EXCERPT: AWARD WINNING SHORT STORY
THE BLESSING WAY
As she stepped out on the deck, Kate could see the enormous fire covering the horizon. The blaze was so close to her house that she could feel the intense heat and hear the crackling of the huge inferno. Her long, silky black hair was pulled in the back and tied with a leather string in which rested a single eagle feather.
Tears of sadness rolled down her high cheekbones as she witnessed the destruction of the land handed down for generations by her Navajo tribe. The dry pine trees only added fuel to the inferno. Kate Eagle Feather was known as a Yenene or “healer” among her tribe. Her ancestors had been well respected medicine men and women, and as such, they possessed mystical powers.
Kate walked into the house and put her arm around her daughter. Nuna was only eight but understood what the fires meant. She knew she’d never return to this house again, but she didn’t mourn it the way her Mama did. There would always be room for them in someone else’s home, because they were all of the same Navajo family.
Last night, Kate had seen a black raven looking directly at her and heard a rooster crow. Both signs meant death was near. Somehow she needed to show Nuna the Blessing Way, the return to harmony between nature and Mother Earth unsettled by drought and hot conditions.
Kate looked up and saw a small house in the corner of the room. It was surrounded by burning fire, and she fell onto her knees, lost in time and reality. As she stared at the vision, strange men with torches appeared, and Kate saw her own body being held captive by ropes. The men were yelling, “Devil! Witch!”
Kate instinctively knew what it meant. This was her past, when people outside her world hadn’t understood the healing powers she possessed. She had heard tales about it all her life – how people had burned healers at the stake, because they believed they were possessed by the Devil. She felt that this vision meant that she must sacrifice her own life in order to return harmony to her world, but for now she had to consider Nuna. What would happen to her? She put her head in her hands.
“Mama, what do you see now?”
“I see death, Nuna.”
“Whose death, Mama?”
Still seeing the vision before her, she answered, “Mine.”
There was a forceful knock on the door, and the vision disappeared. Kate answered the door, and a trooper was there. “You need to leave, ma’am.”
“We were just leaving.”
The trooper nodded and left.
Kate turned and said, “Nuna, do you have everything you want? Your teddy?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Tears were welling up in her eyes. “Are you going to die, Mama?”
“No, sweetheart. Not yet at least. Let’s go.
Once in the car, Kate stopped at the end of the driveway and stared at the only house she had known her entire life. She knew that in an hour or so, the fire would be eating away at the roof.
When they arrived at the Council House, Kate noticed everyone was there except their Council Chief, Tom Running Water.
Kate asked Mary, “Where’s Tom?”
“I have no idea. I talked to him earlier this morning and he said he was loading his Jeep. He should have been here by now.”
“Has anyone tried to call him since then?”
“Yes, but there was no answer.”
Kate said, “I’m going to check on him. Nuna, you stay close to the others.”
Nuna replied, “Be careful, Mama,” still nervous about the vision.
“Don’t worry, sweetheart. I’ll be careful. I just need to check on Tom.” She knew her vision this morning, her purpose, was somehow connected to finding Tom.
Kate was met with a burning house when she reached Tom’s. She jumped out of the car and ran toward it yelling, “Tom! Tom, it’s Kate!”
Two firefighters ran up to her, and she frantically asked, “Where’s Tom? He lives here by himself.”
One of them said, “Don’t know. You need to leave right now for your own safety!”
“I can’t. I have no choice.”
Kate ran back to her car and grabbed a blanket to cover her body. She ran for the garage, hoping that Tom was in there and got caught before he could leave.
She could barely see anything but fire and smoke, but she kept running inside. She saw him inside, lying on the step from his house to the garage. “Tom, get up! Get up!”
Kate was coughing uncontrollably, inhaling smoke when she reached him. Trying to stay as close to the ground as possible, she dragged him across the floor. As she reached the garage door the firemen ran to them and took them to paramedics.
After she was satisfied that Tom was okay and she was able to see, Kate looked up and saw a lone eagle sitting at the very edge of the burning forest.
She thought, “Why? He would know better than to come here.” Then she realized that he was there for a purpose. Seeing an eagle meant luck, a savior. She knew why. It was there as a sign that she had brought all them through The Blessing Way into life.
Kate couldn’t wait to see Nuna. They had a life now. They had come through the burning fire.