In the chill of first light before dawn, others began to stir and Tuwa saw a figure moving toward him around the edge of the burned-out kiva. He recognized the old village woman.
“May the light shine on you today,” she said and handed him a full bowl of what had been his favorite delicacy growing up — sweet corn dumplings. The women would collect their saliva, stir in cornmeal to make a batter, then roll it between their palms into balls that they then dropped into boiling water. Dumplings made the same way but without saliva were good, but not sweet. As a child, he had asked Nuva why this was so, and she’d said, “Because the spirits of women are sweet.”
“What do you call these?” Tuwa asked, eating with relish.
She chuckled and said, “Sweet pieces.”
“My Grandfather called them ‘sweet ladies,’ and that’s what everyone in the village called them. Sometimes the women would collect their saliva for a week and then we’d have a feast of sweet ladies.”
The woman laughed. “In honor of your Grandfather, I will refer to them as sweet ladies from now on.”
The old woman made him feel comfortable and cared for in a way he hadn’t felt since the new star had unleashed the madness of the Southerners.
“You leave today,” said the woman.
“Yes,” he said, realizing he didn’t know her name. “We have a lot to do. Too much. But before I even think of that, I want to know your name. I apologize for forgetting my manners and not making the correct introductions.”
She laughed softly. “Names change as life happens to you. When I was born to the sun, my aunts named me Hakidonmuya because it was the time of waiting for the full moon. My playmates called me Haki and that is what my husband still says. Most here simply call me Grandmother. But you, I think, should call me Sweet Lady.”
Tuwa smiled. “I’m pleased to meet you, Grandmother Sweet Lady.”