LaRose, p.35Louise Erdrich
Can we go back outside?
They went out the sliding glass back door, sat on deck chairs. Down on the grass Josette saw a pile of wilting dandelions, and that the tools had forked metal ends.
What were you doing?
We have to get a hundred dandelions every day, said LaRose.
Not every day, said Maggie.
Seems like it, said LaRose.
How many do you have? Josette felt slow-witted. The concept threw her.
Oh, we have seventy-eight already, said Maggie.
Then what do you guys do?
She shrugged. I dunno. Throw ’em in the big weed pile behind the barn. Then more grow on the lawn. Some people poison them but Mom lets the chickens out here. Can we come over to you guys’ house?
I like this flavor, said Josette. Won’t your folks be mad?
I can leave them a note, said Maggie.
Well, I still need to know how to make a lawn, said Josette. How do I make a lawn?
I don’t know, said Maggie. The lawn was always here.
Don’t make one, said LaRose. I’m not forking dandelions at two places.
Want to help us make a party? Graduation party for Hollis? I was thinking barbecue. That’s what the lawn is for.
Wish I could roll up this one, said Maggie. It never gets used.
Wish we could borrow it, said Josette.
She licked into the sugar cone, then ate the cone down to a tiny nib. The lawn was thick, green, soft-looking, like a blanket. Josette saw herself rolling it up piece by piece. She would carry the lawn over, light and airy, on her shoulder. She would spread it out behind the Iron house, take down the volleyball net, for a while at least. People would walk barefoot on the soft grass. There would be . . . oh, paper lanterns. All colors—coral, yellow, sky blue. Tiny lights inside of them.
You should wait for your parents, she said to Maggie. Come over later. Thanks for the cone. I’ve got to go.
Maggie didn’t like it, but after Josette left she went to the yard with LaRose and stabbed the dandelions.
Why do people hate dandelions so much?
You always ask that, said Maggie.
You never have a good answer.
It’s because I honestly do not know, said Maggie.
Dandelions are cheerful, and they try so hard.
I know, said Maggie, sitting back on her heels.
Let’s go on strike.
Strike? You mean quit.
Maggie took her dandelion fork and his dandelion fork. She hefted them and threw them in the woods.
I think that’s a good idea, she said, dusting off her hands. Let’s go on strike!
Let’s stop being grown-ups, said LaRose.
Josette walked back along the highway, her mind blurring out the image of the carpety Ravich grass. There was plenty of grass beside her, in the ditches, the new grass growing out of the dead grass. She thought of her house, where she could put something down and pick it up later, where Mom always bugged everybody to straighten up but still the shelves held a spill of books and papers, an eagle fan on a rectangle of red cloth, abalone shells, sage, tobacco ties, red willow baskets, framed pictures, a bird’s nest, cedar, Disney figurines. Maybe it was too much. She walked down into the ditch, and then up to her scruffy gray house. She stopped. Surveyed her valiant little flowers. The classroom-toughened geraniums hadn’t died yet. There were white violets dug from the woods, Johnny-jump-ups from her grandmother’s flower box, some budding purple onion-smelling plant, chives. And the yard, oh well. Some weeds were growing in. She’d keep watering it. In the shed there was an old push mower. A gas-powered weed whacker. Dandelions were everywhere, and they were green, very green, and she’d let them grow until they touched leaves and grew together. She’d mow them too. Mow everything, she nodded, looking around the place and smiling. There would be splashes of color around the front door. It was the cake people came for, anyway, and she had that solidly covered. She and Snow were buying the cakes with their own money. One would be chocolate with white icing that said Happy Graduation, with a frosting diploma that said Hollis. The next would be yellow cake with chocolate icing that said the same. The third would say You Go! and the frosting would be desert camouflage.
Dessert camouflage, said Josette when they ordered the cakes. Get it?
Groan, said Snow.
Their mom was going to a meat locker in Hoopdance where she could get the right cuts for slow-cooker barbecue. Landreaux was sent around to borrow cookers from Ottie and Bap and random relatives. The frybread was coming from Grandma Peace. They would make the coleslaw, the potato salad, and Hollis said he’d get the ice and two big coolers. He’d get the sodas.
Don’t tell Dad, said Josette. And get some diet ones.
Hollis was in on the planning now. He’d found out about the party just the week before. One of his friends at school had told him he was coming.
To your party.
Oops. Shit. Was it a surprise, man?
I don’t know.
Along came Snow.
We were going to tell you!
Or maybe surprise you!
Josette said, We couldn’t decide. We kept arguing about what to do.
God, said Snow. I’m so glad you know.
We were sure Coochy would let on.
No, Hollis had said, dazzled. I didn’t know. A party.
Now he was in on the rest of the planning.
Should I, said Hollis. Can I . . .
Invite my dad.
Oh my god, of course, said Snow.
He’s already on the list, said Josette. We dropped off an invitation.
You guys made invitations?
Don’t choke up, Hollis.
For a moment, Josette was her real self. Smart-alecky. Then she remembered that she might be in love with Hollis. Her voice went softer, studiously casual.
Yeah, we ran them off on Mom’s school printer. They’re just, you know, basic.
No, they’re not, said Snow. She made them really elegant. She put all different fonts of lettering and RSVP and all of that.
Can I have one?
Sure, said Josette. You can check it out. I think I got everything right.
That’s not it, said Hollis. I want one so I can frame it. I’m going put it up on my wall. Wherever I have a wall, where I end up next.
He trailed off.
Oh, just stay, said Snow.
Josette looked into his thin face, tried to say yeah in a casual way, but her voice scratched out in her throat and she turned the sound into a cough. Why did this happen to her, always? This leaping joy? Then this sudden clutch? She tried to laugh it off but her laugh snagged in her nose, became an ugly snorting hack like a crabby old man’s. Could it get worse? Snow was looking at her with a get it together expression. Hollis was embarrassed for her, staring at the side of the yard. She took a deep breath. Dignity. Dignity please.
Sorry about that. Allergies. Of course you should stay.
Then she looked straight at Hollis again and all her heart came into her face. If he had not been so polite, trying to make like he didn’t notice her honk. If he had just turned back in time to see the look on her face. He would have known. He would have known in all certainty. Her love was pouring straight out of her eyes. But he was still staring at the yard when her expression froze, then neutralized. He was thinking, Maybe I can grow some grass there, in those bare spots. Maybe she would like that.
JOSETTE WANTED TO make a medallion using tiny, faceted beads, but so far she had only managed to bead a circle about the size of a dime. Snow was working on a pair of moccasins, and on a quilt, which she helped her grandmother sew in strips every so often just to see the quick progress of a thing. They had a soft cutting board, a razor-sharp cutting wheel, and a big plastic fabric guide. Making long strips of cloth with one razor swipe was satisfying. Mrs. Peace was sorting, as she did endless
Because of that law, said Snow. Museums have to give us back our sacred stuff, right? And our bodies. Native Graves and Repatriation. I did a report.
So macabre, said Josette, chasing the tiny beads around a jar cap with her needle. Snow didn’t even mark out the word as on the latest vocabulary quiz, because they always used interesting words now. They were known for it.
I want her back, murmured their grandmother. She can rest down the hill with her family. We’ll get LaRose her own lantern.
Oh no, I have to rip this out again.
Josette slumped over and rested her head on the table, beside the cigar box of beads.
How come I suck at this? What kind of Indian am I?
She sat up, threw down the circle of plastic and Pellon with the tiny circle of unevenly stitched beads.
Don’t do that, Snow said, retrieving it. You’ll lose the needle. Grandma will sit on it. Snow took her sister’s beadwork, plucked up beads with the end of the needle, and began quickly connecting them, adding circular rows of copper, gold, and green. Relieved, Josette watched the circle enlarge.
You’re so good at beading, she said comfortably. I like to watch you.
You picked hard beads to use, said Snow. Cut-glass 13s.
Josette touched her sister’s added circles.
So perfect. Makes me sick.
Snow wagged the circle toward her, and Josette flinched away.
Keep going! Please!
Snow took back the medallion, the size of a quarter now.
After she’d beaded a few more rows on, she glanced at Josette and asked who the medallion was for. Josette didn’t answer. The sewing machine whined as Mrs. Peace put her slippered foot to the pedal.
Dad? Coochy? LaRose?
Thanks so much, said Josette to her sister, holding out her hand. I’ll take it back now.
Oh, sweet! It must be a surprise for me. Snow held the medallion out of Josette’s reach. You’re such a good sister! Making me a present! Awww, ever cute. I don’t deserve this!
For sure you don’t, shouted Josette. Give it back!
Is it for Hollis?
Josette snatched the circle and pricked her finger. She began to bead again, then dropped the medallion and put her finger in her mouth.
See now? You made me bleed on it.
Ooooo. Old-time love medicine.
Mrs. Peace lifted her foot from the sewing pedal. She snapped her thread against the cutter.
You don’t drop woman’s blood on a man’s belonging, she said.
Mmmm. Snow wagged her eyebrows at Josette. Miigwech for sharing that wisdom, Nokomis.
So Grandma, said Josette, poking her needle laboriously in and out. I thought only moon blood could hurt a man’s things. But it’s all of the blood inside our womanly bodies?
Oh, what do I know. Mrs. Peace shrugged. I was a teacher in the whiteman schools. New tradition rules come up all the time. You’ll laugh. Sam says to Malvern that she should wear a skirt to ceremonies so the spirits know she is a woman. Okay, says Malvern, soon as you wear a diaper thing, a breechcloth, or keep your pecker out so that the spirits know you are a man. And while you’re at it, you men should go back to using bows and arrows and walk everywhere you go. These traditions? You’d have to ask Ignatia-iban, but she’s off in the spirit world.
Mrs. Peace said this with energy, and waved her arm at the window as though Ignatia were off on a vacation enjoying herself.
So, a medallion for Hollis, said Snow. Does that mean . . .
We ever talked that way? No. But maybe I want to do something special for him. You got a problem with that?
Course not, said Snow. Here, let me help get that next color on.
Again, Josette surrendered her work and watched her older sister straighten out the beads and add more.
Can we put a movie on, Grandma?
You got one of those mechanical people movies?
We’re so psyched, said Snow. We found Terminator in the sale bin.
Mrs. Peace crowed. Make my day!
That’s Clint Eastwood, said Snow. He plays real guys. And he’s ancient.
Not to me. He’s just a pup.
You like Arnold, too.
Arnold’s in it? I’ll be back.
They recited the lines and didn’t have to look up to watch it, although at key sections they glanced at the screen and meditatively drew their threads across the scored and crosshatched block of beeswax. The wax strengthened the thread.
Don’t forget to make a mistake, said Snow to Josette, you know, to let the spirit out.
Only the Creator is perfect, said Josette dutifully. You think bleeding on my beadwork is a mistake enough? Or that I got two rows out of place already?
Snow examined the medallion.
You’re covered with the Creator, she said, handing it back.
What a relief. Josette put her two fingers up. Me and Gizhe Manidoo. We’re like this again.
I’ve got this question in my mind, said their grandmother. Which husband is Ignatia-iban out two-stepping with in the spirit world?
Why would she pick one of her husbands, said Josette, when she had so many other ladies’ husbands to choose from?
Not to mention the unattached ones, either, said Snow.
She had a few, agreed Mrs. Peace.
What about you, Grandma?
Josette and Snow flicked glances at each other.
Oh me, said Mrs. Peace. I stayed faithful to your grandfather all my life.
They were quiet, out of both respect and pity. But still, Josette was curious.
Why did you stay so faithful?
Oh, I wasn’t so good—I was just tired of them. Men. They’re stressful. You’ll see.
We already know that, said Snow, who still kept her disappointing wrestler boyfriend’s hoodie on a hook in the back of the closet.
On the way back home Snow and Josette stopped to pick up Maggie. The girls went through the kitchen grabbing carrots and ranch dressing, then into their bedroom with the bowl. Snow drew the flimsy little bolt across the door frame, and they all felt private. She settled on her bed, graceful as a doe, wound her long hair in her fingers, curved herself around her long legs, and chomped a baby carrot.
Mmmmm? Her mouth was full of carrot but her face was serious.
Maggie looked up at the ceiling. Snow and Josette had been odd in the car on the way over, not jokey or at ease. Something was going on with them. Josette cleared her throat, but started coughing and fell over pounding on the bed, laughing until her fit stopped. She was wearing tight jeans. She jumped up, peeled them off, put on sweats. So maybe things were okay? But Josette spoke suddenly.
Hey Maggie, are you doing the thing with Waylon?
Well, yeah, said Maggie, relieved that was all it was.
Having full-on sex, said Snow, to make sure.
Maggie said, Errrrrr.
As your protective older sisters, said Josette.
Right, said Snow.
We want to make sure you are taking precautions. Like, he’s using a thingy?
Duh, said Maggie.
For reals, girl.
No, said Maggie.
If he’s giving you love, he gotta wear a glove, said Snow.
Above or beneath, he gotta wear a sheath, said Josette.
If he’s spoutin’ crude, he gotta cap his dude!
If you’re gonna rock, make him wear a sock!
Snow and Josette were becoming hysterical.
Oh my god, you guys! Stop!
Maggie put a pillow over her head and rolled away from them. After a moment, Josette stopped laughing and tugged away the pillow.
That’s not all either.
Come on, trust us, said Snow. Do you know what to do?
Course, said Maggie.
Theoretically or in reality?
What do you mean?
I’m talking doctors, methods, ways, you know, contraception and all. Do you know how to get it?
Snow and Josette held each other’s gazes.
First off, said Josette, me and Snow are having a little talk with Waylon.
Just a heart-to-heart. He’s got to know we don’t let him mess around with our little sister unless he knows what to use. Then he’s gotta wait and we’ll figure out where to go—I mean, you probably can get in at IHS. There’s this one doctor who just lives to fix you up with the right method. She doesn’t want this high school momma shit happening. Besides, do you know how risky it is—what did she say—for a young girl to have a baby in a rural health care delivering system? Yeah, that’s what she said. We went to her. Well, Snow did when she was with Shane. Not me. I’m not in a mature relationship, right? But this doctor, she’s here on and off. We know how to get you in. You’ve got your future to think about, Maggie. You hear?
He had a whole bunch of sex before you, said Snow. You have to make him get tested, too.
He said only three times!
Okay, well, can you see me rolling my eyes to the heavens?
Maggie turned over and gave up.
Can I get the shot?
If you wanna gain thirty pounds.
How about the yoood?
What are you talking about?
Wow, said Josette. We’re starting ground level.
Matchless convenience, said Josette. But mostly they give it to grown-up ladies.
How about pills?
Are you good at taking pills?
Yes, said Maggie. But I don’t want my mom to find them. What about that cuppy thing?
Technically, a diaphragm. Not a hundred percent. And you want to be batting a thousand against Waylon. His brothers and uncles . . .
No blanks, said Snow. I’m thinking maybe the pill. You can use my prescription for now. Just be sneaky—plus the condom? Always the condom.
That’s, like, over a hundred percent coverage.
I’d go with that, said Snow.
LaRose by Louise Erdrich / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes