By Lin Stone
"Just push the button, Neuie. Push the button and it will begin recording."
"It's been a push button world all my life," I told Pete. From the corner of my eye I studied him for a moment. Yes, it was Pete. Pete Simpson. He was nine, maybe ten and his eyes looked right at you when he shook hands, instead of turning his face aside like the old Indians did while performing a traditional handshake.
It is a push button world. The white men did it to us. Nobody on the reservation has brown skin any more either. It's like we are being absorbed into the world of the Euromerican.
First he made us take his names and study his books. Our religion wasn't good enough, throw it out. The kids of today aren't white, and they aren't Uhahtum (The People) either. I looked at my own hand and saw that it wasn't brown any more like when I was young. How did they take it out?
I looked up into the sky and scowled at T'ash. Then I pushed the button. The recording began in a soft whisper.
There are some things you can't believe in
until you see them for yourself -- like Johnny Two Shoes, Not God.
Johnny Two Shoes was a shape shifter and lucky he ever made it to be
a grown man. I saved his life, and I did it with a bucket of
water. Well, actually it took two buckets of water -- and yes,
the water really did come out of Sitting-By-The-Well-Well, just like the
old stories say.
The tribe had run Johnny Two Shoes off the reservation before I ever heard of him. He was a shape shifter, like I said. The People can't let them live among us. Johnny had two shoes made from some white man's stuff and ANYBODY could track him down, for a little ways. Then he'd take those shoes off, shift his shape, and take off, maybe like a crow but sometimes a deer or something like that. It scared the old women something bad and Johnny Two Shoes had to leave the reservation or they would kill him.
He left his shoes behind and every time someone saw a shape shifter the elders of the tribe would come look to see if Johnny had returned to pick up his shoes. "He'll be back," the old women muttered. "Johnny Two Shoes will be back."
Johnny Two Shoes looked down upon TutMuthi for
a moment, then turned his attention to me, with his eyes off to one
side in the traditional way so he wouldn't surprise any bad feelings
in my gaze. He stretched out his hand for me to shake. A
touch, a mere touch in the traditional way and he stepped back to
wait on me to accept him as if I were in a hogan -- and safe.
"Are you Johnny Two Shoes?" I asked. He nodded and the boys around me began to revive in fear. Three of them got away. TutMuthi stirred at my feet and moaned as if a witch had caught him in the dark. Amsooki was braver than any of us. He approached us and stood staring at Johnny Two Shoes as if he were an object, not a man. That doesn't translate well, does it? I regret that.
Johnny Two Shoes brought his attention back to us. "Shiuhshnay no longer lives at round top hill in the back by the pines. Do you know where she lives now?"
"Have you come to take her away?" asked TutMuthi?
Johnny Two Shoes nodded.
His eyes rolled back up into his skull and TutMuthi fainted dead away again. This time it was understandable; Shiuhshnay was his sister by his first mother, real blood. He did not want to lose her to a shape shifter. After TutMuthi was gone, fainted, Amsooki bravely turned his attention to Johnny. "I can show you where she is now," he said bravely even though his fists were clenched in terror.
"Get in the "car" and show me the way," Johnny told him, pointing to the black shell he had shifted out of. The courage of Amsooki forsook him and he fainted too.
There was I, the only one left still standing, but sorely wishing I too could faint. Johnny looked at me in a non-traditional way and even though my heart melted within me my mouth was not dry. "Follow me," I said.
I took off running
|In less than a mile my breath was coming
ragged. Since then I have discovered that fear can do that to
you and once you lose your breath it is gone for the day. Thus
it came to pass that I paused on the way up a hill and -- putting my
hands upon my knees for support -- I leaned over to retch, gasping
for breath through a throat so raw it was bleeding.
The shape shifter stopped behind me. I didn't even care. Eat me. Spit out my soul. I didn't care!
Johnny touched my arm. He led me -- Yes, well maybe he did carry me that first time -- back to the shape shifter shell and put me inside. It was like being stuffed inside a dirt dauber nest but I could smell sweat in there too, human sweat and maybe a goat or two. Then Johnny was in there beside me and the noise of life from the shape shifter shrieked in my ears and it lunged forward, up that hill that had stopped me in my tracks, and I went with it. My fingers were like claws that tore at my own flesh, but I rode inside a shape shifter without screaming!
Faster than a horse could gallop I rode with Johnny Two Shoes through the valleys and up the hills. Slowly, oh so slowly, a smile came to my lips. Who cared who won at the childhood game of counting baby quail? The story of my man's bravery would live forever.