An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.
Note: This is a sketch made in preparation for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). My working title is “Anasazi Runner.” Synopsis: Native American boy abandoned at birth and raised by white parents is inspired when he visits Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, and becomes, in his mind, an Anasazi runner who completes the world’s first sub-two-hour marathon.
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“Kira thinks I’m Navajo like her.”
“Do you think you’re Navajo like her?”
Sean leaned across the table so others wouldn’t hear and mumbled, “No, I don’t.”
I looked around the restaurant. All white people but for one toothless guy of uncertain ancestry in the corner. I knew the Elkhorn cook was Navajo. The waitress, Jicarilla Apache. And the owner had a Ute grandfather. Always made me laugh to think of the cultural tangle inside that place.
Sean obviously didn’t want to be overheard, so I piped down to his level. “You tell her you think that?”
His eye went out the window and he half-shrugged. He shook his head.
“I think she wants me to be Navajo. I think maybe she thinks she can make me into a Navajo.”
“You could be Navajo, I guess. Nobody knows.”
He tensed and pulled his cheeks back as if in pain. “I just don’t feel like it.”
I scratched my neck and blinked. I didn’t really know how to empathize with that kind of deep identity feeling. Generations of white-trash ancestors had bred all that out of me. “You show her your mamma’s disk?”
When his birth mother had died in the car wreck, she’d been wearing some kind of ceramic disk on her stomach, held in place by a leather thong. His adoptive parents gave it to him when he turned eighteen. It was the only thing he had that connected him to his mother.
He nodded. Good, I thought. Hiding things from your girlfriend isn’t a good sign. “She said I should put it back,” he said.
That shocked me, but the Jicarilla waitress brought us cups and coffee just then. I watched how she eyed Sean, but she didn’t do anything unusual. I always tried to notice how other Native Americans treated him. We ordered the usual, a half-dozen scrambled eggs with dry wheat toast for Sean, and a bowl of oatmeal and raisins for me.
I leaned closer to him when she left. “What does that mean, ‘put it back’?”
“She thinks it’s some kind of spirit-puller from the ancestral enemies.”
“Ancestral enemies? That’s what Anasazi means in Navajo. She thinks it’s Anasazi?”
He nodded. We drank coffee, not looking at each other. I didn’t expect that. I thought that disk had a modern usage and meaning. It looked old, but not ancient.
“Do you ever feel like it’s pulling something to you?”
Sean looked out the window at tourists taking pictures of the glistening mineral mound of one of the hot springs. “Kind of,” he said. “When I run. I feel this lightness in my chest. Like something is pulling me faster than I’m going.”
He drifted into silence, but I needed more than that. “Only when you’re running? Like a vision?”
Softly, almost to himself, he said, “Like I’m a runner for the king or top priest or whatever they had.”
“An Anasazi Runner.”
He nodded for a long time.
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This is my last National Novel Writing Month piece. Thanks for hanging in here with me as I shifted from historical fiction to present-day fiction. It’s been a fun ride.
A note about the image of the spirit-puller: It’s actually an Inuit carving in a piece of mammoth ivory that became exposed from the melting permafrost. It’s not ancient at all.