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Mikawadizi Storms

Mikawadizi Storms

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Mikawadizi Storms

évaluations:
4/5 (2 évaluations)
Longueur:
512 pages
5 heures
Sortie:
Jun 22, 2015
ISBN:
9781310455056
Format:
Livre

Description

The conflict in Mikawadizi Storms arises when Grady Metals resolves to dig an open-pit mine in the idyllic forested hills that make up the ancestral homeland of La Roche Verde Indian nation. Many of the La Roche Verde oppose the mine and take a stand against it. Grady Metals prevails initially, and begins to dig the pit but, as the elders among La Roche Verde warn, the digging disturbs ancient mythical forces.

The storm surrounding this mining project touches all of the characters in this story, and there are a great many of them. Some support the project and act to bring it forward; others oppose the project and act to slow or end it. These characters lives run deeper than this single concern, though, and the disagreement over the mine reaches into their personal narratives to affect more than the surface.

A conflict of values stands behind the controversy the mine generates. On one side are advocates for aggressive use of natural resources to generate personal and community wealth. On the other side are those whose main goal is to find a healthy harmony with the natural world. Controversy over mining in the Mikawadizi Hills is resolved in the narrative of the novel; the deeper conflict, one of the principal sources of discord of our era, remains with us.

Sortie:
Jun 22, 2015
ISBN:
9781310455056
Format:
Livre

À propos de l'auteur

Surprisingly, truth is best told through fiction. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Also, lies are best told through nonfiction, but I don't do that. With fiction, the story can be about anything so long as it has the stuff of life in it. The stuff of life -- aye, there's the rub. Like bears and Sasquatch, Dennis Vickers lives in the north woods. Sometimes he teaches philosophy and creative writing at a tribal college; other times he holds up in a river cottage and writes this stuff. As the previous sentence proves, he knows how to work semicolons and isn't afraid to use them. Book-length fiction: Witless: Rural communities clash in 18th Century Wisconsin. Bluehart: Life story of fictional blues accordion player. Second Virtue: Courage -- where it comes from and where it goes. Adam's Apple: Life story of congressman who f**ks his mother. You thought they all did? Passing through Paradise: Narrative collage mixes quest story, love story, satyr play. Between the Shadow and the Soul: Love and lust, or maybe the other way. Mikawadizi Storms: Open pit mine vs. pristine forest. You decide. Double Exposures: Collection of short stories, some realism, all magical. Only Breath: Ghost story wrapped in mystery wrapped in waxed paper.

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Aperçu du livre

Mikawadizi Storms - Dennis Vickers

Vickers

Preface

Gogebic Taconite’s (GTAC’s) plan to excavate an open-pit iron ore mine in Penokee Range in northern Wisconsin first drew public attention in early 2011. The company purchased mineral rights for 21,000 acres along 22 miles of the Penokee Range in Ashland and Iron Counties, Wisconsin, and proposed to build what could become the largest open-pit iron-ore mine in the world. Polarized debate pitting the promise of economic development against preservation and protection of the natural environment ensued immediately. The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa stands against this proposal, as do Sierra Club, Midwest Environmental Advocates, and other environmental groups.

I watched intently as debate developed and visited Penokee Range to take measure of the place and the underlying forces. At first undecided, my sentiments soon shifted to those who oppose the mine. Over the past several years, advocates for the mine achieved some relaxation of state regulatory processes, and other steps toward opening the pit continue.

This novel draws on energies generated by this sort of controversy but does not report specific circumstances now unfolding in Wisconsin. Rather, this is a work of fiction (magical realism, in fact) that explores outlooks, values, attitudes, and actions circulating around a controversy like the one now unfolding over the Penokee Range. Names, characters, places, and incidents used here spring from my imagination and are fictitious. These elements do not depict actual persons, events, or locales.

Dennis Vickers

Table of Contents

PREFACE

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Cheif Namekagon

Bart Gready

SENATOR BIFF FANNY

EVELYN ARNOLD

ÉDOUARD COMMERÇANT

DOROTHY ARNOLD

WESLEY DUBOIS

DAVID ARNOLD

DR. ED COMMERCANT

SENATOR GERRY FRITZ

GHOST CAT

APRIL LE BOEUF

CLINTON MAKWASAAM

NAPOLEON

WADE RIVERS

DELORIS LE BOEUF

WARD COMMERCANT

DOUGLAS FOURNIER

CLIVE GREADY

PRESTON PRESCOTT

ALISON MARTIN

BOLT STEELEE

JOSH MIGIZI

SARAH LAURENT

ANN GAAZHAGENS

EMILIANO ZUMO

LOTTA MOORE

LOUIS DUBOIS

APPLE STRUDEL

JOHNNY APPLEPLANTER

MAKWA THE BEAR

JIMMY DUQUESNE

KAREN PRESCOTT

CAMMIE LOON

CHERYL PEPIN

GOVERNOR WALT STRIDER

WALLY WITTSTRUCK

FLUFFY THE CAT

WESLEY DANAUS PLEXIPPUS

MARJORIE WILKINS

DR. STUART SURING

CLIFF HANGERS

EDNA SWINEBURNE

NISO AND NIYO

MIKAWADIZI HILLS

Chief Namekagon

Chief Namekagon: You can’t eat me! You ate me already!

On the northwest horizon, a thin mist rises from Le Grand Lac. The spring-fed creek sparkling in bright sun tumbles over oddly shaped rocks on its way to the great lake and forms shimmering pools of fresh water where spotted brook trout forage. Aromas of fall fill the air in the shallow valley carved by the creek over countless years – leaves drying, fragrant primrose vying for the last attention of bees before they hibernate, and crisp, dry air, slightly chilled in shadows cast from bases of tall white pines.

Namekagon walks carefully down the steep path. Sunshine breaks through pine boughs to light his face. He smiles. The cheerful beams make his wrinkles appear deeper than when he was alive, but he is long past worrying about such vanities. Sun’s rays warm his hair, still dark despite his years. He begins to sing, not one of many ancient songs he learned from his mother, as he most often sings these days, but one he learned in the tavern. What do we do with a drunken sawyer? What do we do with a drunken sawyer? What do we do with a drunken sawyer? Early in the morning, he sings in a lusty baritone, throwing extra emphasis into each what.

The path is no more than a line worn thin in forest grass. It follows the land’s contour. Soon the slope steepens, and rock outcroppings jut from dark earth. Shave his balls with a rusty razor! Shave his balls with a rusty razor! Shave his balls with a rusty razor! Early in the morning! he sings as he moves his legs carefully. His feet slide deeper into his buckskin moccasins and pinch his toes. He reaches out to brush pine boughs as he walks near them and infuses air around him with sweet scent of pine. The perfume lingers on his fingers. A bee zooms by his head, buzzing toward a meadow across the ravine, a meadow dotted with bright wood lilies. The ravine bottom hides a clear, cold creek that dances over smooth stones, gurgling like a contented baby. Namekagon stops for a minute when he steps into a clearing. The sun bathes him full on. Soak him in piss ‘til he sprouts some feathers! Soak him in piss ‘til he sprouts some feathers! Soak him in piss ‘til he sprouts some feathers! Early in the morning! Sunlight and song make him laugh. He bends over at his waist, hands on knees, laughing like a schoolboy. Tears of joy roll from eyes that have seen much sorrow.

Namekagon’s laughter disturbs Makwa, the old black bear who sleeps in long grass along the ridge. Makwa rumbles down the slope and slides to an abrupt stop across the path, blocking Namekagon’s progress. He turns his enormous head to face the old Indian. To pass, you must tell me a joke, Makwa says. If you make me laugh you can go on your way. If not, I’ll eat you here and now!

Namekagon stops laughing, straightens himself to his full height, and thinks carefully. He smiles and begins. Once upon a time, rabbit was standing outside the toilet used by all the animals. He was crying. Fox saw him and asked why. ‘I was in the toilet, and bear was in the next stall, and when he finished he saw there was no toilet paper, so he used me!’ rabbit cried.

Makwa begins to chuckle.

Wait! I’m not finished, Namekagon says. Next day fox found rabbit outside the toilet again, but this time he was laughing. ‘Why are you laughing?’ he asked rabbit. ‘Bear was in the toilet again, and again there was no toilet paper,’ rabbit said. ‘That’s what happened to you yesterday,’ fox said, ‘but yesterday it made you cry. What happened today?’ ‘Today,’ rabbit said, ‘porcupine was in the next stall!’

Makwa stares at Namekagon blankly. I don’t get it, he growls.

That’s why no one tells jokes to bears, Namekagon says. No sense of humor.

I have a sense of humor. Your joke wasn’t funny. Try another one.

Namekagon thinks hard. Finally, he begins again. Bear walked into a bar, sat down, and said to the bartender, ‘Give me a…beer.’ ‘Why the big pause?’ the bartender asked. ‘I don’t know,’ bear said, ‘I had them all my life.’

Makwa shakes his head sadly. I’ll have to eat you. Maybe you’ll taste funny.

Suddenly Namekagon disappears and, quick as a wink, reappears fifty meters down the path. You can’t eat me! he shouts. You ate me already! Makwa sits down. Namekagon continues down the path, and the path continues down the ravine.

Soon he comes to a rock outcropping rising thirty-five meters above the creek. Nearly vertical stripes mark the stone, which has sheared away along a fissure following the same line as the stripes. A slab stands a little away from the rest, forming a vertical crevice a man can slide through sideways. Namekagon slips into the crevice and inches along. Walls of rock channel the breeze into the narrow passage, making it strong enough to lift his long hair and make his eyes flutter. He pauses again to consider the fragrance of flowers on the wind.

As he progresses, a petroglyph cut deep into stone hangs directly in front of his face, a carved spider as large as a fat raccoon, a warning. He kneels slowly into a waist-high cave, scarcely big enough for a man to pass, and slips into the inky, damp interior. The air inside is redolent with odors of wet earth and stone.

Once inside, the ceiling rises enough for Namekagon to stand. He takes his fire-making kit from his pouch and begins working. Soon he has a small fire burning, enough to see the cave chamber and find firewood he stashed on earlier visits. As the fire grows brighter, light reflects back from shiny surfaces in the cave ceiling and walls. Some are wet spots where groundwater leaked in; some seams of pure silver. Here and there, silver nuggets dot the sand of the cave floor. Namekagon retrieves these and puts them in his pouch.

Tie him to a tree until he’s sober, he sings under his breath. Something about being in this cave invites reverence, and so he keeps his voice low. Tie him to a tree until he’s sober. He lifts his pouch, weighs the contents. Tie him to a tree until he’s sober, early in the morning. He stands up straight and warms his hands over the fire. Telling jokes to bears, he mutters. Might as well tell them to trees. At least trees aren’t so judgmental. What a waste of good material!

After a few minutes, he collects his things, crouches over, and backs out the entrance. When he’s clear, he stands and slips down the crevice. When he reaches the end, the sun is nearly overhead. He walks through woods until he comes to a sun-drenched meadow, where he slips through high grass to the middle and lies down to let sunlight bathe his face.

Bart Gready

Bart Gready: If trees can talk, I’d like to hear them.

Four mining companies consorted to construct an open pit mine in Mikawadizi Hills. They called themselves Keep American Mining Strong (KAMS) group, though one was Canadian, one Australian, and one drew heavily on Brazilian money. They called the mine Patriot Open Pit Site, but others continued to use the ancient name, Mikawadizi.

The first construction phase involved clearing trees and installing perimeter fencing. Clive Gready, (pronounced Grādy) President of Gready Metals, the only American company in KAMS consortium, and Chief Operating Officer of KAMS, insisted his son, Bart Gready, would be chief engineer for the project. Because young Gready was only two years out of college, and currently working as a civil engineer designing storm-water runoff facilities for the city of Wassa, others on the consortium board were skeptical. Eventually they agreed Bart could manage phase one, and they’d select managers for subsequent phases based on what results he achieved. This is how a twenty-five-year-old boy became overall manager for twenty lumbermen, a fence construction crew of fifteen, and eight truck drivers.

To celebrate his meteoric rise in responsibilities at Gready Metals, Bart bought a new, red, four-wheel-drive, extended-cab pickup with oversized tires and every option package available. He was an athletic, handsome young man, though slightly disfigured by a hawk-like nose. His straw-colored hair, which he kept cut short on the sides and slightly longer on top, liked to protrude from his head in ill-defined clumps like swamp grass. In college, he worked on his slender frame with weights and soon became immensely proud of his biceps. As he contemplated his prospects in college dating, he saw nothing a woman might find attractive other than his guns. He enjoyed video games and binge drinking.

Work on the mine site was chaotic from the very first morning. Off-work hours spent onsite were more so. Wes Jameson, Gready Metals Human Resources Director, worried because Gready hired no women for this phase, but consoled himself with the thought that a mono-gender workforce would preclude all sorts of problems, and required rental of only one porta-potty. In the end, no women applied for work on the project in any case.

A wild-west culture emerged quickly. Workmen wore side arms, mainly Western-style revolvers carried in elaborate holsters on their hips. Since the nearest motels were twenty-five miles away, most slept in their trucks. Weekdays, they took turns driving to town for fast food, beer, and other necessities. Weekends they broke camp and descended on nearby small towns like scavenging raccoons. Bart pictured himself captain of a pirate ship, commander of a platoon of soldiers cut off from their lines, leader of a band of outlaw cowboys marauding across the lawless west.

One Monday afternoon work ended spontaneously at four p.m. Workmen gathered in a tight group near the trucks. They collected food orders and money and then dispatched a single truck to run to town for burgers, fries, and beer. They dragged branches and stumps from trees they’d taken down during the day into a large pile and set it alight. A few organized to compete in shooting beer cans off a log. Others relaxed around the fire, waiting for their supper. Bart relaxed in his pick-up, listening to his MP3 player through his truck’s speakers.

Shortly before sunset, a knock came on his window. Namekagon stood outside. The old Indian moved his hand in a circle, signaling for Bart to lower the window. What are you doing here? he asked the old man, and, before he could answer, How did you get here? and You shouldn’t be here.

The old man winced at the loud crack of gunfire as the group of men target shooting, having replaced their targets on the log, resumed firing.

I hear screams of animals slaughtered needlessly, the old man said in a breathy voice scarcely louder than a whisper.

What?

I hear screams of animals slaughtered needlessly, the old man repeated a little louder.

What animals?

The old man moved in close to the window. Squirrels, rabbits, birds. Their carcasses rot where they fall. They cry for justice.

Bart laughed. We shoot vermin; what of it?

They cry!

"Are they a protected species?" Bart slipped into a nasally whine for the last two words.

Creator protects all his creations.

Bart rolled his eyes, took a long swig of beer, and pushed the door open, moving the old man back. This is private property, he announced. You’re trespassing.

The old man stood straight, silent, unmoving, an ancient pine.

Did you hear me?

The old man remained in place.

Hey! Look what we got here! Bart called to the others. Several moved to the truck and formed a half circle around Bart and the old man. It’s Geronimo! Wants us to stop shooting squirrels.

Constitutional right! one workman shouted.

Says he hears them scream, Bart added.

Squirrel screams? The men roared with laughter.

They all scream, the old man said. His voice was quiet but steady. Squirrels, rabbits, birds, even trees scream when you waste them like this. He pointed at the bonfire.

Trees scream? This brought on another round of laughter. Help me! I’ve fallen and can’t get up!

If you have ears to hear.

I think your ears hear things coming from inside your head, Bart said.

"You’d hear them too, if you settled the commotion in your head."

Bart rolled his eyes and shook his head as if trying to clear water from his ears. Help! Too much commotion! he shouted, bringing on a fresh wave of laughter.

The old man nodded sadly.

You must have some special ears to hear trees, Bart continued. I wish I had ears that did that.

What?

If trees can talk, I’d like to hear them.

The old man raised his arms over his head, hands open and facing Bart. Let it be so, he said. Thunder clapped in the distant horizon, or so it seemed. Maybe not.

The half circle of men roared with laughter.

Suddenly a pickup truck, horn honking, appeared on the access road, heading toward the makeshift camp. Supper’s here! one workman called. Let’s eat!

In the confusion of passing bags of food around, the old man slipped first into the crowd of bodies and then into the woods.

Crazy old Indian, Bart said when their meal was mostly eaten. Where’d he go?

Disappeared into thin air! one workman shouted and followed by mimicking the Twilight-Zone theme song. It’s magical! The other men roared.

Watch out! He’ll turn you into a tree!

Action around camp settled down early that evening, in part because many were still making up for sleep lost during the weekend, in part to acknowledge it was Monday with a full week of work ahead. Bart wrapped himself in an open sleeping bag and lay across the back seat of his truck. A few minutes later, he sat up and shook his head vigorously. What the hell? He pulled at his ears. His eyes turned inward as he focused his attention on the noise in his head.

*****

Acute tinnitus, Doctor Zumo concluded. Bart sat on the examining table in a tiny examination room in Faux Pas. That’s our term for ringing in ears. In addition, your bloodshot eyes I attribute to too much standing around smoky fires burning green wood. That can be very irritating.

Not ringing, exactly, more high-pitched squealing.

Ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking, hissing, or squealing. Tinnitus takes many forms.

What can you do for it?

It’s what you can do. Nurse Richards will flush out your ears to remove any excess wax, but I don’t see that’s a problem, really. It’s a precaution to rule out one possibility. Main thing is, you should absolutely avoid loud noises – loud music, sporting events, car engines without mufflers, motorcycles, that sort of thing.

I told you I work around chainsaws.

Unfortunate. Invest in some good protection. Earplugs can help, but I’d suggest both earplugs and electronic earmuffs like they use in indoor shooting ranges. Get the best you can find.

Aren’t there, like, ear drops or something you can give me.

The nurse will put in some oil drops after she flushes any wax out, but that’s mainly to soothe surface skin.

What about pills?

To do what? Your blood pressure is normal. Tinnitus isn’t a disease; it’s a symptom.

Symptom of what?

Too much loud noise in your environment. Protect yourself from that, and you’ll be fine.

How long?

If you avoid loud noises altogether, you should notice improvement in a week or two.

Bart slid off the examining table.

We’ll give you some drops for your eyes. That should clear up any redness, but stay away from campfires for a while.

Okay.

It wouldn’t hurt to dry out a bit too.

Dry out?

No alcohol until your hearing improves.

Alcohol causes ringing in the ears?

Alcohol causes behaviors that results in excessive exposure to noise, and that causes ringing.

I think I’d rather have the ringing.

*****

Over the next several days, the noise in Bart Gready’s ears grew worse, not better. After ten days, it was completely distracting, and he couldn’t sleep. His eyes were still bloodshot, too. If anything, they were more bloodshot than when he saw Zumo. He piled into his truck and drove out of the hills, heading for the emergency room in Faux Pas, but as he drove through Oodena, the reservation town on the way, he noticed the blue hospital sign and followed the arrow to La Roche Verte tribal clinic. In a few minutes, he lay on his side on a paper-covered table in a small examination room. The clinic’s family medicine PA, Emerald Toulouse, looked into his ear through an otoscope. She wore her dark hair pulled into a braid held with a beaded band. Her oval eyes seemed to be held wide open by hair sweeping back from her forehead. Everything looks normal, she said.

I can’t stand it anymore! Bart’s eyes fluttered, fighting back tears.

There’s no sign of infection I can see. Turn your head; let’s have a look in the other one.

Bart rolled onto his other shoulder. Emerald put the scope into his left ear. Your ears are amazingly clean; no wax, no dry skin, nothing.

I rinse them out and clean them with a Q-tip every morning and evening since this screeching started.

You might be irritating nerves. What other treatments have you tried?

I wear ear plugs constantly and sound-dampening muffs when I’m around saws, but they only make the screeching louder. It’s driving me crazy! Can’t you do something?

What saws?

Chainsaws. My crew is clearing land up in the hills.

For the mine?

It’s just phase one. There won’t be any excavation until the next phase. He paused. Please do something.

We’ll drip in some LidoClive to numb things a bit in there. In addition, I’ll give you a prescription for a mild anti-depressant, but only a week’s worth. I want you to see a specialist.

Anything’s better than this.

There’s no ear-nose-and-throat specialist here, or in Faux Pas. You’ll need to go to Wassa.

I’ll drive there today.

Best if you call ahead. I’ll give you a number. You can ask him about your bloodshot eyes too. I don’t see any reason to disagree with the earlier diagnosis of irritation due to wood smoke. Emerald took up a pad from the desk, a pencil from the pocket of her lab coat, tapped it on the top page, and studied her young patient. There’s another sort of treatment you might consider.

Anything that’ll help. I’ll try anything.

How would you describe the noise in your ears?

Bart sat up and waved his hands on both sides of his head. Like there were shrieking little birds, invisible birds, swarming around my head, screeching. There’s no end to it!

Screeching?

Sometimes it sounds like screaming.

Dr. Toulouse started to say something, but remained silent.

Like the old Indian said.

Excuse me?

The old Indian.

What old Indian?

A couple of weeks ago he showed up at the jobsite and disappeared before anybody knew what happened to him.

He said what you were hearing was screaming?

"He said he could hear screaming. He said animals were screaming; even trees were screaming."

But you didn’t believe him?

Trees screaming? What do you think?

Dr. Toulouse sighed. Half the genes present in you are also present in trees. Is it so hard to consider they might have an emotional side as you do?

What would they scream with? They have no mouths.

Maybe that’s a question you should try to answer, since you’re the one who hears them. Even when I put the scope into your ear, I don’t hear screaming in there.

Bart blinked. I can’t go on with this in my ears. I’ll try anything that might help.

Emerald nodded. That’s what I thought. She pulled the chair out from the desk, turned it toward the examination table, and sat down. Another approach to your problem altogether…

Anything!

There’s a shaman here in Oodena…

Shaman?

Traditional Indian medicine man.

What can he do?

She tilted her head and bit her lip. I think he’ll tell you that you unleashed some serious energy.

Energy?

Spiritual energy. What you’re doing up in the hills has really pissed off everything that lives there – trees, animals, even the hills themselves.

You’re serious?

It’s another way of looking at your symptoms. If I'm right, this isn’t about your ears at all; it’s about what you’re doing.

What’s the treatment?

Can’t say for sure, but some type of reconciliation, showing respect, even restitution.

This would end the screeching?

Some would say it’s all foolishness; all superstition.

Bart formed his mouth into a tight pucker, considering.

I’ll tell you there’s something to it. If you want relief, I’d say it’s your best bet.

Give me the name.

Dr. Toulouse scribbled on the pad. His name is Even Maingan.

Evan?

"Even, like even Steven."

Perhaps the ringing in his ears addled Bart’s reasoning, as his father claimed. Perhaps it was the unhappy forest booing him at the free-throw line, as the old man told him. Perhaps it was some disorder of the inner ear neither Dr. Zumo nor Dr. Toulouse could diagnose. Since the ear-nose-and-throat specialist he saw later in that day also failed to find anything wrong physically and suggested he see a psychologist, this last possibility seems unlikely. Whatever the cause, Bart stopped in Oodena on his way back from Wassa and went to the address Dr. Toulouse gave him, a modest home set back from the highway. His knocking on the door produced a cacophonic barking of dogs inside, interrupted eventually by a young woman holding a baby. She directed him to Arrowhead Tavern where Even Maingan, she said, liked to eat his dinner.

Ears still screeching, he found Arrowhead Tavern, also on the highway, an old two-story building surrounded with a gravel parking lot. The poster next to the door advertised a vintage-film-and-eggs breakfast special every Sunday morning, including several breakfast entrees, served buffet-style, and continuous screening of vintage films in the back room. The back room was where the waitress directed Bart when he asked for Maingan.

He expected a dimly lit, smoky cave filled with biker-like hooligans in sleeveless shirts, tattoos covering their bodies, and bristly beards. Instead, light from the setting sun streaming through a large picture window lit the room. Behind the window hung an immense bird feeder swarmed by finches, nuthatches, chickadees. Half a dozen men sat around four tables. The waitress who led him there pointed out Even Maingan, sitting alone at the table nearest the window. He looked completely ordinary, not even particularly Indian, except for the grey ponytail, combed back from a head beginning to bald. An ordinary rubber band bound his ponytail. He sat over a plate empty except for bun crumbs, a blob of ketchup, and a few French fries.

The doctor at the tribal clinic sent me to see you, Bart began.

Which one?

A woman.

Which one?

I think it was Tou–

Emerald! My niece. He picked up a French fry, examined it carefully, and popped it into his mouth. Who are you?

Bart Gready.

I heard your name somewhere.

I’m chief engineer for KAMS consortium on Patriot Open Pit Site.

Mikawadizi Hills mine?

That’s right.

Even scowled. What can I do for you?

Maybe you won’t want to help me, but it’s my ears, Bart began. There’s a ringing I can’t seem to stop.

Any voices?

No.

Good. I don’t deal with people who hear voices. I’m terrified of voices.

This high-pitched, screechy buzz has been in my ears for nearly two weeks. It’s driving me crazy.

What did Emerald tell you?

She couldn’t find anything, same as the doctor in Faux Pas. She sent me to a specialist in Wassa.

And?

And nothing. No physical cause.

So Emerald sent you to me?

She said I probably unleashed some spiritual energy, and it’s taken the form of noise in my ears.

And what did she say you should do?

See you for treatment.

I see.

She said there’d need to be some reconciliation.

Obviously.

Something to show respect.

Of course.

Maybe even restitution.

Are you prepared to put trees back you cut down?

What? I can’t do that.

The animals you killed, are you prepared to bring them back to life?

I don’t know how.

Then restitution seems out of the question, doesn’t it?

Bart looked around the room. The other men ignored them. Surely there’s something, he said. He tilted his head and shook it, a habit he picked up when his ears began ringing.

The problem isn’t what you hear; the problem is what you don’t hear, Even said.

That’s what the old Indian man said.

What old Indian man?

Week before last, an old man came to the excavation. He wasn’t supposed to be there. We don’t know how he got there. We don’t know where he went. We don’t know who he is. But he said he could hear animals screaming, even trees screaming.

What did he look like?

I don’t know. An old Indian.

What time was it?

Late afternoon, early evening. We were waiting for dinner to show up.

Was the sun up?

Yeah. The sun was just setting.

Did the old man have a shadow?

What? You mean somebody with him?

I mean a shadow. Did he cast a shadow in the light from the setting sun?

I don’t know. Why wouldn’t he?

You didn’t notice?

No.

Even looked out the window at birds fluttering around the feeder. Look at how the big birds push the others away from the feeder, he said. The others wait on the ground and pick up whatever crumbs those big boys throw down.

Bart followed Even’s gaze. I suppose that’s how things work.

Even shook his head. Not in nature. It works that way here because it’s all artificial – feeder, food, all of it. The situation creates its own balance; bogus situation creates bogus balance.

What if I planted some trees? Bart said.

Where?

I don’t know. Anywhere.

It’d take a hell of a lot of trees to clear your head.

How many?

Even smiled. Maybe you should start planting and keep planting until your head clears.

You think it would? Is there something else?

Even ate another French fry. I think you were right earlier.

About reconciliation?

About maybe I don’t want to help you.

Senator Biff Fanny

Senator Biff Fanny: This opportunity seems insurmountable.

Senator Fanny leaned back in his executive’s chair and put his feet on the large walnut desk that sat in the center of his office. It was 3:30 PM. Long goddamn day, he sighed. In the wall behind him, two windows looked out onto Capitol grounds. The upper-floor office with windows was a reward his party gave him when they gained majority status. You carried our water like a candy striper carries a piss bucket, Majority Leader Gerry Fritz snorted on that occasion. Senator Biff was three years into his first term. There were plenty of senators with more seniority. Without special consideration, he might have been on ground floor somewhere, probably next to the men’s room. On this day, his windows showed a wintry Capitol grounds with drifted snow covering lawns and mounds of snow along barren sidewalks. Trees stretched their bare grey arms toward a slate sky. The pale sun was already setting behind dirty clouds. The only real color in the entire landscape came from parkas and hats of workers waiting for the bus at the corner, along with the turquoise rendering of

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  • (4/5)
    Dennis Vickers MIKAWADIZI STORMS has a cast of thousands…, well, 45, and is presented in short sweet character sketch vignettes—complete with Mr. Vickers enchanting portraits—that sometimes leave you longing for more depth and expansion, sometimes leave you breathless and confused especially if reading on a Kindle or similar device on which it is not so easy to flip back and forth to a character list. However, the charming character of Evie Arnold provides our continuity, and if we allow her to guide us through Mr. Vickers kaleidoscopic fable, and simply let go and run—we are in for a delight.

    MIKAWADIZI STORMS is a novel of a different stripe. Some readers may find some of the philosophical sojourns a bit too “heady” and dry, perhaps taking them “out of the story” a tad too far. They are, however, deeply informative, posing challenging and thoughtful questions. They are also masterly countered by the many and wondrous plethora of additional characters that romp through this magical tale so that balance is ultimately achieved.

    Mr. Vickers has created a truly magic realism world where bears and stuffed cats and trees speak—far more wisely than any human, and a human, so torn by his European and Native heritage that born as one, he renders himself into two—or does he? In this fabulous world, perfect punishment is meted out: hands grow and skin covers with redness and rash for misdeeds done with those hands and the misdeed-doer—even if he is a former dunder-headed human can and does reach blessed enlightenment. In the end (not really a spoiler) Mother Nature triumphs, Native spirits dance at the edge of doom, red and white mothers nurse their babies in tandem, and we are left with a great feeling of hope in our present age of far too much despair and rampant hopelessness.

    So, dare to take a walk on this wild side. You will not be sorry you ventured into these beautiful and awesome woods.