A Twist on Indian Camp

July 16, 2009
By Lakshmi Varanasi BRONZE, Brookfield, Wisconsin
Lakshmi Varanasi BRONZE, Brookfield, Wisconsin
4 articles 0 photos 2 comments

The screams were unbearable. For two days Maka’s wails had been resonating throughout the village. She was in labor. In a way it was quite ironic that such a traumatic event had brought the camp closer, but nevertheless it did. All of the elderly woman in the town had joined together to aid the pregnant Maka, but every effort was futile. Countless ancient remedies had been attempted, and each one had brought the woman even closer to death than the last. Many women began to believe that the gods had willed Maka to die, but for some reason Chapa refused to believe it. Chapa would never believe that the celestial beings that guided her every action would terminate a newly blossoming life. She was awed by the indifference that some of the women displayed towards Maka and her forth-coming child. Chapa felt that it was her duty to incessantly pray for the life Maka. Although she had watched her own sister die in childbirth, she was incapable of letting Maka, who was generations younger than her, die. She wondered why nature was so merciless at it’s core, and why one life must always be terminated in the pursuit of another. The thought shook her. Nothing else had ever spoken to her so strongly. It was her duty to protect Maka.

Chapa was sitting cross-legged by Maka’s side during the second evening of Maka’s labor. The black-blue sky had an ominous yet eternal quality about it, and the dull murmur of the nearby women faintly echoed into the outside. Suddenly Chapa heard deep voice accompanied by heavy footsteps. The dogs began to bark. She knew that Chayton and his son Enapay had gone fishing, but was very familiar with their throaty voices. She quickly lit a lamp and ran outside to see two white-skinned males, and another white-skinned child accompanying them. She had seen such creatures before, but was incessantly shocked by their sick-looking appearance. Chayton flapped his hand telling Chapa to go inside. Chayton had often brought white people to the village, for his frequent hunting trips had made him accustomed to their language, and he often bartered favors with them. Maka screamed when the men entered the room. Chayton ordered Chapa to heat water, and the elder of the two white men began to speak to the child. Chapa was amazed by the importance the elder man was giving to the child.
"This lady is going to have a baby, Nick," the elder man said.
"I know," replied the child
"You don't know," said the man. "Listen to me. What she is going through is called being in labor. The baby wants to be born and she wants it to be born. All her muscles are trying to get the baby born. That is what is happening when she screams."
"I see," the child said.
Maka shouted in agony.
"Oh, Daddy, can't you give her something to make her stop screaming?" asked the child.
"No. I haven't any anaesthetic," the man said. "But her screams are not important. I don't hear them because they are not important."
Maka’s husband who was sleeping above her moved. He had cut his ankle earlier, and had been lying on the bed through Maka’s labor. He was a coward, the type the abandoned responsibility in the face of blame. Chapa expected nothing from him.
The conversation between the elder man and the son had stopped. Chapa pointed to water signaling to the older man that it was hot. The man came to the kitchen and poured some kettle water into a basin, and into the kettle he dropped some objects. "Those must boil," he said, and began to clean his hands. Chapa gently twisted her head to the left and right, her eyes searching for Chayton. She wanted to know who these people were and why they were here. The reality of their intrusion was slowly becoming clear, as the shock was fading. Staring at the elder man cleaning his hands in the water with some sort of white solid, Chapa listened to Chayton’s explanation. He whispered to her that he had met these men in the woods. Chayton explained that the men asked him to take them to his village, for they had been in the woods for many nights. He had said that he would only take them if they could cure Maka, and they agreed. Satisfied with his explanation Chapa returned to the kitchen. The elder man began to talk to the child again.
"You see, Nick, babies are supposed to be born head first but sometimes they're not. When they're not they make a lot of trouble for everybody. Maybe I'll have to operate on this lady. We'll know in a little while."
The man stopped washing his hands and walked to Maka’s bed
"Pull back that quilt, will you, George?" he said to the younger man. "I'd rather not touch it."
The younger man pulled the blanket off of Maka, and he and three women stopped her from moving. The elder man was doing something to Maka, but Chapa could not see. She was nervous. Suddenly, Maka bit the younger man on the arm. He she said, "Damn squaw b****!" Chapa did not know what he said, but Enapay laughed. He understood the language of the white men just like his father. Chapa was anxious to see what was happening
After many moments the elder man held up a baby. Chapa was jolted with such a wave of jubilance and surprise that she was unable to react. She had no thoughts, as she watched the elder man slap Maka’s baby to make it live. When he handed her the baby she took him automatically.
"See, it's a boy, Nick," the man said said. "How do you like being an interne?"
The child said. "All right." He was looking away so as not to see what the older ma was doing
"There. That gets it," said the older man and put something into the basin.
The child did not look
"Now," the older man said, "there's some stitches to put in. You can watch this or not, Nick, just as you like. I'm going to sew up the incision I made."
The child did not watch, and Chapa thought his faced looked dead. The elder man finished and stood up. The younger man and three men of Chapa’s kind stood up. The child put the basin out in the kitchen.
The younger man looked at his arm. Enapay smiled reminiscently.
"I'll put some peroxide on that, George," the elder said said.
The elder man hovered over Maka. She was in silence, eyes closed, and as white as the man who had saved her. She was unaware though, that her baby was alive.
"I'll be back in the morning,” the elder man said, standing up.
"The nurse should be here from St. Ignace by noon and she'll bring everything we need."
"That's one for the medical journal, George," he said. "Doing a Caesarian with a jack-knife and sewing it up with nine-foot, tapered gut leaders."
The younger man was standing against the wall, looking at his arm
"Oh, you're a great man, all right," he said to the older man
"Ought to have a look at the proud father. They're usually the worst sufferers in these little affairs," the elder said. "I must say he took it all pretty quietly."
The elder man pulled back the blanket from the head of Maka’s husband. His hand came away drenched in blood. Maka’s husband has killed himself with a knife. The open razor lay, edge up, in the blankets.
"Take Nick out of the shanty, George," the elder man said.
Chapa looked around to see the child standing right next to her with a good view of the upper bunk and Maka’s dead husband.

A few minutes later Chayton took the three men out of Maka’s room. Chapa was holding Maka’s new son, but was looking at Maka’s dead husband. Chapa was ecstatic beyond words at the sight of Chapa’s new son. He had been saved, and god-sent. His struggle for existence made his life so precious. His tiny sleeping body knew nothing of the battle Maka to keep him alive. Yet his presence forever marked her strength. She momentarily lifted her head to look at Maka, but instead saw her husband. Red and wet, he looked as though he had no bravery even in death. Nevertheless, Chapa could not stop herself from thinking of the fact that this little boy would grow without a father. She realized that despite her incessant prayer, in the pursuit of one life another was still terribly lost.

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