Fleur Pillager Quotes in Tracks
Within us, like ice shards, their names bobbed and shifted. Then the slivers of ice began to collect and cover us. We became so heavy, weighted down with the lead, gray frost, that we could not move. Our hands lay on the table like cloudy blocks. The blood with us grew thick. We needed no food. And little warmth. Days passed, weeks and we didn’t leave the cabin for fear we’d crack our cold fragile bodies. We had gone half windigo. I learned later that this was common, that there were many of our people who died in this manner, of the invisible sickness. There were those who could not swallow another bite of food. Because the names of their dead anchored their tongues. There were those who let their blood stop, who took the road west after all.
It wasn't that Fleur won that hooked them in so, because she lost hands, too. It was rather that she never had a freak deal or even anything above a straight. She only took on her low cards, which didn’t sit right. By chance, Fleur should have gotten a full or a flush by now. The irritating thing was she beat with pairs and never bluffed, because she couldn’t, and still she ended each night with exactly one dollar. Lily couldn’t believe, first of all, that a woman could be smart enough to play cards, but even if she was, that she would then be stupid enough to cheat for a dollar a night.
That spring, I went to help out in her cabin when she bore the child, whose green eyes and skin the color of an old penny have made more talk, as no one can decide if the child is mixed blood or what, fathered in a smokehouse, or by a man with brass scales, or by the lake. The girl is bold, smiling in her sleep, as if she knows what people wonder, as if she hears the old men talk, turning the story over. It comes up different every time, and has no ending, no beginning. They get the middle wrong too. They only know they don’t know anything.
The thing I’ve found about women is that you must use every instinct to confuse. “Look here,” I told Eli before he went out my door, “it’s like you’re a log in a stream. Along comes this bear. She jumps on. Don’t let her dig in her claws.” So keeping Fleur off balance was what I presumed Eli was doing.
It didn’t occur to me till later to wonder if it didn’t go both ways, though, if Fleur had wound her private hairs around the buttons of Eli’s shirt, if she had stirred smoky powders or crushed snakeroot into his tea. Perhaps she had bitten his nails in her sleep, swallowed the ends, snipped threads from his clothing and made a doll to wear between her legs.
I am a man so I don’t know exactly what happened when the bear came into the birth house, but they talk among themselves, the women, and sometimes they forget I’m listening. So I know that when Fleur saw the bear in the house she was filled with such fear and power that she raised herself on the mound of blankets and gave birth. Then Pauline took down the gun and shot point-blank, filling the bear’s heart. She says so anyway. But she says that the lead only gave the bear strength, and I’ll support that. For I heard the gun go off and then saw the creature whirl and roar from the house. It barreled past me, crashed through the brush into the woods, and was not seen after. It left no trail either, so it could have been a spirit bear. I don’t know.
In the morning, before they washed in Matchimanito, they smelled like animals, wild and heady, and sometimes in the dusk their fingers left tracks like snails, glistening and wet. They made my head hurt. A heaviness spread between my legs and ached. The tips of my breasts chafed and wore themselves to points and a yawning eagerness gripped me.
Then Fleur washed me, but I warned myself not to experience any pleasure. I sat down in the water, felts its heat as a sharp danger, but then I forgot. The child soaped my back with a slick plant, and scrubbed the agonizing itch of rough twine and harsh woolens. I gave her my hand. She washed each finger, then each toe. Fleur pared the overgrown nails with a knife. The girl rinsed away the sting of nettles, aggravation of hooked burrs. She dislodged the invisible strands of screwgrass that had woven into my skin. Fleur poured a pitcher of warm water over me and then began to shampoo my head and hair. It was so terrible, so pleasant, that I abandoned my Lord and all His rules and special requirements.
“Go to her. She saved my life twice and now she’s taken it twice back, so there are no more debts. But you, whom I consider my father, I still owe. I will not harm your wife. But I never will go to Kashpaw land.”
She sent you to the government school, it is true, but you must understand there were reasons: there would be no place for you, no safety on this reservation, no hiding from government papers, or from Morrisseys who shaved heads or the Turcot Company, leveler of the whole forest. There was also no predicting what would happen to Fleur herself. So you were sent away, another piece cut from my heart.