Friday, August 19, 2016

The Medicine Wheel

Summer had a dream that night.
            Pudge stood in front of her, a round figure, shorter at eight years, even than her own six. It was July. The sun had fried the grass to ochre and the glare from the suburban sidewalk made her squint. But she saw the spider there clearly, motionless in Pudge’s outstretched hand.
            “Go on, Injun. He likes you.” The boy’s teeth hid behind a narrow smile.
            The young girl looked at the large tarantula, which nearly covered Pudge’s palm. It’s furry knees were red.
            She wanted to get away, wanted to run in reverse, so as not to turn her back to the unpredictable Pudge. If she reacted quickly enough, she could pick up speed and escape, fast and far. Inexplicably, though, her feet stood riveted, though her heart was beating wildly.
            Pudge thrust his hand at her again, this time chin high. The black hairs and glistening eyes of the spider now were close enough that she had to refocus to take in the dark countenance, just inches from her face.
            “Take him!” Pudge ordered.
            The child of Summer’s dream knew it was too late for retreat. If she tried to run, surely Pudge would throw the spider onto her bare neck, which was well exposed in the thin, cotton shirt. In fact, if she moved at all, the spider likely would startle and leap to her skin.
            The girl felt a wave of panic and the beginning of tears swelling painfully in her throat. The volcanic summer air burned around her feet and she felt faint. Trees in the distance, houses, cars parked along the street—all grew light. Even Pudge’s sweating face misted out of the girl’s vision. Only the spider remained, as close as a part of her own being.
            In the dream, Summer heard her grandmother’s voice, whispering. “Each person must travel around the medicine wheel, Summer. Each must learn the way the world looks from each direction.”
            It was hopeless, then. A moment with this fearsome animal —a moment with fear itself— was upon her.
            The child of Summer’s dream made strong fibers from her heart, as grandmother had taught her. She sent the strong reeds on her voice, beckoning to the wind spirit. “I welcome you,” she said softly.
            Her tormentor’s voice cracked through the spitfire. “Did you say welcome, Injun?”
            But, though she heard, the girl no longer cared. Instead, she gazed into the eyes of the spider, which reflected her face in multitude through its eight orbs. Her image floated free within the spider’s spirit, like the points of a twirling medicine wheel. Together, their fears blended into nothingness.
            Before Pudge could stop what was happening, the girl extended her wrist next to the shocked boy’s palm. She invited the spider to move at once onto the back of her hand. The animal’s feet were soft and grateful.
            Without turning back, the young girl carried the spider with her, in the summer dampness, down to the rocks and crevices of the creek. There, among the small lizards and tree frogs and beetles, she set him free.


            When Summer stirred from the dream, Precious was perched on the pillow, green eyes looking intently into Summer’s face. Summer drew back a bit and took stock of the watchful cat.
            “Yes, Precious,” she sighed finally. “Something is coming—coming along my medicine wheel.” 

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