Chapter 29 - Molly
Upatu leads the boys in haka practice, his task for the week. I can be fierce but it just isn't the same, at least not to the boys.
This gives me the chance to spend more time with page Samantha, which I arrange by making sure she receives the punishment of babysitting Wachita and changing diapers at least once a week. It is the only perk I get for being an instructor. Her frequent duty gives her a reputation as a trouble maker which I count as a good thing. Every student receives punishment as we work them too hard in the school work. She will find friends and study partners faster. She has to bring her books to Soboro's apartment and study. Both Soboro and I have time to chat with her. I think Soboro would adopt her if she could.
Sitting in a recliner, knitting a small cape for Wachita, I listen to Soboro and Samantha interact. The girl is polite and non-confrontational. She still clams up during lunch and supper, and I haven't gotten her to open up. I am considering bringing in a therapist, but not yet.
I now run with the pages, and work with weights, rebuilding muscles and stamina. Running ahead of the slowest page I encourage him to run a little faster, no one wants to be slower than a slow teacher.
While not personally responsible for the page's academics, I keep up with their grades and kick start their studying habits. If they only knew how bad my grades were and how I struggled.
Something I once mentioned to Page Samantha planted an annoying seed in my consciousness. I ask Bear Two Feathers about the lessons on manhood he received from Chief Broken Knife, and the lessons on womanhood I received from mother Kuna. Upatu agrees with the lessons and adds a few from the Kaniwa oral history.
Taking the list, without their explanations, I have broadsides printed and posted in the hallways and in my classroom. I demanded the room from the Lion. Walking into his office ready to do battle for resources, expecting a royal fight of wills, he gives it up..
"He looked at me with a grin, "I'll give you room 105 for two hours a day one in the morning and one in the late afternoon. You name it and I'll make the arrangements."
In a daze, I sit in front of his desk, "Thank you, Sir."
"Is that all you want?"
It takes a minute to think before I ask, "Sir, You are sending my husband, ahem, Sir Upatu out very often, I could use help with the outdoor lessons."
"I'll make some junior squires or senior pages available to assist you. It will change around from time to time. You will grade them as well as your own students." The Lion said.
"Thank you, Sir. I will endeavor to make good use of them."
I only have the room for two hours a day, but that is enough, and my first broadside says:
20 Rules for Life.
Each student should express the reason for each rule by the end of the semester and present it before the class for critique.
1. Rise with the sun to pray.
2. Be tolerant of those who are lost on their path.
3. Search for yourself, by yourself.
4. Treat the guests in your home with much consideration.
5. Do not take what is not yours, whether from a person, a community, the wilderness, or from a culture.
6. Respect all things that are placed upon this earth – whether it be people or plants.
7. Honor other people's thoughts, wishes, and words.
8. Never speak of others in a bad way.
9. All people make mistakes.
10. Bad thoughts cause illness of the mind, body, and spirit.
11. Nature is not for us, it is a part of us.
12. Children are the seeds of our future.
13. Avoid hurting the hearts of others.
14. Be truthful at all times.
15. Keep yourself balanced.
16. Make conscious decisions as to who you will be and how you will react.
17. Respect the privacy and personal space of others.
18. Be true to yourself first.
19. Respect others' religious beliefs.
20. Share your good fortune with others.
If each and every one of us will strive to live by these rules, to the best of our ability, we will help to create a better world. Striving is the most important part. Eventually, if you keep going in the right direction, you will be your best.
I don't expect one student to solve all the lessons but if you work together it is possible to solve them all.
I can learn a few things myself from this list, says the hypocrite in me.
Page Aria has written The words for the haka on the board and every student has committed to memorizing them. She told me, my reply dance for the haka is good and suitable for the whole school if I come up with feminine steps for the girls.
It's my first day in my new classroom, I enter to find the pages arguing about where they are going to sit, I wait quietly until they realize they're out of order and sit quietly. "Pages we have little time in the classroom. I suggest you make use of it wisely. I want the tables and chairs arranged in four groups in the corners.
Two tables are arranged in each corner with four chairs at each table. A total of 32 chairs. Good, they did it themselves, and with 28 students total there will be an empty chair at each corner. I order two pages to move to another corner to make sure there are seven in each team and at least two girls on each team. It's about twice a normal class size, I'm teaching teamwork, not academics. The teacher's chair pivots and I place it in the middle, plopping my tired bum in it. Opening up my small composition book I sketch out everyone's location, I know them, but I must plan.
They sit staring at me, some eager and some with dread. No one looks bored. I tack up my broadside, one copy on each wall. While the pages strain to read them I distribute small thick notebooks to each one, the kind with binder clip holes and a zipper to hold it shut. A few including my own children and Samantha take the hint and start writing the twenty rules.
I use my remaining class time to prompt the pages to set goals for their day. To my surprise, their daily goals are harder than the ones I would have given.
I don't get to finish the hour when a senior page delivers a message to report to the Lion. Upatu takes over the class, and as I hasten down the hall, I hear him starting a story of the great hunter Tell.
I meet Sir John in the hall outside his office and follow him out of the front door to a school car. As soon as he drives down the long driveway he says, "I have a surprise for you and your pages."
"Is it a horse?" I ask, "What condition is he in?"
"A little undernourished; not as bad as Hope, was. It's her other condition, she is pregnant."
While I chew this tidbit, trying to decide how to announce this, The knight drops the bomb. "With twins." I lean back and no longer enjoy the ride up the Shenandoah Valley, one of the most beautiful drives that a city girl like me has ever experienced. I try to inventory everything that will be needed to care for a difficult birth, twins for a horse is risky.
We turn off of the highway at the sign for Lauray Equine Hospital. We are directed to a stable where a school truck with a horse trailer is parked. Bear Two Feathers, Dr. Lundie, and several other important-looking people are talking in front of a stall. I am greeted, but I don't wait for small talk and ease into the stall.
The tall Clydesdale mare is indeed undernourished, but seems friendly, licking my hair. She then takes the apple I hold out eating with gusto, she nudges me for another apple. If she were a stallion I would name him Newton. Her brown coat is smooth and well-groomed and her lower legs are clean but I can see that the feathering is uneven having been trimmed severely where burrs were cut out.
I don't believe she suffered physical abuse, other than scratches, but she should be five hundred pounds heavier. I place my palms against her bulging belly and feel an unborn foal moving, at least one foal is healthy, I cannot distinguish it from the other. Satisfied she is friendly and not in a health crisis, I step out of the stall, to face everyone.
"What is her name?" I ask.
Bear smiles at me and says, "Molly."
"I've made my decision. What are the conditions for taking possession of Molly?" I ask.
The doctor says, "Well, for a start, a voluntary contribution to the Animal Rescue Society would be much appreciated. I've already given Dr. Lundie strict instructions for her care and recovery. The A.S.P.C.A. will conduct inspections. I understand you have been involved in a horse rescue before."
"Yes, sir, I had a lot of enthusiastic help then as I will now."
"It is agreed," the Doctor says.
I use my credit card to make a two thousand dollar donation and to buy the needed medications. Molly is loaded into the horse trailer, and to my surprise, a frisky dog stands close by looking hopeful and emitting a soft whine. I waved to him to join us. He is a blue heeler named Peabody and is devoted to guarding Molly. I stay with Molly on the ride back to the school, feeding her oats and grain by hand.
On arrival, we pull into the main school courtyard, and I task the first page I see to deliver an order for my class to assemble.
In less than two minutes I have a full headcount. "Pages, we have a new member to our class. Please give her a friendly welcome, she has had a rough time so please be gentle." I enter the trailer and slowly back Molly out to the gasps of several pages.
They don't gather around her, not like the Wolf Street School students did with Hope. The pages are already disciplined to be polite.
Page Samantha makes the move that sparks the reaction, by walking up to Molly, ignoring the growling undertone from Peabody, and blows into her nostrils, and receives a face lick. I hand her a large carrot which she feeds to the horse. Molly bites off half of it and chews thoughtfully, takes the other half out of Samantha's hand with her lips instead of biting. Samantha gathers Molly's head in a hug, and I think she is about to cry.
I swear, I've never seen a horse smile before, but Molly does now. Time to drop the bomb, "Molly is our responsibility. She is going to have twin babies. She needs careful attention…" I don't finish as the horse is swarmed by the students
Page Aria starts chanting the new girl's haka, her voice soft and slow. The girls line up and their greeting for the horse is sweet and quiet.
Without asking, the pages commandeer a shed in the back of the vast gardens, clean it out, and erect a horse stall with salvaged materials, adding a workbench, and a camp cot.
Page Cheyenne sets up a small bed for Peabody the wonder dog, Molly's faithful protector. I order a phone installed so Dr. Lundie or myself can be summoned.
The pages have thought of everything else. Several pages buddy up to squires, not for riding lessons but to learn how to handle and care for Molly.
Dr. Lundie enters my tiny office complaining about being constantly pestered with questions. I stop the questions with a terse order to the pages and designate a half-hour of class time, each morning, for the doctor to provide instructions to all of my students.
The first thing he does is show a video of a mare giving birth. I know the pages are now familiar with a horse's external anatomy, and watching the birth process, half of them are fascinated and the other half fake gagging. I smirk, I didn't get the Big Talk until I was seventeen, and by a nurse in the hospital, and then it was too late.
Page Ulysses sets up a watch schedule. I make sure there is a table with plenty of text and reference books for the pages to study. No one is excused from academics, never ever.
After supper, and with no pages to help with Wachita, Soboro, and I take turns nursing the little monster. I must keep my milk flowing to allow Soboro to go out with Upatu. They seem happy together and I don't question what they do, they are Kaniwa after all, and it is tradition.
Tonight Saboro asks me why there are not as many pages coming to help with diapers.
I think about this and say, "They are tired of gagging from the mess."
"Grace, that is not it, you have not assigned punishment."
She is right of course,
"Sabo, I'm drowning in children just a few years ago I was a thug in a girls gang. What did I do to deserve this."
"You are a good woman and a good mother. When men and women get together, children appear. It's magic.
There is a knock at the door and I open it. Sir John stands with a shy grin and a small clutch of flowers. He is looking at Saboro but addresses me, "You can close your mouth Grace."
For a few minutes after Soboro leaves on the arm of The Lion. I dwell on why he never married, at least I don't think he did. He was close to Whisperblade. My thoughts end with a knock at the door.
I open it to let Samantha in and she wraps her arms around my waist, her face puffy red. She snorts with sobs interrupted by hiccups, wiping her nose on my sleeve. I place my arms and hands down her back and make soothing shushing sounds.
Between hiccups, she manages to say, "Ma'am, I'm so bad, I'm evil. I've lied to you and everyone else. Just kick me out. Get it over with, and I'll just go and no one will ever remember me."
"Please can we sit, It's been a long day? We're all alone except for little Wachita. I guide Samantha over to my easy chair next to the crib where Wachita sleeps. Samantha quiets down but doesn't let go of me. I sit and she is on top of me and slides down to my side tucked in tight against the arm of the chair, her face buried in my side. I just rub her back and hand her a handkerchief and wait, and wait. When she seems about to fall asleep, she looks up into my face. "Ma'am."
"Please call me Grace, we're just two girls here."
Pointing to her chin, "Ma'am, I lied to you, my parents, and everyone else. I didn't ask for this tattoo. They held me down. They pulled my hair so I couldn't move while they did this."
I say nothing, I know the feeling, and it's going to all come out. Will I be able to handle it.
Samantha says nothing but stops shaking. With a hiccup and a sigh, she says, "Older boys from the next neighborhood, they had driven up and down the neighborhood and caught me at sunset as I was walking home." She shifts under my arm to face away from me. "I fought, I bit, I kicked… They taped me tight. They stuffed my mouth…" She goes quiet.
I prompt her, "You've told this to no one?"
"No." again she is silent.
"Excuse me, please, I must feed Wachita." My baby is sleeping contentedly but I need to let Samantha relax. I let her stay in my chair as I pick up my baby, She is getting bigger and stronger and resists me with a wail. Sitting in Soboro's chair I open my shirt, more than necessary, and start feeding her on my right side. I notice Samantha is staring at my chest with it's straight and wavy lines.
"Did that hurt?" Samanta asks.
"Yes, Sam, it was done with cactus needles which irritate the skin most fierce. It is done for all Mojave women to remind them of the pain of childbirth. Each dot is for a child who has died before their time, the wavy lines are for the mothers who died fighting for those children." I move Wachita on my left side.
"I will keep this between us for right now at least. I am required to report this, but I won't if you do, one thing for yourself."
"If you talk to someone I will arrange and tell her the truth. She also will keep your secrets. I will give you until tomorrow morning to answer me. The person I select will be good. My responsibility at this school is to see to your wellbeing. These lines on my chest are my bond with my Mojave tribe. Now, these stripes on my chin are my bond to you. You already know they are permanent, forever. So is my bond to you. Hurry on its past lights out."
After Samantha leaves, I put Wachita back to bed and wait. I will tell the Lion when he returns from his date with Soboro; it is the law. I start writing my report. I feel dirty, I also lied to Samantha, violating my own rule number 14, Be truthful at all times. Samantha has shamed me.