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     Her face seemed made of flint when she looked that way. Grandma wanted to take her old wagon down to the southern reservation. It was up to me to show her the truth she already knew. Like all of us did she also had an Indian name, one not often used since that was our way. Now she only used Grandma Susan. It used to be Susie when her husband was alive, but times changed, he died, and Grandma's English name changed too.
     Grandma Susan followed me to the river to look at her wagon, now with its four wooden wheels sort of thinned out and sinking into the earth. That was the way it should be and she knew it. Grandma only wanted to remember when it was her covered wagon and preferred way to travel. The two big horses that used to pull it were in the earth already.

     "That was a good wagon, Anna," she said. "Your Grandpa and me went all over in that thing. It's sure feelin poorly now though, ain't it?"
     "I don't think so," I said. "I think your wagon is doing like it should, Grandma, and I think you know it too."
     "I do." She turned to me then and her eyes crinkled with hidden laughter, the way she always laughed. "It's goin about like them horses did. Down deep and way to sleep. You 'member what I called them good horses, Anna?"
     "Yeah," I said. "I wouldn't forget. You called one Leader and the other Follower. Those were great names, Grandma."
     "They were, weren't they?"
     She suddenly sighed. She was the leader next and I the follower. We walked back to our house.
     "I'm tired, girl. You got somethin ready for me to eat? We got a long ways to go to see our relations down south."
     "You know I cooked," I said. While we walked together to the little house we shared, I breathed deep to catch the last of the clean Wind River air I'd get for about a month or so. "I made up some fry bread and gravy. I'm hungry too."

     The next morning, we were packed by the time the sun put its first gold rays over the river's trees. We borrowed my cousin's station wagon because it was what I learned to drive on. My Grandma would only ride that car with me. Truth was, she would only ride that car ever, and so would I. We were quiet that morning, but moved with purpose.
     The trip from Wyoming to Oklahoma wouldn't take too long, I thought, but we might stop now and then to rest in that back empty space where I piled our blankets. Grandma's Pendleton looked great on top of that heap. We both said our prayers, the way Arapahos pray, and we blessed that car before we were on the two-lane highway I'd drive south.

     I thought about Oklahoma while Grandma slept during that first night and I kept driving. I knew it wasn't a proper reservation anymore, not like the Wind River was for us Northern Arapaho. I heard some government thing changed that whole state, full of all kinds of Indians, into a "checkerboard." They said the government told the Indians there that if they sold their land to farmers, cotton-growers, the Indians could move to Oklahoma City and get wonderful jobs.
     My cousin said for most Indians down there, even the Southern Arapaho, that hadn't worked at all. None could find work in a city and were left without a home. Many traveled, but not back to a reservation. Many ended up on the streets.

     But not all, not all. Those we were going to visit didn't fall for that trick and they kept their house... maybe more than one house, even ...and kept the half-section of land it sat on too. We'd heard a lot about them, and Grandma wanted to see all her younger brothers and sisters who lived there, and the fine stand of old woods she heard was there. When we said "brother" or "sister" it didn't mean they were related by blood, but still it meant they were. I didn't think everyone could follow that way to be, but we'd been that way forever.

     About two days later, driving on red clay in stifling heat, we reached our destination. My Grandma was as happy as I'd seen her lately. She was hungry again and so was I. We both knew food and something to drink would be our welcome.
     Then Grandma would sort out who was who in her head and let me know what she wanted me to know.
     Grandma was as sharp as an ax and I trusted her entirely.
     What I didn't know yet wouldn't hurt me, at least not now and maybe not ever.  

     Since I learned pretty soon the other reason for our visit, I looked at everyone there with different eyes. Grandma was looking for a possible husband for me. Hmph. I knew it was a possiblity because she sometimes said, "You're gettin a little long in the teeth, girl. Time you had some little ones. I ain't gonna last forever this way."

     That half-section, once I got used to the heat, was real pretty. The house on it was even better. It was real old, an old clapboard house I wanted to explore like I was a little kid myself. It had two stories and even an attic. It faced east, just like it should for our people. Best of all, it was so full of such a large family it was never, ever quiet and I realized I liked all the noise. Grandma laughed more and told whoppers about our reservation and her past. I liked that. I liked the women I met. They were young like me and I learned to laugh with them. I guessed I never laughed much before.

     I even liked the men around the house, though I was careful never to let one catch me alone anywhere. But they seemed kind. They laughed too. Their parents were alive and lively.

     The mother, Rosanna, beaded powwow costumes nearly nonstop. She tried to teach some of her younger daughters to bead, but the older ones were busy with their own lives already. Rosanna had about fourteen children, so there were plenty to go around and plenty to teach what she wanted to teach. I went to powwows down there too, mainly to dance friendship dances and sing behind the men around the big drums there. It was good.

     Then it was time to go home. Grandma said so, with a faraway look in her eyes.
     We both said "See you soon!" to each relation, and promised to return once fall and winter were over and our northern place was ready to leave behind again.

     I didn't know it then, but Grandma returned home with me to prepare me for when she truly left me behind forever, at least in this world. That happened that fall. I bowed my head, cut my hair and buried her the way we do. I waited a year for her memorial, gathering gifts for all who planned to attend it. So many came. Grandma had more friends than I knew. I was glad my neighbors and cousins helped me. I even felt Grandma helping. I missed her, but not too long. I knew what she wanted me to do. I went down south and danced and laughed just like she wanted.
Ready for...

Constructive criticism.
Constructive critique.
Constructive comments.

Did you follow the flow of this easily?
Picture what was described okay?
Find the dialogue accurate, meaning consistent?
Find this to be consistent?

Please feel free to point out any errors you see. Thank you!

Add a Comment:
I'll try as best I can to make suggestions, but I don't think there's much I can suggest. This is a very well written story that accomplishes something difficult with seaming ease.

First, to your questions:

1) It flows nicely, yes. There are no places where the reader is jarred out of the scene at all. The darn thing is almost hypnotic.

2) I'm still picturing it. You've struck a nice balance between description and allowing the reader's imagination to fill in the gaps.

3) I've always found your dialogue to be flawless. You have a real gift for letting your characters' voices come through. I hope it isn't anywhere near as effortless as it seems from this end, because if it is I have to be jealous.

4) I'm not sure what you mean by consistent. It is certainly consistent in feel with other of your work that I've read. It is internally consistent with regards to character and story.

Now, to the nits (they need picking).

"...had been given an Indian name..." gives the impression that she was adopted in (through marriage, for example) rather than being born an Arapho. Nothing else clarifies which is the case here. I'd suggest making it clearer either by saying something like "...she had an Indian name, we all did..." or by specifying that she married into the tribe somehow.

"big two horses" should probably be "two big horses". Adjectives of number usually come before adjectives of quality. Changing the normal order can be disruptive to the reader.

"Ride in" a car, not "ride on" (unless Grandma is strapped to the roof rack... ;) ) and I'm not sure about using "the only one she ever rode". I would tend to use "use" rather than rode, but it might be a dialectical difference. I generally ride animals and use machines.

The only other thing I noticed was some inconsistent page breaks and line spacing. I didn't notice it until I went back looking for things to notice, though, so not a major issue.

Now, I said before that you've done something difficult with this piece, and you have. You've managed to portray a Native American worldview in a realistic manner and still have it be accessible to those from outside the culture. I'm not Native, but I've spent more than my share of time on Reserves (that's what we call them up here in the prairies of Canadia). I've made bannock (fry bread), I've been to Powwows, I've lived this life. Your characters ring true to me. You've captured the essence of most tribal cultures I'm familiar with: the acceptance of the way things are over the way you wish they were, an appreciation for the natural cycles of things and the sure knowledge of your place in that cycle. That you've done it without caricature (undue exaggeration) is laudable. Send this in to Disney before they do another Pocahontas, please.
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
5 out of 5 deviants thought this was fair.

Hi there! :wave:

I found your piece through the critiquables section and decided to leave some thoughts. Keep in mind these are only suggestions and you should use them or discard them as you see fit. Also, please ignore the star ratings. I find them wholly inadequate for literature.

Disclaimer's done! Let's dig in.

Your Questions

1. Did you follow the flow of this easily?

For the most part, yes. I thought there were a few places where you should have lingered, giving greater detail so we can get to know your characters better. I am not native, and I know almost nothing of native culture(s) so some areas were very vague for me.

I had questions about the time this was set in. I guessed the 40s or 50s because the Grandma mentioned using a horse and buggy for her main transportation, but I'm not sure when that became uncommon, and I wasn't sure just how old Grandma is in the story. If she's in her 80s or 90s, I'd guess the story was set later into the 20th century. If she's in her 50s -70s, I'd guess earlier. So basically, the time setting is all vague and I think could use some clarification.

There are also a few places in the narration that are awkward and need rewording or clarification. I'll mention of few specific areas later.

2. Picture what was described okay?

I think that you should really consider expanding the story so that we see intimate details of how it was staying with the other native "brothers and sisters". This is the part of the story I was most interested in, and I got almost nothing. What did they eat? Who did the cooking? What games did they play? What songs did they sing? What instruments were in the house? What did daily tasks look like? How old were the children? How did they dress? What did the rooms look like? The land was "real pretty" but how so? How many people lived in the house? What did they do for work? Also - who was she supposed to marry??

I think you get the idea. :P

3. Find the dialogue accurate, meaning consistent?

I had no trouble following the dialogue. :) Actually, it was very consistent with that region of the country. (I lived in ND for a while, and was forcibly reminded of some of the language I discovered there.)

4. Find this to be consistent?

Consistent how? If you mean consistent with history - I'm not sure. Need to know when in history it takes place. The description of the land being sold in Oklahoma seems like something I learned once upon a time in HS history class, but I'm not sure lol. I'm not a big history buff pre WWII :blush:

If you mean consistent in narration, I'd say yes for the most part. Though I still want to see that section expanded! Also, I felt like the ending where her grandmother died was just a tad bit rushed, too. It sounds like the mourning ritual is beautiful, but I wasn't able to feel any of the poignancy behind it.


Like all of us did she also had an Indian name, one not often used since that was our way.

This is awkwardly worded. You could do a couple things to improve the flow, such as splitting it up into two different sentences (ex: Like all of us, she had an Indian name. It wasn't used often since that was our way.) or you could simply reword it to something less awkward. (Ex: Like all of us, she had an Indian name, but it wasn't used often. That was our way.)

She was the leader next and I the follower.

I think this is has a double meaning (she's older, while the narrator is younger) but it is very strange wording. Something like "She was the leader now, and I followed." would work better - it would also fit nicely into the image of them walking back to the house.

The next morning, we were packed by the time the sun put its first gold rays over the river's trees.

I love this image, but I don't like "put". It's too...plain for the pretty image. Maybe "tossed" or "hung" or even "laid" would give a little more oomph to that image.

Grandma's Pendleton looked great on top of that heap. We both said our prayers, the way Arapahos pray, and we blessed that car before we were on the two-lane highway I'd drive south.

Do you mean the liquor? Or something else? And exactly how to Arapahos pray?

What I didn't know yet wouldn't hurt me, at least not now and maybe not ever.

I don't know what this refers to in the story. It's a rather ominous statement, but it doesn't really connect to anything. Is it meant to refer to her Grandma dying? Her coming engagement? Something within the culture itself?

Grandma laughed more and told whoppers... :thumbsup: People still say whoppers in ND. :lol: That's what made me think of it.

Wrap Up

So, basically I like the bones of this story. It needs some flesh! I want to see this world, and know what these lives were/are like. I want to get to know Anna and figure out how she balances her Native culture with American ideals. I want to connect and be absorbed by this period in time, and I know you have the skill to do it. :)

:heart: Lili
What do you think?
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4 out of 4 deviants thought this was fair.

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bk-Blayze Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2012  Student Writer
I always love finding a talented prose writer on deviant, and you are certianly no exception, I personally think you are very talented at connecting the characters and their relationships.

Now, to answer your questions. I found the flow to have ebb'd well, it seemed a little long-winded at times, showing instead of telling, etc. But it did not take away from the story. The picture as very plesant, and detailed due to the first point. I found the dialouge in particular to be one of my favorite parts and made the entire thing very consistant for me.

Kudos :)
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2012   Writer
Thank you very much. :)
I hope (and was taught) that here I "showed instead of told" as the correct way to write fiction.
Maybe I "told too much instead of showed"? Is that what you mean?
I'll come back to this one day and do more edits. You're very kind to leave a... :+fav: ...and "Kudos."
TheLunaLily Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Yes I followed the flow of this easily and could picture everything you wrote and the dialogue felt real and meaningful and the whole thing read very consistent.

I think this was very well done.

xlntwtch Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2011   Writer
:iconthankuplz: ... :iconpinklilyplz:
TheLunaLily Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
You're welcome, sweetie! :hug:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Oct 9, 2011   Writer
Eremitik Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2011
Theres is nothing to add, nothing to say but this-

Ok. Maybe theres more. Fantastic read. It seems like each time I read something from you, it gets better and better.
I loved the characters, the settings, the touching reality behind the words. I dont know if this is based on a true story or not, but it certainly feels that way.
Writing like this, in my opinion, will get you published.
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2011   Writer
If a piece was already published, I put that in Author's Comments.

This one wasn't (hopefully I can say "yet").

Now I can only say "Thank you" again.
Some details are true, but the story itself isn't.
And some stories just seem to write themselves, you know?
This is one.
Eremitik Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2011
I think the best ones often write themselves, escaping through our fingers and onto the page. For whatever reason, stories feel better when theres some truth in them.
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2011   Writer
I thought all stories have some truth in them, even fantasy and comics and all.
Maybe I thunk wrong...
Eremitik Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2011
Ya, but the trick is balancing enough truth to let the stories ring true. Once an author can do that, they are able to touch the reader because experiences brings perspective and the author doesnt have to imagine going through certain things, and that brings the truth out clearly
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2011   Writer
"Clarity" is always good for any writer to include.
I like the idea I might have tricks up my sleeve... :iconjuggleplz:
Eremitik Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2011
Clarity and honesty.
I am toying with an idea but I think it may be just too honest for me too put to page.
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2011   Writer
Put it in your journal?
Your locked diary at home?
Keep it in mind?
(1 Reply)
Plaugh Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2011
A beautifully told story, touching and true to life. :)
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2011   Writer
Thank you, *Plaugh, and thanks for the star.
Still...your words are always more important to me. Thank you again. :)
Plaugh Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2011
You are very welcome. :)
Starlace Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2011   Traditional Artist
Oh wow. The rythm of this is amazing--it's absolutely a song. With narrative and dialogue and no refrain, but nonetheless. Beautiful.
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2011   Writer
:iconthankyousignplz: ... :iconlachoirplz:
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wh0rem0ans Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2011
I like the details in your stories. I am left with 'and then what happened?', though.
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2011   Writer
I'm glad about both things you wrote here. Thank you.
wh0rem0ans Featured By Owner Aug 20, 2011
KreepingSpawn Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Intriguing. :)
I get a very strong sense of the tribal community extended family, and the sense of safety they project to your narrator.
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2011   Writer
:iconthankyousignplz: ...I agree with your comment about the community. (:
alapip Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
lives that are all about your relatives, your people.
that seems like such a beautiful way to live.

good night, Wotcher.

xlntwtch Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2011   Writer
'tis and was.

good night, pip.

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