The Old Woman On The Bluff

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


A retelling of an old Native American folktale.

Submitted: August 15, 2018

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Submitted: August 15, 2018

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It was late afternoon when Ayashe heard The Lone Ranger come to an end on the television from the kitchen. She was drying dishes and day dreaming when her little cowboy clicked off the set and wandered into the kitchen.

“I’m bored.” he said, and let out a little sigh.

She looked down at her son and smiled. Ramon was in his Hopalong Cassidy hat, plastic chaps and twin six shooter cap guns. His big eyes looked up at her under his red felt brim. His little face was dark and round and she just wanted to kiss it and squish it, but instead she said

“Go outside and play, Mijo.”

“But there’s nothing to do.” he said, shrugging his shoulders.

“Ride your bike. Go now.”

“And don’t bother that old man.” she continued.

She heard the screen door slam close before she knew he had left the room. Ramon was already out the front door.

“Did you hear me, Mijo?” she shouted after him.

Ramon was on his bike and moving down the sidewalk as fast as his chubby little legs could peddle. He called his bike Silver because he thought it was cooler than Scout.

‘I can’t wait until mom takes the training wheels off.’ he thought as he sped toward his destination.

Alvino Bear was the oldest man on the reservation. So old in fact there was no one left who knew him when he was young and no one knew how old he was exactly. When the children would ask he would say “I was young when the sky people first dropped maze on the muddy ground.” The children would laugh and say “You are funny, grandfather.”

Today, the weathered face of the old man stared off into the west from a now still rocking chair on his front porch. His eyes focused on the horizon but his spirit was high above the reservation looking down on his people, ever watchful. He saw the little boy approach from down the block. The old man smiled to himself and began rocking again.

“Ya’ ‘a’t ‘e’eh, Acheii.” (Hello, Grandfather) the little boy said as he mounted the old man’s steps.

“Ya’ ‘a’t ‘e’eh, Hats’o’i ashkiig’i’i.” (Hello, Grandson) the old man said, blinking out his visions before turning his eyes on the the boy.

“Did you kill many injuns today, grandson?” he asked with a smile.

“No. None today.” Ramon said seriously while adjusting himself like he’d seen the adult men do before sitting down on the top step of the porch.

“Grandfather, were you ever married?” the boy asked suddenly.

The old man didn’t answer at first. He just looked at the boy for a moment and then rolled a skinny cigarette. The boy watched his every move. Committing everything to memory. After the old man lit it, he took a few puffs and said

“Did I ever tell you about the old woman on the bluff.”

Ramon shook his head as he turned more to fully face the ancient Indian, crossing his legs and resting his back on the post behind him. The little Navajo boy studied the long and broken lines on his face, the silver shoulder length hair and the narrow frame under his western style button down shirt and bolo tie. The old man crushed out his cigarette and flashed his blue marbled eyes at the boy. Ramon jerked up straight and looked as if he was going to run away but he didn’t. The old man smiled again, knowing he had the boy’s attention.

“There’s an old woman who lives on the highest bluff.” he began

“She is one of the Sky People…”

The little boy’s head hurt for a moment but then he saw what the old man was saying. It was playing out like a movie in his head. The old man’s voice started to fade as the movie in his head became clearer.

An old woman with a long silver braid and an old blanket over her shoulders sat under a starry sky weaving a rug made of pine needles. In front of her was a cook fire and a pot of stew bubbling in it. Beside the old woman was a yellow dog, pretending to sleep. From high on her plateau she sang out a healing song to the world as she worked.

Hama holqqgo Hama holqqgo,

Ayoo jiniigo Ayoo jiniigo

Taa bee Hojilii leh, Hiiya naa hei nei yowei

Hama holqqgo hama holqqgo,

Ayoo jiniigo Ayoo jiniigo

Taa bee Hojilii leh, Hiiya naa hei nei yowei

The old woman puts her weaving aside to stir her pot occasionally. After attending her pot she stands on the edge of her tall bluff and looks out on the world below her with hope and sadness. The wind takes her tears and renews life in the deserts and washes the deep canyons. The gourds and pumpkins bloom and the maze sprouts like deer grass across the land. When the old woman returns she finds her rug in tatters. Her yellow dog destroys her efforts every time and so she has to start all over. The old woman gathers her work again and starts to sing. Her dog lays beside her, still pretending to sleep.

Hama holqqgo hama holqqgo,

Ayoo jiniigo Ayoo jiniigo

Taa bee Hojilii leh, Hiiya naa hei nei yowei……

The boy’s reality snapped back and he was staring at the old man who was rolling another cigarette and and humming the old Navajo healing song.

“Does she ever finish it?” Ramon asked

He lit the end of his skinny cigarette and puffed on it a few times before answering.

“Ramon Shinesbright, your mother is calling.” he said to the boy.

“I don’t hear anything.” the boy says.

Two blocks south, Ramon’s mother wraps the hoover cord around the handle and puts it back in the hall closet. She glances up at the old cat clock on the kitchen wall and wonders where her boy got off to. Ayashe calls out from her front door “Ramon! Ramon! Time to come home now!”

The little boy looks at the old man with amazement.

“You better go now, boy.” he said

“But does she ever finish the rug?” Ramon pleaded

“You better hope she doesn’t, boy.” he said and then paused for effect.

“Because Rafaella weaves time.”

The story suddenly clicked in the little boys head and he said goodbye. Alvino Bear, the oldest man on the reservation watched the little Indian boy in a cowboy costume get on his bike called Trigger and ride off into the sunset. As the boy peddled off the old man thought back on the story.

“That dog never liked me, did it?” he asked quietly to the twilight.

“No.” the old woman on the bluff said smiling, looking down at her hairy yellow faker.

They both laughed.


© Copyright 2018 R.Guy Barringer. All rights reserved.

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