Editor’s Note: Anita Endrezze, half Yaqui Indian, plus Slovenian, northern Italian and German-Swiss, is many things in life as well. The storyteller, artist and poet revels in creative endeavors as a prolific producer of watercolors, collages and other art. She has illustrated book covers and had her work shown in England, Wales and Washington state.
Though half European, Endrezze uses her Native heritage as her starting point, her biography says. Her stories tread the line between what is real and what is not, “luxuriant with fragments of myth, the voices of different personae, striking visual images and always, as a backdrop, metaphors interweaving the natural world with the landscape of human emotion,” wrote one reviewer. Here is an excerpt from “Where the Bones Are,” a short story in her most recent work, Butterfly Moon (University of Arizona Press, 2012), a collection of short stories.
I smelled smoke. I started running home, sliding on the sand, fear engulfing me. Smoke billowed up near my home.
Had the cooking fire flared up? Was she in danger? I should’ve never left her alone.
I skidded to a stop as I passed the fence of mesquite and cacti that surrounded our home. Mother stood, slightly bent, with a thin cotton shawl wrapped around her shoulders. Her unbrushed hair was covered with falling ash.
She turned toward the sound of my voice. “Burn. Burn.”
Our house was smoldering. The palm mat roof had caved in, the support poles were black and smoking, the interior was a charred mess of broken pots. Everything was ruined. I was speechless.
“Burn. Sickness.” Mother tried to explain. She pulled off the shawl and her clothes and threw them into the flames, motioning for me to do the same.
Now we were naked. I saw the comal, or flat cooking stone, the pestle and mortar, and field tools propped against a tree. The granary had been spared. She had stored some simple cotton ponchos in a bamboo chest on the platform. I got them and we threw them over our bodies.
Our People’s houses had been swept away by floods and shredded by fierce winds in the past. But we’d all been together then. It was easy to rebuild. We wanted to rebuild. Now we were few and weak and discouraged. I plopped down on the ground.
My mother sat on her gaunt haunches next to me. Our faces were streaked with soot. She sobbed and threw warm ashes on her legs, gulping and howling until I covered my ears. I remembered a story Father once told me.
There was Wo’i, Coyote, who was hunting one day. He found a stinkbug, juva chinai, and was going to eat it, when the bug swore that it knew the secrets of the Enchanted World.
“I can tell you what the spirits are saying,” it promised. Coyote took his paw off the bug and cocked an ear. “What are they saying, then?”
The stinkbug listened. “The Spirit People say that any dirty Wo’i who leaves his shit lying around for other animals to step on will burn in a big fire.”
Coyote gasped. He raced along the desert, picking up his dung, as well as other animals’ droppings. The stinkbug giggled and took off in the other direction.
Like Coyote, I wanted to hurry away from this place of burning. The shit of death. The reeking bed mats. The fever. The house fire. The destruction of all that was important to me. I wanted to run into the desert and never come back. But I didn’t want to be foolish like Wo’i. I had responsibilities.
From Butterfly Moon: Short Stories by Anita Endrezze © 2012 Anita Endrezze. Reprinted by permission of the University of Arizona Press.