THE TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
The wind suddenly picked up as she looked out from the porch. A wall of dark clouds was pushing across the horizon and a light chop had developed on the lake, gently rocking the tiny rowboat tied to the dock. The changing seasons always brought unpredictable weather. Just as she was about to turn toward the door, movement in the water caught her attention. She squinted and then her eyes opened wide. Rushing down the stairs, she kicked off her shoes, and raced to untie the boat…
(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)
Chogan raised his hunting knife and plunged the blade into the stranger’s chest. Onatah screamed, her hand clutching her heart.
Kanaiatarowennah, the great waterway, had brought Trilok to her and to the lake. The day he came, she leaned against the open door of the long house. Dark clouds massed to the east. She breathed the pure smell of impending rain. Wind kicked up small swells on the lake and her birch bark canoe tethered by the braided rope danced at the water’s edge. The changing weather hurried her steps to the underground cache. She shooed a loon off its nest, stole one large egg and left the others to hatch.
No deer came carried on Chogan’s shoulder that year, no venison cured and stored. His anger and humiliation boiled over and scalded Onatah.
“Why do we not have a son? We have been together many moons.”
She bowed her head. “I do not know.”
He forsook her and joined a hunting party traveling upriver foraging for game. He had been gone for many seasons. Death might have overtaken him, a wild animal or another tribesman competing for food.
To survive, Onatah found roots and berries, and planted maize and squash. She fashioned a fish trap at the water’s edge.
She leaned over to find a rock bass flopping within. She smiled, already savoring its delicate roasted flesh on her tongue.
Just as she was about to turn back to the long house with her delicacy, out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed a large object farther out on the lake. Raising her other hand to her forehead, she stared across the rippling water. A large, strange-looking canoe drifted without anyone paddling.
She threw the fish to the ground, kicked off her moccasins and flung her deerskin cape aside. She untied her canoe, waded to the side, and slipped in. Leaning hard, she dug the oar into the choppy waves.
Coming even with the wooden craft, she gasped and her eyes widened in surprise. Lying in the bottom, an Indian man groaned in pain. Her heart thumped. His shaved head indentified him as a Mohawk; a warring tribe that Chogan told her had attacked settlements up the great river.
The wound in the side of his bare chest begged for attention. Her mother had taught her how to use herbs and fronds of squirrel tail dried and mixed with grease to speed healing, and greenbrier leaves and bark made into tea to fortify the body.
She sighed, picked up the rope from the bottom of her canoe, secured it and tied it through a cracked board in the Mohawk’s canoe. Rowing back toward shore, the wind increased, making her strain even harder pulling the extra weight. Panting, she finally reached the shore as rain began pelting down. Quickly, she tied the canoes to a post. She leaned over the man. His chest still rose and fell.
If she could manage to get him out of the boat, she would drag him onto the travois she had made from leather stretched over cottonwood poles. As she removed his moccasins, his eyes opened. His dark eyes stared at her. Onatah trembled.
“I will help you,” she said.
He attempted to sit up.
Quickly, Onatah put her arm behind his shoulders and together they raised him to a sitting position. She swung his legs around and put his feet in the water. He tried to stand.
She took hold of his chest, being mindful of the wound in his side, and slung his arm over her shoulders. Slowly, they stumbled through the soft, moist ground to the nearby dwelling. She led him to the bed. Heavily, he fell into the frame. She took water from a clay pot and gently cleansed the wound. He winced when she applied yarrow paste from a round stone bowl. She covered him. He closed his eyes.
Onatah stoked the fire, wrapped herself in a bear skin blanket and lay down on the floor exhausted.
As the aspen leaves turned golden, she fed the Mohawk and his wound began to heal. Their languages had some similarities. They pointed at themselves and learned each other’s names. Through some gestures, they managed to communicate. When Trilok rose from bed and began to walk about, she watched him for signs of leaving. He repaired his boat, gathered wood for fire and snared rabbits. She would be alone again.
She rejoiced when the first snow fell. Surely, he would not return to his people now. Each day he returned to the house, she had food prepared. One night, after the fire died and the bitter wind blew off the lake, she walked to where he now slept on the floor. He looked up and saw her. She knelt beside him. He lifted the fur blanket.
When spring came, they lay on the bed sleeping. A noise woke her. She saw Chogan standing over them with a knife in his hand. Trilok never woke. He slept in death.
Chogan again raised the bloody knife. Onatah jumped from the bed and ran toward the lake. Chogan roared curses as he ran after her. A woman turned warrior, she snatched her pointed fishing spear from her canoe and hurled it with all her might. Chogan fell to the earth and lay still.
No one would be allowed to kill her unborn child.