Bazil Quotes in The Round House
Small trees had attacked my parents' house at the foundation… As my father prodded away blindly at the places where he sensed roots might have penetrated, he was surely making convenient holes in the mortar for next year's seedlings… it seemed increasingly important to me that each one of these invaders be removed down to the very tip of the root, where all the vital growth was concentrated. And it seemed important as well that I do a meticulous job… It was almost impossible not to break off the plant before its roots could be drawn intact from their stubborn hiding place.
We were not churchgoers. This was our ritual. Our breaking bread, our communion… But now they stood staring at each other helplessly over the broken dish… If we'd sat down together that night, I do believe things would have gone on… Anything would have been better than the frozen suspension of feeling in which she mounted the stairs… My father and I had followed her to the doorway, and I think as we watched her we both had the sense that she was ascending to a place of utter loneliness from which she might never be retrieved.
We read with a concentrated intensity. My father had become convinced that somewhere within his bench briefs, memos, summaries, and decisions lay the identity of the man whose act had nearly severed my mother’s spirit from her body.
I had imagined that my father decided great questions of the law, that he worked on treaty rights, land restoration, that he looked murderers in the eye, that he frowned while witnesses stuttered and silenced clever lawyers with a slice of irony. I said nothing, but as I read on I was flooded by a slow leak of dismay… Where was the greatness? The Drama? The respect?
I should have told you I am proud of you… But do you understand that if something should happen to you, Joe, that your mother and I would … we couldn't bear it. You give us life…
You gave me life, I said. That’s how it's supposed to work. So let me do what I want with it! I ran for my bike…He tried to catch at me with his arms but I swerved at the last moment and put on a burst of speed that put me out of his reach.
I suppose I am one of those people who just hates Indians generally… my feeling is that Indian women are—what he called us, I don't want to say… He said we have no standing under the law for a good reason and yet have continued to diminish the white man and to take his honor… I won't get caught, he said… I know as much law as a judge. Know any judges? I have no fear… The strong should rule the weak. Instead of the weak the strong! It is the weak who pull down the strong.
These are the decisions that I and many other tribal judges try to make. Everything we do, no matter how trivial, must be crafted keenly. We are trying to build a solid base here for our sovereignty. We try to press against the boundaries of what we are allowed… Our records will be scrutinized by Congress one day and decisions on whether to enlarge our jurisdiction will be made. Some day. We want the right to prosecute criminals of all races on all lands within our original boundaries… What I am doing now is for the future, though it may seem small, or trivial, or boring, to you.
I should have felt happy watching them across the table, but instead I was angered by their ignorance. Like I was the grown-up and the two of them holding hands were oblivious children. They had no idea what I had gone through for them.
Behind them in the next room the shelves of old books stood… Meditations. Plato. The Iliad. Shakespeare… There was William Warren, Basil Johnston, The Narrative of the Captivity and Adventures of John Tanner, and everything by Vine Deloria Jr… I looked at the books as if they could help us. But we had moved way far past books now into the stories Mooshum told in his sleep. There were no quotations in my father’s repertoire for where we were, and it was beyond me at the time to think of Mooshum’s sleeptalking as a reading of traditional case law.
In all those miles… there was nothing to be said. I cannot remember speaking and I cannot remember my mother or my father speaking. I knew that they knew everything. The sentence was to endure… I do remember, though, the familiar sight of the roadside café just before we would cross the reservation line. On every one of my childhood trips that place was always a stop for ice cream, coffee and a newspaper, pie… But we did not stop this time. We passed over in a sweep of sorrow that would persist into our small forever. We just kept going.