From Catapult Books wIndin!—the exhilarating game of kinship, chance & economic redistribution
The winner must avoid having part or all of his or her assets taken into trust by the federal government.
Excerpted from Beth Piatote’s The Beadworkers , now available from Counterpoint Press.
wIndin! the exhilarating game of kinship, chance & economic redistribution ages 5 and up high plateau edition
OBJECT . The object of wIndin! is to host the most Give Aways and thus secure your status as having the most money, trade goods, kinship relations, and honor. The winner must successfully avoid having part or all of his or her assets taken into trust by the federal government.
PREPARATION . Unfold the circular board and place it on a flat surface. Place the deck of Stick Game cards facedown on the blanket icon in the central area of the board. Distribute five horses to each player, placing extra horses in the Agency corral. Distribute five Pendleton Blanket cards to each player, placing the remaining cards on the Longhouse icon. Leave the trust pit empty.
Each player selects a token to travel around the board. The tokens are moccasin, diggin’ stick, cowboy hat, dip net, headdress, cornhusk bag, and giant beaded belt buckle.
“Indian tokens or token Indians?”
“Definitely Indian tokens.”
Iris nodded and typed quickly on her MacBook. Trevor was washing dishes in the sink, and for a short interlude the only sound between them was the regular rhythm of plates moving under sponge and water. “Wait,” she said. “That won’t work. Because then all of the Indians will be saying, ‘I want to be the Indian.’”
“No, it’d be like, ‘I want to be THE INDIAN.’”
“Then you’re back to the token Indian.”
Trevor stopped washing.
“Okay, screw the token Indians,” he said. “You need a BIA Agent or something. An anthropologist.”
“That is so cliché. How about just some guy in a suit, writing in a little notebook? Then it could be ambiguous.”
“Ambiguous!” Trevor pulled the drain and wiped his sudsy hands on a towel. In three efficient steps he was at the table, looking over her shoulder at the screen. “A guy in a suit is totally FBI.”
“Hmmm. I’m not feeling it.” Iris tapped her fingers on the table and stared at the fruit bowl.
“Give him a giant notebook and tiny, tiny hands.”
“I don’t know, Trev.”
“C’mon. You want to leave out the G-man? Where’s the fun in that?”
“It’s too Thunderheart .”
“Fine! Play the Val Kilmer card,” Trevor said, extracting a chair from the table with a loud scrape on the floor. “Just kill my idea.” He sat down.
“No, wait. We should have a Val Kilmer card—you know, you draw a Stick Game card and it says, ‘You have just sighted Val Kilmer in South Dakota. Pay each player ten dollars.’”
“Fuck that. They should pay you. Twenty bucks. For restitution.”
Iris typed quickly, her eyes fixed on the screen. She had only a few months to finish her project, a piece of installation art for the annual Indian Art Northwest show in Portland over Memorial Day.
Trevor picked up a piece of fruit from the bowl on the table and polished its skin on his shirt. He held it out to her.
“Hey,” he said. “How about this?”
Her fingers grazed his thumb as she reached for the apple and lifted it from his hand. “Don’t be mean,” she said, and took a bite.
EQUIPMENT . This game is played on a circular board. It includes a single die, eight player tokens, a set of Pendleton Blanket cards, a set of Appaloosa tokens, a set of Stick Game cards, and play money.
MONEY . The bank is maintained by the Tribal Chair, who volunteers for the position and/or is elected by the other players and/ or claims hereditary descent. Each player is given $2,000 in any combination of fifties, twenties, and tens that the Tribal Chair determines. The Tribal Chair is expected to keep wIndin! funds separate from his or her personal funds, unless he or she draws the Tribal Corruption card from among the Stick Game cards. The Corruption card is a trump card that allows the Chair to raid the bank and steal horses with impunity.
Iris had only a few months to finish her project, a piece of installation art for the annual Indian Art Northwest show.
The first time Iris had seen Trevor, she was standing at the window of her second-floor apartment building and he was waiting at the bus stop on the street corner below. It wasn’t really her habit to stand at the window, but on that day she was watering the ficus and happened to look out and see him. It was September, more than a year ago, and the maple leaves were just beginning to flame. When she saw the beautiful man at the bus stop, her heart quickened: the long, straight legs, vaguely thick middle, broad shoulders, and black hair. Still, she couldn’t be sure; her view was admittedly limited. She crouched down below the sill, peeking over the edge to watch him. The bus approached, and he turned toward it. In profile, she made a positive ID: Yakama! The Pendleton shoulder bag clinched it.
The Beadworkers: Stories | Beth Piatote [Counterpoint Press]
That was back in the day when Iris had first moved to Eugene, the small university town that nonetheless seemed big to her. She had landed a job building websites and print publications at Design Depot, an all-service copy shop, after working for two years as the internet specialist for the Confederated Umatilla Journal . She had an associate’s degree from Blue Mountain Community College, and she occasionally thought about going back to college, perhaps for a BFA. Her sparsely furnished living room was dominated by a wall of family photos intermingled with prints and photographs of works by her favorite artists: Marcus Amerman, Shelley Niro, David Bradley, T. C. Cannon, and Diego Romero.
After Iris spied Trevor at the bus stop, she began to track the mass-transit ridership more carefully. She parked her green Toyota Corolla behind her apartment building. She spotted Trevor a few more times and once rode the same bus with him. These nonencounters finally came to an end when she saw him at the Longhouse, for a potluck on Indigenous Peoples’ Day (or Columbus Day in Drag , as Iris called it, although who was she to mess with the politics of urban Indians?). As Iris and Trevor were roughly the same age—mid-twenties—they folded into the buffet line at the same time. Just as they were shuffling past the salads, a fresh platter of roasted salmon emerged from the kitchen.
“Stand back,” Trevor said. “You don’t want to get caught between the elders and the salmon cheeks.”
Iris laughed. “You know the most dangerous place? Between Russell Means and a camera.”
There was a pause, then a laugh. And from that moment on they were friends.
TO PLAY . All tokens are placed on the Home space, identified by the continental map of North America. To begin play, each player rolls the die. The first to roll a five begins, and the play proceeds from player to player in a clockwise fashion. Each player takes a turn by throwing the die and moving the corresponding number of spaces. If a player lands on a casino, he or she has the option to roll again but is not obligated to do so. More than one token can occupy a space at any given time, in accordance with special treaty provision.
PROTOCOL . Players are expected to respect the integrity of the circle and never move their tokens across the board, but rather proceed always in a circular fashion. Protocol must be monitored by all players at the table. Breaking protocol can result in arbitrary fines, family shame, and teasing by other players.
In the time that Trevor and Iris had known each other, they had been through a fair share of dramas together. Like most young Indians, they were preoccupied with their social lives, family situations, and the perennial question of going to law school. Every Indian family pressures its children to do something useful, and law school inevitably presents itself as a path to this end. Iris felt no particular aptitude for federal Indian law, despite her congenital familiarity with it, but Trevor had been struck with the fever in the fifth grade when he saw Al Smith at a powwow. As Al Smith circled around the arena, visiting and joking with small clusters of Indians, Trevor would hear folks whisper in his wake: “There’s Al Smith!” and “That’s Al Smith!” Trevor wondered what astonishing powers this slight man with the long graying braids might possess. Trevor strolled over to the bleachers and asked his uncle, “Who is Al Smith?” Trevor’s uncle had scanned the crowd, then pointed with his chin. “That’s Al Smith.” Trevor sighed, then asked again: “What did he do ?” Trevor’s uncle leaned back against the wooden bleacher and regarded his nephew. Finally the uncle said, “You ever hear of Smith v. Oregon ? That’s Al Smith. He’s the one who fought for us all the way to the Supreme Court.”
Trevor’s uncle explained that Al Smith had been fired for taking peyote during a Native American Church ceremony, and that the State had then denied Smith unemployment benefits, saying that Smith had been fired for misconduct. Smith defended himself on the grounds of religious freedom and lost.
Trevor’s uncle shook his head slightly. Then he went on: “You know who did that? Scalia! The Catholic! I tell you, we should fire that Scalia on Monday for taking Communion on Sunday.” Trevor’s uncle paused. “Al Smith fought for us,” he said, “and Congress tried to fix what the Court done. We have some religious protections because of him.” Trevor sat silently and thought about the story his uncle had told him. He looked out across the arena, and he felt his heart surge when he saw Al Smith v. Oregon standing beside a drum, laughing.
Like most young Indians, Iris and Trevor were preoccupied with their social lives, family situations, and the perennial question of going to law school.
When Trevor went to the university, he majored in history and political science, dutifully treading his path toward a JD. On the morning that Iris had first seen Trevor, in fact, he was on his way to his LSAT preparation course. As it happened, Trevor was also on his way to falling in love with his LSAT instructor, Brian, who would later dump him the night before the appointed test date. Consequently, on the morning of the exam Trevor was still so drunk that his hangover hadn’t even started, giving him just the sense of invincibility he needed to propel him forward. He got up and drank a glass of water. It had a slight aftertaste of irony. He pondered his options. He had to move on. He summoned all the warrior strength he’d learned from his mother and delivered himself to the testing site, the wound sitting in his chest as numb and rubbery as an eraser.
TO ROAM . Once play begins, players are expected to continue around the board in turn. Exceptions to this rule are the following: (1) When a player’s token lands on any of the following spaces: Home, Julyamsh, Pendleton Round-Up, Crow Fair, Pi-Uma-Sha Treaty Days, Gathering of Nations, or the Intertribal Friendship House. On these spaces, the player has the option to pass and will not be required to roll the die and move until the next round. (2) Alternatively, a player has the option to roll again and thus accelerate forward movement around the board, i.e., Get Out of Dodge.
HOME . Each time that a player circles back to Home, the player will receive the following combination of cash and trade goods: one hundred dollars from the bank; one hundred dollars from the player to his or her right; a horse from the corral; and a Pendleton Blanket card. For each Give Away that the player has hosted on that particular circle around the board, the allocation of cash and trade goods will be doubled. Players are not awarded cash and trade goods simply for passing Home, but must actually land on Home to receive his or her allotted share. A player who draws a Get Back Home Free card from the Stick Game deck is allowed to redeem it at any time.
Iris had been there to pick up the pieces, so to speak. When the breakup was fresh, she regularly cooked for Trevor: noodle casseroles and meatloaf with potatoes, in huge quantities because that was the only way she knew how to make them. She stayed up late with him watching Jim Jarmusch movies. They went out drinking together, and she would ration one pint through the entire evening so that she could reasonably drive him home. She was careful about drinking anyway because she was quite small, with a birdlike body: thin legs and a compact middle. Her face was round and sweet, framed by her squarish, red eyeglasses and spiky dark hair. Iris became very protective of Trevor during this time, conscripting herself to defend him against Brian’s possible return. She knew that Brian occasionally phoned, and Trevor was always a wreck afterward.
Iris’s job would have been easier, she thought, if she didn’t like Brian. She was vigilant precisely because she could see why Trevor loved him. Brian had a sharp wit but he didn’t use it unkindly, and he could make fun of himself. He was a generous partner to Trevor when they were together. But Brian had seemed too polite with Trevor, and it spoke of a peculiar distance that existed between them. Brian knew that he was the one more loved.
Keeping watch over Trevor’s affections was the kind of distraction Iris needed that spring. Her auntie had been fighting off diabetes for years when one day a heart attack threw her to her knees in the produce aisle of the Safeway. Iris had gone straight home and stayed for two weeks, appointed at bedside, doing Design Depot assignments on her laptop while her auntie recovered from bypass surgery. When Iris had returned to her little apartment in Eugene, Trevor had been waiting at the door with a six-pack of Miller and an empty March Madness bracket.
“I can’t do this without you,” he said.
Inside the apartment, Trevor cracked open the beers. He set the bracket aside as Iris recounted the days with her family. Sometimes tears would spill out of her eyes while she was talking. She said that her auntie had dreamed of eels, and Iris knew that this meant that her auntie would live.
Trevor and Iris sat side by side on the couch that was so worn down that they slid together into the well of cushions in the middle. Iris snuggled in to Trevor, and he lifted his arm to place it around her shoulder. His body was warm and reassuring.
“How have you been?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “I just saw him in the parking lot of the store.”
“It will get better,” she said, patting his knee gently.
“My love life would be so much easier if I were white. And straight. And thin. And easy,” he said. “Or just any one of those things.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” she said. “A little man belly is very attractive.”
“Look, no offense,” he said. “But straight women have lower expectations. The man belly isn’t going to cut it in my world.”
She pulled away from him a bit. She tried to push his last two words out of her mind, but they remained planted in her heart, a stubborn root.
FEASTS . Four Feast Days appear on the board. They are Root Feast, Salmon Feast, Huckleberry Feast, and Friendship Feast. When a player lands on a feast day, the player should exchange equivalent cash and/or trade goods with all other players (e.g., a horse for a horse, a blanket for a blanket, a twenty for a twenty). Players may negotiate for alternate exchanges as long as they are deemed equitable by both parties.
It was Columbus Day, so the buses were running on a holiday schedule, making public transit both slower and more crowded than usual. When Iris finally climbed aboard, she was relieved to see Trevor standing toward the back, clutching the bar above for balance. She weaved into position next to him, wrapping her arm around the pole in the middle.
“Hey,” she said.
“Ya-hey,” he said. “I called in sick today.”
“So what are you doing?” she asked.
“Going to the mall to celebrate the arrival of capitalism in the Americas.” The bus made a tight turn and Iris struggled for balance, leaning momentarily into Trevor.
“I feel like I’m talking into your armpit,” she said.
Trevor switched arms. “Better?” he asked. It was. He asked how the work on wIndin! was going.
“I have this idea,” she said. “I’m going to make a space called ‘Racism-Free Zone,’ but it is going to be too small to actually fit on.”
“Cool,” he said. The bus turned again, and he swayed in her direction. “Are you going to have a Jail?” he asked.
“Why not? Everyone is going to expect a jail. ‘Go to Jail, go directly to Jail, do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars—you know, something like that.”
“Not even a low-security prison?”
“C’mon. You could make a card that says: ‘Hey, Indians really do pay taxes! But not you, so the IRS is throwing your brown ass in the slam.’”
Iris sighed. She shifted position. He continued: “How about House Arrest? Just an ankle monitor.”
“Trevor, that is effed up. No Indian has ever even seen a low-security prison,” she said. “No Indian has ever worn an ankle monitor.”
“But it’s not real . It’s a game.”
She looked up at him then, sudden and fierce. “I mean, it’s art ,” he said. “It’s political art.”
“Right,” she said. “I’m not having a jail.”
STICK GAME CARDS . When a player lands on a Stick Game space, he or she must draw the top card from the deck of Stick Game cards, dispense or receive money and/or trade goods as the card indicates, and return the card to the bottom of the deck. The following exceptions apply: (1) A player may hold, trade, or sell the Tribal Corruption card once it has been drawn, and the holder of the card may retain it for the entire game. (2) If a player draws a Trust Pit card, the card must be taken out of circulation along with the player’s cash assets and placed in the trust pit in the middle of the board.
GIVE AWAY . There are three Give Away spaces on the board: Naming Give Away, Weddin’ Give Away, and Memorial Give Away. When a player arrives on a Give Away space, he or she is expected to distribute horses, blankets, and cash to fellow players. The exact quantity of items is determined by the player; however, each player must be awarded some combination of cash and trade goods. In the event that a player who lands on a Give Away space does not have adequate resources to host a Give Away, the other players will make contributions to the host. Each player should maintain a record of Give Aways hosted, as the player who has the most Give Aways is declared the winner.
For Halloween, Trevor convinced Iris to go with him to a couples masquerade party as the Lone Ranger and Tonto. The party was a free-for-all, attracting the city’s trendiest straight couples to the city’s only gay bar. For a long time, Iris balked. But then Trevor played his trump card: What if Brian were there? So she gave in, and they found a white Western shirt at St. Vinny’s for two dollars and fifty cents, which went along with Iris’s white denim pants, red cowboy boots, and black mask. Trevor, who had spent the summer working out, was showing off his newly svelte form in a body-conscious faux-buckskin outfit with laces up the front. When Iris caught a glimpse of herself with him in the glass storefronts that lined the sidewalk, she flushed for a moment with the thought that they could pass as a couple.
“But it’s not real. It’s a game.” She looked up at him, sudden and fierce. “I mean, it’s art,” he said. “It’s political art.”
So Iris was surprised when she ran into an acquaintance in the restroom, a young woman who worked as a barista at the coffee shop next to Design Depot. The woman, Jill, was wearing a red miniskirt, white knee socks with patent black Mary Janes, and a red hooded cloak.
“Nice costume,” Iris offered, lifting her mask. The elastic cord held it firmly to the top of her head.
Jill nodded brightly and removed her hood. “Thanks,” she said, smoothing her thick brown hair with one hand. “Love your Lone Ranger look. You look so little next to Tonto.”
“As it should be,” Iris said. Jill gave a little laugh, showing her gleaming white teeth.
“So,” Jill said. “Want to look in my basket?”
Jill took a step closer and pulled back the top. It was full of condoms.
“Good thinking,” Iris said.
“It’s my job to hand these out tonight. I’m volunteering for HIV Alliance.” She offered the open basket to Iris. “Would you like one? Or five?”
Iris blushed suddenly and stepped back. “Uh, no thanks.”
“So,” Jill said. “You’re not with that guy?” When Iris didn’t answer, Jill continued, hurriedly: “I didn’t think so—you don’t really seem like a couple. I mean, except for the Lone Ranger–Tonto thing. Is he—is he your brother? I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but he is really hot! Do you think you might be able to, you know, introduce us?”
In the rush of words Iris’s gaze fixed on the gaping jaw of the basket, hanging open off Jill’s arm.
“Sure,” Iris said. Then added, “He’d be into you.”
Jill thanked Iris and turned to the mirror to apply a fresh layer of lipstick. “See you out there!” she called as Iris left the room.
Iris drifted back to the table and saw that Trevor had ordered another round of beers. She sat down stiffly beside him. Trevor glanced at her.
“This sucks,” she said.
Trevor leaned toward her ear. “What?” he asked, in a voice loud enough to prevail over the pounding techno beat.
“This girl in the women’s room, she wants to meet you,” Iris shouted back. Trevor shrugged his shoulders dismissively. “So?” he asked.
“It’s not . . . ” Iris struggled with her thoughts. “It’s just . . . she acted like . . . ” Iris caught her breath roughly. “She acted like there’s no way someone like you would be with someone like me.”
“Well, she’s kind of right about that.”
“But that’s just it! She doesn’t get that you’re gay. She wants to hook up with you.” Trevor registered her feelings and placed his hand gently on her shoulder. A tear slipped and glided down her cheek. He looked intently at her. He lifted his hand from her shoulder and brushed her cheek.
“C’mon, Iris,” he said. She swallowed hard against a wave of emotion.
“It’s true,” she said. “You’re hot and I’m just . . . ” Her voice trailed off. She felt absurd in her all-white outfit. He shook his head. He reclined in his chair and took a deep swallow of beer. Iris began to settle herself.
Trevor studied her face. She felt the intensity of his attention and looked into his eyes. She gave him a half smile. Then she felt him move toward her.
Slowly, without shifting his gaze, he reached for the mask. He gently pulled it down over her eyes. He smiled.
He leaned into her then, and kissed her. Her mouth parted, and she barely felt his tongue. She had only the smallest taste of him.
He drew back, but only a few inches. For a second she thought he may kiss her again.
Trevor broke into a wide grin. “Let her think about that, Kemosabe.”
He settled back into his chair and reached for his beer. Iris let out a small, unanchored laugh. She looked toward the bar, scanning the line for Red Riding Hood. Iris couldn’t help it. She had to look.
[Stick Game] Bingo! You won big-time at the tribal casino. Collect $5,000 from the bank. A photograph of you holding your giant check appears in the tribal paper, so everyone knows you have money. Distribute $6,000 to the other players at the table.
[Stick Game] Congratulations! Your three-on-three basketball team won the regional tourney. Collect $500 from the bank and give everyone at the table $20 to celebrate.
[Stick Game] You have just graduated from dental school and taken a job with the IHS. Congratulations! Collect a Pendleton Blanket card from each player.
[Stick Game] Arrows from behind: the Tribal Museum Director has been stealing cornhusk bags and selling them on the internet. She was appointed by the previous Tribal Chair, her husband’s cousin, so give $500 to the Tribal Chair at the table and hope he’ll press charges.
Trevor convinced Iris that if she were serious about snagging an Indian man, she needed to fish in deeper water. So in mid-November she fired up the Corolla and headed down I-5 for the annual American Indian Film Festival.
Three days later, Iris left San Francisco just after midnight and headed home. She couldn’t wait to talk to Trevor, so once she cleared the mountains she pulled into a rest stop and got out her phone. It was six-thirty on a Sunday morning. Trevor gave a groggy hello when she called.
“Hey, Trevor, I met somebody.”
“Yeah? At the film festival?”
“Yeah, and we made out during this documentary on deforestation. I felt kind of bad, but the movie was so depressing! You know how that kind of thing just makes you want to escape?”
“Okay, well, that’s what happened.”
She heard him change positions, perhaps roll from his back to his stomach. “How very life-affirming of you,” he offered.
“So where is this guy from?”
“That’s the best thing: he’s from Kamiah! And he’s great. He works for the tribe on salmon restoration.”
“Salmon restoration! I like a fish man.”
Iris could tell that Trevor was now sitting up.
Trevor convinced Iris that if she were serious about snagging an Indian man, she needed to fish in deeper water.
“I know! He’s so amazing. He went to Dartmouth, and then he did a master’s in biology at Idaho so he could come back and work for the tribe. He’s totally committed to our people. He’s coming to Portland in a couple of weeks for a conference and he asked me out.”
“On a date?”
“Duh! We’re having dinner.”
“Sounds like it might be more than just a snag.”
“Maybe.” She drew in a quick breath. “I hope.”
“Wait a minute,” Trevor said, his voice fully awake. “He does salmon restoration and he was making out during a film on deforestation? Shouldn’t he be all worried about that? About riparian zones and shit like that? Who did you say this guy is?”
“Carson,” she said. “Carson Lawyer.”
There was a long silence at the other end of the line.
Then: “Carson? And he works for the tribe? Kind of a big guy?”
“Yeah. You know him?”
“Yeah, I know Carson,” Trevor said. “My sister is having a baby with him.”
There was another long pause.
Finally Iris spoke.
“I don’t know which one of us should be more pissed off right now,” she said. After another pause, she said, “I’m sorry.”
“Me, too,” he said, and hung up.
TRUST PIT . On the center of the board is an area marked trust pit . The trust pit is the repository for funds taken by the Federal Government. There are three cards marked Trust Pit in the deck of Stick Game cards. If a player draws one of these cards, the player must immediately place all cash assets in the trust pit . All future cash exchanges (gained in Give Aways and passages Home) must be deposited into the trust pit . The player whose assets are taken into trust must simply watch his or her money accumulate throughout the game, as there is no mechanism for removing the funds from trust. If all three Trust Pit cards are drawn by players in the course of one game, the game is immediately over.
Iris was beading the edge of her wIndin! game board when Trevor came by, dripping wet from the winter rains. She gave him a cup of hot tea as he settled into the padded folding chair at her table.
“I had an idea for the Stick Game cards today,” she said.
“It’s a special card called Quantum Leap.”
“Awesome, right? So you get the Quantum Leap card, and it says, ‘Congratulations! Your auntie got pissed at your mom and told the Enrollment Office that your dad is really not your dad but your mom’s old high-school boyfriend. Since he’s a full-blood, you are now 25 percent more Indian! Give everyone at the table $20 to celebrate your Quantum Leap!’”
“Okay, but isn’t ‘high-school boyfriend’ kind of tame? How about ‘your auntie blabbed that your dad is really some Tohono O’odham dude your mom snagged at Gathering of Nations.’ Then you could actually collect $20 from everyone at the table so you can make an epic journey back to your roots to find your full-blooded dad.”
“And his entire clan. Good luck with that.”
“You know, they’re all full-bloods down there. They all run around like, ‘I’m four/four! I’m four/four!’”
“Be careful, you might end up at law school down there,” she said. “How about, ‘Your mom just told you that you aren’t really her kid but your Aunt Holly’s, and your dad is some Quechua guy she met at an anti-Columbus rally.’ It would be like, ‘Congratulations! You are really Indigenous!’”
“You are transfreakinghemispherically Indigenous. And you’re related to Benjamin Bratt.”
“Dang! That’s no good. That could kill fantasy lives. Should I make the guy Aymaran?”
“Listen, Iris, there’s something I’ve got to talk to you about.”
“Does it involve Benjamin Bratt?”
“Then I’m not sure I’m interested.”
“Come on , Iris.”
“Okay. What.” Iris stopped beading and looked up at him.
“I think it’s really cool that you are getting your art out there. But I think you should talk to some other artists, you know, get some advice. Maybe help you decide if you should go back to school or figure out the next thing. Because there is more out there than Indian Art Northwest. And Design Depot.”
Iris returned to her work. “I think I’ll see some artists at the show.”
“You mean some other artists.”
Iris stopped beading and looked up at him. “Look, just because I don’t have my life all mapped out like you do doesn’t mean that I don’t have a plan.”
“I know,” he said, dropping his gaze. She leaned farther into her work so that Trevor was looking at the top of her head. With her needle, she plucked each bead and drew it into place. The loop of thread tightened and slackened, tightened and slackened.
Suddenly she stopped and looked up at him. “What?” she demanded.
“Nothing.” He sat up straighter in his chair.
“I think there’s something.”
“Okay,” he said. “I have something for you.” He produced a small white card from his pocket. She laid down her needle and took it from his hand. She recognized the 505 area code, but not the rest of the number. “It’s Marcus Amerman’s cell,” he said, proudly. She stared at the card. “So you can call him,” he added.
“And why would I call him?”
“Just to find out if he’s coming to Portland in May. And then you can ask to see him.”
She laid the card on the table, on the other side of the board. She picked up her needle.
“Look, you call him up and you say, ‘You’re an artist and I’m an artist and we’re both showing at Indian Art Northwest, and I’d like to talk with you.’”
“Right,” Iris said, popping a pair of deep blue beads onto her needle. “Then he hangs up on me.”
“I don’t think he’s like that. I think he’s chill,” Trevor said. “But what if he did—what if he said no?”
Iris didn’t speak. She continued to work. Presently she said, “How did you get this?”
Trevor shrugged. “My auntie knows him.”
[Stick Game] Your uncle just died and all his kids showed up at the funeral, so now you finally know how many relations you have. Congratulations! Your family has made a Quantum Leap. Give everyone at the table $20 to celebrate.
[Stick Game] Your Tribal Council has voted to extinguish the blood quantum requirement, making tribal membership based on descent and adoption. Congratulations! Your people have made a Quantum Leap. Give each player a horse and burn your CIB card to celebrate.
[Stick Game] Your Tribal Council has voted to exercise its sovereignty by conducting same-sex marriages. Congratulations! Your Council has made a Quantum Leap. All players toss $200 in the trust pit for your Legal Defense Fund.
Your Tribal Council has voted to extinguish the blood quantum requirement. Congratulations! Your people have made a Quantum Leap.
It was springtime again and forsythia bloomed its brilliant yellow and purple crocus popped out of dark earth. Trevor received acceptance letters from six law schools, including New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Lewis & Clark, and Stanford. Iris was putting the finishing touches on wIndin! and beginning work on her next installation piece: a Columbus Day booth for selling absolutions. She planned to set it up next to the annual Native American Student Association Bake Sale at the university.
Trevor had until April 15 to make his decision about law school, so he and Iris had mapped out a two-week road trip through the West to visit potential institutions. But four days before they were to leave, Iris got a call from home. It was ten-thirty at night, and her sister was crying and barely able to speak. Iris understood her well enough: they were all at the hospital, and the priest was on his way.
Iris dialed and held her breath until Trevor answered. She said that she had to go home, that she was leaving right then.
“Come get me,” Trevor said. “I’ll drive you. I’ll take the bus back.”
She agreed. She would throw her things in a bag and be right over.
“Iris,” he said. “I’m at Brian’s.”
USUAL AND ACCUSTOMED PLACES . A player who lands on this space should collect five hundred dollars from the bank for each player at the table, then distribute the money equally around the table, much like the Salmon Chief apportions salmon. The ability to apportion correctly is a requirement of the Salmon Chief. The player rolls again.
Trevor opened the door and held his arms wide when Iris arrived. She folded easily into his body. She could hear Brian working in the kitchen, assembling a bag of food for their trip. Brian shortly came out to greet her, handing the bag of sandwiches to Trevor, and telling Iris how sorry he was to hear the news. His eyes were languid and kind. Trevor stuck his toothbrush in an inside pocket of his bomber jacket and gave Brian a sturdy hug, no kiss.
Trevor and Iris got into the car without speaking. They stopped in Coburg for gas, then Trevor eased back onto I-5. The car sliced dutifully through veils of rain as Iris gazed out the window at the red and gold lights on the back of semis and the regular announcement of towns on road signs that emerged out of the dark with reflective white letters. It went like this for some time, neither of them speaking. Sweet Home. Brownsville. Albany.
Troutdale. Hood River.
In The Dalles they stopped at a drive-through for coffee.
At Celilo they stopped to switch drivers. Trevor pulled over and shut down the engine. Iris looked at him wearily.
“Sandwich?” he asked, lifting an offering from the bag.
She nodded. He watched her unwrap the wax paper and take a bite. She felt his attention, and her eyes flashed to meet his. “It’s good,” she said. He relaxed a little bit. He reached over and laid his hand on the angel wing of her shoulder.
“I don’t feel anything,” she said.
“That’s good,” he answered. “That’s your body taking care of you, making sure you get home okay. You will feel it when you get there.”
They sat together for a while. She gradually felt aware of the weight of his hand on her back.
“How long have you been back with Brian?” she asked.
“Since November. Since . . . Halloween,” he said.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Trevor didn’t answer right away. “I don’t know. I guess I thought you wouldn’t understand. Or that you’d be pissed.”
Maybe on another day. Maybe she would have been angry, would have said something. Not today. She leaned back against the seat and Trevor withdrew his hand. She closed her eyes and allowed her head to fall against the headrest. It was quiet except for the gentle cadence of rain hitting the roof.
“My auntie used to talk about this place,” she said. “Celilo. She used to come here when she was little.”
The rain tapped a muted rhythm on the roof.
“Wyam. That’s what my grandmas called it,” Trevor said. “ Wyam .”
“Your family came here, too?”
“Everyone used to come here. And they were here, you know, at the end. On that last day. That last day before they blew it up for the dam.” Trevor turned away and peered into the darkness. The sound of cars splitting through water on the freeway surged and faded beyond them. “That last day,” Trevor said. “Was your family here? Your auntie?”
“Yeah,” she answered, her voice disappearing like vapor.
Tears rose and breached, spilled out of her closed eyes in streams down the sides of her face. She cried absolutely noiselessly. Her body had not yet broken open, but she felt her proximity to that deep river of grief. She no longer felt numb, but rather she felt the accruing weight of loss. She felt that her body was filling with sand.
Trevor stroked her hair, held her hands. After a time, with the chill of the spring rains seeping into the car, she composed herself. Trevor suggested that he continue to drive, and she said yes.
Soon they were traveling through the starry cocoon of a clear night along the Columbia. As they propelled eastward into the morning sky, the carmine glow of sunrise saturated the car. Just after 5:00 a.m., they crested the final hill to at last see Pendleton laid out before them, twinkling with lights and the early awakenings of dawn. Trevor drove Iris straight to St. Anthony Hospital, but they had already taken the body away.
Trevor merged gracefully into the chaos of a grieving family. There was tremendous work that needed to be done, and he readily made himself useful, as there were people to feed, drummers to assemble, items to be removed from the home of the deceased. Indian people flooded in from every direction, even some of Trevor’s relations from Yakama. He slept for short hours on the corners of couches and the back of vans. He barely saw Iris during those blurry and intense days.
They crested the final hill to see Pendleton laid out before them. Trevor drove Iris straight to St. Anthony Hospital.
After ceremonies that lasted thirty-seven hours straight, Trevor arranged a ride to Portland with one of his cousins. Iris walked him out to the car in the Longhouse parking lot. Her face was swollen and her eyes red from crying, yet she exuded a tranquil sense of self-possession. She embraced him and thanked him. She said that she was sorry to give up her road trip with him, but perhaps he could go with Brian? Trevor said he would give it some thought. He hugged her again, kissed her cheek, then got in the car.
Iris spent four more days at home with her family. On the fifth day, she packed her car and drove back to her apartment. It felt good to drive again. She felt strong. It was springtime.
As she climbed the stairs to her apartment, she saw that an envelope was taped to the door. Iris peeled off the envelope and opened it. As she extracted the letter, a card fell out and fluttered to the floor. She glanced at it, then turned to the letter.
Hey Iris, We are off to find the most scenic locale for me to get my ass kicked, Socratic-style. I will call you from random places so PICK UP! I hope that your time at home was everything you needed it to be. The enclosed is for you. You can thank me later. Love, T
She carefully folded the letter and placed it back in the envelope. She looked at the card on the floor. She squatted down and picked it up, stared at its backside for a long, still moment. Then she turned it over.