, he wasted no time and ran hard along the far sideline while his teammates cleared-out to the other side of the field.

Whereas, all game long, McEneaney had plied his defender with changes in speed—quick bursts, sudden stops, accelerations, decelerations, changes in tempo—here, at the end of the game, with muscles tired and the field a muddy mess, McEneaney booked it. With afterburners blasting, he accelerated to flight speed. He knew he was faster than the man marking him, so he opened it up, turbo-charged on all 12 cylinders. No feints, no dodges, just full-out speed.

Once the defender could see what McEneaney was up to, he accelerated as well, but it was too little, too late. McEneaney burst past him, two steps of separation is all he needed.

With his stick raised like the head of a cobra, he arced in front of the goalmouth and popped one into the top right corner.

Tie game, 8-8.

The Warriors celebrated their goal, hugging McEneaney and tapping helmets all around, but what few noticed was that the snow had stopped falling. Before, it was everywhere, now it was simply not. Its absence, so sudden, had changed the atmosphere of the game yet again.

Now, as the goal-celebration subsided and the players jogged to their positions for the ensuing face-off, it felt like the game had achieved a kind-of stasis, a universal equilibrium. The Warriors had eight goals; Sachem had eight goals. The Warriors had momentum for a time; Sachem had momentum for a time. There had been man-ups and man-downs, passes thrown, passes caught, balls dropped, balls picked up, a first half, a second half. This contest was now even in every sense of that word.

With the great orbs rotating and revolving in their arcs, there comes a point in every tidal cycle when the sea is neither coming in nor going out. Fishermen call it a “slack tide:” the apex or the nadir of a cycle, the fulcrum of action, the dead center of decisive movement, a turning point.

Games can have moments like this, too, when they reach a critical pinnacle of balance between opposing forces, when the outcome seems to teeter precariously between Victory or Defeat, where both sides seem to deserve Victory for having played so valiantly, yet both face equally the prospect of Defeat.

As Dietz walked toward the centerline to challenge his opponent for the face-off, as he had 18 times already that afternoon, that apex had been reached in this contest. The two young men crouched yet again to face one another: one, on one side of the centerline; the other, almost a mirror image, on the other side. With the snow gone and the contest in the balance, their figures were accentuated in their clarity, highlighted in relief like the marble statues of two Greek Olympians.

There was only 17 seconds left in regulation time. If both teams could just hang on, play out the clock, the game would end in a tie, and both would hope for the best in overtime. But Dietz wasn’t thinking tie; he was thinking win.

In the few moments before the ref’s whistle, Dietz’ mind clicked through a thousand iterations of possibility, like the whiz-kid he was riffling through innumerable moves on his way to solving the Rubik’s Cube. He figured his opponent would try to sweep the ball forward so as to scoop it on the run and initiate a fast break to the goal. Dietz knew he could counter this with a fast clamp. Done quickly and with decisive force, a clamp usually beats a sweep. With the clamp though, the downside is, if you win, it takes longer to get an offensive movement going down the field, and he only he only had those 17 precious seconds.

Dietz calculated that this was a manageable risk because at least with a clamp, he was more likely to gain possession or, at worst, trigger a harmless scramble for a loose ball in the center of the field until time ran out.


Dietz sensed fatigue in his opponent.


He noticed his opponent’s right wrist flange forward a little—a reveal; he was preparing to sweep.


Dietz clamped his stick instantly over the ball, trapping it in the mud. He had guessed right; the Sachem player had tried to sweep. Executing technique he had practiced thousands of times before, Dietz swung his rump over the centerline to move the opposition player away from the ball and scooped it cleanly.


His first look was to the nearside middie, Jordan, who had anticipated his clamp and was now streaking along the sidelines, open for a pass. Dietz hit him in full stride with a laser-pass that zipped neatly into the pocket of his stick.

For the Sachem defense, it was their worst nightmare come true: an opposition midfielder in full stride charging unopposed down their throats.

Aliperti’s philosophy on these midfielder fast-breaks was simple for the man with the ball: go straight at the goal. If no one steps up to stop you, keep going to the goal, all the way if you can.

Jordan did just this.

The man covering McEneaney had been told from the sidelines to stick to the Warrior star like glue, to be his shadow for this last play and to “follow him into the bathroom,” if necessary. Recognizing this tactic, McEneaney pulled back away from the cage, dragging his defender with him. Doing this turned the fast break from a 4-on-3 advantage to a 3-on-2, a significant improvement in the odds. McEneaney didn’t have to be the one to take the final shot; a win is a win is a win. He could frankly care less who scored the goal.

Jordan continued his gazelle-like gallop toward the goalmouth. A Sachem defender slid to intercept him, but it was too late. Jordan brushed him off like an annoyance, cocked his stick and let it fly. The shot exploded with such fury that it ripped through the cord of the goal-netting making a taut popping sound as it did so.

It was a goal!

The Warrior sideline erupted; the players leapt for joy.

Or was it?

The ball punched through the netting and rolled with speed back behind the cage. As it rolled out of bounds, the referee waved his hands over his head, indicating that regulation time was over.

He hadn’t seen the ball go in the goal and rip the netting! What he thought he saw was a shot that had simply missed the cage and continued to go out of bounds behind it.

The Warrior sideline went ballistic.

Ref, are you kidding me???!!! The ball popped through the net! It’s a goal!”

Players and fans alike became lunatics, waving their arms wildly around their heads, jumping and spinning in the air, flailing all limbs at once in spastic gyrations.

But the referee was already hardening his attitude. He made a crossing motion with his two hands down in front of him, indicating no goal, as he jogged to retrieve the ball to start overtime.

The Warrior players were thunderstruck. They looked around in disbelief, unable to process what was happening. Surely this was a mistake that would be corrected.

The Sachem players were silent, sheepish. Their body language alone ought to have been evidence enough for the referee to reverse the call.

McEneaney jogged over to the goal and examined the netting. As the referee passed on his way to the centerline for the face-off to start overtime, McEneaney called for his attention.

“Mr. Official! Here, look: you can see where the netting is ripped. Here’s where the ball went through.”

The referee took a look, but it was a cursory glance. The hardened redoubt from which he was defending himself was solid as stone.

“That’s not proof that it went in, son. That tear could have been there before.”

The Sachem goalie was still near the goalmouth.

“Goalie,” McEneaney said to him within earshot of the referee. “You were the closest one to it. Man-to-man, did that shot go in the goal?”

This was incredible: he was asking the Sachem goalie to own up and admit that the winning goal had gone in!!!

Meanwhile, the Sachem coach had made his way across the field and arrived at this conference at the goalmouth. He heard what McEneaney had asked his goalie.

“Don’t say anything,” he instructed his goalie. “It’s not your call; it’s the ref’s call.”

“Dude, did that shot go in or not?” McEneaney asked again, looking for a fact, not a villain.

Aliperti arrived.

“Coach Harris, hold on there: let your player speak. We claim to be teaching these young men more than lacrosse, right?—teaching them things like honor and integrity. I think this is a teachable moment for this young man, and I’m anxious to hear what he has to say. I’ll make you a proposition: I’m willing to accept, here and now, this young man’s word. If he tells us the ball didn’t go in, we play overtime. If he says it did go in, the game is over and everyone goes home.”

The referee was silent and attentive, indicating his tacit approval of this unusual proposition. It seemed like a way to get himself off the hook for the call.

Coach Harris kept walking, saying nothing, his arm around his goalie’s far shoulder, practically pushing him off the field.

“Dad, leave me alone!” the Sachem goalie suddenly erupted as he wriggled free from the coach, his father.

He turned back to the players, both his Sachem teammates and the Warriors, who hung there in a type of suspended animation, waiting for his answer. He took off his helmet. His face was red and his eyes were liquid with tears.

“The shot went in. It popped the net. It’s a goal.”

Stunned, the referee raised both arms in the air and blew his whistle signifying that a goal had indeed been scored. He waved his hands over his head indicating that the game was over. Warriors win, 9-8…

Shonkwaya’tihson, the Haudenosaunee Creator of it all, smiled broadly. He beamed in all directions, brilliant photon rays of golden happiness. He kicked up his heels, twirled silly, did the Thunder Dance. His laughter boomed and echoed in the Land of the Sky People.

As well, somewhere in the World Beyond Time, a choir of angels burst into a chorus of hosannas, and a majestic harmony emanated from the rotation of the spheres.

Like great tuning forks that had been brought into gravitational proximity with one another, the spheres suddenly click-synced into one beautiful elemental chord of music, a single chord comprised of all notes. Uplift, flotation, buoyancy—such was the feeling—like all existence had been filled with helium and was now floating free without friction, untethered by any thing of mass.

Back on Earth, in the mud and misery of a cold April afternoon, with the colors quickly draining from the day, each of the Sewanhaka and Sachem players felt but one thing: SPENT, like ash after tobacco has burned.

The two teams lined up on the sideline for the ceremonial post-game handshake. As they passed each other, touching gloves, it wasn’t joy they were feeling for the Victory or despair for the Defeat: it was emptiness, expenditure—like the void that swallows the mountain climber after finally reaching the summit.

As he passed each Sachem player, Schipper looked into every mask. He wanted to record each face, etch them into memory. Something great had happened here on this field. It was worthy of remembrance, of commemoration. These were mighty souls, not just lacrosse players.

But what he saw were just the faces of some high school kids, anxious to get off that wretched field and go home.

As his teammates walked back to the bus, Schipper noticed Eamon McEneaney: his lacrosse stick was set across his shoulders and behind his head. Both of his arms were draped over the stick-shaft. His helmet and gloves were off and had been slid onto his stick. His eye-black was smudged over his cheeks and under his eyes. His long curly hair was matted with sweat and contorted in every possible direction. From the pressure of the stick pressing forward on his neck from behind, his head was tilted forward a little—hanging, bowed. He walked gingerly, wincing just noticeably with every other step. His lips were parted and his mouth was open revealing the characteristic gap between his two front teeth.

Verily, he looked like a man hung from a cross.

But bashed and spent though he was, McEneaney was smiling to himself, as if he were revisiting some inward personal treasured thought—smiling, like Shonkwaya’tihson.

Rose Dreams

Rose lay at the bottom of a birchbark canoe.

A hemp rope tethered the canoe to a tree that had long ago fallen into the river. The canoe rocked gently as the river passed beneath it. Warm sunshine baked her cheek. The air was dry and crisp, autumn. Beaver furs formed a so-soft pillow for her head. She felt safe and at peace.

The shapes in the sky were a phantasmagoria of bleached white clouds in a piercing blue sky. First a dog with two tails, then an arrow with a point like an eagle’s head, then a smiling turtle with a mountain on its back. The shapes played in her mind for what felt like a long time, perhaps eons.

Then Rose became aware that the canoe was drifting with the current; it had become unmoored. The canoe and the river were at one speed—and Rose with it.

The clouds reshaping themselves seemed to be following along—the river, the canoe, the clouds and Rose—all floating at the same rate of speed in the same direction.

For a time, this seemed like the most natural and beautiful thing—this oneness in motion—but soon a thought flickered into her mind: was the canoe accelerating?

At first she couldn’t tell because everything was moving at the same rate together.

But it felt faster, like gravity tugging at her insides. She noticed the noise of the water—a far-away whisper that got louder as she approached, then a bumbling hustle. The bow of the canoe lifted and then dropped with a sudden thud.

Rose jerked upright and looked around her. The river was brown and turgid—boiling, chaotic. There were agitated frothy brown peaks, jigging and dancing, and smoother wide sluices of concentrated flow, plunging mightily between boulders.

It was a narrowing of the river, and the massive volume of water squeezing through intensified its speed and turbulence and drove the canoe like a plaything headlong into furrows and sideways into the wall-side of some wicked hollows.

The force pulling her forward and downward was relentless and terrifying. There was no resisting it. She and her canoe were being pulled inevitably toward a Great Falls.

She had no paddle, and to get out of the canoe into this brown maelstrom would be a sure death. Then she saw the horizon-edge of the falls beyond the water surging forward in a sinuous roar of power…

From her perspective at the surface of the river, the water at the fall-line just stopped, it simply disappeared, as it plunged directly downward, beneath her line of sight.

A massive push of weight and power, then a line—then: gone.

As she approached this line of death, she peeked over it for a moment and saw the monumental crash of water plunging downward. The bow of the canoe projected straight out and away from the current and was suspended in the air over the abyss for a moment. As she hovered there at the precipice, the descent became even greater before her eyes—an infinite hole that stretched away downward forever.

She screamed in terror and woke up, like she always did at this point in her dream.


Rose tried to adjust herself to what was real around her. There was the white ceiling of her room. There was that annoying little blue spot of paint on her white ceiling that her father had messed-up-on when he painted her room, the one he kept promising to fix but never did.

One day it occurred to her that the spot looked like an ass, and, from that moment on, Rose couldn’t look at it without seeing it any other way. This comparison was so annoying that Rose had tried on some nights to force herself to imagine that the shape represented something else.

But she couldn’t do it. Her mind always snapped back to the same image.

At this moment though, the annoyance of this impression was somehow reassuring to her. It blotted out the terror of her nightmare. She had another one of her little revelations: people cling to their annoyances to blot out the terror of their lives.

This was also annoying to her, that she had these revelations all the time. They felt profound to her and wise, but, whenever she dared to share them with her friends, they didn’t come off as profound and wise; they just landed in front of them with a sodden thud, like a plop of mashed potatoes that slides off a cafeteria tray onto the floor.

Rose’s revelations were a real buzzkill. People would scatter like cockroaches when the light goes on.

So, for the most part, she stopped sharing them.

That was annoying, too, that she had to hold all these revelations inside.

Sometimes she thought that the problem was with everyone else, that they were just too stupid to understand. But mainly she thought the problem was with her. There was something wrong with her. These thoughts made her different, apart and lonely.

Did everyone feel the same way?

She didn’t think so, but she kind-of tested the notion in any case. She thought of all the people she knew, one at a time.

Her mother? Too practical.

Dad? Not unless he’s changed since the last time I saw him.

Friends? Alexa? Looking like she does, what does she have to ever worry about, really.

There was God, of course. But God doesn’t speak—I can’t see Him, touch Him, smell Him…but yet—why do I even have a notion of God? How can I even doubt He exists if He doesn’t exist.

Wait, we just learned that in Mr. Kelly’s science class: SOMETHING cannot come from NOTHING.

And if that’s true, it must also be true that SOMETHING cannot become NOTHING.

Energy can neither be created nor destroyed.

It just changes forms.

It is.

This isn’t helping, Rose thought. She flopped onto her side and tried to blot out this line of thinking.

God, if you’re real, she found herself thinking anew, give me some sort of sign. Help me to know you—to see how you work in my life. I’m so confused, so lonely. Show Yourself to me.

Laying there, Rose detected the faintest smell of patchouli. Ms. Singletary! The scent must have rubbed off to her clothing during the scuffle in class earlier that day. She reached over to her chair where she usually discarded her clothes for the day and grabbed the blouse she had worn to school. She brought it to her nose. Yup, patchouli—Ms. Singletary.

Ms. Singletary was a natural at interpreting poetry, really obscure combinations of word-images would be given great clarity once she parsed them, revealing meaning that was hidden until she had done her work. She pulled words apart, combined them together, drew lines of reference inside the poem to other words, to other lines or to the poet’s life.

Dreams are like poetry. Maybe Ms. Singletary could help me with my dream, Rose thought.

It gave her hope to think so, and she decided that she would, perhaps even the following day, see Ms. Singletary, alone.


Tsyennìto trundled over to the base of a particular tree which grew on an incline to the stream about 12 feet from the edge. If cut right, most of it would fall next to the stream, some would even fall into it. From there, it would be easier to transport the branches to their destination.

He began to gnaw: nibble by nibble, mouthful by mouthful, cut by cut, branch by branch, night by night. But he is only one beaver and the task before him is daunting.

He suffers delays: a bear to hide from, a rainstorm to overcome, a breach to repair—even his own flagging morale at times—but he keeps trundling forward. He has two good teeth—they are strong and sharp—a good tail for swimming and digging and two nimble front paws.

Some nights he is busy with small branches, other nights he packs leaves in the gaps. Some nights are mud nights, where he scoops the smooth goo from the bottom or the bankside and bolsters his structure. He works one tail-ful at a time, slathering blob after blob, trip after trip, slap-patch after slap-patch.

Stones the size of large potatoes are wedged into place. Clumps of muddy turf are floated like a mouse-raft to plug holes and then padded into gaps for stream-strong integrity.

Occasionally he pauses and looks around him as if searching for a clue as to where these promptings come from, the ones that drive him to build. He only knows that he must obey, that he must persist, to build the dam, to master the stream, to create the pond, to be a beaver—tsyennìto.

He shakes his fur as if to declare: This is the home I am staking. I have claimed it as my own through my work. It is mine because I have flooded the river behind my dam. A mate will be impressed by my skill. She will eat the water lily and the bark off these branches. I keep going forward. I fix my own mistakes. I am tsyennìto, and no animal remains longer under the water than I!

But on this night, tsyennìto felt a sudden strange fury that struck him like an unexpected catastrophe. He raised himself up on his webbed hind feet and sniffed the air. His mind went numb with rage. He scurried down one of his well worn paths to an access point and glided into the water. His head held stiff above the water, his eyes alert, his ear cocked, his nose twitching and wrinkling, tsyennìto circled in the river-pond, getting his bearings. Then he zeroed-in on the source. It was in the shallow spillover zone from his burgeoning dam…

Like a shot arrow, he zipped through the water straight and fast. It was a fresh mud-mound in the shallows that a strange male had soaked with his oil, and the scent of it was overwhelming. Tsyennìto circled once, sniffing rapidly. This was the ultimate insult, a blatant challenge and threat to his home, to everything he had built, to the very purpose of his life and his future family.

Tsyennìto smack-slapped his tail onto the surface of the water. Then he splash-dove below and sped like a torpedo to its target. He smashed into the mound with a destructive fury, whacking it with his tail and churning the water around it. He began clawing at the mound furiously with his sharp arrow-point nails, stripping away at it, obliterating the mud-mound in fierce screeching swipes, coloring the stream around him in brown muddy plumes.

But in his mania, as he worked his way around the mound, his hind feet became ensnared. He tried to jerk them free, but the harder he pulled the tighter the snare became. He tried twisting and rolling in the water. He tried diving to free himself, but it was no use. He had all he could do to keep his nose up out of the water.

Tsyennìto was trapped. The hunters had used his fiercest instinct against him. During the day, they had approached the spot from down-river so as not to leave the betrayal of their scent on the riverbank. They lumped up the mound and suffused it with the oil-attractor they had extracted from their last kill. The trappers had built a shelf of mud around the mound, knowing tsyennìto would use this platform to raise himself onto it to investigate the smell. And they had fashioned the snare from knotted deerskin cord.

The following morning when they checked their trap, tsyennìto was drowned.

Trottier took careful notice of the trapper’s methods. He watched how they skinned tsyennìto and treated the pelt. He noted where they found the plump caster oil glands in this new kill and how they preserved these glands in their satchel so that they could extract the oil for a later trap. He paid close attention to the parts of the flesh they cut away and how, later that day, they cooked its meat over a campfire and gorged on this animal that intact was some 40 pounds.

In skinning him, the natives had adapted readily to the use of the iron knife Trottier had given them. There was no sentimental attachment to their former tools. They could see that this tool was better and faster.


For the next several weeks, as they worked their way up river to the City of Gold, they trapped tsyennìto. Before long, Trottier had learned all the skills the hunters had to teach him, and together they had accumulated quite a store of pelts.

At first, they transported them in the canoes, but, when the haul had become too unwieldy, they stored them in a hidden cache in the forest. They had done so with such cleverness that no other human would be able to find them. Indeed, without the superior orientation skills of his comrades, Trottier himself would have trouble finding the cache. There were no markings, there was no smell.

Wematim smiled expansively at the successful hunting party. He raised his fully extended arms in a broad semicircle and struck them past each other over his head. It was the gesture for trade. As a unit, these four men were to trade these pelts, preferably to the French. They were in business together.

Trottier could do the math. One pelt at market was worth two shirts, three pairs of stockings or a blanket. With five pelts, they could trade for a musket—a musket! Five pelts were not hard to come by—they already had 11 and were just getting started. For another three pelts, they could trade for 40 pounds of lead. Eight pounds of powder could be had for just four beaver pelts!

There was an insatiable market for beaver-lined hats back in the Old World. The fur was soft, it was warm and water-resistant. From the field-hand to the parlor ladies, everyone was clamoring for them, so they were fetching quite a price.

Trottier’s mind cracked apart. There was no lord of the manor here to take his share; there was no king to extract his tax. Those men were far across the ocean and seemed diminished in stature. No longer authorities, they were mere men with no power to affect him. It was simple: what Trottier killed, he kept.

The hard ground within this farmer’s son burst and fresh skills emerged to meet and master this new way of life. To sleep, he erected a teepee hut in the forest, which was no more than tree limbs broken to size and leaned upright as stacked poles into each other, simply a hardscrabble cone covered with brush. To eat, he had the meat of tsyennìto and, at times, ghekeront (Mohawk: salmon).

Kitchi had shown Trottier how to scare up ghekeront from the river, how to approach them from downstream and simply grab the fish with bare hands as it lay wallowing in the shallows. No line, no spear—just a quick reach into the clear cold water.

To confuse a tracker, Trottier was taught to walk backward along paths and trek for hours through the stream-shallows. He spoke not a word for days; what was there to say? He listened with fresh ears to the night croakers. He kept time through the many arc-rounds of sun and moon.

The silence seeped into his spirit. The landscapes leaked into his mind. The lazy smoke of the tobacco they shared wrapped itself around these four and tsyennìto.

The cold dense air poured down from the north, snapping the leave stems from the trees. The leaves surrendered to the pull of gravity and fell straight downward, a simple let-go, and they plunged headlong without wind to the forest floor.

With some beaver fat, Trottier trained up the corners of his mustache through an unconscious twirling motion he made whenever he contemplated something. This up-turn lent a certain savoir faire to his aspect, a sense that he was prepared to handle anything and to do so with style and verve.

He stuck a green-blue luminescent feather into his cap that he had found on the forest floor. It expressed the jaunty flair kicking to life in his spirit and the plain fact that there was no one there to tell him not to. The natives admired his dash though they shook their heads dolefully at his full beard that grew more unruly every day.

Ever-present in his mind was the charge he had received from the Captain: to learn their language and their ways and to search for the City of Gold, Saguenay.

To the first of his charges, as he was getting to know his comrades, he began to see subtleties, nuances he had not noticed before. As a people, they seemed simple and straightforward, but, as he spent more time with them, he noticed an artfulness to their manner that he had overlooked before.

Maybe he was just a curiosity to them, someone to toy with on their hunting trip. They were full of fun and loved to play games. Perhaps that’s all this was, a big prank.

Their respective languages could not be any different, grown-up organically on two continents separated by an immeasurable expanse of water over the span of countless lifetimes. The sounds, the words, the meanings, all shaped by a different light, different air, different animals, different trees.

Trottier came to see that theirs was a language less of words than it was of sounds that accompanied gestures. Compared with his own, theirs was a more theatrical language, more physical, depending for shades of meaning on gestures of the hand, whole contortions of the body or outlandish facial expressions. The vocalization coupled sharp stops with extended vowel sounds, sometimes with little explosions of breath. Their words were sound, yes, but they acted more like icons of sound that carried the heft of meaning.

The French might try to describe a river rapids in a thousand words and not yet truly articulate its reality, whereas the native would describe it in a single word—osheaga (Big Fast).

In their world, speech-making was highly valued, so much so that a man gifted with eloquence could rise to the highest ranks of honor with this skill alone.

Their writing was in picto-glyphs: visual representation of things. Each character was a commemorative medal that, in a single impression, efficiently communicated an enormous amount of information. A bear carved into a door post, for example, represented the lineage, heritage and identity of an entire clan, or it could mean someone of “great medicine” lived there, or it could mean success in a hunt.

In comparison, the French language was a lyric whisper—a series of sounds, artfully strung together, to form a mesmerizing chain of musical connections—like pretty beads hung one after another on a guitar string—beguiling the listener, entrancing with a sensuous spell that promised all that tastes good, smells wonderful and looks gorgeous. Say goodbye to the way of tears.

The written symbols of Trottier’s home country included images, too, but they were primarily a written schematica to represent sound. This glyph: A, represents a different sound than this glyph: Z.

When they prayed, the French prayed in Latin—a forceful definitive structure of sound; every utterance a proclamation. A language seemingly incapable of subtlety, yet, in the unspoken gaps, meaning flooded in—from the speaker, from the listener and from the silence itself. Like water surging around boulders in a river, in Latin a thousand myriad currents of meaning flowed unceasingly around the sound itself, surrounding it, accelerated by it. The space filled with sound and the space not filled with sound enhanced the power and the impact of the message—and this impact was not lost upon the Haudenosaunee.

But to his second charge, the quest for Saguenay, it had most definitely been waylaid. Not abandoned exactly but put on an extended pause as the hunters pursued tsyennìto, spreading out as they did in one large place like a rivulet that had been damned, spending countless hours during long lazy afternoons doing nothing but smoking and whittling, waiting for the beaver to trip their snare.

Whenever he asked his comrades about Saguenay and how far it might still be to reach it, they would convene an impromptu powwow, light the ceremonial pipe and gesticulate a tale as long as the day itself. As they did so, they would brandish the two inch strip of copper they carried that they claimed the wild cat Dajo:ji himself had left in the mines near the fabled city. Dajo:ji’s copper was leading them up the river to the “large sweetwater sea.” Kitchigami (Lake Superior) is what they called it—the pond of the great beaver, the Manitou Amik—and it was here they would come to Saguenay.

Were they describing the Northwest Passage so long sought? The straight and easy seaway to the riches of the Orient? Trottier fantasized about being brought to the Court of King Francis and heralded as the hero of the empire who had found the passage that had eluded so many.

Or were they simply deceiving him? Luring him to death at their hands?

In spite of these thoughts that would occasionally afflict his spirit, he had come to like and respect them, and they him. He was reminded of his revelation aboard Le Don de Dieu: how the Great Similitude embraces everything in the East and in the West, in Heaven and on Earth and with the French and the Haudenosaunee. They were his friends now, comrades, a bande bonhomie. They even came up with a name for themselves—ehtshien:’a iowé:ren (Mohawk: Sons of Thunder)—and had affirmed this kinship with the exchange of blood they had released from their upper arms with Trottier’s knife.

But when Trottier caught a glimpse of the ferocity that could flare in Kitchi’s eyes, the Sons of Thunder didn’t seem like just hunting buddies anymore…

The River of Time

“Oh, that’s an easy one,” said Ms. Singletary.

Easy? Really?” Rose was astonished.

It was not like her to reach out to a stranger like this. True, Ms. Singletary wasn’t exactly a stranger, but she was a teacher, and this talk clearly transgressed the usual teacher-student boundaries. She turned back twice before walking into her office.

Fortunately, no one else was there when she first arrived—even though it was an office shared by the entire English Department. They were as alone as any two people could be during the mayhem of the school day.

Ms. Singletary barely blinked as Rose told her about her dream: the beautiful cloud formations and the soft beaver fur, the sensation of becoming untethered in the stream, then the acceleration, the roiling torrent of water as the canoe approached the waterfall, the pitch of the canoe out and over the falls to a precipitous doom.

Rose had bared her soul, and Ms. Singletary could have crushed it in any number of ways, but she didn’t. She was kind and gentle.

“I agree with those who say that dreams are like poetry,” she said. “They both originate from the subconscious and withdraw from this place the same archetypal images and symbols that are filled with so much meaning. So I’m going to apply the same interpretative approach to your dream as I would to a poem.

“The river in your dream is Time. It’s moving fast, in one direction. It’s carrying you with it. There’s nothing you can do about that. No one can stop the river. You’re afraid of the loss of control that Time represents. That’s why you’re afraid in your dream.

“The rope that had held you safely to the shore has been released now. It represents the umbilical cord to your safe life where your parents took care of you, provided for you. You’re on your own now. Your parents can’t protect you like in the past.

“The canoe represents You—who you are. You can’t get out of the canoe any more than you can stop being you.

“So, you can’t stop the river, and you can’t get out of the canoe.

“The waterfall is your death. It’s where the River of Time is carrying you; it’s where it’s carrying us all. You are afraid of your death.”

Her interpretation did make sense, but Rose felt shredded, like all the petals of herself had fallen to the dirty floor. She suddenly became aware that Ms. Singletary’s office was as hot and arid as a desert. No wonder her crinkly gray hair was so crispy; it had been torched for years in this office.

“Seems bleak for you, doesn’t it,” said Ms. Singletary. “Seems bleak for us all.

“But there are other symbols in your dream that also merit interpretation: the clouds and the beaver pelt.

“The clouds represent Beauty in this world—all the shapes and forms and colors and textures that have been provided to us in such abundance. They are beautiful, and they are here for us to enjoy.

“The beaver pelt represents the comfort and safety that we sometimes feel while traveling alone on our journey. It might be a friend, a sister or something that makes us feel good, like a song or a pretty object from our childhood. These are also provided for us as gifts.”

Rose felt like she should ask a question or say something smart, but she couldn’t think of anything for a few awkward moments.

Ms. Singletary started again: “Did you ever notice the murals in the cafeteria?”

“The ones with the Indians?”

“Most people don’t notice of them. They’re just there like background noise or bad wallpaper. But I urge you to take a closer look at the details: the markings on the natives’ bodies, what they might mean and what the women wore in their hair and why.

“There’s one particular wampum belt in the painting that I love, strung with small shell cylinders—just two colors: a pure white and a light translucent purple. It’s beautiful, simple and elegant; the pattern on it is so pretty. Next time you look at the mural, see if you can find it.

“There are other images in the mural that are not so pretty, including the over-sized mask worn by one of the villagers. Usually I find myself not looking at that side of the mural. I know it’s weird, but I’m superstitious about it. I feel like I would be cursed or something if I looked at it too closely, if my eyes met its eyes.

“The Iroquois hold a ceremony around this time every year, early January, that includes a dream interpretation rite. Iroquois believe that dreams are a powerful indication of health and can reveal what is wrong with a person; usually it is some suppressed desire.

“During the ceremony, people tell each other their dreams, and the Dream Interpreter determines what is needed in order to have the dreamer’s desire fulfilled so they can get right with their spirit. Desire fulfilled—dream goes away—health returns. The man with the mask is the Dream Interpreter. He is the Shaman, the ‘Medicine Man’ for the village.”

“So, are you saying that I have some sort of suppressed desire that needs to be fulfilled?” Rose asked.

“The Iroquois would say so. What I would say is this: there is a way for the river to run forever and with you in it. There is a way for the waterfall to not be a dead-end.”


At the bell, Ms. Singletary smiled her taut little smile of dismissal and got up from her seat, gathering her stuff for class.

“Thank you Rose for coming by and sharing your dream with me. I hope I was helpful. Feel free to come back if you’d like to talk again.”

She had instantly snapped back to her teacher-self.

She used the glass reflection of her framed teaching certificate hanging on the wall as a mirror and schmushed-down some rogue hairs that were sproinging-out from her head like they had been shocked by electricity. Rose could tell it was something she did by habit, as was the little frustrated wave of her hand that meant “Oh, the hell with it” when her hair didn’t cooperate, which it never did.

It occurred to Rose that this was the last thing Ms. Singletary did every time she left her office before facing the teen-animals: stand in front of her teaching certificate, try to tame the frazzled ends of her life, then give up in frustration.



Hours had passed since Trottier had last seen his comrades as he worked his way up a rivulet in search of tsyennito. Voilà!—a beaver hut in a sloggy backwater behind its dam under construction.

As he approached, he heard some voices on the far side of the water.


Trottier stopped, still as a statue. He crouched and turned his head to the sound, his eyes almost at water level.

There, wading in the shallow waters, he saw about a dozen native women. They were gathering blackberries into their woven baskets from the riverside brambles.

They were a mix of ages and seemed to be in good spirits, talking and laughing. One women had an infant strapped to her back, a couple matrons glided along passively, and some maidens were clustered to one side.

Trottier slinked behind a tree the local beaver had felled and decided that he would watch for awhile and not reveal himself. Here in the forest, without having seen a woman for some 14 months, the differences between the two halves of the species were highlighted in stark relief.

Though these women were from another world, though they spoke a different language, though their skin was tawny and their hair straight black, they were women nevertheless—there was no mistaking that.

He watched them move through the marshes at the water’s edge. He noticed the slow rhythm of their hips as they ambled forward; he saw the strong and nimble movements of their hands. They moved with such grace and ease. They seemed content and in no hurry at all.

Some were singing a careless wandering melody to pass the time. Certain words he recognized, the meaning of a giggle or a laugh was no mystery. He was mesmerized by what he saw through them, the archetype of Womanhood, flaunting itself with ease under the open sky…

Just then, Trottier snapped his head around to the near shore and saw her.

She was standing on the rocky edge of the water, full frontal, staring at him—no more than 20 yards away.

Trottier was so surprised by her presence that his mind went numb. Neither moved nor averted their gaze.

What he noticed about her in those frozen moments was the woven band on the upper part of her arm and the beaded collar around her neck. Her eyes were jet black, absorbing all light, like two still pinpoints around which the rest of existence is irresistibly drawn.

The young woman broke the gaze-grip and bolted away athletically into the forest, knifing her way into a seam in the foliage which closed behind her and swallowed his vision of her.

Trottier didn’t move for a time, trying to process what had just happened.

Time to move, his brain shrieked, so he abandoned his plan to set a trap and worked his way quickly back down river, staying in the river so as not to leave a trail. For a time, he continued to hear the berry-pickers at their work. Then, before they faded away completely, he thought he heard an abrupt silence come upon them.

That night, back with Kitchi and the others, Trottier told them about the women he had seen picking berries upriver, a sure sign of a settlement nearby. He did not tell them about the raven-haired girl.

Kitchi stared at him intently through the telling. The wary look on his face chilled Trottier who was unsure whether it was himself who was under suspicion or those he had reported seeing.

Uneasy in his company, Trottier crouched to a haunch on the far side of the fire. There he thought about his father’s farm back in France. He thought about the incredibly favorable voyage across the sea, his shipmates and the Captain, but his mind kept snapping back to the image of the native girl’s jet black hair tailing away behind her as she scampered into the woods. The light that had flashed off of it was to him like a shiny lure to a fish…

The next morning, he and his hunting crew geared up and headed out. The blue arrow on Trottier’s brass compass pointed north like a loyal dog tracking prey. It had been re-magnetized by the ship’s lodestone before he had left on his upstream journey, and now it stayed fixed to its task with an ineluctable persistence. Its northern indicator was the fleur-de-lis, the eastern marked by a cross. Second only to his rifle, it was Trottier’s most valuable possession. The Captain had given it over to him with great solemnity at their parting.

Wematim, Ahanu and Kitchi were astounded. It was a magic metal arrow! Aimed by an invisible spirit, guiding the tulhaesaga everywhere he went, in a metal case that fit in the palm of his hand!

Trottier referenced some notes he had made on the return trip from his encounter with the women the day before. They were a rough rendering of milestones along the way—a cluster of pine trees, a rock-face, a split in the river—and some direction notations—37°N, 42°S—with drawn arrows pointing in every direction.

His comrades were amazed at manitourino. Like other tulhaesaga, he was always measuring and then writing. Trottier kept a goose feather quill in his satchel. And the compass!

By what grace is the White Man favored like this from the spirit world?

With the magic metal arrow in hand, Trottier found himself in the unusual position of being the leader. The hunters followed him gladly, ever-trying to snatch a glimpse of the spirit-arrow. First he led them to the east of the rivulet, then through the marshy swale between the two hillocks and down past the rocky chasm created by a fissure in the earth.

Trottier discovered within himself an affinity for this type of action. He tolerated farming back in the Old World and enjoyed the challenge of sailing, but he found himself most at ease here in the woods and on the river, with his comrades. This was freedom, true and real, and the taste of it thrilled his soul.

They chose a wide arc around where they thought would be the women’s village with the hope of reconnecting again with the river further upstream. But, as they turned north, they were confronted by three young native men, dressed for the hunt, who stepped from behind a clump of trees and walked directly toward them.

The leader extended his left arm high over his head with his palm facing forward—a peace sign—and said “Sago” (Mohawk: still alive, yet well). As a gesture of respect, they had greeted the visitors in their own language.

Wematim returned their Sago gesture. With much graciousness, one of them gave to Wematim a beaver pelt that had been lashed over his shoulder.

They made it known to him through their animated gestures that they were welcoming his band to their village and that their Chief had invited them to visit with him.

Trottier knew that to spurn this hospitality would be a great insult. So he went along—without much choice in the matter.

The little village wasn’t far, no more than an arced arrow-shot from the river. As they exited the forest on their approach to the village, they walked into an open area where the trees had been cleared and land had been prepared to cultivate crops.

The village itself had a palisade surrounding it, made of spiked tree limbs constructed in a curious fashion. It was double-walled, so that when Trottier and his comrades passed through the deerskin draped across the entrance of the outermost facade, they passed into a hallway of sorts between the first tree-limb wall and the second.

The second entrance wasn’t so easily gained. It was a faux wall made of the same wooden tree spikes that could only be opened from within and only after the use of some sort of passwords from their escorts. This double-walled construction surrounding the village was a clever death-trap prepared for intruders.

Upon entering the village, Trottier was regarded as an awesome curiosity. A group of women, some of whom he recognized from the band of berry-pickers, surrounded him and patted his shoulders and chest with their hands with looks of wonder on their faces. They cooed with childish expressions of delight.

One of the older matrons fondled his beard, smoothing it with the palm of her hand. Children surrounded him, running and skipping along as he walked.

Trottier saw a cluster of maidens whispering and giggling off to one side but did not recognize the girl he had seen on the riverbank.

Long rounded huts like half-cylinders made up their village. They were constructed from bent saplings, much like the garden arbors Trottier knew in Old France. The poles were sunk into the turf and bent over to form the roof. These were lashed overhead to the saplings that were similarly bent over from the other side. Tree bark and animal skins comprised the facade stretched across this ingenious framework. They were huge structures, some 60 feet in length and 15 feet tall.

The huts were positioned in a circular configuration around an open space. This courtyard so inscribed featured four large wooden totem poles that had been set at the four cardinal directions, forming a cross within a circle.

The hut they were being led to, at the far end of the courtyard, was the largest dwelling in the village. Unlike the others, the door to this one did not allow direct entry into the dwelling, but into an ante-room whose main function it seemed was to store stacked wood.

Trottier and the hunters were led into the dwelling proper. There was a council underway with some eight men sitting around the fire in the center of the hut.

They were all clearly astonished by Trottier’s presence, a bearded tulhaesaga, there in their longhouse, around their council fire!

The Chief bade them to sit, which Trottier did, cross-legged like his hosts. They lit the ceremonial pipe and, with great ceremony, passed it from man to man.

As the pipe made its rounds, it occurred to Trottier that he must offer a gift. He thought about the items he had with him and what he could afford to part with. His fire-starter? No, it was the only one he had. He thought of his knives. He had several on him and could afford to give up one. He rose to his feet and, mimicking the hand gestures he had been learning from the natives, withdrew one of the knives from his satchel and held it in his outstretched hands grandly.

“I give this to you in the name of my chief, King Francis, who sent me as his emissary under a banner of peace and goodwill.“

The natives were excited at the performance and thrilled with the gift Trottier handed to the Chief. He admired it in satisfaction and passed it around the fire for each man to see.

But even as the words left Trottier’s lips, they sounded hollow. Despite the fact that his hosts could understand none of it, his speech seemed unreal in this context.

Who was the king here? Around this fire? With these men?

As the gathering wore on, Wematim asked if they could help the Sons of Thunder find their way to Saguenay.

At its mention, the Chief rose from his sit-squat, and the assembled grew excited with anticipation of a favorite story about to be told. Taratouan they called him, as he launched into an oratory which spun on for what seemed like an hour. This was clearly a grand tale, filled with superlatives, and everyone followed along in rapt attention. Trottier could discern the word Saguenay on occasion, but the tale’s full meaning was lost to him.

As the Chief wore down, another man stood and proceeded with the actual tale. Taratouan’s oratory had apparently only been an introduction to the true teller of the tale. This new man was highly skilled in the art of storytelling. He raised and lowered his voice, he waved his arms, he hopped around the fire.

During the telling, Trottier gave up any hope of following the story, so his mind and his eyes wandered to scrutinize his surroundings. The room they were in was connected through a large and open pass-through into a second room and further into a third room and so on until the far end of the longhouse was reached.

Each of these rooms has its own open fire in the pass-through that ran the length of the longhouse at its center. A hole in the roof directly over each fire allowed for the smoke to exit the longhouse though much of it remained, making it hard to see through the entire length of the longhouse. On both sides of this shared pass-through were wooden racks that served as bunks for the occupants and above them was a framework of wooden rafters stuffed with the clutter of daily living—baskets, a string of corn husks, two pair of leather-strung snowshoes, some moose antlers, a small pile of woven mats and clustered patches of herbs hung here and there from the rafters to dry.

In the far shadows of the pass-through, Trottier could see the silhouettes of figures moving back and forth, busy with some mundane life-tasks of no consequence. Most of these forms seemed to be women and children who were clearly not invited to this council of men.

What Trottier hadn’t noticed at first were two eyes beaming his way from a right-side bunk, one section removed from where he sat with the men. He wasn’t even sure what he was looking at: the distance, the smoke in the longhouse and the bizarre kaleidoscope of light and shadows thrown by the various fires obscured all the familiar reference points for recognition used in the daylight world. So much of this New World occurred in darkness, lit by only a half-moon or a simmering council fire.

But, as the oratory spun forward, Trottier’s eyes kept returning to the place by the right-side bunk to confirm the suspicion that was gaining credibility in his mind.

It was true. It was her—the girl by the riverbank.

The shock of recognition must have registered on his face because, at the moment of confirmation, her eyes pulled back behind an obstruction and disappeared.

Soon after, the storyteller ended his tale with a bombastic flourish, and the assembled “halooo-ooo-ooo-ed” their appreciation of his performance.

Taratouan assumed the role of speaker again: he told Trottier and his comrades that the great sweetwater sea could be reached in the time it would take for just three moons to mount unto the sky, that this Saguenay which they sought was in fact there, a Great City, that was more spectacular than even the most wild and exaggerated tale.

His people knew the way and would take them there, but first there was some business to settle. One of the neighboring tribes, the Wendats, had never welcomed his people, despite the fact that Taratouan’s tribe had been in this part of the forest since before anyone was born.

The hostiles first expressed their displeasure with petty harassments. They spooked their game, sprung their traps and stole their crops. Most recently these small insults had escalated into violence: a scout party had been ambushed, and Taratouan’s only son had been slain. A thrown tomahawk struck him in the temple, killing him instantly. The marauders scalped the young man and captured his hunting companion who was now a slave in their village.

A war party had been organized, but Taratouan thought he needed more muscle. He had heard about Trottier’s thunderstick with its demonic roar and terrifying firepower. With this one weapon, Taratouan could avenge this injustice and cause the Wendats to scatter like rabbits. They would be forced to stop this petty harassment and leave his people in peace for a lifetime.

So he made the Sons of Thunder the following proposition: in return for free access to game in their territory and an escort to the sweetwater sea, Trottier and his party would help gain revenge for Taratouan.

“We can be brothers in war and also brothers in the hunt in the land by the Kitchissippi.”

The four men excused themselves to confer. Wematim was no fan of getting involved in the disputes of others, but given that they were guests passing through this land and in need of the favor and forbearance that this alliance could provide, he was open to at least hearing out what the others had in mind.

Kitchi made a simple declaration: he thumped his fist to his chest and blurted “Ho-ah.” He was in. A warrior needs to fight, and Kitchi was most certainly a warrior.

Ahanu was willing to go along with the consensus either way.

His turn to vote now, Trottier expressed that he was honored they considered him an equal and had given him a voice in the matter. He was an outsider, he argued, a tulhaesaga; of what consequence was it to him this vow of revenge by Taratouan. No, he would rather go on to Saguenay. If Taratouan wanted them to leave this land, he would leave on his own if need be.

His three comrades reminded him that he had run the rapids with them, he had shared their tobacco, he had hunted the beaver. They were brothers.

The offer of the guides would be a great help in getting to the sweetwater sea and ultimately to the Golden City. And there was no denying the advantage this weapon of war would give them. They boasted that those cowards were likely to offer themselves as slaves at the sight of it, but Trottier still wasn’t convinced.

Taratouan watched the conference with concern. He knew they would only help him if they were of one mind on it, and he could understand this much by observing the men confer: the Frenchman was not in full agreement with his proposal.

Taratouan stepped to the side which revealed the raven-haired girl lurking in the corner-shadows behind him. This time, Trottier detected a certain familiarity between her and the Chief, an affinity—member of the same clan? A servant or slave?

She was a persistent distraction to Trottier as the discussion continued, busying herself about some little chore with her back turned toward him, but there was something about her body language that expressed a knowingness of what had earlier transpired between them when their eyes had met by the river.

This knowingness arced like an electric current from her to him, charging him with an elevated sense of awareness, an enhanced acuity in sight and hearing, in touch and movement. He felt nimble and quick, possessed of lightning reflexes.

She had infected him, gotten under his skin and into his head. Affected, incised, into every cell of his body, to the far reaches of his being, he was being overrun with her, monopolized.

He had no immunity to resist, and she was a force enough to change his mind.

It was decided—he would stay and help the Chief avenge his son’s death. The Sons of Thunder were of “one mind” on it.


Before sunrise the following morning, the 12-member war party set out with Wematim, Ahunu, Kitchi and Trottier in their number. Their plan was to ambush a hunting party from the Irri-ronon (French: Hurons—whom the Algonquins called the Wendats) as they were traveling through the forest and capture them as slaves.

But, after several days of traveling silently by night and lurking in wait by day, they hadn’t encountered a single person. In fact, there was a curious lack of activity. It was far too quiet, and, after much consultation, it was agreed that they must have been spied out, and the Irri-ronon were staying close to home.

So they decided to approach the village straight on, in daylight, with their weapons sheathed and their palms raised in the Sago gesture of peace. They would demand the return of the captured tribesman and for a replacement member from their tribe for the murdered warrior who would live out his days as Taratouan’s son.

If they complied, the war party would be called off; if not, they would begin a siege of their village.

But their plan soon went very wrong…

Ahanu had been the trailing member of the single-file war party; he was attacked first. Two warriors who were hiding in ambush tackled Ahanu to the ground and slayed him instantly with a blow from a war club.

Trottier turned toward the sound of the assault and saw Kitchi sprinting past him with his tomahawk raised.

An arrow zipped by Trottier’s head, causing him to instinctively crouch for cover. He grabbed his gun and started loading it, fumbling to do so in his excitement.

Wah-hee! Ho-ha!”

He thought he recognized Kitchi’s voice, but the compounded noise of the assault enclosed around him like a densely woven shroud of loudness.

In an instant, his world had changed from silently slinking through the forest to a seismic swirl of sounds and motion, a barbaric howling of voices, a crash-dash snapping of tree branches and underbrush, a maelstrom of mayhem.

All Trottier’s instincts screamed at him to run, somewhere, either to where Kitchi had zipped or in the opposite direction as far and as fast as he could. But he fought to control his mind and, after what seemed like an eternity within these fast-moving events, finished loading his weapon.

He sprang to his feet and ran in Kitchi’s direction. Bursting through a bush-entanglement, he came upon a live fight with Kitchi in a wrestling death-match with a combatant some 20 feet to the right. To the left, Taratouan was on his back, pinned to the turf by three hostiles. One was holding down his legs, another was kneeling on his shoulders and pinning his arms behind his head.

The third had Taratouan’s metal knife in his hand, the one Trottier had given him, high over his head. He was about to scalp Taratouan while he was immobilized on the ground.

When Trottier broke through into this battleground, the one with the knife looked quizzically at him and the strange stick he held in his hands. That was the last thing this man would see before he was blasted into eternity. The last emotion he felt was surprise and dread, the last face he saw was his white enemy, the last thing in his hand was Taratouan’s hair. With war glory just an instant away, he was obliterated with a squeeze of the trigger from this terrifying weapon from another world.

Kitchi and his grappling opponent were both stunned into a sudden stop by the explosion, but Kitchi’s adversary regained his wits before Kitchi and rolled out from underneath him onto his feet. He darted away into the woods like a spooked deer.

Taratouan took fast advantage of the gunshot and hip-bucked his captors off of him. One stagger-ran into the woods, and the other, whose ears had been no more than three feet away from the blast, was so shaken by its concussive force that he stood dazed and in shock. He stared wide-eyed and unblinking as if he was no longer of this earth. Even the sight of his comrade lying in a bloody heap on the forest floor did not prompt him to movement or even simple recognition.

One of the Taratouan’s men arrived, drawn by the sound of the gunshot, and had easy work of tying this poor soul’s wrists together behind his back with some deerskin cord, taking him captive.

Back at the village, he would be tortured to death, perhaps even eaten alive. But, if he displayed courage during his ordeal, he might be admitted into the tribe, given the name of Taratouan’s lost son and adopted as his own.

But, at this moment, the captive showed no sign of courage and barely a semblance of humanity.

With assistance, Taratouan struggled to his feet, his face contorted from the pain in his right leg. He could put no weight on it—broken? Blood oozed from his temple.

Kitchi also rose to his feet and brushed off the grass and dirt from his struggle. He composed himself and walked straight to Trottier.

Manitourino,” he said to get his attention.

He pounded his chest with his fist a single time: “Kwā!”

Then he extended both arms forward with the palms of his hands facing downward. In one dramatic curving motion, he swept both hands down toward Trottier.

Nia:wen,” Kitchi said, with all the purity of expression he could muster.

The Baptism of Tekakwitha

Blackrobe led her down the path toward the river. This was strange for Tekakwitha because she knew the path much better than he did, so why should he lead?

Blackrobe will take me there. He who had stayed with me, who had taught me the way of this new God. He has let me take the white lily, which I cherish, held here before me in my hands pressed together as he instructed, fingers pointing to the sky.

He was softly singing a song she had never heard. The melody was plaintive, yearning, a plea extending from a deep swale of lamentation to a higher place of hope and redemption. Here, still closer to the village than the river, it was no more than a whisper.

Salve, Regina, Mater misericordiæ,

vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.

Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevæ,

Ad te suspiramus, gementes et flentes

in hac lacrimarum valle.

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
Our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To you do we cry,
Poor banished children of Eve;
To you do we send up our sighs,
Mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.

His voice was reassuring, and Tekakwitha tried to hum along during the parts that repeated themselves.

As usual, she was wearing her scarlet tunic with the hood pulled over her head and down over her forehead to shade her eyes. Blackrobe had given her a white cloth sash to wear which he had draped over her left shoulder and under her right shoulder.

This river was the source of life for her tribe. Tekakwitha had filled her jug with its water every day since she could remember. And from her aunt she had also come to know it as the symbol of Time—flowing constantly in one direction with no certain beginning or end—so, therefore, forever. But on that day she saw the river differently; it seemed like an unending torrent of grace and mercy. A point from which it comes, but from which she cannot see, not asked for—unbidden; it flows to and around her ceaselessly—washing her clean, a cleanliness that could not be sullied.

Blackrobe had tried his best to explain it to her. She was to become new, into a newness that would be reborn each morning. She was to be healed, and her illness would never return. She was to be freed from all bonds. She was to be forgiven for all her sins in the past, and, like bubbles in the river, her sins would pop harmlessly into nothingness as soon as they appeared. She would be righteous and holy. She would be protected from everything and everyone that had hurt her in the past and everything and everyone that intended to harm her in the future. This Jesus of which he spoke, could do all this—if only she believed that He could, if only she believed that He loved her.

You, Tekakwitha, he had said with such certainty, that much He has done and will do, just for you. Look at my face, Tekakwitha, and my hands. They are clear of the Red Plague. Jesus has protected me, protected the white man from these disfigurements, and He can do so for you, you and your people.

Tekakwitha didn’t understand all of his words, but she knew this much: she wanted that of which Blackrobe spoke. She wanted her spirit to be set right, she wanted to be set free of whatever was plaguing her and her people. Her aunt turned her head and looked away, pretending not to see what was developing between them. Her uncle was on a hunting trip and could not stop her. So she went with Blackrobe alone on the appointed morning, a morning she had so looked forward to, when she would say the prayer.

At the river’s edge, Blackrobe raised his arms to the sky and sang in a louder voice, now that they were further from the village. He hitched the sleeves of his robe up to his elbows, scooped some of the river into his cupped palms and splashed it on his face.

Then he reached his hand out behind him for Tekakwitha to grab onto and led her directly into the river. The water was bracing as it rose from ankle-deep, to knee-deep, to waist-deep.

Blackrobe was no longer singing but now speaking in a way that sounded like prayer. They kept going further and the water kept getting higher, to chin-level. As Tekakwitha looked over the expanse of the moving water her eyes were no more than three inches above the surface.

It was a disorienting perspective of this river that she thought she knew so well, a view she had never experienced before. Despite her poor eyesight, what she saw as her sightline traveled over the surface like a sharp wedge between her and everything she once knew. The angle of the water, so close to her eyes and stretching to the horizon, was a sharp cleaving between what was once and what is now, a sharpened dagger like an exclamation point between the old and the new, the river and the sky.

The intensity of Blackrobe’s appeals in prayer increased. There was a ferocity now to his aspect. The gentleness that usually characterized him was gone. His voice became louder, more animated, like he was wrestling with demon spirits from the netherworld. She was frightened. She wanted it to end. She became panicky. Little waves of highwater submerged her mouth and nose.

Blackrobe suddenly plunged his hand into the river and withdrew it dripping. As if it were holy water, he signed the cross onto her forehead and said “Credis in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, creatorem cæli et terram? (Latin: Do you believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth?)

And Tekakwitha replied with the word Blackrobe had taught her.


Credis in Iesum Christum, Filium eius unicum, Dominum nostrum, natum, et passum? (Latin: Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord, Who was born and Who suffered?)


Credis et in Spiritum sanctum, sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, Sanctorum communionem, remissionem peccatorum, carnis resurrectionem, et vitam æternam? (Latin: Do you believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting?)


He placed his palm behind her head and said “Ephphatha! Ephphatha!”(Aramaic: Be opened!) and brusquely shoved her head under the water.

She hadn’t prepared herself for this by taking a breath so, when he released her, she blasted up through the surface gasping for air. She shook the water off from her head, and her hood slipped off. She struggled for breath like a newborn puppy that had been dropped into a tub of water, earnestly striving to keep its nose in the air.

He said his words to the sky once more—

“Abrenuntias Satanæ?” (Latin: Do you renounce Satan?)


“Et omnibus operibus eius?” (Latin: And all of his works?)


“Et omnibus pompis eius?” (Latin: And all his pomps?)


And a second time he dunked her in the river. When she arose, he submerged her head a third time.

Blackrobe was all laughter as she surfaced this last time. When Tekakwitha realized that she wasn’t going to drown, she started laughing, too. She laughed and laughed till she started coughing. Then they both laughed some more at her coughing fit. For Tekakwitha, it felt like she hadn’t laughed in a long time, perhaps ever.

Finally it all subsided: the water-sputtering, the laughing, the coughing. Blackrobe led her out of the water to the riverbank. There he had two blankets waiting for them. He gave one to her, and the other he used to dry himself.

It was done. She was baptized. She felt refreshed, happy, relieved and lighter, much lighter—like she had been released from gravity.

Blackrobe reached into his frock and retrieved what looked like a necklace. The cord of the necklace was made of a woven red fabric, soft and fuzzy, like Blackrobe’s cassock. At opposite sides of the cord circle were affixed two cloth pendants that were woven into red rectangles. Within those red rectangles, like little badges, were tiny images that had been stitched meticulously with a rich golden thread.

One of these images was a heart surrounded at its widest part by woven thorns and topped at its apex by a flame.

The other was also a heart crowned by a flame, but this heart was driven through by seven swords.

He draped the necklace over Tekakwitha’s head. He positioned one of the pendants over her heart and the other over her back. Then he pulled his set of rosary beads over his head and draped them gently over Tekakwitha’s head.

He said: Que vous gardiez tout dans votre cœur, afin que vous puissiez les réfléchir. (French: May you keep all things in your heart, that you might ponder them.)

Then he blessed her, making the sign of the cross before her once again.

Tekakwitha surprised Blackrobe with a gift of her own. It was her silver awl, the one she had coveted so greedily and kept hidden in a secret spot alongside her cross in the longhouse, the most precious thing she owned. She extended it to Blackrobe with two hands. There was a dignity and a finality to her gesture that could not be refuted.

Nia:wen,” Blackrobe heard himself saying as he accepted the silver awl.


Then they are brought by us where there is water and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, ‘Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’…

Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe; he who leads to the layer the person that is to be washed calling him by this name alone And this washing is called illumination because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings.“
-Justin’s First Apologia

Wall Ball

“How’s it going?”

It was Mr. Gunther, Pomper’s supervisor for his summer job as an Assistant Park Attendant.

“Going alright,” Pomper replied, just as he always did.

It was just after lunch, the same time Mr. Gunther always stopped by in the park in his forest-green town truck. He’d drive around till he found Pomper, rest his elbow out the rolled-down window and “shoot the breeze” for a while, in no particular hurry and with no particular point.

Pomper would report anything unusual—always nothing—and, after about 10 minutes of breeze-shooting, they’d run out of things to say.

“OK, take it easy, buddy,” Mr. Gunther would say upon parting and off he’d drive. He had a bunch of parks to check up on. That was it—always the same.

It was a cake job for the summer between 7th and 8th grade—empty the garbage cans, weed-whack along the perimeters once a week, pick up the beer bottles from the night before and generally make sure no one was burning the place down.

There were some decrepit tennis courts there and a softball field that got little use. Part of an open expanse had been converted to a soccer field; mainly it was used for practice by the littler kids after school. There were some public bathrooms, a cracked and pitted parking lot and an insignificant trail that snaked for about a half-mile through a mildly wooded area to a bay side beach. Pomper opened the gate in the morning and locked it when he left at sunset.

After his first two weeks, Pomper could see that he was going to have a lot of time to fill during the day—a lot—so he decided that this “job” was a golden opportunity to work on his left.

Like everyone who picks up a lacrosse stick, Pomper at first held it with his dominant hand—in Pomper’s case, his right hand—near the head of the stick. His weak hand, his left, was placed on the lower part of the shaft, down near the butt-end.

The hand closest to the head controls the movement of the stick. The lower hand provides stability and leverage. Handling a lacrosse stick with your non-dominant hand at the top of the shaft is as awkward as throwing a baseball with your non-dominant hand.

When you first try going to your weak side, it is worse than pathetic; you feel utterly inept. Every catch is botched, every pass is errant. You feel like a fool, like you have palsy. Your brain flip-flops in your head, contorting in panicky objections to this non-natural movement, like a toad trying to hop backwards. The embarrassment is such that, when playing with others, most kids simply avoid doing it. The discomfort of a pathetic public performance is too great.

In the youth leagues from 3rd to 6th grade, a player can get away with going “one way.” The defenders are not that skilled yet to take advantage of this shortcoming.

But, as a player advances, it becomes an essential skill. If a defender knows his man always has to use his dominant hand, he becomes easy to defend.

Pomper looked at the rectangular brick hut that housed the public bathrooms at the park and saw a perfect practice area for his left—wall ball.

He brought his lacrosse stick with him on his bike trip to work one day and the only lacrosse ball he owned. He hid these behind the sandbags in the equipment shed.

The first time he practiced during the work-day, he felt self-conscious. Should I really be playing lacrosse when I’m at work?

He tossed the ball lightly against the brick wall, righty. It caromed back, took a few bounces and hopped into his stick. Good, I can practice ground balls, too. He tossed it again—same thing. Catch. Toss. Scoop. Cradle.

After he was feeling more confident, Pomper turned his back to the wall and imagined someone defending him. He took a step, made a move, did a dodge—all in pantomime. Then, toss-scoop. He ran off a little ways further onto the grass, made a longer throw, chased down the ground ball.

He was sweating and thirsty, so he went into the bathroom, ran some water into his cupped hands and drank greedily.

He returned to the wall, this time no more than three feet away. He put his left hand on top of the stick, his right hand on the bottom. He was going lefty. He tossed the ball high up onto the wall, a little pepper-toss that would return to his stick through the air without bouncing on the ground. He missed it, a complete whiff. He retrieved the ball and returned to the three-feet-away station.

Another pepper-toss, another miss—this time it bounced off the plastic edge of his stick and konked him on the head. It was a soft toss, so it didn’t hurt much, but it hurt enough so that he didn’t want to get konked again. He retrieved it, tossed it again and caught it, but it was a lucky catch; basically the stick-head got in the way of the carom.

A lacrosse ball should be cradled into the stick, with a little snapping turn of the stick-head. Ideally, the ball zips into the mesh and is immediately corralled into place with this little head-turn. The forward-cradle and the backward-cradle creates the centrifugal force required to fix the ball snugly into pocket of the head. If a player just holds his stick in the path of the thrown ball and hopes that it will magically lodge into the stick-head on its own, the ball will most-likely ricochet-out or be quickly dislodged by an opponent’s check.

I have to learn how to cradle first, Pomper thought, before throwing and catching.

He started the simple motion of cradling the ball in his stick, going lefty. The ball flew pitifully out of his stick.

He switched back to his right side temporarily, so he could break down the actions of his hands and arms while cradling, a move he had done so often that it was now instinctual.

What does my top wrist do when it cradles? How does the shaft roll in the furling and unfurling of my fingers? What is my bicep doing? My forearms?

He threw a few righty passes against the wall and took careful note of the mechanisms at work.

Then he shifted to the left again. He started cradling; this time without the ball, in super slow-motion. He remembered the position and the movements he had noted on his right side. He applied them to his lefty position. If he had to switch back to the right side for a quick-compare, he did so. Pomper was methodically assembling the sequence of actions together, one piece at a time.

If anyone had been there to see him, they would have thought him most odd. Alone, standing in front of the brick wall of the public bathroom, tracing in the air a series of movements with his lacrosse stick.

But no one was there, other than Pomper. It was just him and the wall and his desire to get better.

He tried lefty-cradling with the ball in his stick again. Slow, slow, basic, basic, he kept telling himself.

Then he walked away from the wall, cradling with his left.

I’ll walk cradling first, he thought. Then I’ll run.

His first steps while cradling left were stiff and clompy, like someone who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. Frankenstein’s monster was more graceful. Cradle. Cradle. Step. Step. Then: cradle-step, cradle-step.

He tried a little half-jog while cradling. First to the playground, then back to the restrooms, then to the walk path. The ball flew out of his stick. He scooped it up.

It’s a long summer, Pomper reminded himself. I’m going to be able to do this every day. I’ll get this down.

After an hour, his mind started to wander, so he put his stick back in the shed and busied himself with job-tasks for a while. He walked the perimeter, picked up litter with his poke-stick, checked the beach for bikinis.

Before long, he was drawn back to the wall, where he would keep working on his left. He began to feel more comfortable throwing the ball. He was catching more passes on the bounce-back. He noticed himself scooping with his left. He hadn’t willed it; he just did it—a turning point.

Soon he was practicing transitions, stick in the left, now in the right, then back again. He was making little dodge moves with his left, feints, head-fakes. He imagined a defenseman prancing along with him. He accelerated, decelerated. He tried one-handed cradling with the left; his right arm not holding the bottom of the stick but positioned as a shield in front of his turned body. In this position, the defensemen can barely see the stick, never mind poke at it, held as it is with one hand behind the full length of the body, right arm stoutly positioned in front to block any attempt to get at it.

One day he tried catching 10 passes in a row, then 20 passes in a row. He tried for a streak-record: how many could he catch in a row? Fifty-nine was a long-standing record; then, one day, he exceeded it. After 100 in a row, he stopped. He started to catch the ball off the wall with his left backhanded, a move he had seen Bolger on varsity do, snapping the ball out of the air with a crisp back-flick of his wrist.

Pomper gloried in his progress, which he could see incrementally every day. There was no mistaking it; he was getting better. It was REAL.

With all this time alone, Pomper felt himself passing into a strange new state of being. It was August now—hot, still and humid. During the times when he knew Mr. Gunther wouldn’t be around, he took off his town worker t-shirt to get a tan. He either tied his t-shirt around his waist or, if playing in the sun, wrapped it around his head, with a little flap hanging over the back of his neck. Sometimes he would drench his shirt with water from the bathroom sink and use it to cool his entire body. He had everything he needed there at the park.

On his walks to the beach, his attention to things became more acute. At first, it was all a “woods;” now, he started to notice details: certain plants and how they changed over time. When Time slows like this, people learn things they would not learn otherwise. It can be a dangerous season in one’s life, full of weird opportunity, when the spirit goes in places it cannot go in the Company of Men.

On one particular type of plant, blackberries grew. There was a cluster of these berry plants concentrated in one area of the park. No one had cultivated them. They just grew there naturally. Pomper took note of the buds as they popped, and the small dark ruby blackberries appeared. He watched as they grew full, became ripe. Could they be eaten? One day, he found the courage to try. It was good, sweet and refreshing, a wild blackberry. His body hummed in gratitude. A few days later, some ladies showed up with baskets and plucked every berry they could get their stained fingers on. At first, Pomper felt proprietary about these blackberries, like they were his, and that he should do something to stop these women from helping themselves.

But his new sun-softened spirit overruled this impulse. There was no prohibition against picking berries. Who cares? There are plenty for everyone. The birds will eat their full. The ladies will fill their baskets, probably to make jelly or a pie. More good stuff for others to eat: their children, their husbands. Let them be. He, too, could have as many as he wanted, just by reaching out his hand.

His very soul expanded. It had become broad and magnanimous like the promiscuous sun and with it came other changes, too. He was becoming slim and brown. He liked how his body felt, light and strong and sure. His hair had grown long past the point at which it would normally be cut. He wasn’t in school, it was summer—what did it matter? Besides, he liked the way his hair looked—wild and curly and free.

One day, he found a tick attached near his groin. He got tweezers from the first-aid kit and removed it—by himself. There was a little blood, but he applied ointment on the spot, and it healed in a few days. He had surprised himself with the ease with which he handled this. He had bested a tick and had done so without shrinking in horror. It gave him another bolt of confidence.

But, throughout that summer, he always returned to the wall. That was his real occupation—to get good at going both ways. When he showed up back at school, he was going to be killer. He wasn’t going to tell anyone he had worked on his left all summer. He would just show up on the field—Bam!—going left, showing left, throwing left, shooting left.

Before, I went one way; now I go both! Here I am! Be astounded.

With the money earned from the job, he bought a pair of lacrosse gloves. It was his own money so he could pick exactly the kind he wanted and the color. Purposefully, he didn’t choose the school colors. He chose orange, a glaring brilliant in-your-face day-glo orange. He brought those to work, too. He oiled them and worked them with his hands in the equipment shed to get them soft and pliable.

It was one thing to go left with your bare hands—that was easier because you have a better feel for the stick—but to do so with gloves on, which is what you wear during an actual game or practice, that is what he wanted.

When Pomper started wearing the gloves during wall ball, it re-introduced clumsiness and error, but he knew he had to do it. He had to be as stick-sure with gloves-on as he was with gloves-off.

He also had to run with the ball going left, not just stand in front of a wall. So he started running.

At first, he ran around the softball field with his gloves on and with a stick in his hands, cradling a ball. Then he ran the path that twisted its way through the woods. It wasn’t a long trail but, if he ran it in multiple loops, it became a long trail. Pomper liked it better than running on the softball field because there were uneven surfaces on the path, hard tree roots popping up, slate whose sharp edges had been exposed by rain runoff, branches to duck under, craggy brambles to jump over. The path was better training for the game of lacrosse. It provided him with strength, speed, stamina and toughness—all of which he knew he would need.

In one bend, there were briers and thistles extending into the right side of the trail. He forced himself to run through them—without a shirt on. It hurt like hell, but on the other side of the pain, he realized that it wasn’t that bad. It was pain, that’s all. It went away; it always does. He bled a little, he picked out some thorns that had lodged in his flesh, but he continued running, strong and fierce.

He timed himself on short bursts across the outfield—shooting forward, pedaling backward. Using rocks as markers, he set up a zigzag course and timed himself busting it in explosive bursts from one marker to the next—all with his stick in his left hand.

He was getting faster—he could measure it. Propelled forward by his inner drive, he was willing himself to better performances.

One of the curious features of Bayside Park was a 14-foot totem pole that had been erected in an obscure subsection of the grounds, a kind of backwater that wasn’t often visited, away from the featured areas in the park. Because of its non-prominent location, it was easily overlooked.

The totems had been crudely carved out of a telephone pole and, judging by its weathering, had been created some time ago. The rough-hewn icons chiseled in relief into the pole had been painted at one time, but now the paint was chipped and faded. Etched into its base in letters barely legible were the words Boy Scout Troop 29. There was no other explanation for it than this. If you weren’t paying attention, it was just another mute object in the park: a tree, a garbage can, the backstop to the softball field, the totem pole, the water fountain, the brick public bathrooms.

Yet to Pomper, the more time he spent in the park that summer, the larger became the presence of the totem pole, until it seemed in his mind to dominate the entire landscape.

At its pinnacle, was carved an eagle with its wings outstretched horizontally beyond the cylinder of the pole, like a cross. The eagle had initially been painted gold and white, and some of this residual paint remained. Proceeding downward, next came a beaver, recognized by its two huge teeth; then lower, a turtle; then a bear and, at eye level, a wild grotesque distorted face, a False Face—looking dead ahead as if daring someone to return the look.

The False Face had an expression of stunned surprise, like it had just witnessed an ant eat an elephant. Its mouth was drawn down at the corners, its eyes were wide open, its eyebrows arched upward. It was an expression as much of wonder as of horror. This was not a carving meant to please the eye and charm the soul. This was meant for something else. To look at it directly made one’s soul squirm, toes curl, blood freeze.

Because of this chilling eye-level False Face, most people simply averted their eyes from the totem pole altogether. To do so was to protect one’s very soul. This magnified the cloak of invisibility that seemed to surround the pole.

Pomper had heard young girls screech when they had unexpectedly happened upon the False Face while walking through the park. Not knowing it was there, their eyes had accidentally looked directly into the Face before they could turn away.

Pomper, too, averted his eyes whenever he passed it. But, one day, the lacrosse ball took a wild bounce off the corner-edge of the brick bathhouse. It caromed in a new direction, ricocheted off the swingset and stopped rolling underneath the totem pole. Pomper scooped the ball into his stick and looked directly into the Face…

It immediately felt to him like this was something he ought not be doing. It was unnerving, like it was a test of some sort, a staring contest. He was two feet away from it, mesmerized. Until this moment, he had thought it was silly, like the painted face of a clown, but now, so close, he saw the Face in an entirely different way.

He had not noticed them before, but there were two devil-horns sprouting from its head. And there was what looked like a mask on its face, around its eyes—or was it face paint? He noticed different shades of the same color, like it had been repainted, perhaps more than once, since it had been first erected. Was someone maintaining this? Caring for it?

Absentmindedly, Pomper slowly cradled the ball in his stick and stared; the False Face stared back. It was Silence itself, like a portal into another dimension.

I better stop, Pomper thought, this is getting spooky.

But he stayed with it and kept looking. The moment enlarged.

He liked that the Face wasn’t charming, that it wasn’t sentimental. It was ugly, in fact: rough-hewn, raw, chunky, weathered. It might give you splinters if you rubbed it with your hand. An art teacher would probably say, nice first-draft, keep going, needs refinement.

Pomper felt fired-up staring at it. There was a weird kinetic energy stirring inside him, like a newborn colt spasmodically kicking out its back legs. Unconsciously, the pace of his cradling increased. He jutted his neck out a little toward the Face. He twirled his stick with a cocky flair. He started to jog in place, at first shifting his weight from one foot to the other, then a little lift-step, then a light jog. Cradling. Jogging. Staring. He started a rhythmic chant, a silly thing, to keep time: “Hooh-hah, hooh-hah, hooh-hah.”

The days upon days of heat and aloneness had shorn Pomper of layers of civilization. Like the shirt having come off of his body, his spirit had been stripped bare of many of the niceties of civil society. It had simplified him and his desires.

This encounter with the False Face was silly; he knew it was silly—but he didn’t care.

A 14-year-old boy-man, with no shirt on, in a small neglected park, on a hot August afternoon, jogging and chanting in front of a totem pole, cradling a lacrosse ball in his stick, staring intently at the False Face staring back at him.

If anyone were to see him like this…

But someone did see him. Someone was watching…Rose.

Two hundred yards away, walking up the path from the beach, with a book of devotionals in her hand: Rose.

Now there were two people in the park that day.

Rose recognized Pomper immediately from class. To her, at that moment, he looked like an eagle about to take flight: mincing its talons like it was too hot to stand, preening its feathers like they were itchy, gathering energy, squawking and screeching in agitation to get on with it, to be gone, to lift off into the wild blue yonder.

It was the False Face that fixed him with its gaze, but it was the eagle totem at the top, Lord of them all, that was pouring its spirit-juice down through the pole, out through the eyes of the False Face and into Pomper.

Pomper absorbed it like the grounding of an open electric charge that seeks resolution. It was the Thunderbird, Hino, pouring its ferocity into this young man, this Son of Thunder, Bruce Pomper.

Rose said nothing, nor did she move. She just watched…and prayed.

And Rose saw Pomper’s lacrosse stick in his hands turn into a flaming arrow…

Bride Price

“Hä ä hä ä—hä ä hä ä.”

The singers spun the cadences of the curing song as they stomp-danced around the fire.

CHUGGA-chugga-chugga—the sound of hand-held turtle shell rattles punctuated by the jangle of the rattles around their ankles.

The Chief’s leg was indeed broken and would have to be set.

A strange figure swept the deerskin covering away from the door and entered the hut. Gagu’wara (Mohawk: face), he was called, naked from the waist up, with rattles strapped to his wrist and ankles. He had a humped back and shuffled slowly in a bent slouching gait, snarling as he went, in a nasally intonation with no apparent rhythm or melody. On his head was an oversized carved wooden mask painted a blazing blood red. From it on both sides hung straight black hair reaching to his shoulders. The mask had deep-set eyes and a carved arching furrowing in the brow. Festooned all about it were tiny bundles of tobacco leaves affixed at the ears, on the forehead, swaying in all directions as he moved.

Gagu’wara reached into the hot coals of the fire with his bare hands and scattered them up to the roof opening, toward the door and into each corner of the hut. He gathered a second heap of red ash and blew it at Taratouan—first by his head, then by his injured leg, which was about to be set.

He served the patient some white willow bark tea for the pain about to come. Throughout the ordeal, as his leg was set, Taratouan was silent, only gritting his teeth on an arrow he had clamped in his mouth to palliate the pain.

The gnarly shaman prepared the casting compound over the fire, a mixture of shaved bark from the white pine and fish oil. The gooey mixture was applied fire-hot to the wound. Taratouan winced reflexively but maintained his stoic demeanor. Over the next several days, as the cast hardened to support and protect the bone, Taratouan ate nothing, drank only the bark tea and stared at the fire.

Then, without saying a word, the old Chief rose to his feet again, with the aid of a tree limb that had been fashioned into a crutch. Hobbled, but back in his official capacity, his first directive was to summon Trottier to his hut. It was made clear that he should come alone, without Kitchi and the others.

When Trottier returned to the Chief’s hut, he was smacked with the bracing impact of a changed atmosphere. Gone was the guardedness of his first meeting with the Chief and his coterie; now there was a warm collegiality, like they were all brothers.

Again he saw the girl. She was moving in the corner-shadows as before tending to the detail of some domestic duty, but, this time, she was facing not away from him, as she had been in their previous encounter in the longhouse, but toward him.

The men launched into an elaborate dance of welcome for Trottier, a happy stomp-shuffle with a lead dancer followed by the others who mimicked the leader’s movements. They helped Trottier join the line, which he did, hopping along foolishly with everyone as best he could.

When the dance came to an end, Taratouan faced Trottier. He extended both hands with palms facing down and swept them outward and downward in a graceful curve in Trottier’s direction—just as Kitchi had done in the forest after his gunshot had ended the battle.


He brought to his lips the index and middle finger of his right hand, extended horizontally. These were lifted away from his lips, like he was blowing a two-finger kiss. Then he held his right index finger in front of his face.

We are brothers now. Two men are like one man.

“Alawa!” Taratouan summoned the girl.

She was his daughter!

Alawa stepped forward demurely into the light of the fire. Her arms were at her side, and her eyes were cast downward, so as not to meet the eyes of the men looking at her.

She was clothed in a white pullover tunic that clung comfortably to her lithe form. Tassels of azure beads terminated at the sleeve-ends and at the hem below. A thin deerskin belt draped lazily around her hips. Her neck-band was made of white and purple shell-beads, a pretty touch that marked her in Trottier’s mind as a rare sight indeed. Her black hair was oiled straight and set with a single three-stranded plait that twisted down the back of her head with wampum braided throughout it. Unlike the men of her tribe, her skin was neither painted nor tattooed. It was a smooth burnished brown, kissed by the sun and the open air. Her bare feet supported her effortless resistance to gravity.

Standing there, she was a stunning forest beauty, a living reverie with coal-black eyes, who seemed to have grown straight up from the forest floor as naturally as a wild lily, solitary and graced by the gentle laving of nature’s knowing hand.

Taratouan gestured to her…

“You see Alawa here? She works diligently, she never complains, she brings beauty wherever she goes.”

Then he held his left and right index fingers in the air and swooshed them in front of his face like two reeds at a pond’s edge criss-crossing each other in the wind. Trottier had seen this hand-action before from Wematim and Kitchi in the forest when they planned to trade beaver pelts with the French.

Taratouan was proposing a trade of some sort.

When it became obvious to Taratouan that Trottier did not really understand his gesture, he positioned himself so that Alawa was standing by his left side, and Trottier was standing by his right.

Then, in an exaggerated gesture, he pointed one finger at his daughter and held it before him indicating that this finger represented her. He did the same with his other finger, indicating Trottier, and swept them criss-crossing in front of his face again.

But, this time, when he finished the gesture, his two hands remained pointing straight ahead with the index fingers of each hand held together in parallel—two straight lines traveling next to each other for all time.

Trottier’s eyes opened wide as the concept dawned upon him, and, as he did so, Taratouan mimicked his expression in an exaggerated manner—opening his eyes extra wide at Trottier. Taratouan laughed at Trottier, a deep belly laugh, and turned to Alawa and laughed at her as well. He put his arms around their shoulders, Alawa and Trottier, and they all started laughing together. They were joined by everyone in attendance who hooted with knowing leers. Loud knee-slapping guffaws resounded throughout the longhouse and into the forest night. Taratouan laughed so hard he lost his balance and toppled backward toward the bed-racks bringing Trottier and Alawa along with him, which only made everyone laugh even harder.

Trottier caught a glimpse of Alawa smiling and squelching a nervous giggle.

Taratouan gesture-said: “Alawa will bear you children. She will keep your house-fire lit. She will walk behind you and share your blanket. She is of great value and will toil for you now and not for us.”

With that, he folded his arms across his chest and held his chin and nose in the air. He was waiting for a response from Trottier.

Getting the message, Trottier unstrapped the two beaver pelts from his shoulders and laid them at Taratouan’s feet as a gift.

Taratouan sniffed a little at the offering and turned his head away.

Kawin:ottowa.” (Algonquin: I won’t trade it.)

Trottier understood: “Great Chief, pardon me, I am not familiar with your ways. I have another three pelts I can retrieve for you from the hunting lodge. I will give these to you now and get the others for you when I rejoin my hunter-comrades.”

Taratouan extended his right arm across his body with the palm down and fingers pointing to the left. He swung his extended right arm across his body to the right while turning his palm upward. The thumb of his right hand was out and extended back toward the original position of his hand.

Trottier had seen this gesture before from the Haudenosaunee. It was a simple and direct expression of refusal—no.

Some of the Chief’s associates gestured excitedly while Taratouan stood still as a totem pole, with his arms crossed in stoic defiance. He grunted to one of his surrogates to continue with the negotiation who pointed at Trottier’s rifle and mimicked the holding of the rifle to his shoulder. He held his right hand low in front of this body with the fingers closed in a fist. He raised the fist before him while quickly extending his fingers—an explosion—accompanied by his best sound-mimic of gun being fired—Peougchtttww!

Taratouan held his arms crossed with his head tilted slightly away from Trottier. He looked askance at him.

“Only the rifle will open Taratouan’s ear. Taratouan does not hear what you say with the beaver alone.”

Trottier remembered one of the key directives he had received from the Captain, which had come from King Francis himself in a royal edict: no guns are to be traded to the natives.

But the King was not there. He was on the other side of the ocean. What did the King know of huts and chiefs and the shiny black hair of one such as Alawa?

Trottier did a quick calculation: he would be without a rifle, true, but he had his knives and his hatchet. He could catch beaver with what he had, he could catch fish. And he could get back to Mount Royal soon enough to trade for a rifle.

Trottier pointed at his thunderstick and then pointed at the Chief and made the sign for possession, holding his right fist in front of his neck and lowering it to the left while turning the palm outward.

He pointed to Alawa and then to himself and made the same gesture of possession.

My rifle is yours—your daughter is mine.

At the final thrusting motion of his hand, Alawa gasped.


The referee called for captains to the center of the field. Many teams pick more than one captain for the pre-game handshake and rules review with the game official. On the Sewanhaka Warriors, there was only one captain—Sean Schipper. Standing at the centerline confronting him were four blunt ruffians, dressed in the brilliant green and gold of the Montauk Tomahawks.

“If you put two hands on your stick like this,” said the ref as he grabbed Schipper’s stick and swung it across his chest like a tree ax, “I’m going to call slashing every time. I don’t care if you happen to hit the other’s guy’s stick and not his arm, I’m going to blow my whistle.

“If you nick a facemask when you’re poking for the stick, I might not see it. But if I hear this,”—he thwwacked Schipper in the head—“you’re going for two, maybe three.”

The Warriors were 6-0 now. After the Sachem game, they had beaten Abequogue, Speonk, Shinnecock, Copiague and Mahopac. In first place, so far undefeated, the atmosphere of the pre-game ritual had changed: the young men facing him were breathing fire. Everyone was going to play harder against them now.

Schipper recognized one of the players across the centerline: it was Ancorro. There were a select few players whose fame was such that they were known by one name, and Ancorro was one of them. There was no mistaking him. It was his calves of all things that gave away his identity. No one had calves like Ancorro. They were bulging with muscles and framed below by his signature dirty white socks with yellow stripes. That was his lucky charm, those old socks, and he had worn them so often that the elastic had simply given up, and now they hung limp, drooped in surrender around the top of his shoes.

Arms you can pump up with weights, chest and abs you can work rock hard if you’re disciplined, but calves? You’re either born with muscles there or you’re not.

In Ancorro’s case, it was his defining feature. He was a bull, and a bull born with muscles in his calves is a bull born with muscles everywhere.

Upward from his calves, his thighs were also preternaturally large, with the foremost muscle popping out and over his knees. His ass was enormous for his height and looked as if it could stop a slow-moving automobile.

His chest was massive and solid, an immovable structure, like sturdy brickwork. No shield was necessary here; his chest itself was a shield. His biceps were pythons writhing to get free from the black nylon straps of his arm guards. His head popped out of his shoulders—no neck—and his shoulders were by default hunched forward a little, like he was chronically set in position to ram whatever it was in front of him. His shoulder-pads were an afterthought, worn only because the rules said he had to.

When he ran, he charged; not running on the grass but tearing through it with little clefts of mud and turf flying all around him as his cleats clawed and grinded their way through the earth.

It occurred to Schipper that he had never seen Ancorro without his helmet on, and, now, here was his face!—without the metal grillwork in front of it that seemed so natural to him. His skin was ruddy from playing lacrosse in the sun, and his cheekbones bulged like stout walls of obstruction. He was smiling ravenously—a tooth was missing!—like he was about to do the most fun thing in the world: to crash and batter and bust other bodies, to dive in the dirt.

There was no attempt on his part for intimidation, trash-talk or psychological warfare. His very presence was warfare. He was a brute fact, a clod, and you would be dealing with this force soon enough. He knew it, you knew it, so there was no need to gussy it up.

Some of Schipper’s teammates loathed Ancorro out of fear, but standing across from him, seeing him this close, Schipper kept a clear and steady mind-focus on a few key facts.

Yes, it was true that, if Ancorro started beating you, he could steamroll you into the ground and laugh just for the fun of it. Schipper knew there was nothing personal about it: Ancorro liked to crunch opponents under foot, and you just happened to be the opponent standing in front of him today. If it wasn’t you, it would be someone else—so why hate him? In another context, Schipper could even imagine being Ancorro’s friend.

But, if Ancorro got behind, starting losing, Schipper had seen in previous encounters that it wasn’t fun for him anymore, and his strength and motivation ebbed. He got frustrated easily and didn’t have the stomach to rally from behind.

“Treat me and your opponent with respect, and you’ll be alright,” the ref continued. “But, if I’ve called any of your games before, you know I don’t like hot shots.

“OK, gentlemen, shake hands, and let’s play lacrosse.”

Ancorro gave Schipper a little fist bump, obviously eager to get the preliminaries over and start busting heads.

But, as he jogged back to his sideline, Ancorro was intercepted by Pomper, who had unexpectedly bolted out at a diagonal to confront him. Pomper positioned himself directly in Ancorro’s path, chest-to-chest, and whipped off his helmet. This revealed his Mohawk haircut which he had dyed a fresh red for the game.

“Pomper, what the hell?” Schipper heard himself say out loud.

Ancorro was at first perplexed and tried to jog around him. But Pomper beat him to the spot—chest puffed up, mouth a straight taut line, chin in the air. Ancorro tried to go around him the other way, but there was Pomper again. Fed up, Ancorro just put his head down and charged straight into Pomper’s chest. Pomper took one step to the side, put both hands behind Ancorro’s head and slung him forward like a bull lurching past a matador.

Ancorro stumbled forward clumsily and almost fell.

Aiy-ya-a-a-i-i-i-i-i-e-e-e-e-e!!!” Pomper let out a terrifying war-whoop and triumphantly raised both arms in the air.

“I see the Spirit! I shrivel up your heart!”

By now, McEneaney had caught up to them and grabbed Pomper from behind.

“That’s enough, wild man.”

He pulled him backward from the waist with Pomper still whooping like a banshee, and they both tumbled to the ground.

Both benches emptied onto the field and some follow-on skirmishes broke out among the players on both sides.

This was crazy—in front of all these people!—parents from both schools, teachers, friends. The game hadn’t even started yet, and there was already a brawl on the field!

Ancorro was fuming. “I got your number, dickhead!”

Yeah, 22-double deuces.

Pomper regained his feet, and the referee blew the whistle madly in his face.

“Son, you’re not playing lacrosse today. Coach, get this kid to the locker room.”

“I take the Sky! I see the Spirit!”

Pomper violently shook off every hand on him, including the coach’s, then pushed his way through a crowd of sneering taunters.

There was no rationale for what he had done, and he didn’t offer any. No one on the field could defend his actions. It was inexcusable and flat-out weird. He was utterly alone in the aftermath.

Pomper walked away from the crowd toward the locker room door. One of his lacrosse gloves was missing and an arm-guard was gone, too.

Without looking back, he disappeared through the door to the locker room.

It was a real feat to make Ancorro a sympathetic figure, but Pomper had managed to do so.

Rose had been waiting for her after-school bus, which was delayed in arriving that day, and had witnessed the entire debacle. It was repulsive to her what Pomper had done, wrong in so many ways. Would he be suspended? Kicked out of school?

Rose thought back to the day in Bayside Park when she had accidentally come upon Pomper as he stood bare-chested in front of the False Face on the totem pole. In her mind, a straight line was drawn from that moment to this, a line like a lit fuse that had propelled its way over the last several years to today’s combustion.

This was lacrosse, Rose rationalized, and what had Pomper done, really?

He had taken on the top player on the opposing team and did what? Stand in his way? He hadn’t even touched him, Rose reasoned, till Ancorro charged him. Pomper had done what most other players wished they could do: stand bravely in front of their fiercest opponent, defend his teammates, master the moment, unafraid. They were the Sewanhaka Warriors, after all, now undefeated and defending their top spot.

It was a fierce statement, for sure, a statement that only Pomper—the craziest, the one furthest from the center—could make:

We are the best. We have won six in a row and are gunning for a seventh. We are not going to be fair about this, we are not going to be nice, we are not going to share the glory we’ve earned. We play with abandon, we play with a lustful heat, we play to triumph, and, not just some of the time, every time we don the Warrior uniform and walk onto the field, it’s full on. We are not afraid of you. You are afraid of us.

In Game One, McEneaney had led the way to another level of play that his teammates hadn’t thought they were capable of attaining. But now, with Pomper’s wild histrionics, the Warriors had been pulled to yet another realm where, to follow him, was, in a sense, to leave mortal men behind entirely. It was burning the bridge, hacking off a limb to get free.

If you wanted Victory, Pomper was saying, you must be willing to cut away everything that is half-assed in your life, everything that is mediocre and gray, every one that is frightened and clinging to you like a Lilliputian tethered to a Giant. You will hear their condemnations, you will feel their cold shoulders, you will suffer their averted eyes and all this, not for the assurance of Victory, but for a chance at Victory.

Even with Pomper off the field, his message resonated as if written in day-glo orange across the sky:

Say goodbye to the common boundaries of custom and come with me, where few dare to go. Join me in this place where Victory is real, and Defeat is real. Come where Joy is immense, where Wonder abounds never-ending, where Glory crowns the brave, never-fading, where Light shines without shadow, where Meaning and Purpose reverberates through everything. Have some balls, for God’s sake, and live your life like it is miraculous, because it surely is

Rose picked up Pomper’s glove and arm-guard. On the wrist flap, she noticed the Warrior logo.

“Rose, what are you doing?”

It was Melissa, Rose’s faux-friend, and Pomper’s sometimes girlfriend.

Rose couldn’t think of a good answer. Her actions had surprised her, too. For a moment, she felt a hot flash of shame, aware that everyone was looking at her, not even knowing what to do with Pomper’s stuff bundled in her arms.

A stiffening bolt of courage shot through her spine, like concrete being poured into a mold reinforced with a latticework of steel bars. Whatever else might happen in these next few moments, she knew that she would not cry.

She retraced Pomper’s steps back to the sidelines which, by now, had subsided and walked toward the coach. Schipper intercepted her path and took Pomper’s stuff from her. Oddly, she felt like bowing at the exchange.

What’s happening to me? she thought.

Schipper added Pomper’s equipment to a pile of team equipment by the bench.

Rose stepped back from the players, away from the sidelines, actually walking backwards and facing them as she did so.

This isn’t just high school, she thought, not just sports after class. These are warriors. That is Pomper’s armor and shield; this is a Field of Honor; here flint sharpens flint. This game is a perennial stage-show of Courage

All the lacrosse players before in long-gone seasons,
who scuffled and scraped for the ball,
who dinged and busted their sticks,
who soared like prancing gazelles,
who swallowed defeat like mud,
who blazed brilliant in crystalline moments, dazzling as a star-point of light,
who were laid flat by someone they never saw coming,
who were admired from afar for their daring,
who were ashamed for disappointing their comrades, their parents, their coach and their school.

In Rose’s mind, what happened with Pomper and Ancorro suddenly shifted in perspective: it was the intensity of the game itself that caused the flare-up, pouring through these young players like molten fire. The boys themselves could hardly be blamed. They were only conduits for red-hot Principalities like Courage and Honor and Loyalty working their mighty way through them from the level of the Moral Universe, traversing aeons, and manifesting here on this field.

It’s a wonder there weren’t more outbreaks, that heads and hearts didn’t literally explode, considering the power, the import and the significance of these Principalities surging through them.

For a rare few moments, Rose found herself drawn into the essence of the game. It was as if a shell had cracked so she could peer into a realm normally hidden. She saw how these weighty powers are softened by the pure Joy of Movement, the Exhilaration of Speed, the Timelessness of Play, the Pride of Skill, the Glory of Accomplishment and by the Love of Comrades-in-Arms.

She glimpsed the sweeping drama of these Principalities in contest. It was like Olympian Giants big-footing gaily through a mountain range, cavorting like clumsy children with too-big bodies, skipping, bumping, falling, laughing, careening, dizzily expending energy in abundance, a ridiculous profusion of life overflowing with Grace and Majesty.

But, through it all, Rose saw the Organizing Principle, a fuse burning through the spine of everything, the same fuse that had been lit within Pomper in front of the False Face, a maddening itch that never went away and irritated the world, an abiding thirst that could be slaked but for a time, only to return again and again.

It was this that drove these young men to practice on fields worn bare of grass, on hard-pan of dust and rocks; it was this that proved more powerful than boredom and fatigue, that pushed them past the brute realization of their own shortcomings.

It was this: the Drive to Victory, the chance to Triumph over it all, to drink the champagne of celebration from the Silver Chalice—just once, if need be, just once, and its sweetness lasts Forever. Even if it were but a few chance drops onto lips dry-caked by the sun, one sparkling drop from above, just one taste, can make it all worth it: the interminable practice, the nagging injuries, the shame of failure, the sacrifice of time, the persistence of doubt, the self-incrimination and the withering Truth of a self-laid-bare. Because, on a contested field, there is no hiding yourself from yourself or from your comrades who rely on your part or from the spectators who may wince to see you flinch from a challenge.

Lacrosse exists now as it did then as it will in the future, Rose mused, a Celebration of Life, played for the pleasure of the Creator—like the Haudenosaunee said. And these young men—my friends, my classmates, every one of them that I know—are playing their role in honor of the Miracle, the Mystery, the Majesty of our Existence, this Grand Playpen God has provided for us, this Eternal Sandbox, on which we strut but for a time. This now includes me, Rose thought, and Pomper and Ancorro and each of these spectators tut-tutting Pomper’s outrageous behavior.

Whatever else you may say about him, Pomper was being true to the Warrior Code, his Warrior Code.

Rose again noticed the Warrior emblem, this time on the back of Pomper’s helmet left on the team bench. It was the Thunderbird: eyes blazing, wings arched upward on both sides of its head, talons clasping a lacrosse stick. This fierce king symbolizes physical power but also strength of character—an indefatigable fighting spirit that never gives up regardless of the situation.

To be a warrior is to accept your role in all this, Rose thought. Everything thought to be GOOD, and everything thought to be BAD, everything thought to be NOT FAIR, and everything you don’t understand, that you’ll never understand. To swallow it ALL and to walk your walk regardless of this—and to do so with a smile, with some juice to your style, with a feather in your cap, with your shoulders back and your head held high, with a flourish, helping to cast the sparkle of magic everywhere and to everyone.

Joie de vivre, the French call it…

“Rose? You OK?”

It was Melissa again, trying to call her back to Planet Earth.

“I’m fine,” said Rose. “It’s just so weird what’s happening.”

“I know: Pomper can be such an asshole.”

The harshness of her statement jarred Rose into insight about her faux-friend. Melissa is a scared little rabbit, Rose thought. She has smugly stopped her understanding at a certain point, too fearful to go any further.

Like those old maps that circumscribed the known world, with a written warning outside the line—There the dragons be!—she’s hunkered down in that place and feathered her redoubt with cemented opinions, justifications built like stone ramparts 20-feet tall, topped with guardians armed with barbed weaponry, doctrine really, the World According to Melissa, lathered over in mortar, layer after layer, thickly and generously applied, impervious to outside thought, reinforced by a continuous loop of protection and denial.

I may be weird, Rose thought. But at least I’m not that—God help me, not that.

Ttweeet! The ref blew his whistle, calling the players to start the game.

Rose found a sit-spot in the aluminum fan-stands; she couldn’t go home now. Melissa trailed away and got absorbed into a friend-cluster somewhere.

I’m going to enjoy this, Rose thought, as she settled in to watch the opening face-off. She drew a red hood over her head for warmth.

Really, really enjoy this…


After the big pregame ruckus between Pomper and Ancorro, the game, not yet begun, had taken on a different hue. Would the Warriors play under a cloud of shame for Pomper’s hostilities? And what of Ancorro? He lined up for the opening face-off as part of his team’s first midfield line. Would he retaliate? If he did, who would he retaliate against? Pomper wasn’t on the field.

One thing Dietz’ face-off coach had drilled into his head was that, at all times, “Do the do-able.” It was his favorite saying and for good reason. For his students of the face-off, it set some hard boundaries to thought and action; it was a solid plan that a player could rely on during any game situation. Not only does Do the do-able direct that you cannot change what is outside of your power to change, such as trying to undo Pomper’s hostile confrontation with Ancorro, but it also directs that you are to do what it is you can do: here and now, in this face-off circle, against this player.

So, with this directive guiding him, Dietz had his mind set right well before the ref was ready to blow the start-whistle. He was target-zoned into the moment.



Possession Warriors!”

Dietz first look was upfield where McEneaney had cut back to the ball and accepted Dietz’ pass as if it was the most natural thing in the world. There was a ripple of relief felt across the field. The game had finally begun.

But, as the initial minutes of the game unfolded, it became clear that Ancorro’s play was marked by a strange lassitude. It was still Ancorro, yes, his physical presence was, as always, an undeniable fact on the playing field. But he wasn’t the same. He was off kilter, like he had been knocked out of phase, like he was listing some 30 degrees, badly in need of a recalibration. He was still a taut rolling knot of muscle trundling like a bowling ball among pins, but it was as if he had been blown sideways by a mighty wind. He was no longer a terrifying Minotaur big-footing his way through a field of daisies; he seemed tamer, confused.

Physiologically, perhaps, it was because adrenaline had flooded his body when trying to face down Pomper, and now the stultifying after-effects of lactic acid was having its way with him. The steam had gone out of his whistle, and he had all the flexibility of a railroad tie. He was like a large mammal that, unbeknownst to him, has been shot in the rump with a morphine dart. At first the big brute seems confused about what is happening, then it struggles against the effects of the drug, then it stumbles, then it falls.

And, as the the first half dwindled to a close, it was apparent that this lethargy was not going away. For Ancorro, the game had been lost before the first whistle blew. He wasn’t going to rally; he wasn’t going to shake himself out of it. He had been neutralized. And, as Ancorro goes, so goes his team, the Montauk Tomahawks. They, too, seemed wounded, traveling at half-speed, not thinking clearly.

A modest lead for the Warriors in the first half grew steadily wider. Early in the fourth quarter, the big rhino apparently pulled a muscle in one of those famous calves and skip-limped to the sidelines, not to play again that day.

Pomper had succeeded. He had won the game for his team before the opening face-off by zapping the other team’s best player into a zombie. It was worth the sacrifice of getting thrown out of the game. It was worth the scorn of the parents and some of his teammates. And he didn’t mind the reputation that this would surely create for him around the league; as Dietz would say: crazy.

He would capitalize on that later, too, if it would help his team to win.

Warriors 9, Montauk 4. Still undefeated, 7-0.

Lily of the Forest

As Trottier approached the rounded wigwam on the outskirts of the village, he could tell she was inside by the shadows projected by the fire onto the deerskins that draped its wooden framework. His body quivered from its neurons surging electric with anticipation.

He pulled aside the cover across the portal and entered. In the center of the enclosure burned the hearth-fire.

Alawa bowed to him in greeting and stood from her perch on the fireside log-stool. She bade Trottier to take a seat next to her, which he did.

She walked to one corner of the hut and retrieved an arm-full of firewood and carefully laid this at Trottier’s feet. She returned for more wood and added it to the fire, which expanded with the fresh fuel.

Trottier sat quiet and still.

Alawa retrieved a wooden bowl. She poured in a handful of dried corn kernels and began grinding at them with a stone pestle. As she ground them into meal, she added some herbs and fish oil. Trottier recognized this as sagamite, the gruel-like corn mash that was the common fare of her people.

She set up a wooden tripod over the fire and, from the intersection of the three poles, suspended a kettle. This was not just any stone kettle but the “Great Kettle,” so called because it was made of brass, not clay.

From his stump-seat, Trottier waited and watched as Alawa ladled the corn-mash into the kettle with her wooden spoon.

Here they were together, apart from the rest, and she was attending to a common domestic duty, the preparation of the sagamite over the hearth of this humble dwelling. There was a ceremonial quality to Alawa’s movements that electrified her gestures with an amplified import.

She stirred and fussed over the mush with great care and occasionally tasted it to assess its readiness. Trottier heard her humming, a low lilting melody, barely loud enough to attract his attention, bewitching him with half-heard melodies and meanings, just outside his circle of knowing and bespeaking of a world in which he knew little but was about to enter.

He watched mesmerized as this elaborate passion-play unfolded before his eyes.

She swung the kettle his way and scooped a small portion of the gruel and offered it to him. This was it—her feeding him the sagamite—this was her ceremonial acceptance of the marriage. She was demonstrating to him her domestic proficiency and abiding service to him as his bride.

He opened his mouth, and she fed him a spoonful. Three times she offered, and three times he accepted.

She was offering herself to him, and he was opening himself to her.

Then she put the kettle aside and added a few more logs to the fire. She chose a kindling-stick from the logpile and, with exaggerated obviousness, lit the end of it and handed it to Trottier.

She withdrew to the back corner of the shelter where there was a bed rack and slid under a small pile of blankets that had been pre-set there.

It was apparent what he must do, so Trottier approached the side of Alawa’s bed, holding the flame-lit stick before him. Alawa turned her head, raised herself on her elbows and blew out the flame.

Trottier dropped the stick now smoking and joined her underneath the blankets.

She wrapped both arms around the back of his neck and drew him toward her. Her body was soft and compliant beneath him. There was no stopping this now, no going back, for this Frenchman and this Lily of the Forest.

From within these warm and safe enfoldments, they heard the night wind cleave the sky as their two worlds came together like a sudden explosive rip of thunder.


The following morning, she grabbed his hand and led him out into the morning. Together, they were to take the traditional after-marriage walk.

The forest-path looked new, the creek-side looked new, the mist between the mountains, new. Trottier’s soul-sphere had rolled another 180 degrees, a complete revolution yet again, from the old to the new, from what was to what is to be. It was another golden morning among so many, bursting through the night, on an ever-revolving cycle.

As if sailing across the ocean to this New World weren’t enough, as if giving up his old life as a farmer wouldn’t do, as if living among these new people as a hunter and a trapper hadn’t sufficed, now he had bedded one of their women. And here he was, walking along this path with this young woman so strange and so wild.

She was careful to tread at least three steps behind him. When he turned to look toward her, she directed her eyes elsewhere in modesty and discretion. And, while they walked, she hummed that same lilting tune he had heard from her in the love-hut, something so sweet to his ear and soothing to his heart, not simply to amuse herself but to please him. He was her husband now, her liege lord, and she was eager to demonstrate this to him.

In the morning light, she seemed little more than a child, her mind all purity, dutiful to the lessons that had been taught her by the matrons of the clan. Naive though she was, Trottier did not feel tempted to exploit her. Instead, what he felt was a deep-borne desire to protect her, to make her safe. She was Alawa, but now she was his Alawa, and he meant to keep it that way.

Her comportment toward him worked like an arrow that hit its mark. It made him feel honored, privileged, and it called from him a man that was more gentlemanly, more courageous, more at ease than he had suspected he was capable.

He was stepping into a larger part of his manhood that was being discovered with every new footfall.

And as the Great Orbs revolved,
as the moon appeared each night to peek into their love-hut,
as fair Eos returned again and again to cover them each morning in haloed shades of pastel,
as brash Helios sought them in the glare of each afternoon trying to shine away the fog of their drowsy love,
he walked with her, he laid with her, he sat with her before the fire.

They spent some 25 moons in this way, glorying in the amber afterglow that surrounded them like a protective sphere. Trottier did not hunt or fish. He did not think of his quest for Saguenay. He but lingered in the comfort of domesticity attended to so sweetly by his young bride.

What she was spreading out for him like a sitting mat over this time was a simple dynamic, a stable equilibrium to sustain their marriage: service to him equals protection for her.

Here is the mat of companionship I lay before you. Come sit with me for a lifetime; come sit with me for eternity.

This invitation acted as a magnetic tonic to his soul. He could no more resist the gravity of this then could a shot arrow resist the pull toward the center of the earth.

Trottier’s old self had been blown apart, atomized into a million tiny pieces, like that bird shot out of the air by his arquebus.

Then, one morning, Wematim and Kitchi showed up at their love-hut. They looked quite different with Ahanu gone. They were no longer two of the three strings that had been woven together into a neat cord; they were now but two free-standing strands separated from each other by a space as wide as that which is between east and west.

They called Trottier out and greeted him, a bit formally, then gesture-said:

Is this true what we have heard that you have taken for yourself a bride?


You? You can not even clothe yourself without help from us.

“It is nevertheless true. I have done so.”

The two rocked back and forth and stepped with their feet as if they were standing on hot coals. This was a painful thing for them to hear.

Kitchi came forward and gesture-said:

A wife would be like a stone tied around Kitchi’s ankle. She would drag down Kitchi the trapper when crossing a stream. She would trip up Kitchi the hunter as he chased elk through the forest. She would take away the courage that long years in the forest have given him. Kitchi is a warrior. And Kitchi will die a warrior and not a coward.

This stung Trottier, delivered as it was with such blunt assurance, but what followed from Kitchi was more than just hurtful—it was the expression of decisive action.

Manitourino, we will no longer teach you to hunt the beaver. We will no longer welcome you into our canoe. We will not take you to Saguenay.

And with that his two hunter-companions turned on their heels and walked away.

Trottier watched as they picked up their pace and, at a full trot, disappeared into the forest. He turned and swept open the door to the love-hut. Alawa was tending to the fire, but her body language said all the words she did not speak. It was obvious that she knew what had just transpired with the hunters outside the enclosure.

This was a new dynamic between them. Before, there had been no connection between their love and the outside world; now it had cost him his friendship with Wematim and Kitchi. The rifle was a price he most happily paid—he would get another—but this rift with his traveling companions was a fresh cost and a dear one. Who knew what other price he would have to pay for this liaison? And he thought of the Captain…

Trottier managed to send Alawa a thin grin of assurance, but now this love was real, with real consequences.

He became aware of the squawking of a vast flock of geese in the far off wild somewhere outside the village. They were itching to get back on the move. Trottier, too, was anxious to be back on his way. He had paused for a while in marital bliss with his bride. But now, like the geese, it was time to move on, from the love-hut to what lay ahead…

Arrow Spirit

An arrow that is my spirit is what I employ.

That very night, fresh from this new separation of the Sons of Thunder, Kitchi stared at the campfire and thought of a time when he was a young boy, and his uncle Karon’hi:io spoke these words just for him…

“Kitchi, we are Kanien’kehá:ka. We are sharp, we are hard, we are useful. Like Soson’dow:ah, we are great hunters. But also like him, our duty among the Haudenesaunee is to guard the eastern doorway. We are honor-bound to guard the eastern door.”

With that, Karon’hi:io stood facing the doorway and placed his right fist over his chest. He blurted his warrior-grunt, “Kwā!” and fist-thudded his chest.

With his fire-stick, he scratched a design in the open space on the dirt floor beneath his feet. It had five symbols, arranged horizontally next to each other, each connected to the ones on either side of it with a simple bar. They looked like links in a chain.

The first and the fifth symbols, on either end of this chain, were squares. The second and the fourth symbols were rectangles, too, but with the vertical lines longer than the horizontal. The symbol in the middle was a tree.

“Kitchi, this is the covenant chain of the Haudenosaunee. It was given to us as a wampum belt by Hayo’wetha. Hayo’wetha was the spokesperson for the Great Peacemaker himself. He was a great orator who helped bind and unify our people. It illustrates our commitment to Gaya’ness’ha:gowa, the Great Law of Peace.

“In the center is the White Pine, the Tree of Peace. It represents the Onun’daga:ono (People of the Hills—Onondaga). They are the holders of the Council Fire. This is the heart of our people and the capital of our confederacy.

“It is there on the shores of Oniatarí:io (Beautiful Lake—Lake Ontario) where the hatchets were buried, thereby planting the Great Law of Peace.

“To its left, this rectangle represents the Onayo’teká:ono (People of the Standing Stone—Oneida). And to the right of the Tree of Peace is the square that represents the Guyoh’koh:nyoh (People of the Great Swamp—Cayuga). The square furthest to the left represents the Onondowahgah (People of the Great Hill—Seneca). They are the keepers of the western door.

“But this square, Kitchi, all the way to the right, this is the square that represents our people, Kanien’kehá:ka.”

Still facing in that direction, Karon’hi:io uttered the warrior affirmation again:


“We are the keepers of the eastern door. We are also the older brothers of the other nations because Hayo’weth:a delivered to us first the Great Law of Peace, and then we shared it with our brothers to the west.”

He turned again to his nephew standing beside him.

“So, you see, Kitchi, each nation is separate, but they are yet strongly bound together by the Law of Peace.”

Then Karon’hi:io reached to the quiver hung from a cross-beam and pulled out an arrow. He faced young Kitchi and abruptly snapped the arrow over his knee. The clean crack of the arrow-shaft splitting was startling—just as intended. Karon’hi:io tossed the two halves dismissively into the fire.

Then he reached into the same quiver and pulled out five arrows. These he tied together in a neat bundle and handed the arrow-bundle to Kitchi.

“Break it,” he commanded.

Kitchi hesitated.

“Break it,” Karon’hi:io said more sternly.

Kitchi propped his right foot on the nearest bed-frame in the longhouse, which raised his knee before him like a platform. He held the arrow-bundle on either side with his hands and raised it high in the air over his knee, as high as his extended arms could reach.

Some of those gathering took notice and stopped what they were doing to watch.

Kitchi was still unconvinced that he could break five arrows over his knee like this, but he knew that a half-effort would likely give him more pain than a full-effort. He could not be a coward in front of his uncle and the other men who were watching him in the longhouse.

So he decisively set his mind that he would ram-down the arrow-bundle over his knee with as much force as he could muster.

And this he did…

The five-arrow bundle did not break. And, judging by the dull thudding sound it made, it wasn’t even close to breaking. Kitchi felt pain in his knee, yes, but what he hadn’t expected was the lightning sharp pain he felt in his right arm.

“A-a-a-a-g-g-h-hhh!” he screamed.

It was a stinger that electrified the entire length of his arm up to his shoulder and beyond. Kitchi dropped the bundle like it was cursed and began hopping and hobbling around the fire, holding his right arm and yelping like a dog that’s kissed a porcupine.

All the men assembled laughed hard at what had happened.

“Look,” cackled one of the onlookers. “He’s doing the smoke dance! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!”

They all laughed the louder now, slapping each other on the back and holding their sides in laughter-pain. Even Kitchi managed a tight smile after a while, and, as the pain subsided, he returned to his spot around the fire. A few of the older men tousled his hair to buck him up, though he was clearly mortified.

Having had a good laugh himself, Karon’hi:io approached Kitchi when the time was right and put his arm around his shoulder.

“You see Kitchi, one arrow can be broken; five bound together cannot.

“Such is the confederation of the Haudenasaunee…”

Pop, a tiny air pocket exploded from within a log in the campfire, waking Kitchi from his reverie to his surroundings again. There was Wematim, also lost in some reverie, across the fire from him. But there was no Ahanu, no Trottier.

Kitchi stared, stonefaced.

Blazing Arrow

When you go out to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. And, when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is He who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’”
-Deuteronomy 20:1-4 

“Jake, put some eye-black on me.”

Brady dipped his right thumb into the eye-black pot and smeared it in one motion across the ridge of Pomper’s cheekbone. That was the way to do it: with the four fingers on the temple and then one confident swipe with the thumb along the cheekbone.


Now his left thumb plunged in. He withdrew it and, slower this time, smeared it with a little emphatic whip-away at the end.

Pomper looked in the mirror.

“I like it. Now do along the bridge of my nose, straight between my eyes and a little way onto my forehead. Use this blue paint now.”


“Yes, blue—do it.”

“What’s that for? Eye-black is supposed to be black; it knocks down the sun reflecting off your skin, so you can see better.”

“For the Indians, black is the color of war, blue is for strength. We’re playing an Indian game.”

“Coach isn’t going to like it.”

“I‘m not doing it for him; I’m doing it for the guy covering me. I know he isn’t going to like it. I’ll be inside his head before the first whistle blows.”

Brady dipped his right thumb into the blue-goo.

“You trust me?”

“You’ll get it right, I’m not worried.”

There was that cocky stare again.

“Or I’ll beat the snot out of you.”

Brady dragged a thin goopy smear straight up his nose—stopping just above the eye-line.

“OK—now the red—two lines stretching away from the corners of my mouth. Then my entire chin, all red.”

“What are you—the Joker?”

“Black for war, blue for strength. Red is the sign that a warrior is ready to kill or be killed. Iroquois—Mohawks.”

I become like fire.

This was getting a little too weird for Brady.

“Why can’t you just put this on yourself?”

“You’re my brother, Jake—my fellow Warrior. You and I are on the same team. This is a sacred bond, and you doing this for me affirms that bond. It’s a covenant. If anyone touches you on that field today, they will be hearing from me, I assure you.”

Pomper looked into the mirror. He did look freaky. He shrieked a weird little laugh—took off his jersey.

“OK, do my chest now.”

“Get the hell out of here. I’m not touching your chest, homo.”

“Jake, we’re going into battle. Just like the Indians. We need war paint, man. Indian warriors painted each other before they played this game. It’s a sign of brotherhood. We are blood brothers, who are going into battle together. Now don’t let me down. It’ll break the team bond. We don’t need broken bonds now; we need to be tight—warriors: you in the goal, me on the midfield.”

He was dead serious.

I consecrate my body to battle.

“Stripe me right up the middle—between the pecs. Then give me some lateral swipes, not quite touching the centerline. Like this…”

Pomper drew it on the wooden bench with his finger.

“I saw this Iroquois pattern in a book. It’ll look cool.”

“No one’s going to see eye-black on your chest, idiot—under your uniform.”

I’ll know it’s there—it’s my mark. It will make me wild, and I’ll play unafraid. “

Pomper was unafraid—it’s what gave him his power over other people—no fear, no shame.

Brady could see there was no getting out of it. So he set to work as quickly as he could. Pomper watched himself in the mirror as the pattern emerged, one line at a time.

“You’re good at this, man,” he said with a lewd leer. “Maybe you should hire yourself out.”

“Shut the hell up, douchebag.”

Pomper raised his fists over his head like a boxer who had just won a championship fight.

“Aiy-ee—ee-yai-aiy!” an ear-splitting war-whoop. Pomper jumped and jigged and jostled his way around the locker room, lurching his head forward and back.


“You’re a freakin’ nut, man,” Brady said, laughing at his antics but a little afraid of him all the same.

“I am an animal—an AN-I-MAL!” Pomper said, spinning like a dervish, raising his knees one after the other as he spun. There was a wild, jerky rhythm to it—jumpy spasms.

“The Haudenesaunee believe that everyone has a totem animal that guides them throughout their life. It has power and wisdom for those who ask for it. Once you learn it, usually through a dream, you adopt that animal as your guardian.”

“So what are you—a beaver?” Brady tried this lame attempt at a double-entendre.

“Maybe I am. That’s the problem. I don’t know. I intend to find out, though. If you don’t find your totem animal, you are completely lost—no guidance, no identity.”

Pomper stopped and looked at himself in the mirror again. He crossed his arms in front of his chest in the shape of an X with each arm touching the other at the forearm.

“What was that word in the Poe story today in Singletary’s class—started with an m…”


“That’s it—maelstrom! Today, I’m throwing myself into the maelstrom. And when I emerge, I will emerge with my totem animal.”

“How ‘bout a cougar? Like that new lunch lady who’s always smiling at you: a cougar.”

Pomper didn’t respond; he was too busy looking at himself in the mirror as he pulled the straps tighter on his shoulder pads, wriggled-in back under his jersey, strapped on his arm pads, slid his helmet over his head, snapped the chin strap, then forced the mouth guard over his teeth.

“OK, let’s go do it.” he growled.

During the pre-game warm-ups, everything seemed the same with Pomper. He was light on his feet as usual, bouncing tiny skip-steps as he waited in the warm-up line for his turn at ground balls or passes, tapping teammates on the helmet, laughing, joking, always in motion, keeping himself and his teammates loose before battle.

This was Pomper staying in the moment. It was how he warded off tension. It was his way, the way that worked, the way he applied to every game with great effect.

After the game began, Pomper played at a level different from anything that had come before. He seemed elevated, set apart, going at a higher rate of speed. His body was lithe and limber, slithering like a muscular snake. He played like he was an invertebrate.

It was a glorious thing to behold: a young athlete at the peak of his skills playing this most beautiful of games. He darted in and around players, electrifying the field with a crackling irresistible energy.

He popped the top corner of the net with a whip shot from 26 feet; he bounced one in off a quick feed from McEneaney. He buried a shot with a no-look, behind-the-head display of cock-sure wizardry—lefty!

And, after each goal, he pranced back to the midfield line or to the sidelines with his head high and the little tail of his bandana bouncing jauntily out from beneath his helmet. This marked him as a high-value target for the opposition players; his cockiness would not go unpunished. But, for now, Pomper’s play was a shiny glittering object of admiration for all. Even for the opposition players, this was a can’t-miss occasion to pause and marvel.

A new gallantry appeared in Pomper during this game as well, something his teammates had never seen. In the past, Pomper always objected when Aliperti called his midfield line off the field—it was obvious from his body language. Tired or not, he thought the Warriors were always a better team with him on the field.

This was a less-than-endearing quality of his to both his coach and his teammates. As much as his lesser teammates admired his skill and bravery, Pomper’s selfish dismissal of their contribution always rankled them. But, in this game, Pomper jogged off without complaint when his shift was over and even gave his line’s replacement players an encouraging tap on the helmet as they passed.

Whereas, before the game in the locker room, Brady had been frightened by Pomper’s weird ferocity—the body paint, the war-whoops, the dancing, the spooky talk of totem animals, the creepy physical intimacy—during the game, Pomper’s behaviour had shifted in a totally unexpected manner.

It was as if his entire persona had changed. It was still Pomper alright—still the cocky, physical, fearless, unpredictable warrior—but it was Pomper in a fuller way, the edges more rounded, the lineaments softer, the spirit more expansive.

No one had said anything to Pomper to change his attitude, no one had tightened a few screws to get his mind right. This change had come from within. It was all Pomper.

Throughout this season, Aliperti had left Pomper to work things out on his own. Even when, at times, Pomper’s behavior had been outrageous, and all voices cried out at once for Aliperti to “do something” about this kid, Aliperti stood back, doing little more than shooting him a silent reprimand through fiery eyes.

Aliperti recognized the seed that was burning inside this young man, like a super-hot chunk of glowing charcoal. No, this thing had to burn itself out of him, though it be painful for him and everyone around him. He was either going to come to terms with it on his own, or it would burn Pomper alive, from the inside out.

At one point in the third quarter, his defender swiped him clean of the ball. It was a humiliation for Pomper, to lose the ball so obviously like that, but it was a fair check, and Pomper congratulated him on a good play.

Pomper congratulating an opponent??!! That never happened. This was really new.

The Warriors went on to win the game, 10-4. Pomper scored four goals and had two assists. The Warriors unbroken string of victories was now at nine.

In the locker room after the game, there were congrats and high-fives all around. Pomper was awarded the game ball from Aliperti. He accepted it with the golden smile of a seven-year-old boy, but he seemed distant.

After showers, Schipper saw him sitting on the bench in front of his locker. He had on his street-pants but not yet his shirt. The body paint had been washed off his chest and his face. The hair-strip of his Mohawk was already dry, post-shower.

Seeing him there as he was, Schipper was reminded of everything Aliperti preached about family, about how family members encourage each other, lift each other up when they’ve fallen, push each other to excel. Despite the tense stand-off in their relationship, Schipper thought for a moment that it would be safe to approach him. But Pomper beat him to the spot, as he had been doing to opponents on the lacrosse field all afternoon.

He had apparently been aware of Schipper’s nearness because, though he didn’t take his fixed eyes off his locker, he spoke to him, or, more precisely, he spoke out loud in Schipper’s presence.

“The wolf is not a solitary animal. It is fiercely loyal to the pack. The eagle flies alone—like an arrow, a blazing arrow—higher than the rest.”

Row, Row, Row Your Boat…

“I was thinking about our talk the other day, and something occurred to me. Do you remember the song: ‘Row, row, row your boat?’“

Rose scrunched up her face as if the thought of it annoyed her because it was a silly kid’s song, but, yes, of course, she remembered.

Ms. Singletary then started singing it out loud, in the hallway full of kids:

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream

Rose was mortified. She wanted to crawl into a hallway locker and disappear. Here she was walking down the hallway alone with a teacher, and that teacher was singing out loud “Row, row, row your boat!!”

When the end of the first chorus approached, Rose hoped to God she wouldn’t start it up again from the beginning, but she did. Once it gets going, row, row, row your boat takes on a life of its own and keeps going, like, forever.

Just then, Alexa walked by in the opposite direction. She smiled widely and, shock to Rose, joined in! Singing along, she turned around and started walking with the pair. She put her arms around Rose and Ms. Singletary’s shoulders, threw her head back and belted it out.

No one could shame Alexa. She was untouchable. Her joyous spirit just naturally won every encounter. The boys loved her for it, and the girls couldn’t hate her for it. Everywhere she went, everything she did, a fresh sparkle-train trailed behind her. She drew others to her like iron filings to a magnet.

Now, marching down the hallway, there were three girls, then five girls, then eight girls singing. The cluster got so big, it bogged down at an intersection of two main hallways, a circle of singers formed around the central players: Ms. Singletary, Alexa and Rose.

Not to be outdone, a group of jocks joined in and started singing “in the round.” After the first phrase of the chorus, row, row, row your boat, they started up with their own row, row, row your boat. The depth of their male voices was a glorious counterweight to the female voices. It was great to hear the difference—girls’ voices, then guys’ voices—separate but intertwined with each other in harmony. It was silly, spontaneous and fun.

By now, even Rose had a giddy childlike smile on her face and was singing along, too, un-self-consciously. Somehow this felt like a huge celebration just for her. Even in the middle of this big huddle, Alexa didn’t remove her arm from around Rose’s shoulder. Rose beamed. It was Alexa! the most popular girl in the Universe, with her arm around Rose’s shoulder!

To Rose, the meaning of the simple lyrics became crystal clear. It was like the cosmos had gathered an immense chorus of angels, and they were all now singing to her the answer that she was seeking, the missing piece that was plaguing her dreams.

She didn’t need Ms. Singletary to interpret the lyrics for her. It was obvious: we are to row our boats. But not just row them, we are to row, row, row them. Three times row them. (So, try. Exert yourself. Keep going, all the way down the stream. Live as you, your full life.)

But we are to row them gently (with love and kindness) and merrily (in joy and celebration). And, not just merrily, but four times merrily—merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily.

Life is but a dream. (It is full of beauty and enchantment, but it’s all a dream anyway—so relax.)

Sometimes the Universe drops everything it’s doing in order to send a very loud message. On that afternoon, in that hallway, Rose got one of those messages…

From the Clutch of the Bear Clan

After a time, Trottier and his bride left the love-hut and moved into the wigwam of her family. This was their way—that he should leave his kith and kin and join in with hers. In Trottier’s case, this meant leaving Wematim and Kitchi, who had moved on into the forest.

As he passed through the clan-house portal for the first time, he noticed the images of bears sketched in red stain in the doorposts and along the wooden ramparts that made up the structure. They were members of the bear clan and proudly so.

Alawa’s family was warm and welcoming, and Trottier soon found himself woven into the rhythm of their lives. But domestic life in the family house smothered him like the smoke from the ever-burning hearth fires. He yearned for the open air again.

When he was invited by the young men of the village to join them in a hunting party, he was quick to say yes. Alawa approved and, on parting, stitched a small red feather tethered with some petite blue and white beads to a tassel on his deerskin coat. She kissed him on his bearded cheek and hung her arms around his neck for a time pulling him toward her. That she was so freely affectionate with him in front of her clan made him feel welcome and secure, but, in his heart, this feeling was tempered with a sharp pang of melancholy at their parting.

They were hunting tsyennìto, something Trottier knew he could do and do well. The land was broad and expansive and bore the modifications of tsyennìto at every turn: tree groves denuded into beaver meadows, hectares of forest flooded into swamp, rivers that had ceased being so.

But, mighty though its works may be, they were also a dead giveaway of tsyennìto’s location. Trottier and his trapper-friends made quick work of it that fall, and the pelts began to pile up. In five weeks of hunting, they had trapped and cleaned some 20 pelts and hidden them safely away in a cache between two imposing boulders.

Trottier also knew the location of the pelt caches that he had helped lay up with Kitchi and the others. He felt a rightful claim to those as well because he had personally trapped and cleaned so many of them.

This growing wealth in beaver pelts changed his immediate life-goals. His main interest now was in getting to the Mount Royal market in the spring, so he could trade the pelts for a rifle, powder and shot. If he could also trade for a horse, he would do so as well, the sooner the better.

From there, he would continue the quest for Saguenay, better equipped and with Alawa as his companion. She would be a great asset: interpreting, cooking, his very left hand.

Anything seemed possible in this sparkling new land, so what of it to travel down the Kitchissippi with his new bride.

He was managing well enough without his rifle, but he felt as though part of his identity was missing. Before he gave the rifle to Taratouan, he was manitourino—the man of wonders, the man with the thunderstick. Now, though his new tribe had carried over the moniker of manitourino as a sign of respect and friendship, he was manitourino without a rifle. He was just Trottier again. So he badly wanted another rifle.

During the hunt, Trottier was free to consider what he would tell the Captain were they to meet at the Mount Royal market. He had rehearsed in his mind many times how he would frame his efforts thus far as a partial victory: he had traveled deep into the native country these past 18 months, learning the ways and language of the natives; he had explored the early trail to Saguenay and had a clear direction on the path to pursue next; he had picked up local skills in hunting and fishing and had made many native alliances that would be helpful for a full-out attempt at the Golden City; he had even taken a partner, a representative, a go-between to navigate the space between them and their trading partners, Alawa.

But, try as he might to convince himself that he would be able to justify his accomplishments in this return encounter with the Captain, he was uneasy about it…

When he returned to the bear clan after hunting, Alawa gave him the kind of welcome afforded a conquering hero, and she clung to him as before when he had left her. It was clear to Trottier that her stature in the village had grown. When he had left her, she was little more than a girl who had loved for the first time. Now her footfalls had more assurance and her peers granted her a deference that had not been there before.

The longhouse though was as stultifying as ever, and, after a few days of lounging with Alawa, Trottier asked for an audience with Taratouan.

Taratouan proudly met with his son-in-law. In the eyes of the Chief, things were progressing well, but he would not be so pleased to hear the reason for Trottier’s visit.

Trottier presented Taratouan with the choicest beaver pelt from his hunting trip as a gift. Taratouan brought out the rifle, so they could admire it together. It was now festooned with decorations—a red arrow etched into its stock and a brilliant blue tail feather from a jay hung from its trigger guard. Taratouan had clearly made it his own.

When he saw the feather, Trottier felt for the red feather on his coat that had been stitched there by Alawa. He, too, had been made owned.

After the cordialities were completed, Trottier presented his plans to leave the village, to bring his pelts to Mount Royal and to trade there for another rifle, some ammunition and perhaps two horses.

He announced that Alawa would accompany him.

A darkness passed over Taratouan’s face. His Alawa was leaving. This was a blow worse than a broken leg, but, in his heart, he realized that she was not his anymore. She now belonged to manitourino.

And, though he reassured himself that she was in good hands, he did, however, insist that two of his braves go with them—for protection. Trottier agreed.

They would travel in two canoes and retrace the voyage that had brought him to the implausible phenomenon of this place and time: standing before a native chief whose life he had saved, with his daughter—now Trottier’s wife—about to join him on a long voyage back to the origin point of this most recent leg of his fantastic voyage, where the Captain awaited.

Fur Trade at Mount Royal

The compass needle led Trottier back to where the Sons of Thunder had hid their canoes—one was still there!—the one with the black eagle painted on the bow. Kitchi and Wematim must have taken the other and left this one behind, they being only two now.

Trottier stole the canoe without compunction, and Alawa packed it with their provisions and as many furs as it could carry. The two braves loaded their own canoe with pelts, and the two were launched into the river under the thin translucent light of an OnΛstasé moon (Green Corn moon).

Unlike the trip up-river, this time the current was their ally.

From his viewpoint in the rear, Trottier could see Alawa’s outline silhouetted against the shimmering silver light-bridge made in the water by the moon, an enormous bloated orb clock-ticking its course over the low distant hills. It was a moon whose appearance marked a time for her people when all offenses are forgiven except for rape and murder.

For Trottier, there was no other disturbance, no other input, no sound, no sight, but this: the soft rhythmic plunks of their paddle-strokes, and Alawa outlined by the sparkling refractions.

This is the way it would be all throughout that first night. And, on the day following that first night, they slept. As they did, their world together grew between them, enlarging cell by cell, ounce by ounce, inch by inch—a child—and, in this way, both a future and a past were emerging.

When they had met, they had no shared experience, not even a common cultural construct from which to interpret the world. In fact, there was very little for them to talk about, not before they consummated their attraction, nor in the days and weeks after.

But now between them a bond was being woven over rivers and portages, through sunlight and rain, in days under the open sky and nights under the moon phases progressing toward harvest. Alawa mended his tobacco pouch. Trottier hunted the ghekeront (Mohawk: salmon). She raised a day hut for sleeping. He shoved them off again from shore just before nightfall. She pushed past her nausea. He suppressed his fear of drowning. They went everywhere together, even hunting tsyennìto. He skinned it as she watched. She cooked it over the fire as he whittled the point of a makeshift hand-spear.

When their voyage together started, she, too, had called him manitourino, but, as their trip rolled out like line from a coil, she added her own pet name, ayeeiahchia’ (Wyandot: my heart).

Trottier mused as he paddled how Alawa might be dressed so that her bulge would not show if they were to meet the Captain, but there was no disguising it. She was too far along now and clearly more than his trading partner. She was his native bride, and they were to have a child who would be a métis, a cross between her culture and his own.

How could he care for his bride and this child and still make good on the terms of his indenture? He could not. His only hope was for the Captain’s pardon and release, but, knowing the Captain as he did, there was little chance that he would receive it. The Captain needed his men, all his men, and there were financiers he had to answer to from the Compagnie de la Nouvelle France.

No, the day of reckoning was fast approaching. With each paddle-stroke, it came closer with an ineluctable insistence.

Trottier timed his arrival at Mount Royal to coincide with the trading market. In this regard, his orienteering skills stood him in good stead. He had taken careful notes of significant milestones of his trip up-river and was spooling them out in reverse on the trip back: the rock structures of Asferatu and the Stone Coat Giants where they had slept, the rapids, the rock with the pictographs, where the river bellied out and where it pinched in again. It all came back to him effortlessly as if it was stored neatly for easy retrieval from his brain vault.

The pair with their escorts were met by some who traveled from the shoreline in canoes to greet them. Most were nothing more than curious, puzzled actually, by this unlikely pair traveling down-river and the two stoic braves who guarded them.

Alawa could be counted on to gesture-talk her way to a fair understanding, and, after a trifling exchange of gifts, all would be well again. Trottier was impressed with her alacrity in smoothing out these little points of friction, even if the situation called for the straight-faced presentation of an outright lie to continue their trip without harassment.

But Trottier’s anxiety rose when they approached Osheaga, the Big Fast rapids he had formerly negotiated under Kitchi’s guidance. It was one thing to run them up-river with an experienced hand at the rear of the canoe. Now, he was traveling down-river, loaded with pelts and a pregnant woman.

Fortunately, their escorts knew the safer ways and took the lead. Alawa held up surprisingly well throughout, and Trottier impressed even himself with his mastery of the canoe. After 15 minutes of intense anxiety and exertion, they punched through to calmer waters unharmed.

By the time they approached the rock enclosures where Trottier had started his outbound journey, Alawa had progressed in her term to where she could no longer carry her end of the canoe on a portage. But there was only one more long stretch of water to traverse, and then they could stop at Mount Royal.

Trottier sent the braves back to their village, having escorted them safely far enough to their destination. His plan was to negotiate this last stretch of water, then hide the canoe filled with most of the pelts.

He and Alawa would then travel by foot to the market where he would trade the remaining pelts for a rifle, powder and shot, a horse, maybe two, plus some tobacco and blankets. If he was lucky, he would make these trades without being recognized by any Europeans and make a direct exit.

There wouldn’t be time to make it back to Alawa’s village for the birth, so, after the trades, his plan was to camp on a little island in the big river they had scoped-out on their trip down. Fish were in abundance there, plenty of game and a source of freshwater.

It wasn’t a ticket to paradise, but it seemed protected, and Trottier was confident enough in his skills that, with a gun and the provisions they would secure at the market, they could survive the winter. From there, he would take his chances next spring.

But it didn’t work out that way. He wasn’t at the marketplace more than 20 minutes when the Captain himself strode straight to him, buffered on each side by an armed soldier and with a retinue of other men in his wake.

“Trottier,” he started without extending his hand, “I’d gotten word you were in the area, but I didn’t expect to see you at the market, at least not without having reported to me first.”

He sized up Alawa in a glance.

“And you’ve taken for yourself a squaw I see.

“Apparently, your compass has failed you. It is no longer pointing you in the right direction. Perhaps it needs to be re-magnetized at the lodestone.”

“There is nothing wrong with my compass, sir,” Trottier replied.

“Then, if it has been true to its duty, you have not been. Do I need to remind you that you are still under the king’s indenture to me?”

From there, events moved quickly. Men surrounded Trottier and Alawa and shackled them hand and foot with link-strings of coarse iron. How different from the deerskin cords with which the natives bound their captors, Trottier thought, but bound they were nevertheless with heavy clanking manacles.

The two were hustled out of the market, causing a stir in the gathering, and were marched along the path that led to the waterside. There a longboat had been positioned for their arrival. The men took to their oars and, at the Captain’s commands, headed back to the ship.

The entire boat trip passed in silence, except for the Captain’s lightly-barked ‘Stroke’ command, and the oars splash-dipping in compliance. Alawa’s eyes were cast down. She wouldn’t return Trottier’s gaze.

When the longboat reached Le Don De Dieu, there were no words of greeting from his old comrades, not even Brodeur, his partner of the watch. The details on board, though familiar, seemed cold and distant—the lines still swayed in their holds, the deck boards still creaked with each twist of the vessel. They were the objects he knew, the persistent shapes and textures that had etched wrinkles in his brain and folded crevasses in his heart, but they were not his anymore. A place he had considered ‘home’ for such a vivid and vital time in his life, that had surrounded him while he traversed the ocean, that had kept him safe from death and disaster, was home no more.

Now, it would be for him a place of prosecution and trial. The Captain’s authority was indisputable on board. As the representative of the king himself, his word was law. On Le Don de Dieu, it was as if he were the king.

“By engaging in the trade of pelts, Etienne Trottier is in violation of his indenture to this command. He has violated the terms of the King’s charter to the Compagnie de la Nouvelle France. He has disgraced his faith, his country and his king by engaging in licentious acts with this native woman and taking her as his wife, though no marriage ceremony has been performed. It is unseemly of a Frenchman and sets a bad example for the native people here of whom we are trying to help see the light of our Lord Jesus Christ and to help raise them up from the savage darkness that has plagued them for so long.

“These are punishable offenses, and, acting today as the agent of the King’s justice, I have the authority to do so and will now exercise it. The punishment for these crimes is death by hanging.”

The words passed through Trottier as if they had no meaning nor substance, like an arrow missing its target. Likewise, in Alawa, the sounds coming from her judge found no reception. She did not understand a word. The men assembled on board reacted to his abrupt pronouncement with silence.

“But King Francis, long may he reign, ever longs to be like our Most High God Himself who is both just and merciful, and, as his agent here, I must reflect his glory in every instance of the exercise of authority on his behalf.

“And, if these crimes had been undertaken by Trottier alone and affected no other, I would order the erection of a scaffold immediately and be done with this affair.

“But this native woman has given herself to him as a bride according to her ways, and she is now with child. She needs the love, comfort and support of a man in her situation.

“And so that he should never leave her as she comes to term, bears this child and then raises it, as he has left us, his nation, his king and his obligations according to French law, I have determined that you two are banished together to the Île des démons (French: Island of Demons). There you will be left in exile, traitors to your own people, to live out your lives, if the God of our people and the God of her people should will it.

“We will supply you with enough provisions to get you through the first winter, but, subsequently, may God have mercy on your souls.”

Here it was again, the bride-price, and it was a steep one. First, it cost him his brotherhood with the Sons of Thunder; now, he was being cut off from his own people. Before Alawa, a world that had seemed so vast had now coalesced to a simple point. His life was just these three now: himself, Alawa and their child about to enter their world…

Spirit of Victory

Aliperti as usual was making the most of every precious moment of sunlight, practicing all the way to the last possible minute.

“It’s the fourth quarter, gentleman—the score is tied—you’re racing your opponent for a ground ball. Who’s got the legs to get there first? Who’s got the wind to bust it to the ball?”

Tttweeeet! goal line.

“Your girlfriend came to the game—she’s standing on the sidelines watching you play. Is your head down and your tongue hanging out? Or are you burning it down the sidelines with the ball in your stick, clouds of glory trailing in your wake?”

Tttweeeet! Restraining line.

Wind-sprints ended every Aliperti practice. Up-and-backs: to the midfield line and back—Tttweeeet!—to the far restraining line and back—Tttweeeet!—all the way to the other end line and back, 120 yards each way.

Up-and-backs were the hard-stop punctuation point dreaded throughout the dreary hours on the practice field.

“Check your heart. Are you really trying your hardest? Living up to the gifts God gave you?”

Tttweeeet! Midfield line.

Schipper felt his chest exploding. His throat and lungs burned. His body felt like an engine that was seizing-up with a piston-head ramming up and down inside him with no oil in the chamber, clanging recklessly against the side-walls. Must. Stop.

Tttweeeet! End line—all the way down the field, full speed, and back.

“Fight till the last dog dies, warriors!”

Aliperti, it seemed, was screaming right in Schipper’s ears: “How badly do you want it? I could run faster than that, and I’m 45-years-old. This isn’t a wind-walk; it’s a wind-sprint! RUN!!!!”

“Now, Warriors—Oo-lool-oo-loool—OO-lool, OO, aiiyeee!”

It was the war-whoop, the sign that this would be the last of the wind-sprints. One. More. Time.

Tttweeeet! goal line.

That’s a war-whoop? That wouldn’t scare my grandmother! If I don’t hear that warrior whoop, we’re starting over again!”

Tttweeeet! Restraining line.

The whoops picked up a little, but the players were a ragged bunch at this point. The usual suspects were two or three sprints behind the others. Some of the kids were little more than walking, with their hands on their hips.

Tttweeeet! Midfield line.

Some were now leaning over with their hands on their knees. Some stayed vertical, mouths gaping for breath. 10-0? Undefeated? You wouldn’t know it from Aliperti; he was pushing the pedal to the metal. He wasn’t going to save his team’s energy for the last few games; he was going to ignite it anew after a long hard season of prolonged effort.

Tttweeeet! End line.

From somewhere, Schipper found another gear and propelled forward with a fresh urgency. His legs suddenly felt elastic again. He didn’t care about his lungs or heart anymore; they seemed long past gone anyway.

The two fastest players had already made the last touch of the endline and were heading for home. They passed Schipper going the other way. He was tempted to cheat, to touch a little soon before heading back, but he chose not to. He went all the way, touched the endline and sprang back in the other direction.

It was a good turn, a real good one, and he could immediately see the gap closing with the leaders, but they were still a good 10 yards ahead of him.

The leaders knew they would finish among the top tier, and they were dog-tired like everyone else anyway, so they decelerated a bit on this last sprint.

Schipper pressed on, powered by a second wind that had no logic. It was just practice, after all, a practice like so many others, yet he bore through the darkening air like a man possessed, accelerating with wanton abandon.

“Who’s going to finish first? Who’s going to be the chief tonight?”

One of the leaders caught a glimpse of Schipper, a blur out of the corner of his eye, and starting kicking into his finish. But it was too late. Schipper had too much momentum and enough presence of mind to run through the line, not to the line.

He beat the leaders by a stride and immediately collapsed onto the dewy turf.

His chest heaved like a spent locomotive, his breath issuing forth in moist plumes into the chill air. He focused on the surety that his breathing would slow eventually. That helped still his mind which was rattling like an overheated engine.

Aliperti never let anyone lay on the practice field, but, at this point, Schipper didn’t care.

Yell away, Coach. I won. I WON.

“Gentlemen,” Aliperti started, “What does it mean to be a warrior?”

Schipper was still on the ground panting; he could feel the cool grass on his cheek.

“I want you to think about that word, warrior…”

The only sound was that of the cars whooshing by on the far-off highway and the kids huffing and puffing.

“I mean, here we are, we’re on a team called the Warriors, we have the Warrior logo on our helmets, our jerseys. It’s even plastered all over the school.”

Aliperti hand-gestured with a flourish to the huge sign—WARRIORS—affixed to the side of the school building. Perhaps he was over-oxygenated from the sprints, or the light, what was left of it, had heightened its sharpness to his eyes, but, to Schipper, the sign suddenly assumed an existential clarity in brilliant relief.


Wow, it’s not just a silly name made up by some dusty committee in a conference room trying to come up with a name for a team, Schipper thought. It really means something. There it is, in huge letters on the side of the building. How could I have overlooked its significance before?

The letters of the sign were colossal in size and hung about three feet extended from the brick face of the exterior wall. They were lit from behind which made them appear to glow at night, suspended in air. At this time of the evening, with daylight retreating beneath the horizon of the earth, the backlights were already on, delivering the initial effect of the letter-glow. But the orange half-light of the setting sun was not yet fully extinguished, and its light reflected still on the facade of the letters. The effect was mesmerizing: backglow behind, sunset orange on the front facets—a triumphal image.

Aliperti sat on the lowest seat-row of the grandstand. He never sat when he was on the field. But Aliperti had a penchant for tilting things off angle, a little shade of difference to attract attention when he wanted to highlight something of special significance, to make sure his message was received.

Like that time at the end of practice with daylight failing, when he had cars pulled-up onto the field and pointed their headlights for illumination, so he could finish an important drill with the players.

“Everyone take a knee.”

Schipper raised himself off the turf and took a knee with the other players.

“Gentlemen, I believe there are three kinds of Warriors. One is a Warrior only: he’s a man that uses just his body. Two is a Great Warrior: he’s a man that uses his body and his mind. And, three is a Warrior King: he’s a man that uses his body, mind and spirit.”

Everyone was exhausted; it was getting dark.

“The body can give up and give out, and the mind can carry on, overrule the body, and provide the fortitude, the will, to keep the body going.

“The mind can give up and give out and think that it’s done for, both body and mind.

“But the spirit, the spirit, is everstrong, evernew, everlasting.

“The spirit is outside of time, outside of natural laws; it can renew you when your body has given out, when even your mind has given up.”

The glowing Warrior sign burned.

“If you want to be the very best you can be, you will progress with us here at Sewanhaka from a Warrior to a Great Warrior to a Warrior King. We may or may not be faster or stronger or more skillful than our opponents. But we do have the Warrior Spirit. We are plugged into this source of power, like a toaster into a wall socket.”

Here, Aliperti’s head actually bowed down a little—this guy is unreal

“Ok, gentlemen… Schip?” He gestured to the captain as he did at the end of every practice.

Schipper used his captain’s voice: a wide, deep, guttural, almost comic sound: “Huddle-up, Warriors!”

The team straggled to its feet, clustered around their Captain, hands-in.


Walking off the field that night, Schipper felt different. He hated the thought of it, fought off the feeling as long as he could, but, inside, he had succumbed. He had been branded; he bought into it all, all of Aliperti’s corny nonsense—hook, line and sinker.

He was now a part of the Warrior Family.

It all made sense to him now. And it was awesome. Everything was awesome. Everything was glowing. He didn’t want to say anything to anyone else about it. They might not understand. It was an inside treasure. But it was real. It was beyond real, actually; it was knowing. That’s how real it was; it was knowingness.

Schipper looked at the faces of all the other players around him. Was anyone else feeling this?

It didn’t seem possible, but, then again, with all these weird convulsions he was passing through, anything seemed possible right now. He was just 17-years-old; he’d come to the age of reason by, what, five-years-old? That’s only 12 years! Twelve measly podunk years of rationality mainly spent either sleeping or being jostled drowsily around the classrooms and hallways of smelly school-prison. And with those 12 years, he’s to make sense of the Miracle of the Universe??

How sure could he really be of anything?

The knowingness rushed back into his soul and quickly supplanted his anxiety. This—THIScould order his entire universe; this could be the structure, the hierarchy, the Code of Conduct by which he could live. He hadn’t realized it before, but this is what he had been searching for…

And he didn’t even know something was missing.



Tekakwitha stopped—the sound of her footfalls echoed away into the woods: where?

Look: the handiwork of the rackets there at my feet. See how they keep my feet from plunging under the snow. I remember weaving those shoes with Aunt Numees.

Tekakwitha turned her head to the sky. She pulled the scarlet folds back away from her eyes, till she felt that familiar throb of pain. The orbs of her eyes stung like they had been stuck with pine needles.

Father, you have led me on a thorny path. These afflictions you have sent me, have become my virtue.

She forced herself to look at the woods around her—the whiteness, so beautiful.

In the silence of her interior self, she said the prayer Blackrobe had taught her:

3. Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam. Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.

Have mercy upon me, O God, after Thy great goodness. According to the multitude of Thy mercies do away mine offences.

4. Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo munda me.

Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness: and cleanse me from my sin.

5. Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco: et peccatum meum contra me est semper.

For I acknowledge my faults: and my sin is ever before me.

-Psalm 51

She looked into the white cluster of tree trunks and boughs. There, a cross—made by the combination of tree limbs.

See? It’s everywhere before you, Tekakwitha.

Tekakwitha unlaced the rackets from her moccasins. She removed one moccasin, and her bare foot plunged into the crystalline powder. She almost tumbled when she removed her second moccasin but braced herself by leaning on the nearest white tree. In went the second bare foot. They were both buried now, the snow up to her knees—Tacherong (Mohawk: fiery sensations). She left the moccasins there on the snow, under the birch tree with the sharp scrolls of bark tearing away.

She thought of the prayer again…

6. Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci: ut iustificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum iudicaris.

Against Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified in Thy saying, and clear when Thou art judged.

7. Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum: et in peccatis concepit me mater mea.

Behold, I was shapen in wickedness: and in sin hath my mother conceived me.

8. Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti: incerta et occulta sapientiae tuae manifestasti mihi.

But lo, Thou requirest truth in the inward parts: and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly.

9. Asperges me hysopo, et mundabor: lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.

Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

-Psalm 51

Tekakwitha tried to think away from her feet and the cold burning sensation to focus her mind on God and the words of her prayer. She walked away from the birch tree with the gnarly black knot there that seemed to be crying. It was crying. It is everywhere, Tekakwitha, the passion of Our Lord, the groaning of the world. It’s all there, in front of you

She walked to the clearing smothered overhead with the dense white cotton sky.

11. Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis: et omnes iniquitates meas dele.

Turn Thy face from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds.

12. Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis.

Make me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.

-Psalm 51

Closer, Tekakwitha, she castigated herself in her mind. Closer!

She removed her leggings and left them too on the snow. Stumbling forward, the snow now reached her thighs.

Something sharp pierced the bottom of her right foot. The spikes driven into the feet of Jesus!

Panting now, she tried not to allow the snow to crest any higher up her leg.

She passed into a grove of aspen trees—garontote. The snow—the white sky—the bleached white bark of the aspen trees. White on white—with only the outlines in black.

16. Libera me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meae: et exsultabit lingua mea iustitiam tuam.

Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, Thou that art the God of my health: and my tongue shall sing of Thy righteousness.

-Psalm 51

This is what she wanted! The purity—erase the world! Drain it of all color and sound, and reduce it to the essential framework that sustains it: God’s handiwork—God Himself—humming happily along, spinning His beauty.

She approached one of the trees and grabbed a low-hanging bough. She tested its strength against her own, and quickly realized she would not be able to remove it with her hands alone. From underneath her cloak she took a small ax—ashquechsowano—then raised it over her head and split the bough from the tree with one blow. The grunting sound that came from her when she did this mixed with the sound of the ax-blow and the cleaving of the bough from the tree. This odd mixture of sound was swallowed dull by this forest of silence.

It was snowing—the Holy Spirit, surrounding me with His comfort!—further deadening sound. Downward came the flakes, but they also came sideways, and, in little eddies, they swirled upward, in no apparent hurry to rest on the ground. Some trap door in the sky had given way and the accumulated weight of snow-clouds suddenly released.

The flakes scrubbed Tekakwitha’s skin in every direction, in little crystalline zings, rubbing it a raw red. Perversely, this everywhere-abrasion made her skin feel hot, not cold, and every biting icy stinger enhanced a type of sensory overload, pinning the levels of both agony and ecstasy that was beyond whatever limit she may have previously imagined of her capacity to contain either. Tacherong.

Where her feet entered under the fallen snow, however, there was neither hot nor cold, pleasure nor pain; these extremities had long-passed these states into numbness, a complete absence of sensation. It seemed as if she didn’t have feet attached there somewhere at the end of her legs. The fact that her feet were obscured under 18 inches of snow only enhanced this impression. Her legs went down; she could see her knees, but not her feet. Just white. She was losing touch, literally, with her body, starting with the extremities.

She was not alarmed by this. Indeed, it brought her a Great Joy.

It was Penance.

Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus: cor contritum, et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies.

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt Thou not despise.

-Psalm 51

Tekakwitha removed her rabbit shawl and her cloak, she removed her skirt, she removed the feathers from her hair and the beads that braided it. She began tearing at her hair, wildly, till it covered her face. The snow kept falling. She tore at the skin on her chest and sang out loud the Miserere in the language Blackrobe had taught her.

She ended each prayer with the words she knew from her people.

Wagenochwactani giatacu (I am sorry for it in my heart).

She thought of Jesus and the scourging He endured, the pain, the humiliation. She thought of the soldiers fixing on his head the crown of thorns and mocking him—“Hail the King of the Jews!”

She thought of the taunts as He was bleeding to death, with His hands and feet nailed to the wooden beams: “If you really are the Son of God, save yourself! Let’s see if you can take yourself down from the cross! Ha, ha, ha!”

She thought also of His closest friends who had betrayed Him: Judas, one of the twelve, with a kiss, handing Him over to those who would kill Him. Peter, his right-hand man, denying three times that he knew Him, as He was being tried in the Sanhedrin court. And, as He hung dying, where were all the people who flocked to hear Him speak? The ones who begged Him for miracles? The very Twelve closest to Him?

No, only his mother, his brother John and Mary Magdalene were there with Him—and God Himself.

Tekakwitha then took the aspen bough and whipped it up over her shoulder and across her back. It was awkward, and she didn’t achieve the snap she had expected.

She stood off her knees and striped herself across her upper thigh. This time she felt the smart bite of the exchange. She did it again. Again. Now, with her left hand the bough was applied to her right thigh, being careful though. Blackrobe must not see the marks—he would be unhappy. No, this was between her and her Lord. Tekakwitha would share in His passion; she would not abandon Him, her blood and His blood, together.

9. Asperges me hysopo, et mundabor: lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.

Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

10. Auditui meo dabis gaudium et laetitiam: et exsultabunt ossa humiliata.

Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness: that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice.

11. Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis: et omnes iniquitates meas dele.

Turn Thy face from my sins: and put out all my misdeeds.

12. Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis.

Make me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me.

-Psalm 51

Wagenochwactani giatacu.

She wanted only to join herself into the Purity of Him—His Love—here naked in His Blood-Flecked Snow, His Grieving White Aspens, His Soft Cotton Sky.

I will mortify myself so that I might Live in Him Forever.



Then she remembered the band around her neck and the purple pearl that was its feature and focus. It was truly the most precious thing she owned. She felt for it with her fingers. It was warm and smooth—alone on her body at that moment. It was the last adornment, the last pretty thing anchoring her to this world.

This, surely this, I can keep. This one thing, this purple pearlgiven to me by the Jogodah.

No, even this, especially this, must go.

She ripped it forcefully from her neck and flung it backhanded as far as she could away from her into the forest where it disappeared into the knee-deep white powder, leaving behind a hole-outline of itself, an inverse memory, as it exited this world forever.


Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from your souls; learn to do well; judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow: and come and let us reason together, saith the Lord. And though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white like wool; and though they be as crimson, I will make them white as snow. But if ye refuse and rebel, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”

-Isaiah 1:16-20

God of Hearts

“Do you know what it means to hustle, Sean?” Coach Aliperti asked.

“I think I do,” Schipper replied.

“Define it for me.”

Hustle is trying as hard as you can in all circumstances. If it’s the beginning of practice, you run hard; if it’s the end of practice, you run hard. If you’re winning by five goals, you play hard; if you’re losing by five goals, you play hard. Weak opponent, strong opponent—same. Good weather, bad weather, same. When the whistle blows to begin, you hustle to your position; when the whistle blows at the end, you hustle off the field.”

Aliperti leaned back in his chair again. The guy looked different every day in a way you couldn’t quite put your finger on, rejuvenated, like he had just bathed in an ice cold pool beneath some forest waterfall before dressing for the day, like he was born anew each morning.

Sitting across the desk from him, Schipper noticed the clarity of his eyes. They were crystalline spokes of a cosmic wheel, hard dazzling green diamonds, a 3D kaleidoscope. He smelled fresh like Ivory® soap. When he stepped into a room, even for a moment, the clean aura-smell of Aliperti would enter with him and linger after he was gone.

“And hustling is a good thing in sports?” Aliperti asked.

“Yes, you’ve said so yourself at practices.”

“Yes, but why is hustling a good thing?”

“By hustling, you tilt the odds of winning in your favor.”

“Schip, can you think of a single professional athlete who epitomizes hustle?”

“Pete Rose.” It had come to him immediately.

Bingo,” Alipert chimed. “Exactly the guy that I was thinking about. His nickname is ‘Charley Hustle.’”

Where is he going with this? Schipper wondered.

“I’m originally from Cincinnati, like Pete Rose, and I’m a big Reds fan. So I’ve followed his career pretty much all the way through. Pete Rose is kind of a fascination for me, actually.

“He was born in Cincinnati, went to high school in Cincinnati and made his major league debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 1963.

“His uncle was a talent scout for the team. If not for that, Rose said, no one else would have ever given him a chance to play in the majors. He wasn’t big; he wasn’t fast. But he was good enough to hit .273 that first year and win National league Rookie of the Year.

“He was first called Charley Hustle by Yankee pitcher Whitey Ford after watching him leap ridiculously over the left field fence to try and catch a home run hit by Mickey Mantle in a spring training game that was way beyond his reach. But Rose jumped over the fence anyway, just to try as hard as he could.

“The Charley Hustle nickname stuck because in his playing days, he embodied the concept of hustle. If Pete Rose got a walk during his time at bat, he would run to first base. If he had to slide into a base, he often did so head first. He gave it his all and then some, all the time.

“In 1970, he was voted to play in the All-Star game, one of the many time he would do so. The All Star game is a ‘meaningless’ game that most players little more than go through the motions as part of their obligation to the fans who voted them to the team. Not Pete Rose: even in an All-Star game, he played full-out to win.

“After nine innings, the score was tied. Most players would be checking their watches right about then, wondering when the next flight was out of town. Not Pete Rose. In the bottom of the 12th inning, with the score still tied, Rose was on second base when Jim Hickman hit a single to center field. Rose came barreling around third base heading for home. Ray Fosse, the catcher representing the American League team, positioned himself in a crouch in front of home plate to block Rose from reaching it.

“As the throw from centerfield approached Fosse, at full tilt, Rose lowered his head and shoulder and plowed into Fosse like a linebacker, knocking him back away from the plate, separating Fosse’s shoulder. On the way to the ground, Rose touched the plate with his left hand and scored the winning run.

“When he was asked about it afterward, Rose said bluntly that what he did was perfectly within the rules of baseball, one of which is that a player is not allowed to block a base from a runner if he doesn’t have the ball. In Rose’s worldview, the All-Star game was a baseball game like any other; you played it full-out to win. You hustled.

“Rose was also the ultimate team player. He agreed to position moves to accommodate the addition of other players who would make the team better. He moved from second base to outfield to make room for Joe Morgan to play second. He moved from outfield to third base to make room for big-hitting George Foster.

“Rose holds the national league record for making the All-Star team at five different positions.

“His teammate Johnny Bench said of him: ‘He loved to win more than anyone I’ve ever known.’

“I‘ve got a special commemorative fan card of his I keep in my drawer. He actually signed it for me at a show in Las Vegas.”

Aliperti opened the top right drawer, pulled out the card and started to read from it.

“Pete Rose retired from the game as the all-time Major League leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053) and outs (10,328). He holds the record for the Longest Consecutive Game Hitting Streak in the National League (44 Games in 1978). He has the most seasons—10—of 200 or more hits and most Seasons with 600 or more at-bats—17.

“He batted first in the line-up and is considered to be one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball history, perhaps even the best. So, as the opposition pitcher, your day’s work began with trying to get out Pete Rose—barrel-chested, hard-nosed, never-say-die Pete Rose. He’d step to the plate and look the pitcher straight in the eye as if to say ‘Ok, come on—let’s play ball.’

“He rarely missed a game because of injury or for any other reason. He holds the baseball record for the most seasons, 17, in which he played 150 or more games. At age 41 he played all 162 games in a season.

“He once said: ‘I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to keep playing baseball.’

“He never had a lot of power at the plate, hitting just 160 home runs in his long career, but he had developed a smooth flat stroke designed for contact that sprayed the ball all over the field. In a remarkable stretch, he hit for over a .300 average 14 out of 15 years in a row.”

Schipper was impressed as these factoids tumbled out of his coach, but he wondered anew where all this was heading.

“He was a switch-hitter, batting lefty against right-handed pitchers and batting righty against left-handed pitchers. Left handed batters statistically have a higher batting average against right handed pitchers—they can see the ball better; this is also true of right-handed hitters and lefty pitchers. It gives the batter an advantage, it improves his odds of winning. But it’s hard-enough to hit a pitched baseball from one side of the plate, never mind both sides. Rose learned how to do it early, by age nine, it is said.

“Rose hit .307 left-handed and .293 right-handed. Perhaps only the great Mickey Mantle was a better switch-hitter in all of baseball history.

“Rose won the batting crown awarded for the highest average three times. In one of those seasons, 1969, Rose battled Roberto Clemente, the star outfielder of the Pittsburgh Pirates, for highest average. Going into the final game of year, after 161 games, the two were tied with an identical batting average.

“On his last at-bat of the season, Rose bunted for a hit to beat out Clemente for the batting crown. It was a play wholly uncalled-for by the game-situation—the Reds were far ahead in a game in which they had no chance of reaching the playoffs—but it was one that was decisive for Rose.

“‘Who cares if you bunt for a base hit?’ he said when challenged about the at-bat.

“‘Willie Mays can throw better, and Hank Aaron can hit more home runs,’ Rose once said. ‘But I’ve got enthusiasm. I’ve got desire. I’ve got hustle. Those are God-given talents, too.’

“Following the end of his playing days, he went on to become a major league manager, of course with the Reds, and he applied the same hustle to managing as he did to playing. His face-to-face rhubarbs with umpires to argue a call are legendary. In one case, he went after the first base umpire in a rage to dispute a call, shouting in his face and shoving him, so that he had to be restrained by his teammates. He got a 30-day suspension for that one.”

Aliperti put his card down and pushed himself away from his desk.

“Why am I telling you all this?”

“Honestly, I was starting to wonder that myself,” Schipper replied.

“Our team is 13-0, and, tomorrow, we’re going for 14-0—an undefeated season. We’ve had many good teams, many championship teams, here at Sewanhaka, but, in all the years of Warrior lacrosse, we’ve never had an undefeated season.

“Sean, before you go out onto that field tomorrow, as the Captain, I want you to understand the true meaning of victory. That’s why I’m telling you all this about Pete Rose. Because today, Pete Rose, the man to whom victory means more than perhaps any other athlete of our time, does not live victorious.

“Pete Rose lives defeated, banned forever from the game he loves and stopped just sort of his most cherished Victory—induction to the baseball Hall of Fame. Last year (1989), as you know, after an investigation conducted by Major League Baseball, Pete Rose was found to have violated Major League Rule 21, prohibiting betting on any game in which a player is involved.

“So, though he has yet to own up to it, the facts are pretty clear: the report from Major League baseball includes hard evidence, cancelled checks, Rose’s personal betting notes and phone records.

“He bet on his own games as a player and as a manager.

“From following his career closely as I have, I feel like I know the guy, so I can say with confidence that I don’t think that he gambled to make money. I think he did it to juice his incentive to play better, to raise the stakes, because, without high stakes, there can be no Victory, not Victory with a capital V, anyway.

“He would have played hard in any case, but he wanted to win so badly that he raised the stakes all around, higher for Victory and higher for Defeat, as way to get out of himself the impossible 110 percent.

“But this approach to a game, this approach to life, is like stealing fire from the gods, to have a power that is not meant for mortals but reserved for the Divine. This, I believe, is the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that we are not to possess.

“Because Victory is the fire of God, to steal it is to doom yourself.

“And Pete Rose is doomed; even a quick look in his eyes reveals an unmistakable pain—a soul-agony. The cocky words may still come out of his mouth, but his eyes don’t lie. He is tormented, waking each morning with fresh soul-pain.

“It’s not easy to be sympathetic to Pete Rose. He’s a foul-mouthed narcissist who lied to his millions of fans who love and admire him. If he competed against you, he would, as he said, ‘grind you up like a coffee bean.’ But today he is an object of pity.

“Pete Rose, poor man, is a modern day Prometheus, the Titan of Greek myth, who stole fire from Zeus, the Greek God-Chief. As punishment, Zeus had Prometheus chained to a rock at the far reaches of the earth, where, for 30 years, each day, a monstrous eagle—the symbol of Zeus himself who “thunders on high”—would come and eat his liver. What’s worse, every night his liver would regenerate, only to be pecked at afresh the following day by the ‘long-winged eagle.’

“The liver is the purifier of the blood. It symbolizes innocence and purity in the soul. Plato said the liver is responsible for divine vision, prophecy, sight. When your liver is not functioning, you cannot see God.

“This punishment is all the greater because of its limits. The pain is enough to torture the victim but not enough to kill him. It is inflicted anew each day.

“Why had Prometheus stolen the fire? Because Zeus was withholding its power from mortal men. Why was Zeus withholding the power of fire from mortal men? Because Prometheus had tricked Zeus, and the withholding of fire was the punishment to Man.

“Prometheus had been commissioned by Zeus to be the protector and benefactor of Mankind. So, acting in that role, Prometheus tricked Zeus to accept a lesser offering than Man was obligated to give.

“According to the dogma of first-fruits, the first and the best should always be offered to God, who created all things. Think of the Sabbath: the Sabbath is the first day of the week, not the last day, as we so often think of it. It should therefore be given to God.

“This first and best offering expresses gratitude, but it also affirms the proper order of things. God is the Creator; we are the created. All things, including Victory, come from Him.

“Thinking he was protecting Man against God, at a feast, Prometheus tricked Zeus into eating the less desirable part of a meal by wrapping it in what seemed most desirable.

“In other words, Man didn’t offer proper praise and thanksgiving to God and tried to keep the best for himself. As punishment, God withheld fire from Man (Power, Victory, Immortality).

“By trying so hard to extract Victory from the prerogative of God, to want Victory so much that through your own efforts you assume the very role of God himself, to snatch the Glory of Victory from the gracious hands of God by “hustling,” as Pete Rose did, is perhaps the worst transgression among the many that Man chronically makes against his Creator.

“So, Pete Rose is kept forever from the victory he most wants, his place in the Gallery of Olympic Heroes of Baseball, a place, there can be no dispute, that he earned with his performance as player, but—and this is most likely—he will never be given, even after death.

“And this is as it should be.

“Baseball commissioner Bart Giamonte was right when he said that no individual, not even the great Pete Rose, is bigger than the game.

“The game of baseball did the absolute right thing expelling Rose from baseball and making him ineligible for the Hall of Fame. He should never be inducted. The integrity of the game would be destroyed if it tolerated betting by anybody involved in a game.

“And why is it a bad thing to destroy the integrity of a game, be it baseball or lacrosse for that matter?

“Because, if the participants cannot be trusted to compete as hard as they can, without influence, then there really is no game.

“Without a game, there can be no Victory, not even the possibility of Victory. To live in such a world is worse than Hell; it is Limbo. Hell would be a place without Victory. It doesn’t exist. But to be in Limbo is much worse. In Limbo, Victory exists, but it is a cruel phantom. Once achieved, it evaporates in your hands. You reach to grasp it, but it dissipates into nothingness like a trophy made of pixie dust. Victory is there before you, but it is a mirage. It taunts you with the memory of what it was, what it could be, but never actually is. It is Victory-tainted, Victory-impure, Victory-wicked, Victory-weakened, Victory-thin, Victory-soft, Victory-lite, Victory-clouded.

“To live in that world, where there can be no reality, is madness.

“Drained of Victory, such a game becomes like professional wrestling: a contest, yes, but an unreal shadow-play, a pantomime. The drama of the contest is played out, true—there is movement, there is perhaps even some excitement—but it is now devoid of any meaning. It has lost its connection with the higher world of the principalities, the world beyond all forms where Truth, Justice, Courage, Persistence and, yes, Glory reside.

“Without access to that world, people are soul-less monsters.

“And that is exactly why Pete Rose must never be re-instated.

“He to whom Victory is all important doesn’t yet know that for him to remain in Limbo forever, to be kept away from the Ultimate Victory that consumes him, to be chained to his rock like Prometheus with an eagle each day pecking away at his liver, this actually preserves Victory for everyone who comes after.

“For him and for all others who suffer as he does, the remorse is renewed afresh each day because of the abiding knowledge that it was all of your own doing—it was your actions, made of your own free will, that brought this calamity to you and not just to you, but to all those who love you, who support you.

“Had your sins affected only you, the suffering could be more easily endured. There’s a logic to that, after all. You’ve reaped what you’ve sown. But the knowledge that your sins have somehow redounded to those who love you, this is what makes the eagle’s pecking so painful, and it is this that is revealed in Pete Rose’s eyes, as he begs on the doorstep of Destiny, kept millimeters away from his final Victory.

“And, when I consider the fate of Pete Rose, it makes me wonder about the true nature of Victory. What is Victory? It’s not exactly a virtue, like Kindness, or a Principality, like Honor. What is it, then?

“That best I can come up with is that it’s a gift: God’s most crucial gift to win our hearts. Like the Thunderbird at the top of the totem pole, it’s the pinnacle that presides over all the lower principalities and virtues—the one true thing that we can never achieve only through our own efforts but must be simply granted, dispensed freely, and we are to accept it when it comes to us and accept as well when it is withheld, graciously and with thanksgiving.

“In that way Victory is a gift intended to align our hearts with the Heart of God.”

“So, then why we have to do up-and-backs at the end of every practice,“ Schipper smirked.

“Sean, I don’t have all the answers, but what I have learned is that it’s like we play in two worlds: one in which we train, practice and try, and another in which we watch and pray—the two planes of the cross.

“But the cross itself—in its Oneness, in its Totality—is Victory.

“And it is a Victory that has already been won. God through his son Jesus Christ, has already done this for us. It’s ours—if we just open our hearts and accept it, if we value ourselves enough to simply receive it. And what this Victory feels like is a feeling of peace. When you feel peace, you are basking in God’s Victory.

“So tomorrow, Sean, the Warriors won’t be playing for Victory: we will be playing to celebrate the victory that has already been won.”

It was a heavyweight finish to his peroration and signaled that Aliperti was finally done, so Schipper stood from his chair to leave.

Aliperti looked directly at him with those laser green eyes and shook his hand.

Through the door and into the hallway now, Schipper heard the door to Aliperti’s office creak open behind him.

“Schip, one more thing,” Aliperti jogged to catch up with him.

“Prometheus’ punishment didn’t last forever. It went on for 30 years, each day his liver being pecked away by the eagle, each night his liver regenerating.

“Then, one day, the mortal demigod Hercules happened by, in the midst of trying to accomplish his 11th Herculean task which was to find the Golden Apples of the Hesperides. The Hesperides were nymphs who were daughters of Atlas, the titan who held up the sky and the earth upon his shoulders.

“Hercules slayed the eagle and freed Prometheus. In gratitude, Prometheus told him how to find the golden apples.

“Prometheus and Hercules helped each other by using their particular gifts; they showed one another kindness and mercy, and they were both freed.

“So you see, Sean, Victory does indeed belong to God but so does Mercy. And I can tell you with 100 percent certainty: God is a God of hearts. That is what He’s concerned with. And, frankly, not much else. If winning tomorrow aligns our hearts more perfectly with His, He will see to it that we win. If losing does the trick, we will lose.

“He’s like a jealous lover in that regard. He wants our whole heart, and He’s unrelenting in His pursuit of it.

“But He won’t just take it from us because, if He did, we would no longer be free. And Love is only Love if it is free. And, if we merge our heart happily and freely into His, we will win—all the time. Why? Because God never loses.”

“If we abide in His Will, and we lose the game—we still win. To rely completely on God is Victory Forever.”

“And, who knows, maybe there is a Hercules who will come save Pete Rose, slay the eagle pecking away at his liver and free him from his bondage.”

Just then, Alexa happened by in the hallway, all sunshine and sparkles, and heard Aliperti’s last statement about Hercules and Pete Rose and eagles pecking away at his liver and bondage. She locked her arms into theirs and started walking them with her down the hall.

“Now what was that all about boys?”


Rose could count on its arrival every Thursday night, the regularity of which made her dread it all the more, a deep transfigurative sorrow, rising like an ebb tide all week—up to her chin, over her lips, covering her nose, then completely subsuming her head.

She was certain it had something to do with what she had read in Grandma Tuvo’s little devotional she had left for her.

“Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38)

Returning to the disciples after prayer, He found them asleep. “So, could you men not keep watch with me for an hour?” (Matthew 26:40)

These were His closest friends, and, in His time of greatest trouble, they couldn’t stay awake with Him for an hour? It seemed so lame, so weak, so crappy of them.

So Rose kept the Holy Hour on Thursday nights. She would light her candle, she would stay awake, she would watch with Him. Over time, her nighttime rituals became more regular, more intense and more secretive. But what came upon her on those nights was often more than she could bear. She was swamped by the horror of herself and her sins.

This was combined with an utter disgust with everything in her world: her school, her parents, her “peers,” the bus, all the little trinkets of her girlhood that clung to her everywhere, such as the princesses that festooned every facing wall of her room, the beaming bright and cheery holdovers from an intense phase she went through at age seven.

During these Thursday night sessions, Rose became hyper-aware of details, so vivid that they hurt to notice.

But what pained her the most at this hour were the grotesque reflections of her common failures that marched around her like a ludicrous band at a Mardi Gras parade. They passed like lumps of distorted reality—changing shape before her eyes, laughing at her and performing cruel and lurid pantomimes of the most outrageous perversions.

They were demons surely, but they emerged from within herself and were projected outwards as on a movie screen for her to review in horror. She cowered and shuddered in their presence, all the more so because she recognized them. They were hers; she was responsible for them.

I am not friendly like Alexa. Why won’t anyone ask me out? I will never be beautiful. I am scarred for life. I think everyone is dumb. Maybe I’m the one who is dumb.

In these sessions, the distance between her and who she aspired to be was galactic and made more so by the plain fact that she was too weak and pathetic to traverse the gap. She was confronted with all the resolutions she had firmly initiated and had tried to keep, but had all slipped away from.

When she tried to be more likable, even a little, inevitably she thudded backward in failure, which only turned the twist inside her tighter. It was like she had a molten core of evil iron with a gravitational force that was too powerful to overcome.

Tuvo, along with the devotional, had also sneaked a small wooden cross into her room and stood it on her bureau. It was simple in design and only about four inches in height. Rose didn’t have the heart to disappoint her, so she left it there amid the other debris strewn about on the flat surface.

But, come the ordeal of the Holy Hour, the crucifix assumed a different aspect. The enhanced visual clarity Rose experienced at those times illuminated everything by a clear inner light, a soul-light, a crystalline phosphorescence—including the little cross.

She noticed the crown of thorns on His head. She noticed that the thorns were long and sharp, not like the little triangular thorns of a conventional rose. These were daggers that bit into the flesh of His forehead and temple. Someone had purposefully twisted the craggy vines just so in a woven circle so that it kept its shape as it was scraped down onto His head.

Rose noticed that the gouge in his side from the spear was in the most vulnerable part of his rib cage. She felt her side in that spot, too. And the nails, spikes really, hammered heavily through His out-turned hands, in the dead heart of His palms. And His bare feet overlapped, nailed straight through like that, pinning Him into a gruesome pirouette.

Above His head, they had affixed a sign, the latin acronym INRI, a final cruel mockery from his sneering persecutors—Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Ludaeorum (Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews).

So, along with the burden of her own sins being revealed to her, at this hour, Rose became overwhelmed at the thought of what He suffered.

Rose dragged the razor precisely across her upper forearm. She remembered from science class that people have multiple layers of skin, so, at first, she wanted to see if she could drag it with just enough pressure to incise only the outer layer.

But she had applied too much pressure. The white line in her skin filled with little red beads, just a bubble or two, then it filled the skin crevasse completely.

Yes, she felt a sensation, but pain? Not really, not like a spike through your feet or a spear in your rib cage…

The second cut was parallel to the first, the same length.

The blood pooled up at one end and dropped in a little line over the curve of her forearm.

Two lines didn’t seem right; three is better—odd number, more stable.

Her focus now was acute, supernaturally so, and she felt her whole body getting limp, like a static electric charge was leaving her.

She collapsed to the floor, not from the cuts, but heavy from the plutonium weight of her transgressions. It pressed down from above as if from within an enclosed globe. It exploded from within as if from a volcanic core.

She felt trampled underfoot by her demons.

She began weeping, a solace in her state, anything to get what was inside out. She muffled the sobs with her pillow. How long she wept, who could tell, but, after a time, with intentional effort, she raised her head.

She wanted to puke away all that she knew, everything about her life—to detach completely. All the lame markers of Time, like store-bought cards for birthdays, smothered her. Everything she knew was deceit. It was all false, except for this Man so cruelly tortured and humiliated, there on her bureau.

The only jewelry for a spouse of blood is a woven band of thorns.”

She took off her earrings and laid them at the base of the crucifix. She took out her nose-ring and put it there, too. She took off the blood-red friendship wristband she and Melissa started wearing in second grade—Rose and Melissa, “The Super Secret Society of the Sisters”—and laid it at His feet. The after-mark left on her wrist was white from the absence of sun. So it seemed like she was still wearing a wristband; only now, it was white—from red to white.

She noticed the framed picture of the flowers on the wall. It was old in style, not a picture she would choose to put up herself. It had been left behind by the former house-owners, and no one bothered to remove it.

Over time, it had gotten crowded out by all her girlhood posters, but, on this night, Rose noticed it as if for the first time. There were two flowers, a white lily and a red rose, crossed one over the other. The lily was flush, verdant, bleached-white, with three petals spreading itself shamelessly in resplendent perfection, and the rose seemed newly cut with lush petals that unfolded freshly from its center forever.

Underneath was the caption: “Lily of Paradise. Rose of Thorns.”

Displayed like this, the flowers struck her as a simple existential fact with attributes that were inarguable: Elegance, Beauty, Simplicity.

The Lily and the Rose—Bread and Wine—Water and Blood.

At that moment, she decided that she would remain a virgin. She would renounce everything about her former life and stay alone at His feet, remaining always in His company. She would share His Cross of Sorrow and His Crown of Joy. She would scourge herself, mortify herself, if that’s what it would take to please Him, to keep herself pure.

For the suffering He endured for us, Rose desired to suffer for Him in return.

She cut herself a fourth time and, again, a fifth time.

I will weave-stitch your life with roses and thorns, surround you with crosses, bombard you with them, fence you in with trials, so that you will come to love Me alone. Share My wounds, My tears, My thorns, My blood, My cross, and you will come to know an Infinite Love.

And, through this, I am preparing you for great spiritual battles. You will become a Warrior of Love, my flaming betrothed, fighting with love, joy and long-suffering.

“And you will spend these vigil hours with Me, watching and praying. These hours are the clock-ticks of the Spirit Universe. They order My Kingdom and help set souls in motion, to harmonize and re-calibrate the world through suffering and love.”

Rose slept as she lay that Thursday night in a lump on the floor. When dawn arrived, she cleaned and covered her wounds as best she could. Her pillow was bloody. She balled it up and stuffed it into her backpack to dispose of later, maybe in the dumpster behind the gym at school.

Before leaving for the day, she peeked at the cross on her bureau, to see if it had changed in any way.

No, it was the same, exactly as it was last night—still, silent.


Rose, you are not on this cross—I am. And I have done this so you don’t have to. The stain on your skin is your sin made visible. It is a gift, a visible reminder that you need a savior, and that nothing you can do, nothing anyone can do, can remove this stain. That is for me and me alone.

The Lamb of God wipes clean the stain of sin from everyone. I am the last great sacrifice, and I have done this for you personally.

Why? Because I love you—the YOU of you. What none other may know of you, I know. And what I know, your most secret essence, I accept and I love. My Father made You and He is all Goodness and Love, so that there is nothing that comes from Him that is not likewise. Believe it—not because I say so, but because it is true. I love you.”


It was a ghastly spectacle: figures in silhouette passed before the fire, faces streaked with colors—red, black and blue, the colors of war—in bizarre and threatening patterns. They were menacing apparitions dancing on one side or the other of the spirit world—foot-stomping into the netherworld, tip-toeing back; lunging into Otherness, springing backward again into our world.

To one side, a young man, entranced, banged a drum, part-filled as it was with water to achieve the desired sound. Another shook turtle-shell rattles in the air and jigged-out a percussive syncopation with rattles strapped to his ankles.

Without any apparent trigger, the largest of the young men, Augustuske, cocked his head back and let out a piercing wolf-cry—a blitzkrieg shriek, a kamikaze call—which sliced like a hatchet through the general noise around the fire. It struck the dancers like a lightning bolt from Hino himself and snapped them to attention.

Commanding the moment, Augustuske squared his shoulders and drew himself to full height. With his back to the heat, he waited for some moments without speaking as the revelers responded to his authority. The drummer stopped; the rattler stopped; the crowd went quiet.

With an air of great ceremony, Augustuske thrust his right arm powerfully toward the sky. In his hand was the jawbone of chaousarou. Its double rows of piercing sharp teeth were affixed with tiny leather straps to a corn-cob, serving as a type of handle, enabling him to hold the tool with the teeth-rows pointing outward.

Augustuske’s face revealed something percolating inside of him, something increasing in pressure, something about to burst.

Then, what the assembly had been waiting for came forth: the second sky-ripping wail that shook the surrounding forest as he pumped the jawbone repeatedly in the air.

The crowd joyfully joined in themselves. These ear-aching screams created a chaotic jumble of noise so strong that it was physically disorienting, as if the force of the sound itself could knock a man off-balance and send him crumpling to the ground.

The men re-fueled the fire-flames with not merely limbs of trees but their very corpses, whole trunks, complete with branches and leaves, as large and as heavy as six men could drag from the woods. Decayed in parts with soft wooden rottenness and colonies of bugs, they were heaved wantonly onto the flame-raging pile which roared greedily at every new addition, spewing upward a torrent of darting little orange fireflies driven by the heated air, spiraling and jigging higher and higher till their extant heat dissipated into the cool spring air and disappeared into nothingness.

To be within 10 feet of the fire was unbearable. The intensity was such that the unconscious mechanisms of both mind and body caused them to instantly draw back away from the source. It emanated a wall of pure heat that blasted away like a dumb brute any notions of bravery or endurance. The entire forest itself was in danger from this inferno. Its naked force blasted energy—light and heat—forcefully outward everywhere around it, eradicating all remnants of darkness and coolness.

It also lit bright as facts some 80 young men in a chaotic jumble surrounding it. They twirled ecstatically, they screamed without shame, they bashed into one another, they leapt into the air, they veered into and out-of the fire, they jerked and twisted their bodies, they shivered and shook like they were in the clutches of an epileptic fit.

Augustuske walked over to a large post-pole shorn clean of bark and branch that had been placed upright in a hole by the fire. There was a scramble of young men, anxious to be the first to line-up at the post-pole.

Without prompting, the first in line leaned forward and placed his two hands onto the pole to support the weight of his body which was inclined at a 65 degree angle to the pole. His upper body was bare; his legs were bare. Only his groin and rear were covered by a deerskin loincloth.

He seemed eager to begin and honored to be the first to go—but he did not speak.

Augustuske’s enormous size lent an air of gravity to his movements as he turned and sprinkled tobacco leaves into the fire.

When the skin of the wolf is opened, a death-struggle must follow.

With a flourish, he brought the serrated fish jaw to the young man’s left forearm, placed it precisely and dragged it across in one confident screed of motion. The teeth pierced the skin and blood immediately oozed from the gouge-marks.

A wild ooh-aah went up from the crowd.

Augustuske moved to the second forearm and did the same—the drag of the incisors, the piercing of the skin, the pain, the blood, the cheers—but not a word from the afflicted, not a wince, not a twitch, not a flinch.

The young man’s biceps, torso, upper thighs and calves were also scarified in this manner. The blood issued forth in red rivulets that covered most of his body. He stood straight up away from the pole and, not satisfied to simply let his blood flow of its own, started to fling his arms and legs in the air, using the centrifugal force of this motion to increase the outflow of blood from his body. And fly away the blood did from his wounds and splattered those waiting for their turn like holy water anointing believers.

But the first-to-go went even further; he held his arms over the fire, singeing them and exulted as the blood drops evaporated into the conflagration with a quick sound: ssiiitt.

Kitchi waited his turn with the others. He reminded himself that, to a true warrior, the pain of the body is nothing; it doesn’t touch the Spirit Warrior. Kitchi would undergo the ordeal with joy like the others; he would honor the Great Spirit with his courage.

He stood erect; his chest thrust forward, expressionless, and, as he did, he felt a joy rise within him like no other he had ever felt. It was a Man’s joy, not that of a boy—different, strange, yet he recognized it as his own.

His uncle, Karon’hi:io, had told him that he would recognize it when it came. Like your own shadow that has followed you all your life, and there it is one day, after a turn in the path, off to the side, waiting for you. It has your face, it has your hands, it is you, really you. Always with you, but never clearly seen, opaque, incomplete, the darker self, the other half. But here—now.

From the path ahead, from the wake behind.

Stand within me—this new you; this old you—and feel what I know. Taste what you had suspected is true, what you had suspected is you. Could there be a greater joy than to step into yourself, your real self, for the first time? Forget what others have told you, forget the nagging distractions like fly-swarms. Rest here in me, in you, and be happy, man-warrior.

As Kitchi took his position at the pole, it was obvious from the sparkle in Augustuske’s eyes that he knew, that all the others knew, that he was the favored one who had caught chaousarou.

There was a giddy expectation in the crowd as Augustuske made the first pass with the jawbone and the subsequent passes. Kitchi remained quiet and sturdy, like the pole itself, and, when he was done, rose to his full height, expressionless. For an awful moment he stood there without moving, his arms and legs and torso oozing red, with the paint markings of war upon his face, with both light and shadow from the fire flitting in shifting patterns across his body.

Then he raised his bloody arms triumphantly and yelped a brutish yowl into the night. The assembled erupted with joy and crowded around Kitchi, patting his body and smearing his blood onto their own bodies, licking their fingers, taking Kitchi’s blood into themselves to mix it with their own.

Tewaarathon—His fire burns forever.

Kitchi was led to another station where he would receive his plumage. Around his waist, they clasped a belt, woven with great care, with red borders and a white swath of beaded shells through the middle, decorated with delicate diamond-shaped patterns of purple.

Affixed to the rear-facing part of the belt was a gaudy ornamental structure that seemed like the upturned tail of some fantastic bird of prey. In the months prior to the appointed time of the game, the wolf-clan women had used the narrow tubular cartilage of an eagle’s wing, some 30 inches long, and carefully heated and bent it to achieve the gravity-defying upturn in its shape.

Soft strings of white fabric that had been tightly woven in a three-cord twist hung delicately downward from the cartilage-tail. They were spaced evenly across the frame so that the distance between each strand was exactly the same. The length of each string, however, was varied precisely so that the line made by the lowest extent of the hanging strings arched in a perfect curve.

Kitchi’s concern was how this tail would affect his play for the upcoming game, but he was assured that, should the tail fall off, which seemed likely, he should play on and not be concerned.

Next came the headdress, an explosion of colored bird feathers, all emanating from a shared center and affixed securely to the horsetail of black hair growing from the center of his skull.

The top half of his face was painted completely white, except for a series of stark red flares traveling back across his temples on both sides.

For the remainder of the night, the celebrants, dressed in their outrageous regalia, continued unabated until the first rays of sunlight peered over the horizon and flooded over the forest like a dammed stream.

This only served to increase the agitation in the crowd. The young men bumped and pushed each other. Little wrestling matches broke out in which combatants tried to swing each other off balance to the ground. Players jostled with sticks like bucks bashing antlers. One warrior climbed a small tree and swung from the top using his weight to bend it to the ground, lowering himself back to earth.

After months of training and a wild night of preparation, the players were tuned to fidelity. They were bows that had been drawn back tight and strong, arrows shaved to a point and aimed precisely at their target.

The shaman who had been with them all night was in continuous motion, twirling and jigging, circling and bobbing. He had spun himself into the lead position of the agitated assembly.

His spinning accelerated, increasing its torque and rotation rate. He had worked himself to a pitch. The young men crowded into a restless circle around this twirling dervish. It was time!


With sticks held high in the air, they bounced into the open plain on the field, moving like a raving mob out of the forest into the weak light and wan colors of the morning-after.

They brandished their sticks, they leapt into the air, they turned somersaults, they contorted their faces and shrieked violently, all the while heading toward their goalpost, a tree-trunk approximately eight inches in diameter with one side shaved flat, that stood upright from a hole in the ground.

This goalpost was at one end of the field of play, which was more like a valley surrounded on three sides by low hills. There was a great bend in the river here inscribed by a wide alluvial plain. All of two tribes had gathered—the Kanien’kehá:ka (People of the Flint—Mohawk) and the tribe directly to the west of them, Onyota’a:ka (People of the Standing Stone—Oneida). More than 10,000 spectators were there, each dressed in bright bold colors, jaunty feathers and well-stitched finery.

It was a gathering like no other, like Great Turtle Island itself had tilted and the native people had slid under the forest boughs and collected in this valley. It was a spectacle with no parallel in the Old World.

From among the crowds on the other side of the field, a bevy of young maidens trotted across the field toward the warriors. Each approached their favorite and gave to their chosen a token of her affection, a beaded string or a pretty feather, which the young men affixed to their belts as a lucky charm, a talisman, that would propel them to even greater effort during the match.

The shaman led them to their goalpost which all the warriors whacked wickedly with their sticks, shouting as they did to scare away evil spirits that might hinder their play.

Then, emerging from another part of the forest, almost beyond sight at the far end of the valley, the opposing team emerged. They were warriors chosen from the Onyota’a:ka tribe who were also festooned in feathers affixed to belts about their waist. They, too, were marked with war paint and streaks of charcoal from the prior night’s fire. They, too, shrieked and banged their goalpost with their sticks.

In the center of this plain inscribed by hills were four elder members, two from each tribe, who sat cross-legged facing each other in a squared-off formation. They solemnly passed the tobacco pipe and, in this way, formed the silent and sacred heart of the maniacal festival cavorting all around them. The smoke lifted the souls of the players to the heavens where they would meet Hino, the Thunderbird, on their spirit journey, who emboldened their spirits to share in the Spirit of Victory.

The chief shaman, adorned with an enormous feathered headdress, danced out from one sideline thrusting his decorative spear into the air. With that signal, the two leaders of their respective teams led them toward the center of the field.

The players held their sticks over their heads and, as they approached, shouted taunts and curses at the players from the other team with flagrant gestures of bravado—Kwā! Kwā! There were hundreds of players on each team, now confronting each other no more than a yard apart across the centerline.

The chief shaman entered the space between them, gave a signal and everyone sat in place, lying their sticks on the grass beside them.

The noise stopped and all eagerly listened without interruption.

“All of you who are alive today, both players and those who have gathered to cheer the players, listen with your whole heart. There are only a few words that I will say to you this morning, and the first of these words is the most important. That word is Nia:wen.

“Thank you for the earth that supports our feet, that is still enduring today and will be forevermore enduring.

“Thank you to our Great Maker who has given us this game that we might play it for His enjoyment.

“Thank you to those of the rumbling voices, to those of the sunset who help bring the rains that make things grow.

“Thank you for the dome of stars that we might always find our way and know the time of day.

“We play this game today for the pleasure of our Maker so that He might find joy in it and for the healing of our poor Tekakwitha, she who gropes forward in the darkness. Should our play today be pleasing to you, may it speed wholeness and well-being to her that she may be saved.

“So these are the words that I have spoken to you today. May we all be of one mind on it. Nia:wen.”

With that, the players on both sides popped to their feet. They raised their sticks in the air and leaned into each other in a tangled cluster. The shaman lobbed the ball up into the air between them, and all the players clashed at once to gain possession. Bodies bumped, sticks jousted, a stampede ensued, the ball appeared.


A player has the ball!

Bogle:á!” his teammates shouted back as they grabbed the opposing players nearest to them, neutralizing the other team so that the player with the ball could advance to the goal. Some were wrestled to the ground—fist fights broke out.

The man with the ball ran off like a gazelle with a horde of opposing players bearing down on him like a wolf pack chasing prey. He leapt over a pile of fallen players, then headed for a stand of trees for safety. But a crush of swarthy soldiers whacked violently at his shins toppling him flat to the ground.

On his way down, he passed the ball back through his legs for a teammate to scoop, and the hunt was on again. The mad cluster of bodies surrounding the ball alternated back and forth all over the field in a confused clump of flailing and waving sticks. The dust that kicked up from the field followed the faction like the memory of an event trying to keep up with the event itself.

Over the next half-hour, the body-cluster worked its way toward the Onyota’a:ka goal. Then a spry and wiry player worked himself free with the ball and bounced a shot off the turf in front of the goal line and caromed it off the post for the first goal of the game.

That counts as one! The smiling scorekeeper on the sidelines recorded it as such with one stick on the Kanien’kehá:ka side.

The chanting and the dancing on the sidelines intensified as the women exhorted their men in combat. And they had good reason to: each had wagered something of great value in the contest—a beaded collar, a dog, a metal awl, a pair of snowshoes—the bets meticulously managed by the stakes-keeper who maintained an abacus-like tabulation rack to keep track.

Among the hundreds on the field of play that day, none stood out more than Kitchi. He was rampant, inexhaustible, with an unfailing nose for the ball. Unlike the others who chased the action, Kitchi seemed to anticipate its bearing. And, when he had possession of the ball, he didn’t always run away from his pursuers but, if the situation called for it, bulled his way through them, inflicting as much hurt on them as they did on him.

After three hours of play, many of the lesser athletes trailed off from the action. Some were reduced to half-running after the ball-crowd. Others took breaks on the sidelines to joke around with friends and family or linger on the sidelines long after the tobacco breaks were supposed to have ended.

But the elite athletes kept on, their ceremonial plumage having long since molted. Now that the players had winnowed down through attrition, there was more room to dodge and cut. Four hours, five hours, six hours, the goals became more frequent as the day stretched out, and the sun softened from the white glare of noon to the gold, amber and saffron of the later day…

And, at that time, in a square wooden room, in the mission of the French, Tekakwitha asked that her bandages be removed. Blackrobe declined, but when he left the room, she obliged herself nevertheless. What their removal revealed were the bloody stumps of her toes.

She had burned them intentionally with the glowing red shards from the hearthfire. She and her sister novitiate had been mortifying themselves, just as they were ordered not to. Her sister had asked Tekakwitha what was the most painful thing she could risk enduring for Jesus.

“Redfire,” she answered.

The redfire that had consumed her village; the redfire that had destroyed her people; the redfire that had taken her stepfather, Cerf, and her blessed mother, Pittaraskissi; the redfire that had blinded her eyes and scarred her face.

She scooped the hot coals out of the fire and ladled them onto her toes. She did this to herself in secret, on behalf of all who had suffered the Red Scourge as she did. She would suffer for them, she would suffer with them, she would take it onto herself as He did.

Her compassion for those who might suffer as she did was hotter than redfire, and her endurance for it seemed beyond measure. She had known Loss; she had known Pain; she had known Humiliation, Cruelty, Betrayal. So she, like Him, would pin these afflictions to herself so others would not have to. Her suffering had purpose, her suffering had meaning.

Her suffering was strung like polished shells, purple and white, into a crown of great beauty.

When Blackrobe re-entered the room, it seemed as if Tekakwitha was afloat. Her arms were extended. Her wounds were revealed. There was a faint smile on her lips. But, as he looked more closely in the dim light of the room, something extraordinary caught his attention. Her skin was as white and unsullied as a morning lily. He refocused his eyes and looked again. There were no marks of the Red Scourge remaining. What had disfigured her face since she was four years old, what had marked her apart and tethered her destiny like a rusting anchor, was gone, truly gone.

Blackrobe called in Tsio:kwaris (Black Raven) who gaped wide-eyed at her transformation. She had been touched by the Spirit and transfigured at her death.

At once, they noticed the cross clutched in her right hand. It was not her mother’s humble wooden cross, the one strapped together with deerskin; it was a silver cross. At the intersection of the horizontal and vertical arms had been etched a directional indicator, like a navigational compass rose, with arrows pointing to the cardinal directions and interstitial lines to indicate the ordinal directions.

But what struck them both particularly about the cross were the two miniature silver lacrosse sticks that had been affixed to the back of the cross in the shape of an X.

Blackrobe was aghast at this combination of forms. It seemed blasphemous to him, but Tsio:kwaris reached out for it before Blackrobe thought to do so and held it aloft in both hands toward the center opening of the hut and in his language said:

His fire burns forever.

With the scapular yet there around her neck that he had given her at the river, Blackrobe marked her five senses with oil in the sign of the cross—Sacram Unctione Infirmorum—and Tekakwitha was saved…

And in the enclosed plain, surrounded as it was by low hills, the light from the low and bloated sun cast long shadows from the players’ forms. Their shadows were much larger than their actual bodies as if, having played so long into the day, the legends of their very selves were growing longer and larger, as if their spirit-man has grown over the course of the day, and the tales and legends of this tewaarathon were growing by the moment, stretching to extend over the time-swept hills.

Kitchi had the ball in his stick and dodged several players on his way toward the rock outcroppings on the north side of the plain. He would use these as a natural barrier to protect him on his long run to the goal, well over two miles, but the charm-spell that had fallen over him gave him an uncanny confidence that even this was possible.

As the air cooled, Kitchi had come into a second wind, a rejuvenation that could not be explained naturally. He and the others had been playing for nine hours.

Extended over such a long period of time, the panoply of the events of the game organized themselves in Kitchi’s mind into a type of order. The late afternoon light served to clarify this impression with all moving things and all stationery things lit in high relief as if a black border tightly inscribed them, separating each from each other, yet binding them all together.

Opponents charged at him, but he was seeing so clearly they were easily dodged. They chased after him, but he stymied their angles of pursuit and tacked in other directions to safety. Natural obstacles loomed before him, but they were easily circumvented, as if he was conveyed by a supernatural wind.

His lungs had expanded, his thighs had grown large from exertion, his spirit once tethered to his animal frame had broken free and was now soaring like an eagle buoyed by a warm updraft of air.

The spectators now sensed that Kitchi’s was a special run in the making. They, too, soared with him. They dodged when he dodged, they sprang when he sprang, they shared his champion spirit, cheering and dancing in appreciation.

Kitchi led pursuers into a tree grove, pinballing through them like a pebble carried bouncing along the bottom of a rushing river. He zig-zagged across an open meadow like a frantic deer spooked for its life. He hopscotched from rock to rock like a shaman walking on hot coals. When he was cornered, he squirted through a player’s legs to escape! Then he bound over the head of an opponent who had lowered himself for a tackle.

There was no stopping him. He was Living Victory.

And when the goalpost came into view, a phalanx of opposition players formed to defend it. Glorious though his run was, the Onyota’a:ka were not about to give Kitchi a free shot at their goal.

With bad intent, they charged straight at him, perhaps 20 in number. Kitchi made an instantaneous calculation. True though it was that he had overcome everything at this point in his run, it was also clear that he was not going to make it through this tawny wall of meat that had sprung up before him. So he deked to the right into a tiny crease in the stampede and passed the ball over the heads of everyone to Karon’hi:io who was waving his stick madly for Kitchi’s attention.

Kitchi was badly off-balance in the midst of a swarm of attackers, and Karon’hi:io was some 40 yards away running at a full gallop, but the ball zeroed into his stick like an arrow to its target. Just after release, Kitchi was cold-cocked by the rampaging herd of burly monsters and made level with the ground.

Karon’hi:io cradled in the ball and bounced a shot off the turf that caromed off the goalpost.

Goal! That’s 12!

Game over.

Somewhere beyond the low-lying hills, Hino assented in a low rumbling thunder. His jolly echo tumbled forth in a cascading series of belly-laughs, emanating from deep within his spirit.

He almost fell off his throne he was so happy.

Kitchi was helped to his feet, and he and Karon’hi:io celebrated their victory together.

Then all the men from both teams assembled into a side-by-side line and walked with their bodies happily tired to the river, Teiehonwahkwà:tha (Mohawk River). There they were “taken to water” by dipping their sticks and their bruised, bloody and dirty selves into Teiehonwahkwà:tha.

The waters washed them clean of the spirit of war.

And Tekakwitha was saved.

Isle of Demons

T hough you were on a distant island, I would speak to your naked heart.

Trottier had heard the whispered fables from his fellow voyagers about the Île des Démons (French: Isle of Demons). How sailors were bedeviled by the strange high-pitched howls of the doomed souls of the island, screeching for their release; how they cried out because there was nothing else to ease their torment but to expunge it through sound.

In his mind, Trottier gave these tales no more credence that he gave to the shady superstitions held by the farmers back in France. He was not convinced it was even a real place.

But he and Alawa were about to find out.

The barque was underway, heading southwest. No one could tell where the mighty river ended and the open ocean began, but, of this, there was no doubt: they were sailing further from the mainland.

Alawa’s eyes were downcast, fixed at a point somewhere beyond her manacled feet. Brodeur had wrapped her sitting figure in a blanket.

How well did he know her really? Trottier wondered. Not well at all.

How much isolation and discomfort could she handle? He did not know.

Where was her breaking point? Only when she passed it, would he learn.

Did she still love him?

Of all the agonizing questions, this was perhaps the most acute. Had he failed her so profoundly that it had broken the bond of love between them? If he had, then truly they would have nothing. They were sans roi, sans loi, sans foi (French: without a king, without law, without faith). Their bond of love was all that remained.

Trottier noticed how the aspect of this trip aboard Le Don de Dieu was so different from his last voyage. On the outbound voyage to Nouvelle France, it was as if the very pipe organs of Heaven blared hosannas to clear the way before them. All was new, hopeful, bristling with anticipation.

Now, it was the same deck on the same ship, but it seemed like a pipe organ without breath. All the lines were strung as before, the blocks were in the same position, the belaying pins stood stout and steady, the booms creaked as their goosenecks spun around the mast, the sails fluffed and snapped tight in the wind, but it was as if the soul had left the ship.

The wind passed around the spars like they were the bones of a skeleton, surrounding them with a remorseless chill and, as it did, whistled and moaned, certainly not like the hopeful harmonies of heaven on the outbound voyage, not even musical by any reasonable definition, but now, like the antithesis of music, a discordant shivering knot of sound.

It called from the listener a feeling that, in the common light of day, is kept submerged and left undisturbed. But, now, approaching the Île des Démons, it was being stirred up for release.

“Land ahead! Thirty-five degrees to starboard.”

Trottier saw it with the others, the barest outline of an island, a blip on the horizon. The remoteness of its location suddenly became real to him. He didn’t want Alawa to see it, but he needn’t have worried—she never lifted her head but continued to stare blankly at the space just beyond her feet.

The ship was on a downwind run, a broad reach, as it approached the island. Sailing “wing-on-wing” as it was, the wind no longer rip-whistled through the spars as it had earlier. It was much quieter on deck now, preternaturally so. The men were quiet, too, clearly uneasy with the task the Captain had given them: to maroon one of their former comrades and his native bride.

But, though the sound of the wind in the rigging had abated, its velocity had not. The ship galloped forward as the island rose from the horizon like a looming catastrophe. And, as the island grew in apparent size, so grew the strangest sound that anyone on board had ever heard, not from the ship but from the island.

At first, it reached the ear like a thousand people whispering at once in a church. But, as the space-gap between the ship and the island decreased, the sound transitioned into something more like that of a theater before a performance, with each member of the orchestra tuning up independently of all the others and the audience jabbering away in a low volume—audio coming from everywhere without organization or purpose.

One of the sailors held a crucifix in front of him toward the island with his head bowed. Trottier reflexively reached for the Agnus Dei amulet over his heart.

A low clinging fog cloud slipped over the craggy cliff-mounts and poured down the rock parapets toward the beach. It crept over the surf to meet the ship like a creature of dubious welcome and uncertain intent. Suddenly, on board everything was wet. Tiny droplets of moisture filled every available cubic-inch of air up-top and down-below. It was gray night in the day. The rock faces disappeared.

“Take a sounding!” the Captain barked.

“Three fathoms, sir!”

The sound became maddening, like everyone on earth speaking at the same time, each in a different language, none of which is your own. The mind’s natural inclination is to make meaning from sound. What is it? Who is it? Where is it coming from? What does it mean? But, in this case, the mind failed in countless ways to understand, causing it to crash headlong like a wave driven by a long fetch of the wind against the sharp edge of a rock face, splattering into a million tiny subsets of itself, only to be drawn again by gravity into reconstitution, back into the ocean, formed into another wave. Then another lunge for meaning and, crash, obliteration once more.

It was the demons of which he had been told, Trottier conjectured, a legion released from hell to entice and bewitch mortals into madness. Maybe it was true then, the legends of the Île des Démons that he had dismissed as fantasy.

According to natural science, these sounds like voices could be explained: on the island, in the near hills, there was a chasm splitting two massive rock formations through which a rivulet poured. On opposite rock walls athwart each other across this chasm, there were two waterfalls—two rivers of water facing each other forever pouring into this vast mixing chamber. And the sound of the falling water of one collapsed into the sounds of the falling water of the other, and the resounding echoes of these two unfailing torrents ricocheted in infinite instances of iteration and reiteration, breaking apart into atomized audio.

The whoosh of the wind generated through the chasm cannon-blasted this sound down the sand escarpments leading to the near shore and out over the sea. Then, amplified by the spooked imagination of the sailors, it sounded like the shrieks and howls of demons. They were the very waterfalls of Babel sowing fear and confusion on God’s behalf so that mortals might not be of sound mind to compete with Him.

Trottier looked at Alawa and could see that she was still lost in the world in which she was sinking. What could be more sad, more tragic, more forlorn than poor little Alawa at that moment, away from her clan, away from her village, pregnant and chained on a foreigner’s vessel in a cold soaking mist.

This would be their Saguenay then? Their hoped-for paradise? Their land of milk and honey? Streets paved in gold? Where everyone walks upright? Proud, healthy and free?

She rocked back and forth with her arms wrapped around her knees that were raised in front of her. Trottier felt unconsciously for the red feather on his coat that she had stitched there and started rubbing it with his fingers for comfort. He sat closer to her, as close as his chains would allow, and put his manacled arm awkwardly around her shoulder. Alawa shuddered at this contact with him. She inclined a little toward him and burrowed her head into his shoulder, like a kitten seeking a place to rest.

Brodeur walked by on deck and saw the two comforting each other in this way. Surely, the Captain would not allow this, he thought. These exiles were to be punished.

But he looked away and, with a sigh, said wistfully “Amore…”

Martyr’s Creed

Blackrobe had been granted permission to set up for himself a teepee apart from the longhouses which were smokey and full of the chaos of family life. The natives’ conjugal customs were abhorrent to him, and, try though he might, he could not convince them of the moral superiority of mating with a single individual. After the strange death of Tekakwitha, the natives called him Ondessonk and helped build this monk-hut for him, though its presence set him up as an foreigner of even greater suspicion among the tribal leaders.

The shaman Tsio:kwaris (Black Raven) was particularly leery of Blackrobe’s time alone. He was convinced that he was working magic in his tent. Whereas Blackrobe had interpreted Tekakwitha’s death as a stunning miracle, the first evidence of sainthood, Tsio:kwaris saw it quite differently. Blackrobe had been alone with her at the end, and he suspected he had called upon his God to take her away, perhaps he had even killed her himself.

In the fall, the Red Plague returned and devastated the tribe yet again, but Blackrobe was unharmed—his white skin not marred by a single bump. He prayed over them, he blessed them, he poured holy water on their heads, but he himself was completely unaffected.

How could this be?

Tsio:kwaris began whispering in Nunking’s ear. At every opportunity, he sowed doubt and suspicion. Everything Blackrobe did was twisted into evidence that supported his distrust.

He claims to worship a good God? Look at the devastation wrought upon our people since his arrival. He claims to provide us a way to eternal Life? His kind have brought nothing but death and disease.

And what of Tekakwitha’s skin? If she could be healed in that way by his God, why not earlier in her life? Why not cure all of her tribe members who suffered still?

One day armed men showed up at his monk-hut and stood him up. They tied Ondessonk’s hands behind his back. He did not resist. One on each side, they marched him back to the village. He started singing the Magnificat.

Magnificat anima mea Dominum,
Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deosalvatore meo.

My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.

For he hath regarded: the lowliness of his handmaiden: For behold, from henceforth: all generations shall call me blessed.

They led him to one end of the village. He saw the people gathered there in the main thoroughfare, jostling for position, pushing each other away from the inside spots along the open alley that had formed between the crowd-walls. He saw sticks and spears in their hands; some held stones.

In anticipation of the arrival of the prisoner, the crowd had whipped itself into a brown lather—bouncing, pushing, leaping. There were as many women in their midst as men, maybe more. From them came unholy whoops and jeers that ricocheted into discordant shards of sound.

Led now to the far end of this tunnel of terror, Tsio:kwaris approached him. He held his hands in the air and the assembled quieted as if he was about to speak. And speak he did, not with words, but with the descent of the war club he held aloft in his right hand, a single piece of wood with its end carved into a blunt sphere, hard and smooth.

Tsio:kwaris brought the wooden club down hard on the point of Blackrobe’s right shoulder. He winced involuntarily from the pain but kept singing.

“Whoa…” The assembled gasped in surprise and admiration for his stoicism. They started laughing and bouncing in excitement again.

Tsio:kwaris gestured to the two guards who then led Blackrobe forward through the gauntlet. The blows descended like a hailstorm—sticks and clubs and stones and fists and feet—from all directions at once. He felt something particularly heavy across his lower back, something bricklike bounced off his forehead, rocks pelted him in succession, a wrinkled hag punched him in the ribs.

He lowered his head, his hands still tied behind him, still singing:

Quia fecit mihi magna, qui potens est: et sanctum nomen eius,

For he that is mighty hath magnified me: and holy is his Name.

Et misericordia eius in progenies et progenies timentibus eum.

And his mercy is on them that fear him: throughout all generations.

Fecit potentiam in brachio suo: dispersit superbos mente cordis sui;

He hath shewed strength with his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

Deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles

He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek.

His song was punctuated now and again with an involuntary “ooof” from a blow to the stomach, but he forged ahead with the hymn. He stumbled to one knee toward the end of the first pass through the gauntlet, but his song did not cease.

He had prepared himself for this, his long hours in hardship and solitude, living away from his home, among these people with their ways so strange to him, in their village, in their woods, surrounded by words and customs that were confusing to him. Alone in his monk-hut, he had steeled himself for just this. He had set his mind such that no matter what should befall him, he would keep a song of praise on his lips. He had been inspired by the death of Tekakwitha.

His determination was superior to all pain, his will superceded all humiliation—so far.

They drove him several more times between them and, when they tired of simply blows, stripped him of his robe. The clubs and stones gave way to thorns and greenbriars that strafed his exposed skin with crisscrossing lacerations. A thorn hooked his lower lip, ripping part of it away. His body was now striped in riven patterns, and the blood poured forth profusely in livid extrusions such that the places where the cuts had been and the places where the blood had run were now all but indistinguishable.

And still he sang. And this, that he sang, caused great joy among his tormentors. With glee, they welcomed his song though their pleasure in it never slackened progress toward their objective.

Blackrobe was taken up a wooden scaffolding some six feet high, the ask-wa it was called, high enough so that all his tormentors could see. They re-tied his hands to a post high over his head and tied his feet to lower poles to keep them apart. From the ground, he looked like a red X against the sky.

A fire was started beneath him, carefully cultivated for the greatest heat, not the highest flame. He was to be cooked alive.

“Let us see if this Blackrobe’s flesh is of okton or of orienda,” Tsio:kwaris leered.

Blackrobe felt the heat on his skin, then he felt a heat that he could no longer bear, then he did not feel heat any more.

And, when he could no longer sing, he said one word: “Eucharisto.”

His tormentors were amazed at his courage, so much so that they shared in that which was a part of him. His flesh became their flesh so that his courage would be their courage, his song would be their song, his love would be their love.

Between the Pipes

Pomper had another flying dream the night before the championship game.

These weren’t dreams about flying—he was actually flying in his dream. To Pomper, there was no doubt about this. In his dream, as he swooped up and over trees, he felt G-forces in the bottom of his stomach. He felt his inner gyroscope whirring frantically as it scrambled to catch-up with the sudden shifts in his orientation and altitude.

At the beginning of these dreams, he felt lifted by some force he couldn’t control, like an inner wind had gusted him off the ground. But, after some practice, he found himself better able to maneuver. With a slight turn of his torso, he dove to the left through an opening in a crevasse. With a flick of his outstretched palm, he could avoid electrical wires strung high along a roadway.

He was a bird. And he was sure what kind of bird he was—a long-winged eagle.

He never saw himself as an eagle flying in his dream. This would confirm for him what bird character he was playing, like a child in a Halloween costume. Rather, he knew himself to be an eagle, with eagle-courage, eagle-vision and eagle-freedom. As he soared, he was not a physical body, but spirit only, the spirit of an eagle.

Flying above the ground—There’s the ground! Way down there! I’m really flying!—defying gravity, he ascended to unknown realms, into a vision of this world he had never seen and into a sense of himself that he never thought possible. Fantastical headlong exhilaration…

Word spreads fast in high school, and, when Pomper arrived in the locker room to get dressed the morning of the championship game, he was alerted immediately to the news—Rose was in the hospital. They had brought her to the “pink room” on the fourth floor, a collection area for the walking wounded that functioned like the backwash area of a stream, where floating detritus revolves around the surface, slowly circling, collecting there at the mercy of the forces around them. At some point, they either wash out or sink to the bottom. The rumor was that she had tried to kill herself and had very nearly succeeded. She had been carried out of her house on a stretcher.

To Pomper, there was no doubt as to what had happened to her: the clouds had gathered, filled to bursting, then burst.

This was stunning news for the team. They all knew Rose. She was weird, yes, but she was a member of their class and many had known her since first grade. And here they found themselves: having worked all season in preparation for this championship game, having dedicated themselves with singular focus for this day, and, now, one of their friends had apparently tried to kill herself and was on the brink of death.

It was a difficult thing to process for these young men, a half-hour before the biggest lacrosse game of their lives against the dreaded Blue Devils who had beaten them so badly in that pre-season scrimmage. The effect of the news was heavy and stolid. It was as if the air had been instantly sucked out of the locker room and replaced with lead.

But Pomper’s mind turned to events fearlessly. After he absorbed the initial blow of the news, he suited-up silently in front of his locker as he did before every game. He seemed to be following his same pre-game routine, but careful observation revealed an extra edge to his movements, a curt little magnification to every knot that was tied, every clasp that was snapped.

When he pulled the velcro strap of his arm-guard crisp and tight, the last piece of armor, he walked directly to a mirror. His normal routine at this point would have called for the application of eye-black before donning his helmet, but this time Pomper opened a switchblade from his equipment bag and looked up:

“Hino, thank you for giving us this game. May our effort be full of courage and joy so that it be pleasing to you…and may it bring healing to our friend Rose. She is your spouse of blood. Look kindly upon us, and surround her with your healing. It is I asking this of you—your winged warrior of Love.”

With that, Pomper scraped the ultra-sharp tip of his switchblade across his right cheek, a quick decisive snip under his cheekbone. Blood appeared immediately.

Geezus Christ!” Schipper gasped. “Pomper, stop!”

But there was no stopping him because it was already done—past tense—a single cut done in solidarity with Rose to consecrate the dedication of this game to her healing.

The locker room broke out into a confused commotion, but Pomper felt no need to explain himself. He brushed past Schipper on his way to line up with his teammates to exit the locker room.

According to team tradition, the players paired up two-by-two as they walked to the bus on game day. As the captain, Schipper was always at the head of the line, the only player without a partner. But, on this day, he broke this tradition. Rather than lead the two lines of his teammates to the bus, he filed back into the spot next to Pomper, like a guard next to a prisoner.

Schipper walked as if a steel rod attached himself to Pomper, keeping them separate but holding them together. They looked straight ahead and spoke no words. On the team bus, Schipper sat next to Pomper in the first bench seat. Pomper looked out the window; Schipper looked out the windshield.

It was a long, awkward and quiet bus ride to the neutral game field during which all the young men tried to process the events of the morning. The Warriors were like a river that had been stirred up by the news about Rose and Pomper slitting his cheek, but the bus ride served to settle them toward clarity again. Then, as they thankfully exited the bus, it was all wiped clean when they stepped into the scene that greeted them: the broad open sky, the freshening breeze, the gathering crowd, the yielding green turf, the Big Stage of a Big Game. The freshly-lined geometric shapes marking the lacrosse field returned a welcome order to their souls, and, as they approached the hallowed place of the contest, the morale of the team soared.

Warming up with the team, Schipper began to see what Pomper had achieved. He had instantly grasped the significance of what had happened to Rose and had incorporated this event perfectly in the team’s pre-game rituals for the championship game. In one dramatic gesture, he had woven it into the purpose of their season-long effort to win the championship. It was true to the spirit of lacrosse, and it was true to the Warrior’s desire to win it all.

What’s more, it had sharpened the team’s focus, as if they needed it, on their objective: to play their hearts out on the field that day. It was no longer a distraction to their game-play, it had become part of the purpose of their game-play.

And what put a particular twist to it all, Pomper’s sometimes girlfriend Melissa had never quite gotten over the fact that it was Rose who had retrieved her boyfriend’s gear after the confrontation with Ancorro. Pomper had dedicated this game to the healing of his girlfriend’s rival and had affirmed it with a bloody cut to his own cheek.

And he didn’t care what Melissa would think about it once she found out.



A lacrosse ball is about the same size as a baseball but made of compressed rubber. If it is dropped to a hard surface, it will rebound to 70% of the height from which it was released. The density required for this kind of springback gives the ball a terrifying momentum when launched into the air at 100 miles per hour. It has more force than a baseball slung by the fiercest relief pitcher, more than a tennis ball served by an angry pro.

A shot lacrosse ball that impacts the chest—even when protected by a chest guard—can stun the heart into cessation and cause death.

In light of these facts, lacrosse goalies are the most courageous of athletes. They stand in every day as the last line of defense between what may be a goal for the other team and what may not be a goal. Really good ones believe they will stop every shot, that they should stop every shot.

Five shots may whiz by him in a quarter, eight shots in a half, yet there he stands with confidence that he will stuff the next one, rapping the goal posts with the butt end of his oversized stick, metal on metal, nervously checking his position in the cage as the opposition team passes the ball in a wide arc around him in preparation for the next blast.

He barks his commands like a guard dog defending his turf: “Top righttop centertop lefttop centerwatch the cuttersticks upback right.”

A goalie’s courage, more than his skill, can form the center-heart of a team. Defenseman want to protect him, attackman want to score for him, the opposition simply wants to beat him.

After saving a shot or collecting a loose ball, a lacrosse goalie has two choices: pass the ball to a teammate who has a stick easier to cradle it (any of his teammates) or try to advance the ball himself up the field.

Advancing it is usually a bad choice because the head of a goalie stick is ridiculously large, almost comically so, built oversized purposely so as to cover as much area as possible in front of the goal. A big stick-head is an advantage at stopping shots, but makes for an easy target for a defender to check with his own stick to dislodge the ball.

It’s also a very bad idea because, when the goalie tries to advance the ball upfield, there’s no one to defend the goal! He has essentially abandoned his post, leaving the goalmouth wide open and defenseless.

Goalies are well aware of this risk and so, usually, will only choose to run with the ball when the field ahead of them is well-clear of defenders.

However, certain goalies, and Warrior goalie Jake Brady was one of them, just refuse to accept their lot: that they should be stuck all game in front of their goal without the thrill of running upfield with the ball.

A few times each game, Brady would embark on a wild twisting excursion up and around the field, dodging his way around defenders, courting disaster with every weave and curve of his insane adventure.

Defenders would chase after him like predators with a fearsome blood lust—the goalie is out of the cage: GET HIM!—and chop violently at him with their sticks.

Shouts come from everywhere: “Brady, pass the ball! PASS. THE. BALL!” The fans on the sidelines rise and crash with each mini-episode in the drama.

His coaches, teammates and parents had spoken to him about staying close to the cage. He would always nod his head and say he understood, but, in the heat of the contest, he would just take off again with the ball.

His objective apparently was to actually score a goal. This is not unheard of in lacrosse—for a goalie to run the entire length of the field, shoot and score on the opposition goalie—but it is a rare event indeed. It is also something that opposition defenders will do anything to stop because it represents the ultimate humiliation for a team—to let the other goalie score.

But this was the championship game, for all the marbles, no time for screwing around and leading everyone on a wild goose chase around the field. Right Brady?

Yet there he was, doing it again.

Early in the second quarter, after a save, Brady looked downfield to pass to an open midfielder. Finding no one open, he started a conventional clear with his defensemen, but the Blue Devils had called for a press. Their three attackmen were covering the three Warrior defenseman head-up, face-to-face.

This left Brady unmarked. The Blue Devils, knowing Brady’s reputation, were daring him to move the ball up the field himself. They had zeroed-out his passing options and were hoping he would take the bait.

Brady jogged the ball directly up the center of the field, with each step getting further and further away from his own goal. When no one challenged him, he kept going, but, as he approached the midfield line, triggered by a silent signal, a Blue Devil attackman released from covering his defenseman and darted in behind Brady.

“Look out behind!” a teammate yelled, but it was too late. The “Press Trap” had worked to perfection. The attackman dislodged the ball from Brady’s stick, scooped it up and deposited it easily into the empty net.

After a drum-tight first quarter, the Blue Devils had drawn first blood, 1-0. Neither team had wanted to make the first mistake, but it was the Warriors who blinked first.

The game loosened up a bit after this, and the rhythm of the competition began to outline the contours of the game. It was clear that luring Brady out of the goalmouth was part of the Blue Devil game plan. On defense, the Blue Devils strategy was also clear: keep the ball out of McEneaney’s stick, no matter what.

The Warrior’s star was closely marked everywhere he went to a ridiculous extent, even for a game of this magnitude. After a time-out, McEneaney was escorted from the sidelines by his man back onto the field of play. Even if the ball was on the other side of the field, his man stayed close enough to touch him at all times. The plan was to nullify McEneaney, frustrate him, deny him the ball. His defender would not slide off him, even if one of his Blue Devil teammates had been beat and needed support.

If McEneaney did happen to gain possession, he was double-teamed, if possible.

It was a high risk strategy on the part of the Blue Devil coach because all that attention on McEneaney shifted defensive resources away from other assignments on the field. But it was one he felt confident in pursuing. If the Blue Devils were going to get beat that day, the coach reasoned, it wouldn’t be because of Eamon McEneaney.

The Warriors offense seemed out of sync because of this and required a full phase-shift on their part to adjust. After falling behind 3-1 in the second quarter, Aliperti called time-out and re-routed the offense from attack to midfield.

He called for a “weave up top” which is a freewheeling series of picks and cuts from the three midfielders just outside the restraining line. The intent was to liberate a midfielder on McEneaney’s side of the field who could isolate and burn his defender with no help on that side from the man covering McEneaney.

After a disorganized start, this strategy gave the Warrior offense a new focus. And it worked. Billy Dawson uncorked a canon from 25 feet that the Blue Devil goalie didn’t see, only heard, as it popped the net behind him. Pomper circled the cage from behind into the vacant space usually filled by McEneaney and dumped a lightning one-touch shot into the goal. Then McEneaney muscled free to sweep in a rebound that was bouncing around in front of the cage.

By halftime, the Warriors had eked out a 4-3 lead.

But, deep into the third quarter, with the score of the game stuck at 6-6, Brady got the irrational urge to roam the field again.

After scooping up a loose ball, he weaved his way willy-nilly out of his own half of the field, dodging through wild swings and stick-hacks from the Blue Devil players.

His intention was clear: he was going to the goal. He fought his way out of a cluster of blue jerseys into an opening within shot range of the goal. He cocked back his goalie stick and let one fly…

But, just as the ball left his stick, he was blindsided by a titanic body check. One moment he was on his feet running toward the goal; the next he was flat on the turf.

The shot itself was a little dribbler of no consequence that the opposition goalie easily scooped up, but, after doing so, the ref blew his whistle to stop play.

Brady lay prone. The wind had been knocked clear out of him, and there was scorching pain in his ribs. His helmet was cock-eyed and crooked on his head, and he had spit his mouthpiece. There was no putting a brave face on this one. He was gasping for air, the very stuff of life, through broken ribs.

Aliperti and the team medic ran to assist him, but there wasn’t much they could do until he regained his breath.

“Stay calm, Jake,” Aliperti said. “Just breathe. That’s all you have to do right now. Breathe…”

After a few tense minutes, Brady gathered himself and sat up. Teammates helped him to his feet, raising him like a ragdoll. His two arms were draped around the shoulders of Schipper and Pomper on either side of him as he hobbled off the field with a look of excruciating pain on his face. Polite clapping came from both sides of the field.

This was the only time in any game or practice that Jake Brady had to be helped from the field. His bell had been rung big time, and he was done for the day.

Brady had committed a serious transgression against the unwritten rules of lacrosse—goalies shall not shoot, but shall be shot at—and even his teammates knew that he had it coming.

But that didn’t mean the Warriors didn’t take careful note of the assailant’s number. There would be revenge, that was for sure. He knew, everyone knew, that it was coming. If not on the defenseman who had laid Brady out, then on the goalie he was charged to defend.

You take out our guy, and it’s open season on yours.

Rich Limoggio, the Warrior’s backup goalie, was a plump young man whose parents had pushed him to play lacrosse because they thought it would help him get into college. But, because of his size, he wasn’t cut out for the “running positions,” so, in 3rd grade youth lacrosse, he was stuck in goal by the coach and stayed there ever since.

His parents paid for his own private goalie-coach, so he knew technique well enough, but there was one very good reason why he was the back-up; he was painfully, pitifully slow. It wasn’t just his running speed, it was the way he moved his arms, his feet, his torso, anything in reaction to a shot. There wasn’t much a goalie-coach could do about that; he was just SLOW. In fact, McEneaney had come up with the perfect nickname for him: “Slo-mo-ggio.” The name stuck to him like a wet jersey.

And now, here he was, in the championship game, standing in goal with a worried look on his face and a voice splintered with tension.

Limoggio felt the steel cage of this scenario closing in around him—he was going to have to play goal in the championship game. It was all on him. A murky sense of doom descended upon the field, a cold cloud.

While Pomper peppered him with a series of close-in shots to warm him up, Limoggio saw at the restraining line the cocky Blue Devils taunting him. One of them gestured with his two hands grasping his throat, the “choking sign.”

Anyone who’s ever played competitive sports knows what that means. It’s the one thing every player fears the most: that, when everything is on the line, your mind will get bombarded by negative thoughts—dogging you, confounding you, distracting you like a swarm of gnats flying around your head. You can’t master your emotions, you’re not equal to the enormity of the moment. You choke. You don’t just let yourself down, you let everyone down: your teammates, your coaches, your parents, all their hopes for a victory dashed because of YOU.

For many great athletes, this is what really drives them: the overwhelming desire to never feel that way, to not choke under pressure. Yes, they want to taste the sparkling bubbly of Victory, but, moreso, they don’t want to taste the dog crap of choking.

Choking is worse than losing. It’s losing, amplified. It’s losing that echoes forever. It’s losing that could have been avoided, for everyone, if only you had not failed so miserably, so shamefully, at the exact moment when Victory or Defeat hung in the balance.

Lacrosse is a team game, true, but, when a goalie chokes, the whole team loses.

The ref blew two tweets of his whistle calling for the game to begin again. Possession of the ball was awarded to the Blue Devils because they had control when play was stopped.

The Blue Devil player started with the ball on his side of the field and trotted at ¾ speed up the sideline with his defender running along with him, man-marking him intently, keeping himself between his midfielder and the center of the field.

As the two passed the midfield line, the Blue Devil deked right, then darted left, accelerating till he entered the restraining box, the large lined rectangle that surrounds the opposition goal and defines the attack zone.

Here, he slowed, circled back away from his defender and faced-up to him, twirling his stick with menace. Two attackmen ditched behind the cage, taking their defenders with them and away from the goalmouth.

Then the Blue Devil began his charge, dodging quickly to the left, but his defender easily anticipated this move and stuffed him cold with a punch check. The attacker bounced back and re-thought his approach.

One of his attackmen popped toward him from behind the cage for a dump-off pass, and the middie took a step toward him to do so, but, instead, hitched-up the forward movement of his stick with a quick curl, faked the pass and dodged instantly to his right, catching his defender flat-footed. Just that half-step jump on his defender, and he was gone, streaking to his right, his strong side, right in front of the goal. The center middie set a pick to body-block the defender’s pursuit which worked to perfection as the goalmouth opened before the ball-carrier.

It was like the seas had parted, leaving nothing between the attacker and Limoggio, now just a quivering lump of nerves standing alone in the middle of the cage.

In most cases, within 10-15 feet of the goal, a simple wrist-flick is sufficient to propel the ball past a goalie. But the Blue Devil middie chose to wind up a whip shot instead.

For a whip shot, a player drops his stick-head low and well-behind his body, steps forward with his lead leg, turns his hips and slings his arms forward to achieve maximum leverage to propel the ball. The combination of the extended arms and the stick shaft creates a long arc with a 6-7 foot radius for the ball to gather speed, cradled there at the end of the “whip.” The wider the swing arc, the faster the stick-head speed.

But a whip shot takes longer to execute than a wrist shot, and, in close, there usually isn’t enough time or space to pull if off. But, in this case, the Blue Devils were making a welcome statement for the new goalie, a statement that had been planned for in advance. When Brady went down, the Blue Devils coach huddled-up his team and called for this very play.

The Blue Devil middie launched the whip shot right at Limoggio’s head from 15 feet away, fired at 115 mph.

The word Shot! coming from his own lips was the last thing Limoggio heard before impact.

The ball hit him square in the face mask, snapping back his head. He was knocked stone-cold stiff before he bounced off the goalpost on his way into the goal netting, where he crumbled into an awkward tangle.

The sidelines gasped in horror, but, after several moments of shocked silence, Limoggio, the man-boy, rolled a little to his right and harumphed.

Now just a limp blob, one of his wrists was still arched crookedly around the stick shaft, pinning it to his chest.

He shook himself to wakefulness and wriggled free of the netting. With assistance he emerged back to the world of the living, but he was zonked. It was like he had two X’s where his eyes used to be, like a cartoon character.

He played one play; he stopped a shot with his face; he, too, was done for the day.

The situation then was this: Brady, the first-string goalie had been flattened by a body check; his back-up, Limoggio, had been knocked cold by a whip shot to the head. There was no other backup goalie on the team.

Aliperti looked down the sidelines at his players and saw Pomper already donning goalie equipment.

Schipper unstrapped the hard plastic shin guards off Limoggio’s legs and walked them over to Pomper. This made Schipper feel gallant extending this service to his former-friend with whom he had engaged in a war-of-wills all season.

But Pomper would have none of it. He turned to the left and walked a few steps toward the opposition sideline, adjusting his arm guards as he went and, with a little flourish, gave the taut Velcro straps a crisp tug. He’s not wearing the shin guards! And he wants the other team to see that he’s not wearing them.

The message was clear: See that I am not afraid. Though others may have fallen around me, know that I will not crumble, I will not cry out. See who I am!

Coach Aliperti moved in front of him, put both hands on his shoulder pads and looked directly into his eyes, one of which was underlined with the red slit from the knife-cut. “Pomper, we need you at midfield—you don’t have to do this.”

Pomper flicked off Aliperti’s hands, headed to his equipment bag and pulled out his orange gloves. In doing so, he was letting everyone know that he was not stepping into the goal as a sacrificial lamb, like a brick wall that the opposition can whip shots against, protecting himself against their onslaught. No, he was stepping in to stop shots, make clears and help his team win. Whatever trepidation he may have been feeling, he wasn’t about to let the opposition see it.

Fully equipped now, he side-skipped onto the field toward the goal. As he passed each Blue Devil player on the field, he pointed with his orange fists to the number 22 on his jersey.

Watching Pomper skip onto the field, Schipper had that same feeling again, like when he became mesmerized by the Warrior sign at the end of their last practice. He remembered what Aliperti had said about the Warrior-King: that a Warrior-King is a master of body, mind and spirit.

Pomper’s dismissal of his offer of the shin guards had nothing to do with their ongoing feud. No, Pomper had already transcended that petty high school nonsense. For him, this was about something greater, a higher purpose, an extraordinary personal journey.

Schipper could see this now, and he wasn’t the slightest bit offended, jealous or hateful at yet more grandstanding on Pomper’s part. He was witnessing the Warrior’s creed in action, in the form of Pomper’s often ugly, rude and misshapen attempts to live up to it.

The orange gloves made Pomper a target, but in a way that he welcomed. It was the same psychology lacrosse goalies use when they choose the number zero for their jersey. The shape of the zero—0—becomes subliminally a target for the shooter. Subconsciously the shooter aims for the circle, which is in the center of the goalie’s body, thereby attracting the ball to where it is easier to block. The orange gloves would work in the same way, as a bright neon color to focus the shooter’s attention. Clasped to his stick in front of his chest, it would help Pomper to stop more shots.

Pomper settled into the goalmouth and started banging the goalposts with the shaft of his stick—he was ready.

With Pomper between the pipes, a young man who had never played a minute in that position, the Warrior strategy was obvious: keep the ball on the offensive side of the field to reduce the Blue Devil’s opportunities to shoot at Pomper.

But, with the Blue Devils effectively denying the ball to McEneaney, retaining possession would not be as easy as having their best player hold onto it. McEneaney would have to find other ways to keep the ball in the offensive end. And this he did…

It is said that the greatest players come up big in the biggest games, and, in this, the biggest of Warrior games, Eamon McEneaney rose to the immensity of the moment by finding other ways to win. He out-hustled the Blue Devils to the end line after missed shots to retain possession, in one case leaping in a full-out stretch with his stick extended before him to nip-out the goalie to the line. He twice clean-stripped the ball from his defender as he was trying to clear it out of the Blue Devil zone. He outworked everyone for a couple of key loose balls. He played super-tough on the rides, where the attackman defends against the opposing team from clearing the ball out of their zone, jamming them as much as they were jamming him on offense.

And, despite the Devil’s defensive overplay on him, with the fourth quarter half-gone, McEneaney had nevertheless managed two goals and three assists.

He was a young man blessed with extra-sensory perception on the lacrosse field, aware, at all times, not just of his position relative to the ball or to his man who was covering him, but of all the players, all the time and their relative position to the ball.

He also had an uncanny sense of the character of the game itself: its status, tempo and rhythm. Some games shape into high-scoring slugfests, some games start slow and then suddenly burst open because of some event, a penalty perhaps, that changes the character of the game in an instant.

But this lacrosse game McEneaney had recognized sooner than most was going to be tight as the flight of an arrow straight from the opening whistle through the final handshake. It was the kind of game where one mistake, anywhere on the field at any time, could be the difference between winning and losing.

What scoring there was in the second half had alternated like a tick-tock with neither team gaining more than a one goal advantage. Pomper stood bravely in the goal and even made a few saves that he wouldn’t be expected to make, but others slipped past him that any other goalie would have easily stopped.

There had only been two man-up opportunities in the second half for the Warriors, and, in both, the Blue Devils snuffed out their chances.

It was looking more and more like the team that had possession of the ball last at the end of the game would control its outcome. Then, a lucky break: the Blue Devil goalie mishandled a shot he had saved, and the Warriors pounced, scoring a garbage goal that put them ahead, 10-9. Dietz won the ensuing face-off, and, during the unsettled scramble for the ball, McEneaney shook his defender for a pop-out and accepted a pass. Control.

For the Warriors, there was no other player on the field they would rather have with the ball in his stick at this point in the game than Eamon McEneaney.

After McEneaney ran past the restraining line and entered the attack area, the ref called out “Keep it in!” which meant that there was less than two-minutes to play in the game, and, because the Warriors were leading, now having entered the attack zone, they had to keep it in this constrained space to keep from being called for delaying the game.

“Double the ball!” the Blue Devil coach called out.

Two Blue Devils swarmed after McEneaney who swerved and zigged like his shorts were on fire. He darted left, got blocked, held up, doubled-back, circled around. Now, there were three defenders chasing him! McEneaney squirmed out of trouble once more but found himself pinned against the end line. He needed help.

Newton, the second string midfielder who took Pomper’s position when he went into goal, was the only man open, so McEneaney passed him the ball as an outlet from danger. But Newton choked. The ball bounced off the hard plastic framework of his stick-head and deflected out of bounds.

The Blue Devils took possession of the ball with 45 seconds left in regulation.

Their coach chose not to call timeout, which would have given the Warriors a chance to regroup and set their defense. Instead, he had his players rush the ball up the field, putting the Warriors on their heels.

The strategy worked, as the Blue Devils quickly cleared the ball out of their end of the field with a few smart passes and were quickly in their offensive zone, bearing down on Pomper in goal.

They launched into a play, crisply passing the ball around the perimeter from the front of the cage around to the back and then out to the front again. The lightning quick tempo of this rotation made it hard for the defenders to keep track of both the location of the ball and the player they were guarding.

When the ball went top left for the second time, one of the Blue Devil attackman snuck from behind his defender and planted himself on Pomper’s doorstep, just outside the goal crease, the circular safe zone around the goal with a radius of nine feet.

Just as planned, the pass zipped from the Blue Devil middie to this attackman, who caught it with half of the cage gaping open before him. The attackman had Pomper dead to rights but foolishly chose to first fake a shot to the top right of the cage and then dump it into the lower left. This maneuver gave Pomper a split second to slide further across the goalmouth to face him, and, in these enlarged moments of great intensity, Time stretched to abnormal scales, which gave him a extra millisecond, just enough time to block the shot with his extended stick.

The ball dropped to the ground between them like a thousand dollar bill. Lightning-quick, the attackman scooped it back up and dumped it over Pomper’s shoulder. Pomper reacted just as quickly and stuffed the shot again! The attackman tried to sweep the loose ball off the ground into the goal. Pomper instinctively clamped his legs closed, and yet another shot was stymied.

Now, it was a mad scramble—the attackman desperately trying to score, and Pomper desperately trying to prevent a score—an irresistible force meeting an immovable object.

The other players were mesmerized like spectators at this death-match between these two combatants. Shot after shot, save after save, 3-4-5 times in succession. Attackman striking, goalie countering.

Pomper stick-jammed the attackman’s latest joust, and the ball was lodged between the heads of both sticks, held in abeyance, a stand-off in suspended animation right in front of the goal.

Locked like two rams with butting horns entangled, with the ball teetering aloft between their two sticks, Pomper charged forward, driving madly with his legs. The attackman tilted backward for a moment, resisted, then succumbed to Pomper’s leverage and began to backpedal. Pomper kept driving: one yard, two yards, pushing furiously, out of his mind; he’s vacated the cage!

Open goal or not, it no longer mattered; Pomper was determined to take this player out, to win this scrum, at this time, and he no longer cared where the ball was, where the cage was, what the score was or what his name was. A low grunting sound came out of him from the recesses of his being.

The attackman stepped to the side and threw Pomper to the ground like a blind bull. Pomper landed hard and awkwardly on the turf. Where’s the ball?

It had squirted out to the restraining line where a Blue Devil middie scooped it up. Pomper untangled himself and shot like an arrow back to the goal.

The middie whipped the ball full force toward the open cage. In a final desperate lunge to block the shot, Pomper launched himself through the air, extending his body with reckless abandon to its utmost length to protect the goalmouth.

As he did so, he intercepted the ball in flight with his body, it striking him in the dead heart center of his chest.

Pomper landed with a sodden thump on the turf. Parts of him bounced involuntarily like a limp doll before settling without movement onto the ground.

Tttweeet!”—the ref’s whistle—a long insistent unbroken trill.

A penalty?

No—the ref waved his arms over his head—not a penalty. It’s the final whistle; the signal that the game is over.


The Warrior’s have won!



One after another, the Warriors leapt onto a celebratory dogpile on top of their hero, the game-saving goalie Bruce Pomper, launching themselves in free-floating swan dives, overlapping each other in joyful body-layers.

But one of the players on the bottom of the pile shouted: “HE’S NOT MOVING! POMPER’S NOT MOVING! GET OFF!!!”

The scene of celebration instantly snapped into one of horror—Pomper wasn’t moving, still not moving; wasn’t breathing, still not breathing.



And, in this way, Victory and Death came together that day on the lacrosse field.
They are brothers really, like Flint and Sky-Holder;
Two doorways to the Eternal, like orenda and okton;
Kin, like the wolf clan and the turtle clan;
Conjoined, like the Rose and the Lily, like Body and Spirit, like Blood and Water;
Affixed eternally, like the horizontal and vertical planes of the cross…

Burying the Hatchet—Condolence

Word had leaked out among the Warrior alumni that Aliperti was up to something. They were being teased with vague references to an event brewing in Warrior World, something they should be alert to.

Was Aliperti going to retire? Quit on top, after coaching his way through an undefeated season? Or had his weird antics finally caught up with him, and he was being fired?

Then an oblique invitation went out—for a Sunday afternoon, at the lacrosse field at 3:00 p.m. All Warrior alumni were encouraged to attend. There were no more details.

When people arrived in the parking lot, they saw a sign that read: Warriors This Way including that uncommon arrow symbol. Yes, it was an arrow pointing to the location of the gathering place, which is expected from a basic orientation symbol of this type, but the arrow was intersected by a horizontal line, about 3/5ths of the way vertically from the non-pointed end of the arrow. It was the Golden Cross in proportion with the Golden Mean but with an arrowhead at the top of the cross.

This first sign pointed the alumni to the sidewalk that went around the parking lot. Further direction was provided by the same symbol in yellow field-paint in the turf. A little farther on, there was another arrow-cross, then another, which led the alumni around the lacrosse field, toward its southwest corner.

Every functional space has an area where non-functioning debris goes to collect, and, on the Warrior home field, this was it: forsaken, without any apparent function—no grandstands, no toilets, no equipment sheds. What was normally found here was a mound of dirt with no other place to be, some broken and rusted field equipment, collapsing strips of turf and an old chewed-up mouth guard.

But, on this day, this corner had been cleared. All the debris was gone, and the ground had been smoothly graded. New grass seed had been applied, and the fresh shoots were now green and lush in the late afternoon sun.

A little brick wall had been newly constructed here, showing signs of recent mortar. The wall rose from the ground on both sides and arched gently into a smooth curved surround, like a half-moon. The wall inscribed a space, a curved yet open space, in what had once been the middle of nowhere.

The gathering was a joyous reunion. Alumni saw former players and old friends. Hugs were deeper than the usual embraces. There was a kinship here that would be impossible to manufacture. Girlfriends and spouses beamed in the warmth of the fellowship. The mood was light, hale and hearty.

Alexa was there, dazzling in a pretty white and dark blue skirt and sweater. She walked up to Schipper, slid her hand into his and beamed with bright open eyes.

“Hi handsome.”

Schipper saw something in her smile that he hadn’t noticed before—a sadness suffused throughout every aspect of her face: the crinkles around her eyes, the downturn of her mouth, the cut of her jawline. Her soul absorbed this sadness directly, and it resided there throughout her being, yet she smiled through it, nevertheless. And this made her brightness and snap all the sweeter, deeper and profound.

She was aware of his gaze, but said nothing and looked straight ahead. She had found her spot, next to him, and she wasn’t leaving. That this beautiful and noble creature, sparkling through all the sadness of the world, was standing next to him, made Schipper feel 10 feet tall.

Three of the juniors on the current varsity team walked from the equipment shed with some garden tools. One had a shovel, another a pick-axe and the third a post-hole digger.

When they reached the front of the brick wall surround, they went to work, without explaining themselves.

The young man with the post-hole digger was solidly built. His chest was firm and upraised, and his back between his shoulders was stalwart. He straddled the area the other kids had cleared of turf and plunged the post hole digger downward. The two parallel shovel edges knifed down about four inches. He pulled the two handles outward, trapping the dirt between the two shovel heads and deposited the fill to one side. Meanwhile, another two students arrived, each with a bucket, one filled with water. Another stout young man carried a bag of cement on his shoulders.

With the hole now at the proper depth and width, they inserted a cardboard sleeve and leveled the dirt around it by hand to the top of the cylinder.

The post-hole digger stepped back, his shirt now drenched with sweat and smiled in relief as the assembled applauded his effort.

The cement powder was mixed with water in the bucket. Everyone, of course, had an opinion as to its proper consistency. When the mix was prepared, they poured it into the hole, being careful not to overfill it.

As if on cue, from the equipment shed came Aliperti, and behind him were four young men carrying a wooden cross. But, like the symbol that had guided the alumni to this location, this cross had the same distinctive feature: a large arrowhead carved into the top of its vertical spar.

The intersection between the vertical and the horizontal beams was carefully notched to fit and secured with two galvanized lag bolts.

“The Warrior faithful have convened,” Aliperti began. The crowd clapped in appreciation.

“Today, the Sewanhaka Warriors have a new logo. It is a symbol of the coming together of the Native and the Christian, the arrow and the cross. And it represents the playing of this great game, this game played for the pleasure of the Creator.

“And here we erect this symbol, and it will stay in this spot for as long as lacrosse is played on this field, which, I hope, will be forever.

“This logo will be placed on uniforms, on helmets, on jerseys, on correspondence of all types and at all times related to the Warrior lacrosse team.”

At Aliperti’s signal, the students placed the lower footing into the concrete and, hand-over-hand, pushed the cross up and erect. It was about 10 feet in height at the tip of the arrow. There were four lengths of woven canvas straps looped around the upper intersection of the two spars and stretched to the ground where they were secured on four sides, anchored to the ground with heavy spikes and tightened with ratchets.

Atop a small step-stool, the crew leader took a bubble lever to the vertical beam and gave guidance to the team below. The side guiders were adjusted accordingly. Then he took the level to the cross beam and did the same.

Satisfied, another mini-team with shovels dug a second hole, 12 inches or so deep, 12 inches wide and about 36 inches long.

Only Aliperti could hope to get away with this and only because of one thing: Victory. Aliperti brought Victory to Sewanhaka, something everyone could share in, could bask in. If his teams finished 3-13, he would be run out on a rail for a stunt like this, but, with the storied history of all those banners and, now, this most recent season, undefeated, pure as a lily, he could get away with it.

But could he?

A cross here on the school grounds? Of a public school? And a cross that looked like this?

Sometimes, after the fact, Aliperti’s antics made sense—sometimes. But there were many other times when the infamous episodes of Aliperti-world were yet waiting for the fullness of time to reconcile into understanding—like the time he stood in the goalmouth for an entire practice…

How much protective shade could the championship banners hanging in the auditorium provide? With this latest gambit, Aliperti seemed determined to find out.

Two other students appeared from the equipment shed, each carrying one end of a lacrosse stick with extended arms over their head. It was Pomper’s stick. There was no mistaking it. On it were the three eagle feathers fixed to the leather mesh in the head. There were the purple and white bead-strings wrapped snugly around the shaft just above the butt end. No one else’s stick was like that—only Pomper’s.

The two students carrying the stick stopped in front of the wooden cross.

Aliperti addressed the crowd again: “This spot will now also serve as a memorial for all the Warriors who have played this great game here on this field and have now passed.”

“Chris Jenkins!” he suddenly barked. “Lightning as a midfielder. He always wore the funniest socks.”

Aliperti gestured to the crowd, and they all knew the expected reply:


“Connor Bracken! Second-string defenseman. Didn’t start a single game. But he made his father proud, who came to every one of his games and even a few practises.”


“Sean Connelly! Goalie. Three shutouts in one season. He had a chipped bone in his foot, but we only found out about it after the championship game.”


“Tommy Donovan! Top goal-scorer in Warrior history. He once carried an injured opposition player off the field.”


“And, now, Bruce Pomper! He of the face-paint and the war-whoop. He of the brave heart. Alone among the Warriors, he passed while playing the game we all love. It is his stick that we bury today to honor all our fallen Warriors at the base of what I call the Tree of Peace.”

With that the young men ceremoniously lowered Pomper’s stick into the hole and shovelled dirt in over it. Pomper had been gone some four months now.

Eamon McEneaney then walked to the foot of the cross, turned and faced the crowd.

The setting was golden. The northeastern trees were dazzling in their fall glory, blazing in a swept-clean luminance: yellows, reds, greens, oranges, all in a fresh and perfect display. God nonchalantly tossing out another masterpiece. Indian Summer, that brief hiatus of time, as summer transitions to winter, when the weather doubles back to warm again and the fall colors are at their peak. The humidity of summer is gone, and the winds heralding winter have abated, so the air is crisp and dry. One can smell the leaves being toasted mellow by the sun.

The sun glinted off McEneaney’s wild red and brown curls that tumbled over each other like waves in a river rapids. He took a folded piece of yellow legal paper out of the inner top pocket of his jacket, cleared his throat and began reading from the words he had written there…

In our short lives, sometimes it feels like we’re drowning in a torrent of sorrow.”

The declarative assurance with which he delivered this first line obliterated in a few syllables all self-conscious queasiness about such a performance, both in himself and in his listeners. Here was a 17-year old boy-man reading his own poetry in an open field in front of a gathering of some 100 people.

Every drop adds to the deluge of eternity.
But yet, in April, the ground loosens with each new day, bursting with new signs.
And the return of the old signs, like the lily and the rose and the eagle

Rose was there, just two months since her release from the “pink room.” She, who never attended school events, had been given her own special invitation from Aliperti and didn’t refuse. She had a black hood pulled over her head. Her eyes were cast down, her head was bowed, her shoulders were rounded downward, as if bent to the earth by the force of gravity. Not big to begin with, she looked as though she had diminished considerably in size. She was the picture of grief. And every word from McEneaney pierced her heart.

You have died, brave warrior, but I still live, Rose thought. You are not, yet I am.

McEneaney continued:

“We had you but for a time, and now your teammates are the ancient saints. Your merry band are the blessed martyrs. Now you cavort with the greatest players of all time in the Celestial Hall of Fame. The Creator wanted you back—to take whip shots in the sky.”

McEneaney returned the yellow sheet to his jacket and addressed the assembly with words written only in his heart.

“Bruce Pomper, for all who knew him, was not a friend really to any of us, but he was our comrade.

“A comrade is someone you go to war with, someone with whom you fight together for a common cause. The bond you form with a comrade can never be broken. It is eternal. Not time, nor distance can ever rend this bond.

“Because of our shared purpose, our time together has had meaning. And, because of its meaning, our time together has been Real—and what is Real is Eternal. It can never be forgotten, it can never pass away, it can never fade. It is as bright today as it was in the past as it will be in the future.

“And here we have lain the stick, his thunderstick he liked to call it, of our comrade brave and strong, our fellow warrior, Bruce Pomper—Blazing Arrow.”

Focused as they were on McEneaney’s peroration, few of those in attendance had noticed the assembly of young men who had formed themselves into a line of 10 pairs on the far side of the field. As McEneaney finished, this line-up made their way in formation toward the crowd.

The 20 young men were dressed in the lacrosse jersey of their respective school. Schipper recognized them all: there were a few Blue Devils, a few in the blazing crimson and gold of the Shinnecock Eagles, there were the blunt black and silver jerseys of the Speonk Braves. It appeared as if the boldest and most incandescent colored leaves from the autumn trees had jettisoned down to earth.

Each held his lacrosse stick which was decorated in festive colors—one had a shaft wrapped in an azure ribbon, another had sparkling scarlet string woven into its mesh, another was stitched with iridescent feathers trailing from the head like glory.

At the head of the assembly, the leader was wearing a feathered headdress. He held his stick like the baton of a grand marshal leading a parade. At every fourth step, he skip-stepped to the right, then, on the next quatrain, he skip-stepped back to the left. The others stepped as he did.

Their progress was slow, ceremonial, and fixed the crowd in rapt attention as this ribbon of human color made its way purposefully toward them. They kept time by gently beating one hand on their thigh, a low insistent single-time beat, with a little double-beat on the skip-step.

The grand marshal was wearing the brilliant green and gold of the Montauk Tomahawks. He had the ruddy skin and the high pronounced cheekbones of a native. Suddenly, in Schipper, a flash of recognition: it’s Ancorro! He seemed so out of context here without his normal lacrosse armor—no helmet grill, no undersized shoulder pads, no trademark socks—but, now that the identification had been made, there was no mistaking him. The feet that had clawed through the turf like a hard-charging bull now gracefully hop-stepped across it, light as a dancer.

Ancorro—at a ceremony honoring the very warrior who had humiliated him in defeat.

The parade of young men stopped at the memorial cross with a “hut” from their leader. The sibilant trees shushed now as if holding their breath. Ancorro walked directly to Pomper’s mother who was shrouded in grief like the black veil that covered her face.

“With this, I wipe away your tears, so that you may see again the colors preceding the sun’s rising.”

And with two hands he presented a string of white and purple beads to her—wampum.

Her hunched shoulders convulsed with a new tremor of grief, and her eyes were stung again from the salt of her tears. Her mind pinwheeled through a swirling torrent of strangeness unknown to any but her.

As she accepted the beads, she groaned as if a brick had been added to a load that was already too much for her.

“Thank you,” she said.

Ancorro stood next to her holding a wooden tally stick in his hand, over which the first bead-string was hung.

Then the first pair of young men stepped forward and presented her with two more strings of beads.

“With this, I remove the block from your ears, so that you may hear again the birds singing.”

Again, she groaned a little, then a whimper and a sigh.

“Thank you,” she said, a little softer than the first time.

These too were draped over the tally stick.

The next pair: “With this, may your throat be free of obstruction, so that you may breathe freely again.”

Now she was crying out loud; there was no stopping the gusher. She grabbed Ancorro’s arm for support.

“With this, may the chill be gone from your skin, so that you may feel again the warm spring breeze.”

“With this, may the dark cloud within you pass away, so that your spirit might again roam free.”

“With this, may your heart be lightened of its burden.”

“With this, may your mind be clear, like a stream dropping happily over step-stones.”

“With this, may your hands be unbound, that they may again pick the strawberry.”

“With this, may your feet be loosed, that you might run again in joy like the buck.”

As each pair approached with their offering, Schipper noticed the physical similarities: the straight black hair, the tawny skin, the aquiline nose with the protruding bridge-bump and the taper-down like an eagle, the broad faces, the pronounced cheekbones—native blood—almost every team in the league represented. When he played against them, they were inside their helmets, so he hadn’t noticed, but it was there, nonetheless.

With each new gift, Pomper’s mother sagged further into Ancorro until her face was buried in his shoulder.

“I know he was mean to you,” she said to Ancorro. “I’m sorry.”

“No,” he said to her with some firmness, “He was a warrior—a great warrior. And it was my honor to have played lacrosse with him.”

Twenty strings in all were offered to her, a number fulsome and whole, to represent the totality of a life.

And when the condolence ceremony was over, they played a lacrosse game. Warriors all, warriors forever—all the current players, all the former players, all the players from the other teams and all who had never picked up a stick before—Christians and Natives, some 60 people on each side. Even Pomper’s mother grabbed a stick and laughed a little in spite of everything.

It was great fun, and the Jolly Creator rolled off his thunder cloud with laughter at the sight, tumbling and bumbling like a pudgy child…

Forever April

The earth’s angle continued its incremental gear ticks, tilting the northern hemisphere further toward the sun’s radiance each day, infusing the air with its energy, powering it with a fresh stirring. It gathered itself from small pockets of rising motion, then aggregated into larger formations from burgeoning alliances, merging and mixing with increased size and mass until it was balling its way across the far fetch of the ocean, barreling headlong into the stubborn rock outcroppings of the island. The wind accelerated around these protuberances and raced past the beach bluffs scouring the earth anew, scrubbing it clean of the detritus of the past. It poured into the cave opening where Alawa slept, bringing with it news of warmth and procreation and growth.

Stirred into wakefulness, Alawa emerged into the morning sun and stretched her limbs, stiff as they were from her rest. She ambled lazily across the beach stones intending to check the lobster traps by the half-submerged boulders strewn haphazardly in the surf throughout her side of the point. The sea this morning had been kicked to life by the wind-ruffling.

She waded in and headed for the reed she had stuck in the soft sand bottom to mark the location of a trap. With bare feet she located it, then reached under the water and pulled it to the surface. Water rushed through the sides of the cage-trap, and its branch-bar framework was thick with gooey green algae. Within the enclosure, an alarmed lobster flapped frantically now that it was exposed to the open air, clapping its tail to its body in a sharp snapping motion, trying to scare away whatever had so rudely yanked it out of its home element.

Alawa was not deterred. She reached into the trap and grabbed the little black fury from behind its claws, which it waved in outraged protest in the air.

“You will be a good meal for us today, grouchy one,” she said with a laugh.

Trottier had taught her to catch lobster. He had adapted his approach from the trapping skills he had learned from the Sons of Thunder.

Alawa had a kettle, and she knew how to start a fire. There was plenty of driftwood on the island. Crabs came to the light at night for an easy catch. She knew how to make mussel soup. There were rabbits on the island. She had trapped some, cleaned and cooked them. She had a gun. She had a knife. She had an ax.

He had found for her the cave. It was dry, mostly, and had easy access to the beach.

When she returned to it this morning, she found April awake in the cradle-frame. Trottier had helped her build it, after the style of her people. When she was absent, she would wrap the baby in it and tie it off in a tree.

“R-a-a-a-a-a-a-h,” roared Alawa, sneaking the lobster up from behind to play-scare the little girl.

E-e-e-e-ack!” the little one responded.

“Ha, ha, don’t be afraid, April,” she said. “It is only your mother who has come back with something good for us to eat.”

She returned to the cave with the ornery beast still kicking mad about its capture and stoked the cave-fire which had dwindled overnight to hot coals. She dropped the lobster into the brass kettle.

It had been 23 moons since they were abandoned on the island, 21 moons since April had been born and 15 moons since Trottier had died. She kept a record of this in red clay jottings on the cave walls.

For Alawa, each day was like the last—find food, find wood for the fire, keep the water jug full and play with April.

The lobster was boiled orange now, so she plucked it out by a claw and let it cool on a flat stone by the hearth.

April was fussing in her confinement, so Alawa plucked her out, too, and put her feet in the sand.

She was off…

Another day of play, another day of discovery. Her brown skin absorbing the sunshine, her little feet plodding forward. She brought such joy to Alawa’s heart.

She was insistent, predominant, irresistible, 20 pounds of GO. She blasted off each morning, she bounced off obstacles, she sprang to her feet, she slept when tired. All things were a fascination for her, and each day was a new one. Their situation was not too much for her.

Alawa kept April alive, and April kept Alawa alive.

There were times when Alawa stared at April’s face. There she could see Trottier. She had his resolute jaw and soft brown eyes. Her skin was not quite as pale as his and not quite as brown as hers.

She was a métis, a miraculous coming together of herself and the bearded white man from the ocean cloud-ships.

But April had an uncanny way of busting apart her mother’s moments of reflection; she was a boulder thrown into a clear flat reflecting pond.

And now she was marching through the low water by where the waves spilled onto the beach sand. She raised and stomped her feet in exaggerated steps, amazed at her own silly foot placement, through the water, then onto the sand bottom, then off the sand, out of the water, then through the water again and onto the sand.

It was silly miracle to her, this thing of walking in the surf.

Alawa watched in wonder at this bolt of life indomitably pushing its way forward, and, as she did, she noticed something over April’s shoulder. It was a tiny aberration in the line of the horizon behind her, a break in the pattern, Deus ex Machina (Latin: God from the Machine).

She watched stone-still for a time, much as she did when she first spied Trottier in the low water of the river.

What is it?

She ran to the cave and carried back an armload of dry tinder and leaves which she piled into a little dugout in the beach sand. She used a lit stick from her cave-fire to ignite the beach-fire. She nurtured the first flames with great care. She added more dry grass, more dry leaves, then small sticks, then larger sticks, then the largest logs she could drag over the sand to the fire. When she had it going good, she added green grass to generate the most smoke.

April helped her mother by throwing little sticks on the fire, but Alawa shoved her back to the safety of the cave.

She looked at the speck on the horizon. Was it approaching? Receding?

She kept staring, still as a carved totem.

Now, she was convinced—it was a sailing ship, like the white cloud billowing with promise that had brought him to her. And it was heading to the island!

She and April would be rescued!

This very day, they would leave this island forever.


Forever April.

Alawa’s Return

The fort scouts returned from their reconnaissance with news: there was a group of natives who had approached them by the river. They wanted an audience with the Captain. One of them was Taratouan, the father of Alawa, the young bride of the disgraced Trottier.

“How do they appear?” asked the Captain. “Any warpaint?”

“To the contrary,” one of the scouts replied. “They have given this to you.”

He pulled from his satchel a string of beads all white and a string of beads all purple—white for peace, purple for mourning.

The Captain looked hard at the beads without taking them from the scout. To accept these gifts so readily would be imprudent; it might be a trap.

“How many are they?”

“Just eight, sir.”

“Do they carry weapons?”

“Yes, but they are sheathed and decorated with feathers.”

“They’ve been known to deceive an enemy in this way.”

The Captain paced back and forth in thought. He took the wampum from the scout and rolled the beads in his fingers.

“Lavalle, take this brass kettle to them, and tell them we offer them instruments of peace, not weapons of war. Tell them I will grant them a council and open my house to them.”

“Yes, sir.”

“But, Lavalle, bring your arquebus, and have it loaded at all times.”

Later that afternoon, a sentry atop the palisades called out the approach of the delegation the scouts had reported. Lavelle and another scout followed behind them with rifles strapped over their shoulders; two other scouts led them with one eye ahead and one eye behind.

Dressed in their plumage, the natives seemed out of place here on this open plain in front of the fort, far from their village. They nevertheless carried themselves in the proto-typical manner of their people—with dignity and with poise.

The delegation was greeted at the gate and granted entry. They proceeded warily through the narrow thoroughfare of this little village so strange to them until they were ushered to the Captain’s quarters, where he greeted them before the door.

In case it was an ambush, the Captain chose to meet them in the open air, not in the enclosed space of his cabin.

“Sago,” Taratouan said in greeting, extending his left arm high over his head with his palm facing forward.

Sago,” the Captain replied and raised his arm the same.

Kitchi and Wematim were among them. The Captain was surrounded by 10 associates, including two armed guards.

Taratouan began with a peroration describing his people and their origin story, of how Sky Woman fell through an opening in the sky and how they had sprung from Great Turtle Island. Then he worked it forward through many generations, of their conflicts now with the Haudenosaunee, and how the white man had come to their lands, and of this manitourino who had come to their village with his magic arrow and his thunderstick, and how he had given his only daughter Alawa to him for saving his life and how he had sent them away, guarded by his two best braves when she was with child.

“But now manitourino is smiling because my lovely Alawa is back with us. She has returned with our little granddaughter, April—she that is born anew each year.”

The Captain’s eyes opened wide in astonishment.

“How has this come to be?” the Captain asked through his interpreter.

“Do you ask why the Strawberry Moon returns to its position every year? And the green corn, that it comes again on time? How is it a seed sleeps within its mother and bursts forth in due season? How is it the blood of the bear comes again every year from the Sky World to soften the trees on Great Turtle Island with a fantastic glow? We do not ask how this has come to be. We welcome it with a song of thanksgiving.

“I can see that your eyes have not yet been opened to what I must tell you, that your mind is empty of it and that your heart has been protected from what must now be revealed.

Manitourino is buried like a seed on the island to which you sent him. Alawa herself buried him there.”

The odds were high that Trottier and his bride would not long survive their banishment to the Isle of Demons, so the news that Trottier was now dead was not all that surprising to the Captain. But the manner in which he was learning of all this and the additional news that Alawa and the child had somehow been rescued from the island was a stunner.

The strange disorientation of this New World revisited him like an avalanche. Once again, he felt himself hurtling through a landslide of charms. Just when he thought he had stopped tumbling from the fall through the many levels here of magic and mystery, a new riddle befuddled him.

And, with that, Taratouan extracted another string of wampum from his satchel and ceremoniously presented it to the Captain.

“With this, we help remove the worry from your mind, the shields from over your eyes, and the grief from within your heart.”

The Captain felt no sorrow at the loss of Trottier. In fact, he had come to despise the man as a traitor to his king and country, immoral in his conduct and a bad example to the natives. He had been insubordinate to his orders and had violated the terms of his indenture. His time in exile on the island, now apparently only ending with his death, did not change his opinion of the man.

“We have come to you today with a request,” Taratouan gesture-said. “You will take us to the island where we will retrieve the lost bones of manitourino. We will take them with us back to our home by the sweetwater sea.

“We will seat him facing east, along with all of our people who have crossed the river and gone to the Sky World.

“This is as it should be. When manitourino was wed to Alawa, he joined her clan, the bear clan. He was welcomed into the longhouse as one of us. This is the way it is with our people and cannot be otherwise.”

The Captain was not moved.

“If it is true as you say, it was not a marriage according to our customs, not sanctified by a priest and not officially recognized by the civil courts of our kind. According to my authority here on behalf of our King and our church, it is, therefore not a marriage.”

With that, Kitchi came forward and gesture-said:

“Captain, I do not know of your king, and I have never seen your country. I do not recognize the authority that you see fit to exercise in this land.

“What I do know is that manitourino’s paddle-stroke kept time with mine, that together we hunted tsyennìto in rivulets and backwaters, in wild sprawling distances, that we shared a hut at night, that we smoked oien’kwa (Mohawk: tobacco) during the day, that we became the Sons of Thunder and that this bond was affirmed with the mixing of our blood, that manitourino’s thunderstick vanquished our enemies. He wore a feather on his head, and he visited the rock wall of our ancestors on the water’s edge. He may have been born a Frenchman, but he became a Son of Thunder, one of us.”

There was a natural probity to Kitchi’s appeal that was undeniable, and, if what he was saying was true, that Trottier was indeed dead and buried on the island, he was already gone without a Christian send-off. Had they not told him of these events, the Captain would have never known of them, and Trottier would have faded from his own memory and from the record of history.

“Taratouan, your men have spoken from the heart,” the Captain responded. “I have listened to their words carefully and taken them to my own heart.”

Then, in the decisive manner of a man who was used to giving orders and living with the consequences, he issued his determination: “I will take you to the island, and we will find Trottier and turn over his remains to you and your people.”


Alawa was at peace with her decision to return to that desolate place, not an island in a sea, but a black hole in her soul that she could not look away from. She heard again the wailing of the souls lost in agony on the wind, she shuddered anew at their torment, suspended as they were in a Limbo not of their own choosing, in a place between Heaven and Hell, this world and the next, between sea and sky, the Old World and the New.

When she landed a footfall on the beach, there were no hosannas of redemption, there were no sweeping crescendos of triumph, only the drive of her will to move forward, like a ship beaten silly by a storm that ploughs forward in spite of everything.

Not much had changed here since she had left it, now more than 13 moons ago. She remembered the way to the grave without difficulty. She had chosen a place back away from the water’s edge, safe from even the highest of full moon tides. It was in the sand, soft enough for her to have dug it by herself at a proper depth. Marking the spot was a wooden cross she had fashioned for him out of two pieces of driftwood conjoined with a piece of deerskin cord reused from her tunic for this purpose.

Draped over the vertical post of this cross was his lavalliere with the Agnus Dei pendant. She had left it there over him for protection, but, now that he was being moved, she took it before they started digging and placed it over her head with the amulet over her heart.

It was done, the task complete, the mission fulfilled. She could go home now with a settled heart. Back to April, back to her people, and with her always now would be manitourino and his Agnus Dei.


After the alumni lacrosse game had ended, Ms. Singletary approached Rose on the sidelines.

“Rose, I have something for you.”

Rose swam back to consciousness like she was rising from the lower cold-water layer of a swift-moving river. She blinked at the placid face in front of her. She had an enigmatic smile—was it a smile?—like the Mona Lisa.

“My name is April.”

There was so much happening of consequence that day—the ceremony with the cross, the burying of Pomper’s stick and the alumni lacrosse game—that now she had trouble making sense of what was right in front of her. To Rose, the world was being filtered through a leaden air of sorrow that distorted everything, like blobs of molten glass poured over her senses.

Was it really Ms. Singletary? Or was it some weird vision-memory that her grieving mind had conjured up from her soul…

“Rose, I want you to have this.”

She took from over her head a necklace with a single amulet.

“This has been in my family for many generations. It is tradition that it is to be passed down to the first-born daughter, who is always given the name April. It began with a woman who is a legend, the matriarch of our clan, a true warrior of love. Her name was Alawa.

“I myself will never marry because I have said the prayer, I have taken the vow.

“So, therefore, I am giving this to you. It’s the most precious thing I have. Take it, and care for it. Wear it every day, even to bed. Ponder it as the daughters of my clan have done for over 350 years. It will protect you. It will guide you.”

By some strange magic, Rose could not refuse this enigmatic woman. She bowed, and Ms. Singletary draped the chain over her head.

Melissa looked on horrified.

“One request though, Rose,” April said. “Should you bear a daughter, you must promise that you will name her April.”

“I promise,” said Rose, as if she could reply in no way differently.


That night Rose couldn’t sleep, so what else is new. She lit her candle, but quickly blew it out. She was too restless to watch it burn. She felt like she was being pulled from the inside by a giant magnetic force.

She slid out a velvet-lined drawer in her jewelry box and withdrew the necklace. There was no doubt—it was real. Here it was in her hands, and she reaffirmed the facts about it in her mind: it had been given to her by a woman/teacher named April Singletary during the memorial service on the field that day, and, yes, she had promised that she would name her first daughter April.

But what of her vow to remain a virgin? To be betrothed to Christ and Christ alone? Had she so easily promised to break that vow? Because Ms. Singletary asked her to?

She consoled herself that her promise was conditional: she had said that if she were to marry and have a child, she would name it April. But there was no denying it—the amulet had opened a new path before her.

The medal exerted enormous gravity; in her hand it felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. She pondered its features. Inscribed on it was Agnus Dei, and it featured in relief a sheep and a cross with a ribboned banner. But it wasn’t a sheep meek and mild. It was defiant, with nostrils flaring and chest puffed out, hooves cocked and ready—a warrior of love.

One thing Rose was sure of about God—He wasn’t sentimental. Pomper was here, now he’s gone. Time is linear. It moves in one direction, forward, and never stops or goes backward—an arrow toward its target, a river toward a waterfall.

But yet, Pomper was worth memorializing, preserving, at least pausing the drive of Time to admire. He was movement wild and free, and that is what was now missing from the circle of people who knew him. What a great loss it would be to simply bury that and move on, to allow Time to just stampede beyond him. But to try to capture that, to make a statue out of it or a museum, would be to exactly kill the thing that made him Pomper. It wouldn’t reflect the essence of his being, and Pomper would hate it…

She pulled her hooded sweatshirt over her head and stepped into the backyard.

Normally, Rose never looked at the stars; they were too scary for her. More precisely, it wasn’t the stars that spooked her; it was the black distances between the stars that chilled her soul.

But, on this October night, after the planting of Pomper’s stick at the lacrosse field, she did look up, toward the southern sky.

Her eyes were drawn to the fuzzy spill of the Milky Way and, where it billowed outward, the center of our galaxy. She remembered from Mr. Haggerty’s class how the Haudenosaunee called the Milky Way the “Souls' Road.” Souls entered the road through a door at the constellation of the twins, Sky-Holder and Flint (Gemini), and exited from the door at Sagittarius, to return to the gods.

The soft light-points of the Milky Way formed a pillowy background to a pattern of foreground stars about 20 degrees up from the horizon. Each of these in the foreground were several magnitudes brighter than those in the puffy pillow clusters behind it. In this pattern, Rose recognized the constellation Sagittarius. And she remembered the symbol for the constellation—the combination of the arrow and the cross.

This constellation was supposed to look like the archer, a centaur, boldly drawing back an arrow from his bow. As Rose stared at it, she could, for a moment, superimpose the archer image onto the pattern. She could see what the Greeks saw as the bow, and, yes, there were the hindquarters of the centaur, the horse-part.

But, as Rose tried to see it as the Greeks did, the impression would not stick in her mind. It was like bringing two magnets together with the positive poles facing each other. Yes, with some force, the two can be brought together, but they will not stay together on their own. They naturally repel, because they do not belong together.

In the same way, the figure that the ancient Greeks had superimposed on this pattern of stars wouldn’t stick in Rose’s mind. As soon as she overlaid it, it would repel itself off again.

The constellation seemed to be turning over and over like the changing facets of a Rubik’s cube, organizing and reorganizing itself, seeking resolution. The stars themselves did not change, but what the arrangement of the stars appeared to be clocked into various formations.

Then she saw it: the figure of a lacrosse player, with his two feet firmly planted taking a fully-leveraged whip shot.

There was no doubt about it; it was as clear as it could be. It clicked into place like the final snap of a Rubik’s Cube into completion—all the facets right, no more turning, settled and complete.

The stick held in the shooter’s hands was outlined in three positions: one, the before position, with the stick cocked high over and behind the shooter’s head; two, with the stick across and in front of his body at the moment the ball flies from his stick; and, three, the follow-through position after the shot has been launched.


Exploding a whip-shot forward through the heavens? Launched with grace, power, focus and purpose—


Yes, it was him: a Blazing Arrow into Eternity…

The conceptual frameworks imposed on reality from past generations are not binding. The world turns, presenting itself anew each day, and, here, this grouping of stars, arcing up and above the horizon, presented itself to Rose as if for the first time.

Like a lightning bolt striking to the roots of her being, the realization blasted into Rose that she must draw this fresh view of the constellation Sagittarius. She would start with this first project and then let the great cosmic magnetic field lead her where it will to create without fear or favor, regardless of the consequences.

Like the electric force that ripples through an undulating flock of birds, like the unseen energy that through the sea waves carves a fresh pattern of rib-ridges into the sand, like the resplendent color splashes that stretch across the first-morning sky, like the magic magnetic arrow that quivers to its purpose, she would allow herself to be moved by her interior promptings, to be shaped, however molded, by this and only this.

Next, perhaps, she would draw the thunderbird logo, then the game-stripes on Pomper’s face, then the Sagittarius arrow cross symbol, then the rotund and jolly Creator cavorting with galaxies like beach balls, then April’s medal with the Agnus Dei symbol, then, who knew?…

A melody appeared in her heart, and she started singing to herself:

♫ “Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.
” ♫

Afterword—Two Row Wampum

Most wampum from the period of First Contact was made of petite cylindrical beads carved from the shell of mollusks and comprised of only two colors, white and purple. The white ones were from the inner spirals of the channeled shell of the whelk, and the purple ones were from the shell of the quahog.

These cylindrical shells were pierced through with a hole in the middle, making them into a small shell-tube, so that they could be hung together on a string usually made of deer sinew.

These shells were found primarily in what we now know as Long Island Sound and Narragansett Bay. The Lenape (Delaware) tribe’s name for Long Island was Sewanacky, Island of Shells, in reference to the sewant, the purple shells of the quahog that are found there. (From this is derived the name of Sewanhaka High School on Long Island, Eamon McEneaney’s alma mater.)

Wampum was highly valued among all the Northeastern tribes at the time of First Contact, even if they were inland tribes like the Haudenosaunee. It was used in many important ways.

Wampum was used to certify authority. The clan mother of a tribe had wampum to signify her office of authority in that clan. When she died, the wampum would be passed onto the one who is to next assume the office. Wampum could also be hung from a door jamb to signify clan or kin, like a printed sign on the entrance to a building.

Those who ran the woods to deliver important messages to another tribe would carry wampum. For these couriers, wampum functioned in much the same way as that of a driver’s license today—it certified their identity as a traveler of that road.

Wampum was also used to record a message or tell a story. It is said that the Great Peacemaker himself, Deganawidah, gave wampum to the Haudenosaunee for this purpose. Each tribe had learned orators whose specialty it was to interpret the message of the wampum.

The ornamentation of a warrior might include a wampum string given to him to inspire bravery and fortitude. It was a highly valued gift that was often exchanged at significant occasions, both to celebrate and to grieve.

To commemorate events of especially high significance, the wampum strings were woven together into a belt. In a belt, the wampum beads were thoughtfully arranged to present an iconography that communicated a message of great import.

The Great Law of Peace, the oral constitution that established the Haudenosaunee confederacy, was affirmed by a series of wampum belts. These were delivered by Hayo’wetha, the orator/spokesman for Deganawidah, who, it is said, suffered from a speech impediment and needed Hayo’wetha to deliver his message.

Another sacred belt to the Haudenosaunee is the Kahswénth:a. To the Christian it is known as the Two Row Wampum.

It is not the Kahswénth:a itself that is sacred, but it is the understanding between the two parties ratified by the belt that is sacred: the Native and the Christian.

“This belt confirms our words.”

In the case of the Two Row Wampum, the belt and the bead-pattern that makes it up, is a treaty of a sort that lays out the principles of engagement between the Haudenosaunee and the Christian. Considered in this way, it is not an agreement, per se; it is the basis of all agreements between these two groups of people.

The Haudenosaunee believe that when holding a wampum belt, one is obligated to a deeper level of seriousness, duty-bound to tell the truth and to honor the understanding represented by the belt. Holding the wampum is like laying your right hand on the Bible and swearing to tell the truth before testifying in a courtroom or proclaiming an oath of duty.

Holding them in my hand, my words will be true.”

So the Kahswénth:a, and every wampum belt, can be thought of as an eternal agreement, an everlasting understanding, a covenant, a blood oath that is made for all time, something that is true, really true, not just for now, but for eternity. Something that is marked in the river of time that is for all time. It is pure moral law.

The Mohawk word for a wampum belt is Kahionn:i whose literal translation is “river made by the hand of man.” For the Haudenesaunee, a river is a metaphor for Time: it flows in one direction, and it flows forever. The River is always changing, yet it is always the same; that is to say, the water is always flowing and moving, but it is always—a RIVER!

So, like a river, a wampum belt is also both temporal and eternal—it affirms an understanding for now and forever.

The Kahswénth:a is simple in its design yet profound in its import. Like all wampum belts, it is encoded with abstract symbols to convey powerful ideas.

The white beads symbolize purity and light, a “good mind” that is filled with positive thoughts, understanding and forgiveness. It is the Path of Peace.

It could be said that the white beads represent for the Haudenosaunee what the white lily represents for the Christian: purity of spirit, the immortal soul unblemished by sin and error.

In the Kahswénth:a, there are two lines made up of the purple shells extending across the middle of the length of the belt. Surrounding the purple lines are rows of white beads. It appears as if the two purple lines are extending ad infinitum on a field of white.

The two purple lines represent the two parties to the agreement, the Haudenosaunee and the Christian, the red man and the white man. These nations are like two vessels: one is the canoe of the Haudenosaunee, and the other is the sailing ship of the Christian. Each is filled with the stores of its own culture—its language, history, faith and ways of life. Their paths are parallel, not overlapping, and they should remain that way for all time.

One culture should not steer the other; one should not cross the other; one should not interfere with the other. They should both travel the River of Time, wholly within themselves, each staying within its own vessel.

There is a perfect equality to these two purple lines: they are the same size and in the same horizontal orientation—parallel, independent, sovereign.

There are 13 rows of beads in total that make up the belt. There are also 13 moons in the year of the Haudenesaunee. This number of rows is purposeful and imparts that the understanding codified in the belt is meant to apply to all 13 moons, all time—forever. In the unending River of Time, which is the length of the belt, and under the 13 moons of the year, which is the width of the belt, the Kahswénth:a is a lasting covenant of respect and non-interference between two nations that forms the basis of all future dealings.

The three white rows in between the two strands of purple keep the two nations apart, but they also bind them together. They represent friendship, peace and mutual respect.

The historical record indicates that the Haudenosaunee created this belt and exchanged it with the Dutch in 1613, in order to establish relations between the Haudenosaunee and the Christian. The Tawagonshi Treaty was transacted in what we know now as upstate New York and was later affirmed with the British and, one can assume, the French. Separate but equal relations—like brothers—a joint decision to remain independent together, to share the same space, but to maintain their own identity.

Of course, lines that are inert like the purple lines on a white field of the Kahswénth:a, can indeed travel parallel for eternity, but peoples and nations, cultures, are not like that.

The lines of culture have soft edges. They do intersect and overlap. People share things: tools, language, viruses, their very seed. They trade, they fight—sometimes with each other, sometimes for each other. Their colors bleed into adjoining ones, cultural memes fly over stockade barricades like fairy seeds and find fertile ground to germinate on the other side.

The Great Peacemaker’s name Deganawidah means “Two River Currents Flowing Together,” and this is a more accurate representation of what happened when the Haudenosaunee met the People of the Cross.

The cultures clashed like two rivers—merging, surging, converging—a turbulent confluence of life-ways. But it would be wrong to think that the cultural influence was all one-sided.

And so the Christians shared smallpox (Variola vera—the Red Plague) with the Haudenesaunee, but, to the Christians, the Haudenosaunee gave tobacco.


And so the Christians gave to the Haudenosaunee metal cookware and metal hatchets—and the Cross—and the Haudenosaunee gave to the Christians the canoe, snowshoes, beaver pelts—and, as well, the Cross, Tewaarathon, the game we know of as lacrosse.


In the River of Time, like in all rivers, there can be a tightening. And where the river tightens, there is turbulence. The events of time, it could be said, squeeze through a smaller opening.

This was certainly the case during the period of First Contact.

When Jacques Cartier entered the St. Lawrence estuary in 1534, he thought he had found the long-hoped-for Northwest Passage, an easier and more direct route to the trade of the Orient, but, when he came to the Lachine Rapids, he realized he was mistaken.

Here, called by the Mohawk kahnawà:ke, meaning “place of the narrowing,” the pressure of this massive tonnage of water, compressed, creates upwells of water that shoot high above the river’s natural water line. Muscular sweeps of fluidity surge through the spaces between boulders. Water is mixed and jostled in every direction, thrust upwards, spilled sideways—a torrent.

Cartier’s vessels could not pass.

But then the river widens out, and the water organizes itself into the Lac St. Louis, a fluvial lake of the St. Lawrence. Here, there is a mixing of the blue water of the St. Lawrence, which colors the south side of the lake, and the brown-green water of the Ottawa River flowing into it from the north, which colors the north side of the lake.

In a similar way, the two cultures co-exist today. There was a tightening of the river for a time, a time of great turbulence and mixing. The collision occurred; the damage done. And now the two rivers have settled onto parallel paths of a sort, as the Two Row Wampum establishes, but with an overlap in between.

In this way, the Two Row Wampum is in effect to this day. And it will be in effect as long as the rivers run, as long as the earth rotates, as long as there are 13 moons in the sky each celestial year and as long as the sun shines.

The Christians named many places in this New World as if they were being named for the first time, but the native people have their own names for these places, and so, place names here are a co-mingling of both, a polyglot.

On Long Island, Paumonok, towns such as Wyandanch, Sachem, Montauk, Quogue, Copaigue, Shinnecock, Mattituck, Ronkonkoma, Connetquot and Sagaponack exist alongside towns with the names Bay Shore, Port Jefferson, Stony Brook, Sag Harbor, Garden City, Blue Point, Deer Park. The Peconic River flows into a town named Riverhead. And no one who lives in these towns gives this intermixing of place-names a second thought.

Throughout Canada and the United States, there is a mixed-race people called the métis. They are the descendants of the offspring of a Christian and native union, most commonly a French or Scottish trapper and an Algonquin woman.

On a promontory jutting into the south side of the St. Lawrence River, there is a place that is essentially three nations in one. It is Saint Regis, a town shared by the United States, Canada and the Mohawk (Kanien’kehá:ka) called Akwesasne.

It is the only place on earth you can hear parts of a Catholic Mass celebrated in the language of the Kanien’kehá:ka.

And, outside Akwesasne, in upstate New York and southern Canada and extending southward through to Long Island and Maryland, the game of lacrosse first spread to the People of the Cross.

And, from this birthing ground, lacrosse has spread such that today, at at the time of this writing in 2018, it is the fastest growing sport in North America. Since 2009, the number of schools sponsoring lacrosse, both boys and girls, has grown by 30 percent, with no other sport topping a 10 percent expansion during that same period.

Since 1990, there has been a growth of young people participating at the high school level by over 500 per cent. In 2015, 42 four-year colleges began varsity programs; another 29 were started in 2016.

The sport has now been planted throughout the world and is played in some 69 nations. This growth is only expected to continue.

The quality of the play has also improved dramatically over time—the game-play is faster, the players are more skillful. The quality of high school lacrosse today exceeds that of college lacrosse just 20 years ago.

What accounts for this phenomenal growth? There is no other explanation but that it is a pure love of the game. Those who promote lacrosse at the youth level are some of the most ardent devotees to any cause. They have been cultivating the game joyfully for decades and have done so, for the most part, without recognition or reward.

For many young people, once they first put a lacrosse stick in their hands, they are smitten. It is easy to learn and fun to play. It is known rightly as “the fastest game on two feet.” Unlike so many big-time team sports, a lacrosse player doesn’t have to be a goliath, an athletic freak, to succeed. (Eamon McEneaney was normal-sized: 5-11, 180 pounds.) There is a place for everyone on the field, regardless of size. Lacrosse promotes fitness, bravery, honor, excellence and camaraderie.

Some believe it was the first organized team game ever played, pre-dating soccer by centuries.

It is said of many sports that it is “more than just a game,” but, for the sport of lacrosse, this is literally true because, from its origin, it has always been a game played joyfully for the pleasure of the Creator.

And, among the many gifts given by the Native to the Christian, this is the greatest—the game of lacrosse.

It is a joyous expression of the syncretic intermixing of these two cultures, a merging that binds them like the white field between the two purple lines of the Two Row Wampum.



Thank you to:

- my daughter Jacqueline, who provided much-needed guidance on the story,
- my son Zachary, for playing lacrosse so valiantly while his father sweated blood in the coach’s box,
- Mike Malusa, for his invaluable assistance in formatting this book,
- the administrators at Sewanhaka High School, for letting me explore their hallowed school,
- the warm and wonderful parishioners at Saint Regis Mission Church, Hogansburg, NY, Akwesasne,
- the staff at the Iroquois Indian Museum, Howe Cave, NY,
- the staff at the National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha,
- the staff of the Southold Indian Museum, Southold, NY,
- the Curators at the New York Historical Society for letting me see the Morgan Collection with my own eyes,
- the Esprit Rafting outfitters, for helping me to experience the Ottawa River at water level and, at times, beneath water level.

About the Author

Lacrosse features some of my abiding and passionate interests: American history, Christianity and lacrosse, the game I fell in love with as a player in high school and later as a coach of my son’s youth team.

In researching the origins of lacrosse for this book, I came to appreciate so much of Native culture. A new world was revealed to me that had been all around me my whole life, but one I hadn’t noticed. And I saw parallels between the native faith and the Christian faith, each seemed to be the inverse reflection of the other, like a forested mountain reflected on the surface of a lake. And where those two cultures intersected there was the game of lacrosse, played for the pleasure of the Creator, and the Cross, the progenitor of all creation.

I hope you enjoy the story and, if you’d like to reach out to me with your thoughts, please do so at


Lacrosse is the second novel of historical fiction written by John J. Stevens -- after Fire Island, published in 2010.


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