Thursday, 18 January 2018

Some Spider Grandmothers Do 'Ave 'Em

Aliksa'i. People were living at Oraibi. Lots of people of the Hopituh Shi-nu-nu were living there, but our story is concerned only with the family of Hawiovi, that is Hawiovi himself and his long suffering wife. Her name was Honovi which means Strong Deer, which was lucky because the name of her husband had the meaning Going Down the Ladder and it was said that this seemed appropriate only because had he gone up the ladder, he would certainly either have fallen off or dropped something on the heads of those stood below.

One day it transpired that the Spider Grandmother had given Honovi a child. Her belly was a little bigger than usual, and it is also true that Hawiovi had recently found her thighs to be a little more pale than usual, because that is how such things work. All the same, being with child, she continued to grind her corn and to weave her mats. Many times would the moon pass before she had to seek a blessing from Tawa, the sun.

'You should be careful,' said Hawiovi full of concern, because he was ever full of concern. On this day he seemed to be full of a quite unusual quantity of concern. He stood at the entrance of the dwelling and it seemed as though he was dancing upon the spot. He held his headdress in his hands, mashing it and spinning it around as though it were a wheel. His face was like that of a child looking at the moon for the first time. He looked all around. 'Ooh Honovi,' he said for no obvious reason and bit his lower lip.

'Honestly, Hawiovi,' said his wife, 'sometimes I think it is you that is having the baby and not me. You do worry so. Tell me what is on your mind?'

Hawiovi's face became full of blood as the truth was divined, or at least as it was divined that there was a truth which might be uncovered. He started to laugh and his laugh was like the gurgle of a child, but then he held up his finger as though about to make a point. 'I cannot tell a lie,' he said. 'I've been having a bit of trouble.'

'Trouble, Hawiovi? What can you mean?' It seemed that although Honovi had asked the question, she didn't really want to hear the answer.

'Well, I don't like to say,' said Hawiovi with difficulty. 'Can we just say that the Spider Grandmother has not wished to speak with me in a long time.'

'Oh dear,' said his wife. She knew the ways of her husband, how he would say one thing and mean something else. She understood his problem very well.

It is known that sometimes when the Spider Grandmother wishes to speak with us, she makes us feel as though we want to defecate. She then talks to us once we are about our business, because this is the time when we are nearly always alone.

Hawiovi went to see Wikvaya, the medicine man.

'What seems to be the problem, Hawiovi?' asked Wikvaya as he prepared a pipe. 'Is everything well with you at home?'

Hawiovi stood at the entrance of the sweat lodge and it seemed as though he was dancing upon the spot. He held his headdress in his hands, mashing it and spinning it around as was his habit. His face was again like that of a child looking at the moon for the first time. He looked all around. He made as though to giggle, but instead said, 'Having a baby.'

'Well, that is good news,' Wikvaya said, casting his eyes upwards in silent thanks for such blessings as are given by the Spider Grandmother, then before he could ask more, Hawiovi was already speaking.

'I've been having a bit of trouble, but I don't really like to say...'

'Come, come,' said the medicine man, 'we are both men of the fourth world. There is nothing you could possibly tell me which might cause surprise. I'm not some Navajo, you know.'

'It's down there.' Hawiovi pointed with a finger, indicating his personal areas. 'It won't come out.'

It seemed as though there was the sound of riotous laughter in the air, and it continued for several minutes. Wikvaya wore an expression of great shock on his face. His mouth was open and his eyebrows were set high upon his forehead. He seemed to think that Hawiovi had claimed to be with child, but Hawiovi's complaint was that he temporarily found himself unable to defectate. That was the root of their misunderstanding, and the two men spoke at crossed purposes for a long time. Had the misunderstanding been resolved sooner, they might have seen the funny side, but instead they experienced only frustration. And here the story ends.

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