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[2 of 5] Fire Keeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley (2021) Chapters 11 - 20

Author: Angeline Boulley

Boulley, Angeline. “Chapters 11 - 20.” Fire Keeper's Daughter, Henry Holt and Company, LLC, New York, NY, 2021.


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CHAPTER 11

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Jun 14
James W (Jun 14 2022 12:06PM) : Add as many Notice & Note comments and replies as you can in Chapters 11-20 as you read and listen. Watch this GIF (1 min. 20 secs.) to see six reasons to pause your reading, double-click on a sentence or paragraph and comment using the sentence starters. more
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Jun 29
Leah I (Jun 29 2022 9:42AM) : Daunis is finding a way of grieving and talking about Jamie and the investigation
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Jun 29
Ritza J (Jun 29 2022 11:51AM) : Her family is racist
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My mother hands me a pill and a glass of water. Watches as I drink. Helps me into bed as I begin to shiver and my teeth chatter. She is the steady one now.

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I have a faint memory of shaking like this during my coming-of-age fast at fourteen on Sugar Island. For two nights and two days during a cold and rainy October, I shivered beneath a wool blanket and a tarp on a boulder in the woods. Prayed and waited for my vision to come. I had to wait a month, until the next moon had passed, before I could tell Auntie about my experience. How no vision had come to me, but that every muscle in my body spasmed the entire time.

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Cold and shivering is fine, Daunis. It’s when you stop shivering that you’re in trouble.

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I blink and … it’s morning. Sunlight whispers against my eyelids. At some point, I fell asleep. Mom stirs at my side. Why is she …

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Lily.

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Something jolts through my body. Lily is dead. I see it all again: my best friend falling onto her back. The memory is painful; every part of my body hurts.

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I get out of bed, still dressed in a ratty T-shirt and cutoffs, and head to my mom’s bathroom. I know the pills are in the medicine cabinet. I need to go back to sleep. To forget this. Forget last night. Lily. Travis. Jamie. TJ. Lily. Lily. Lily.

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My hand stops short of the orange prescription vial.

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Lily is … somewhere. By now, Auntie and Seeney Nimkee will have washed her body with cedar water. Even if Seeney didn’t work for the Traditional Medicine Program, Granny June would have asked her to prepare Lily for the four-day journey to the next world. It isn’t part of Auntie’s job as Tribal Health director, but I know she will assist Seeney.

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Each day has a purpose. Today, Lily’s first day, she will mourn her family. Loved ones.

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Ganesvio M (Jun 29 2022 11:27AM) : She knows not to take a day for granted.
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Me. She will mourn me. I can’t sleep through it.

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I close the medicine cabinet and go to the table next to the front door. Gramma Pearl’s birchbark basket in the shape of a blueberry. A pine cone hangs from each point of its flared crown. I reach inside for a pinch of loose-leaf tobacco.

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My bare feet touch cold concrete steps and then grass slick with dew. The bumps and dents of the lawn remind me of dancing in my moccasins. Drumbeats reverberating from uneven ground, up my legs and into my heart. I felt that same medicine yesterday, sitting in the bleachers.

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I hold the semaa in the palm of my left hand, the one closest to my heart. Release it to the poplar where I always begin my day. After my introduction, I inventory the Seven Grandfathers—love, respect, honesty, humility, bravery, wisdom, and truth.

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Which one will help with this unfathomable anguish? I don’t have the answer.

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When I go back inside, my mother is pouring hot water into a dainty teacup.

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“Want me to run a bath?” she asks gently.

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If I say yes, Mom will set the kettle down and take care of me. She will skip visiting GrandMary to stay by my side. She has always put my needs first. Even before her own.

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Whenever I’d complain about Mom smothering me with her unending questions and hovering, Lily would say, Cut her some slack. One time, she snapped at me. Some of us would love to have a mom who puts their kid first.

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Lily adores my mother. Adored my mother.

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“Thanks, but I need a quick shower before I go sit with Granny June at the funeral home. Can you drop me off on your way to EverCare?”

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She opens her mouth. I know she will gently suggest I stay home.

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“Mom, I need to be with Lily and Granny June. I need to help.”

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That my mother understands perfectly.

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When Granny June hugs me, I rest my chin atop her head. My nose stings. I visualize frost spreading inside my nasal cavity like feathery ice crystals on a window, overtaking the inferior turbinate, closest to the tip of my nose, traveling up the medium turbinate, and, finally, covering the superior turbinate. I’m grateful—the cold keeps the pins and needles at bay.

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Granny June takes my hand. We walk to the simple pine casket. Its wood-burned etchings are in a traditional Ojibwe floral design that includes butterflies. I inhale deeply, numbing frost spreading to coat my lungs, and look down at Lily.

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My best friend looks like she’s napping. She’s wearing her black regalia. Black is her spirit color. One time, Macy Manitou sneered about how Goth was so nineties. Lily joked, Black makes me look slimmer, hey. She weighed maybe ninety- six pounds.

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The longer I stare at Lily, the less real she seems. A mannequin with bubble-gum-pink cheeks and lips. No black lipstick or heavily winged eyeliner. Nothing about this feels real.

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I look around for Auntie. If she isn’t here at the funeral home, then she must be at the ceremonial fire Art will be tending in the woods behind their pole barn. My father’s family was named for its role in the tribal community for generations: Firekeeper. Auntie happened to marry a man from another Ojibwe community who was also taught firekeeper duties.

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Firekeepers strike the fire for ceremonies, funerals, sweat lodges, and other cultural events where our prayers are carried by the smoke to Creator. A ceremonial fire is special; you don’t roast marshmallows or sing forty-niner songs at it. Firekeepers ensure that protocols are followed the entire time it burns: no politics, no drinking, and no gossip. Only good thoughts to feed the fire and carry our prayers.

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Jun 29
Ganesvio M (Jun 29 2022 11:31AM) : Seems like a tradition they do.
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Jun 29
James W (Jun 29 2022 11:49AM) : Yup, and this role has significance in that it's Daunis' Native family! SHE is a firekeeper, maybe symbolically responsible for cleansing the tribe of drugs?
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Art must have struck the fire last night upon hearing the news. He will take care of the fire for the four nights and four days of Lily’s journey. At the end of the fourth day, as the fire goes out in this world, it is struck in the next world, where it will burn without end for Lily.

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I am proud to come from people who served their community in this way. Auntie married a good man who continues this responsibility. The part I cannot fathom is Art tending a ceremonial fire for Lily, for her wake and funeral. She is only eighteen. Was only eighteen.

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Granny June leads me to the food table at one end of the room. There will be another at Art’s workshop. Slow cookers filled with different versions of hominy soup, pork and beans, and macaroni soup. A cast-iron pot of wild rice mixed with tender chunks of venison roast. Foil-lined pans of fry bread. Trays of smoked whitefish, fried baloney, and venison sausage. A brick of commodity cheese sliced into cracker- sized bites. Deviled eggs dusted with paprika. Veggie trays. Bags of chips. Pans of blueberry galette. Homemade cakes and pies next to store-bought varieties. Bowls of strawberries and tiny wild blueberries.

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We sit down with full plates and we eat. With each bite, I observe a different person at the funeral home. Do you know what is going on? Are you involved? Jamie’s strange warnings have me looking at everyone with new eyes.

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Lily’s mother Maggie arrives on the second day. She repeats herself to everyone who hugs her: “I had to get the kids packed. Shop for church clothes.”

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If it were me in that coffin, my mother would be fused to it like an anglerfish.

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I remember once when Lily told me she was her mom’s practice baby. Same with the next kid—a half sister in Lansing. Auntie overheard us talking and sat us down. She talked about the boarding school that Granny June’s daughters had been scooped up and taken to. Years spent marching like soldiers and training to be household domestics. They had the Anishinaabemowin and cultural teachings beaten out of them. When they came back to Sugar Island, one of the girls had scarred palms that looked like melted plastic, and she ran into the woods at the sound of a kettle whistle. Her sister was afraid of men and had to sleep with her back against the wall. Auntie had told us, When you criticize Maggie, just remember she was raised by one of those sisters, the one who didn’t kill herself.

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I spot Auntie now, holding Maggie’s hand while they both cry. I was quick to judge Lily’s mom, even today. My aunt’s words were remembered as an afterthought.

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Maggie’s two little ones sit with relatives near the food tables. The toddler girl, in a pretty yellow dress, has a contagious laugh that’s bigger than she is. The boy, in a matching bow tie, is a year younger than the twins. He flashes a shy smile that is the same as Granny June’s, where one side claims more of the happy than the other. I continue watching as Maggie walks over to where they’re sitting. The little girl

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reaches for her mom, who kisses her toddler’s forehead slowly. There is healing medicine in those kisses.

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When Auntie spills coffee on herself, I offer to drive her car to the house for a clean blouse. On the ferry ride to the island, I think about the second day of Lily’s spiritual journey. It is for atonement. She will face every living creature she ever harmed during her lifetime.

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I glance at the car next to me and recognize one of Travis’s cousins. The car to my right is filled with his relatives. The Flint family would have a fire lit for him at the lodge behind the Elder Center. Tribal members can use its community room for wakes and funerals. Anger flashes through me as I think about how it’s Travis’s second day as well. He will be unable to move on until he accounts for the harm that he is responsible for. Including taking Lily from us.

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Time is a concept of our earthly minds. In the spirit world, his second day might last an eternity for him. As it should. My nails dig into my palms. I want Travis to suffer. To feel our pain. For his atonement to be a mirage just beyond his grasp.

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I can’t be around the fire like this. Filled with such fury.

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Only good thoughts for Lily.

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I look down at my hands, expecting to see blood. The curved indentations resemble tiny scars.

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CHAPTER 12

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The third day is for Lily to learn about the next world. When I sit next to her casket, I keep going over everything I know about Jamie’s identity and the reason he’s here.

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What I know for sure about Jamie: He used to be a figure skater.

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What I know for sure about why he’s here: Two undercover cops are in the Sault working on a case. One is posing as a high school science teacher; the other is pretending to be a high school senior and a hockey player on a Junior A team.

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What else I know for sure: Lily shouldn’t be here.

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Jamie and his “uncle” show up at the funeral home. When Jamie asks to speak with me outside, I’m both curious and irritated. I follow them to a nearby bridge over the power canal.

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Ron Johnson, or whatever his real name is, looks a few years older than my mom. He has a barely there mustache I recognize in Native guys whose facial hairs present as lone wolves determined not to get too close to one another. He is smack-dab in the middle of the Acceptable Anishinaabe Skin Tone Continuum. I’d bet my trust fund no one has ever told him, Oh, you’re Indian? You sure don’t look like one.

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“Ron Johnson,” he says, shaking my hand. “Senior agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

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“For real? Ron Johnson?” I scoff.
“It’s better not to provide actual names at this point.” I eye Jamie. “Let me guess, Jamie Johnson?”

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“For your protection, Daunis,” Jamie says. “But I really am a law-enforcement officer on loan from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.”

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The FBI and BIA … two federal agencies that tend to make things worse instead of better for tribes.

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Ron asks, “Would it be possible for you to come with us so we could talk with you about the investigation?”

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I wanted this. Answers. Truth. But how can I leave Lily now?

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The purpose of the third day is suddenly clear: to gain new ways. Just as Lily is finding her way now, there’s a new world for me to learn. Lily would want me to do this.

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“I’ll let my aunt know I’m leaving with you,” I say.

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We pass the movie theater downtown on our drive from the funeral home to … wherever Ron is taking me. Denzel Washington in The Manchurian Candidate and Hilary Duff in A Cinderella Story.

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“Oh look,” I point out. “Two movies about people faking identities.” Since Ron and Jamie have yet to say anything, I decide not to be the naive girl who accepts half-assed stories.

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The corner of Ron’s mouth twitches. In the back seat, Jamie pinches the bridge of his nose.

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“Fake identities are necessary for protection,” Ron says. “An operative’s cover is a shield with two sides. To protect the people he comes in contact with as well as the agent.”

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He turns left at the corner with the Dairy Queen, toward the middle school and high school. I remember standing in a snowstorm with Lily last April when DQ opened for the season. I ordered my usual Buster Bar and she got a Blizzard with goofy combinations of stuff in it.

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A few minutes ago, I was sitting next to Lily, racking my brain about how little I know about Jamie’s true identity and whatever this investigation is. Now I’m in a car with Jamie and Ron, but all I can think about is Lily. It’s as if Jamie and his investigation are lodged in my brain’s left hemisphere with facts, logic, and analysis. Lily is in my right brain, part of my imagination, intuition, and feelings. Between the two hemispheres is a divide as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon.

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I force myself to pay attention to Ron, who’s mentioning other cases he’s worked on. “My last investigation involved the BIA, local tribal police, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. High-profile case. It was over twenty-five years old, but last year we identified the people who murdered a Native woman. Her family got answers.” He pulls into the high school parking lot and turns to face me. “Answers can’t bring a person back, but a successful investigation can help loved ones grieve and carry on.”

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I feel his words sink in as we get out of the car. Is that something I can do? Help Lily’s family now, because I couldn’t help her Saturday evening on Sugar Island?

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It feels strange to walk back into the high school. Surreal. As if I was here only yesterday. And in the next step, as if I’ve been gone for years instead of months. When we pass the front office, the school secretary comes out with her arms widening for a hug.

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“Daunis, I’m so sorry to hear about Lily Chippeway,” Mrs. Hammond says, embracing me. “And after what you’ve already gone through. First that terrible business with your uncle and then your grandmother’s stroke.”

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Mrs. H. releases me. I remain in place. Gramma Pearl’s warning rings through my head. Lily’s murder was the third bad thing. I was supposed to be on guard. Watch for signs. But I didn’t stop it. I failed Lily. She’s gone and I was supposed to protect her.

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“Hi, Mrs. Hammond, I’m Ron Johnson,” Ron says as he steps forward to shake her hand. “We spoke on the phone earlier.”

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“Oh yes.” Mrs. H. looks at Ron. “You must be the new Indian science teacher.”

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“I am the new science teacher, and, yes, I am Native American,” Ron says amiably. “Ron Johnson. This is my nephew, Jamie. He and Daunis are friends. Jamie’s on the Superiors team with her brother, Levi.”

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“Okay, then.” Her voice brightens. “Any friend of theirs should do well here.”

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Jamie asks, “Ma’am, is there a vending machine nearby? We need something to drink.”

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Mrs. H. gives directions before chatting with Ron about the upcoming district-wide pre-service conference for all faculty. My mother won’t be there this year; she is taking an indefinite leave of absence to take care of GrandMary. The surreal part is that Ron sounds like any other new teacher having an ordinary conversation with someone. It’s like an iceberg—a minuscule amount of blah-blah chitchat above the surface, while deep below is a giant mass of secret info.

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Jamie returns a minute later with a bottle of water, which he opens and hands to me.

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“Thank you.” I take a sip before holding the cool plastic to my sweaty forehead. Jamie stays at my side, an echo of all the mornings we ran together. I remind myself that easy comfort wasn’t real. It was manufactured as part of an undercover assignment.

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I move away from Jamie and walk over to Ron. I remain next to him when he heads down the dimly lit hallway, the linoleum amplifying the squeak of Ron’s shoe each time his right heel lands. It’s the opposite of stealth. I suppress a giggle that comes from nowhere and tickles like Pop Rocks fizzing against the roof of my mouth.

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Is it normal for my emotions to go all over the place? Debilitating grief one instant, and giddy hilarity in the next? And sometimes abandon me completely?

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When we reach Uncle David’s old classroom, the funny moment leaves as quickly as it arrived. Turning on the lights, Ron motions for me to sit at my uncle’s vintage steel desk at the front of the room. He sits next to me on the stool at the lab workstation. Jamie remains in the doorway: neither in nor out. He watches me.

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Jun 29
Astrieall S (Jun 29 2022 9:42AM) : Daunis still haven't accepted Uncle David's death more

She still refers the to the classroom as her uncles and continues to reminiscence about the past

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I used to sit at this desk every day after school. Uncle David kept snacks in the bottom drawer. I open it, hoping to see protein bars and bags of trail mix covering the false bottom he once showed me, but Ron has already filled the deep drawer with file folders and textbooks.

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“Why are we here?” I ask, as my legs begin to shake. I haven’t been back here since I collected Uncle David’s personal items after his death and right now, the persisting sadness compounded with my fresh grief over Lily is almost too much to bear.

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“Jamie and I are part of an investigation involving multiple agencies, federal and Canadian. There’s been a significant increase in drug trafficking throughout the region—Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Ontario.” Ron is calm and matter- of-fact, but he missed the point of my question.

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I’d meant here. In Uncle David’s classroom.

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Jun 29
laina N (Jun 29 2022 9:08AM) : jamie and ron took daunis to her dead uncles old classroom more

the reason they took her to her dead uncles classroom is because it would supposedly be easier to manipulate her into agreeing to help with the investigation.

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Jun 29
James W (Jun 29 2022 10:36AM) : If we view this from the Guy Lies theme too, we could even (maybe?) see that Uncle David is manipulating Daunis into joining the investigation. Sure, he's not here, but his classroom acts as him, influencing Daunis' decision.

“Okay, then why is he here?” My lips point in Jamie’s direction. “On the hockey team,” I clarify, so Ron won’t explain that Jamie is standing guard and listening for any sounds in the empty school.

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“The substance we’re most interested in is methamphetamine,” Ron says.

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Meth. A prickly chill travels up my spine.

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Lily on her back, arms outstretched. Her fall reverses, as if I’m rewinding her final moments in my head. She is upright, eyes open. Startled. The bullet leaves her chest and is back in

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Travis’s gun. The reverse action speeds up, Travis showing up at the powwow. Back at the ice rink. Years unhappen. When it halts, Travis is a chubby boy who burps the alphabet and makes Lily laugh until milk sprays from her nose.

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“There’s a pattern of distribution,” Ron says. “Similar batches of meth show up in hockey towns and on reservations in the Great Lakes area. We’re trying to identify the manufacturers, the ones cooking it.”

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Travis. In eighth grade, Travis and I walked together every day from the middle school to Sault High for chemistry. When we became official high school students, we took every Advanced Placement science class together: biology, physics, earth science, and physical science. Uncle David advocated for kids like us who tested out of the standard classes at the school.

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My legs bounce dramatically. The prickly chill is itchy now too.

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“You think the person making the meth is from the Sault?” I look from Ron to Jamie, who is still observing me from the doorway. “How do you narrow it down? My aunt goes to Indian Health meetings in Minnesota. Meth isn’t just here, it’s everywhere.”

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“We identified hallucinogenic additives in samples of the methamphetamine,” Ron explains. “Mushrooms. Psilocybe caerulipes from near Tahquamenon Falls.”

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I do a double take at Ron, at his ease in speaking the language of scientific classification.

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He shrugs. “Undergraduate degree in chemistry.”

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The other part of what he said registers with me. Tahquamenon Falls is only seventy-five miles away. Auntie and Art got married there, alongside the larger, upper waterfall.

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As I struggle to keep up with what Ron’s telling me, I feel Jamie’s eyes on me, continuing his silent assessment.

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Ron keeps talking. “Another batch included a variety of Pluteus from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.”

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Our Tribal Youth Council went to a youth powwow there. Every tribe in Michigan had their tribal youth groups represented. Lily made me dance the two-step special with a guy from downstate. Go on! It’s a chance to kiss a Nishnaab you’re not related to.

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“There was another sample that had a mushroom from the southern end of Sugar Island.”

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Travis came from a large family that has always had family members on Tribal Council and were hired into the few good- paying tribal government jobs during the lean years. Practically the entire eastern half of the island is owned either by the Tribe or by the Flint family.

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Ron and Jamie clearly suspect that Travis was the person cooking the meth that the FBI is interested in. But he did his deep dive into meth over last winter break, and meth has been a problem since long before Christmas. So who else could have been involved?

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I inhale deeply. This classroom smells different from other ones. I don’t know if it’s the actual scent or just the memory of countless experiments. Bunsen burner gas flames. Sulfur.

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“Okay, but you haven’t explained why we’re here? In my uncle’s classroom?” I ask.

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But even as the words leave my mouth, my leg stops bouncing. Every part of me goes numb. Why did they bring me to this room I know so well to talk about the investigation?

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Uncle David didn’t show up for dinner on Easter Sunday. No one could reach him. GrandMary immediately suspected he’d relapsed and was on a bender. Mom didn’t believe it. I would have sided with my mother if not for the fact that Uncle David had been acting strange for weeks—no, months— before he went missing.

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Someone found his car two weeks later, on a seasonal private road near the county line. A fifth of bourbon next to

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him. The toxicology report came back a month later, and the gossips had a field day. David Fontaine, the chemistry teacher, had died from a meth overdose.

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I know why we are here.

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“You think my uncle David was manufacturing meth?” I try sounding indignant, but there’s no heat in my words.

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Ron’s jaw drops. He takes a minute to recover. “No, Daunis, your uncle was helping us. He was a CI—a confidential informant.”

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I gape at Ron in absolute shock.

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“His death was suspicious,” he says. “David thought someone he knew was manufacturing meth. A student. He refused to provide names or evidence until he knew for certain. After his body was found and the toxicology reports came back, the FBI green-lighted a UC—undercover— operation.”

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“Oh my God.” Hiding my face in my hands, I cry tears of shame. Mom was right. She had faith in her brother and never wavered. I believed the worst. My uncle didn’t fail me. I failed him.

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I sob until my palms are slick with snot, not caring if Ron or Jamie is uncomfortable. When I lower my hands, Ron has placed a box of tissues in front of me. I blow my nose and wipe my eyes and hands.

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“Tell me more about the investigation.” I need to know everything now.

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“Last February, a group of kids got really sick,” Ron says. “On a reservation in northern Minnesota, a few days after a Superiors hockey tournament in Minneapolis. The kids couldn’t eat or sleep; they just wanted more meth. And it wasn’t that they hallucinated … those kids had group hallucinations. Something about that batch was different. We call it meth-X.”

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Uncle David was trying to help the Nish kids. I’m so sorry, Uncle.

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Ron continues. “We’re focusing on distribution. From there we can backtrack to the manufacturers. We think Travis Flint was one of the students David Fontaine was concerned about.” His expression softens. “Daunis, you were a person of interest as well.”

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“Seriously?” Me? Wait … are they going to arrest me? I sit back in my chair.

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“Hear me out.” Ron puts his hands up, like, Be calm. “The person cooking the meth has been experimenting with batches. Adding different things—hallucinogenic mushrooms, mostly. We think there’s a cultural connection. It’s highly likely the person is Ojibwe and familiar with plants in the area.”

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“You thought that I made the meth that killed my uncle?”

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Jamie clears his throat. “Daunis, we read about your science-fair project. Junior year. Honorable mention in the state competition. You should have won, by the way.”

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Wait, what? How long has this investigation been going on? I feel prickles on the back of my neck.

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He continues, “You showed that traditionally prepared chokecherry pudding had cancer-fighting properties. The seeds —grinding up the seeds in the traditional way instead of filtering them out—that’s what had the medicinal value. You know science and you know your culture.”

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profile_photo
Jun 29
James W (Jun 29 2022 10:35AM) : Theme - Identity. To continue the irony of Daunis showing Native knowledge while being rejected by the tribe, Jamie confirms Daunis' knowledge here.
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How dare Jamie of all people suspect me of being a secret meth creator? A secret anything?

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“I’m not the person pretending to be someone else.” My voice drips with acid. “You did win, by the way. Top honors in Guy Lies. No contest, you fake son-of-a—”

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Ron cuts in. “Daunis, we know you’re not involved.” He rises and takes a half step closer. “You have the means and opportunity, but no motive. With your trust fund, there’s no financial incentive for you to risk so much. And while you’re

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extremely competitive, you don’t seek the limelight, so you’re not motivated by ego.”

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Ron meets my stunned expression with a shrug. “Master’s degree in psychology.”

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“Then why bring me here and tell me all this?” They’ve brought me to Uncle David’s classroom. Told me about the investigation. Made a connection between Travis and the meth showing up in hockey towns and on reservations. The meth that turned Travis into a shaking addict who murdered Lily. The meth that was cooked with something that might be connected to Ojibwe culture. The meth that my uncle was investigating as a confidential informant.

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You know science and you know your culture, Jamie’s voice echoes.

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“You want me to take my uncle’s place in the investigation.”

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“Yes,” Ron says.

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CHAPTER 13

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I jump to my feet. Jamie has been playing me. Every stride we ran together was one step closer to roping me into their plan. And I had actually thought … felt something for the person who was so kind, funny, and sympathetic. I am such a fool.

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“Oh, hells no,” I say, voice rising. “I don’t want anything to do with yous.” Three quick paces and I reach the doorway and Jamie. “Take me back to the funeral home. Now. And stay the hell away from me. If you contact me again, I’ll blow my entire trust fund on lawyers to get you for harassment. I’ll blab …”

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I expect Jamie to block my path. Instead he steps aside after giving me a look somewhere between pity and disappointment. How dare he? I stomp down the hallway, Jamie and Ron following close behind.

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We drive in silence and they drop me off at the funeral home. As I undo my seat belt, Ron finally speaks.

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“The investigation will give closure to your community. Healing to people who are grieving. Knowledge to people who need to know the truth about your uncle’s death and your best friend’s murder. Justice to the ones responsible for it all. Daunis, you have the ability to help your family, your loved ones, and your community. Please think about it and let us know if you’re on board.”

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I slam the car door and don’t look back.

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The next day, I’m still shaking with anger as I sit next to Granny June at Lily’s funeral. Granny has aged twenty years in the past four days. She rests her head against me, as if I am a sturdy oak. I can be that for her.

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Today, the final day, Lily will come back to say goodbye and then cross over. Art will let the ceremonial fire go out tonight after the supper. Once the last ember fades, the fire is lit in the next world, where it will burn without end for her.

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I haven’t run since the powwow. My body protests this Newer New Normal. I am exhausted and cannot think clearly. All I do is eat. I’m constantly grazing. Pants won’t zip over my distended stomach, so I wear the only thing that fits. A shapeless orange dress.

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Mom and Auntie are in the second row, directly behind us. They pat our shoulders at random intervals. Maggie is on Granny June’s other side, along with Lily’s two youngest siblings. Does Lily’s other sibling even know what’s happened?

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Throughout the past four days, whenever my mother has been at the funeral home, or here at the tiny Catholic church, she hovers. Every trip I take to the food table or even to pee, she’s two steps behind me. Asking if she can get me anything. Asking how I feel.

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I caught myself drafting a text to Lily. ME: swear2god moms bugging the shit outta me

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She won’t ever reply.

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One of the Tribal Council members walks down the aisle and makes the sign of the cross beside Lily’s open casket. I look around for any other council members. Two out of ten leaders. Both women. One is a distant cousin of Granny June’s. The other is someone who travels frequently to Washington, DC, to represent the Tribe.

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I’m not surprised by the lack of council presence. Lily is— was—a descendant, not an enrolled tribal citizen like Travis. Their funerals are both today, the fourth day, per the traditional

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Ojibwe teachings. Travis is a murderer, but he’s also from one of Sugar Island’s largest families. Council members are paying their respects at the Elder Center with the Flint family of voters.

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My aunt squeezes my shoulder before approaching the lectern near the open casket. Granny asked me to give semaa to Teddie before asking her to speak at the funeral mass.

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Auntie clears her throat. She introduces herself and says a prayer in Anishinaabemowin. Then, she translates what she just said into English.

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“Hello. My name is Teddie Firekeeper. Bear Clan. From the Place of the Rapids. We pray for Lily June Chippeway. Creator knows her by her Spirit name: Thunderbird Woman. We are thankful for the time we shared with her. We honor her gifts. We wish her a good journey. We keep her love in our hearts. Thank you most greatly, Creator. That is all.”

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After the prayer, she adds, “The burial at the cemetery on Sugar Island will take place immediately after the mass. The ferry tickets are covered. On behalf of Granny June and Maggie, I invite everyone to my home for supper after the burial.” Her voice cracks. “Everyone who loves Liliban is welcome.”

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I choke up at the sound of Lily’s new name, indicating she is now in a different time and place. We traditionally add “- iban” after someone has changed worlds.

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The funeral mass begins with “Amazing Grace” sung in Anishinaabemowin. It is beautiful. Layers of sorrow and salvation.

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Many tribal members, including Maggie, are Catholic. Others, like Auntie and Granny June, keep the Church at a distance because the churches operated some of the Indian boarding schools, along with the federal government. Granny June told Lily and me, They came for our ceremonies and then for our children. She didn’t say, They came for my children.

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Why didn’t she tell us about her daughters? Did she want to protect us?

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When we recite the Lord’s Prayer in Anishinaabemowin, the words stick in my throat.

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“Miinshinaang noongom gizhigak inbakwezhiganinaan minik waayaang endaso gizhigag, boonigidetawishinaang gaawiin ezhi-nishkiigoosii’aan, ezhi-bonigedetawangidwaa gaa ezhi-nishkinawiyangidwaa. Gego gaye ezhi-wijishikangen gagwedibeningwewining, miidash miidaawenimiyaang dash maji-inakamigag. Ahow.”

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Ron’s words about closure and justice come to mind. Does closure come from forgiving others and being forgiven for our failings? Do we resist temptation from evil by believing in a righteous justice? My thoughts and the words to the prayer swirl around me and continue outside.

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As if following their path, I look behind me and see Levi standing next to Jamie. My brother catches my eye and gives a gentle smile. Emotion washes over me. He chose to be here, to pay his respects to Lily, instead of being at the Elder Center on Sugar Island. Travis was his longtime friend. Levi chose me.

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A hundred tiny needles stab the inside of my nose.

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It isn’t until the funeral director is closing the casket lid that it hits me. This is it. The last time I’ll ever see Lily. I want more. It isn’t fair. I want to shout for him to stop. Just one more look.

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I failed her. That bird flying into the window was a warning. My chance to stop the third bad thing. Instead I spent time showing the new guy around town. Each time Jamie’s eyes sparkled and laughter tugged at his scar, I felt desire and guilt.

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