Holding the wolf pelt by the scruff of its neck, pointing to where dirt and caked mud had soiled the beautiful fur, Laughing Crow turned to Bear. “Tomorrow you will clean and brush this pelt, completely,” he instructed his son. “And from now on, young man, YOU shall fetch all the water for this family. Do you understand?” he asked his son, loudly. The boy thought the lodge’s bark covering would blow off, his father was yelling so hard. He had never seen Crow so angry before.
The fire was blazing nicely as Grandma and Quail cleaned the beaver and began the evening meal. Both were silent as they worked, but winced as they listened to Standing Bear being disciplined by his enraged father.
“Furthermore,” bellowed Crow, “no more fishing or hunting with your friends till the next full moon. You could have killed Two Swans - MY MOTHER! - with such a prank.” Bear lowered his gaze and sighed deeply. He just could not understand what had come over him. One moment he was playing. The next, he was on a war path in the forest, ambushing an enemy scout. It had all seemed so real. Until grandma screamed. But this he could never tell anyone, he realized. And standing there amongst his family, he never felt so alone.
Grandma stood up and strode boldly over to her own grown son, chief of the Otter Clan. “Wait just a moment,” she scolded him as if he were Bear’s age. “I’ve no need for a good-for-nothing little boy (Bear winced, again) who does nothing but play all day, hanging around this hovel.”
Laughing Crow’s face fell. He had built this “hovel” with his own strong hands. He knew his mother was only speaking out of frustration. Still, her words stung as bad as any of her slaps, which she rarely administered. This made him pause and think. Perhaps there was a better way to impress his son. He just wished he knew what it was.
“Besides, the boy was only imitating the spirit that caused his birth. It’s a part of his soul,” said Swan. Bear stared at his grandmother in awe. She went on lecturing her son, his father, in front of his own children. “May the Great Spirit of All Creation grant this foolish boy the ability to ALWAYS surprise the animals he hunts and the enemies he fights,” she declared. Giving a wink to Crow, which the children never noticed, she continued.
“Both of you have gotten me so upset, I’m feeling sick,” she announced, while returning to the cook pot. Laughing Crow checked a smile. “You had quite a scare today, Grandma. You should go lie down. Let Quail’s Feather finish up for you,” he said. Quail nodded and grinned, encouraging the old woman to retire.
As the family watched, Two Swans Swimming struggled to her feet and walked wearily over to her sleeping spot. Then, with a start, she gasped, clutched her chest and collapsed.
The children screamed!
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