I have been pushed out of my father’s home; my wife is a beautiful Navajo woman and we have a child who is shunned because of the love we have for each other. I am a Spanish soldier. We live near the desert to keep ourselves safe from the hate from both sides of our family. People who I thought were friends. My wife’s sister comes to visit, but never acknowledges me. We met while she was a victim of an Indian raid who had been carried off for profit or reproduction. I freed her and took her back to her tribe, village. I would go and continue my visits to her. Neither her friends nor her parents liked my visits. Maybe it was because I was a soldier, or because of the history of the Navajo and Spanish wars. As a soldier I admired her, she was strong, beautiful, intimidating. She did not need to be saved. She would have fled her capture and gone home to her people. Our meeting was not an accident, I am hers; she is mine. Our child is eight months into his first year. He is a beautiful strong child. I did not know all this was going to change, changed by the sound of gunfire, shouts of hate, and finally the house burned to the ground and all the horses shot. I do not know what happened to my wife, I told her to run. I feel blood all over my body. I feel life leaving me.
The year I don’t know, it’s hot and dry. I do enjoy my solitude. I am happy. Today I am gathering cactus berries. I’ve left my home a few jumps away from me. I need to stretch and get some sun, my skin is cracked and looks aged, but I am young. I don’t remember my parents. Only that we survive living in our home. Staying in our home is how we survive. We have enemies that come from the sky. We have enemies that live on land, we have enemies even in the water. I don’t know my age. During times of difficulty, or a bad injury, we dig into the ground stay there until we have healed. We can’t stay there too long; our home will get soft due to moisture. Our homes are solid, smooth. We are the only ones who know how to open and take care of our home. I am happy. Everything is good, everything is the way it should be. I have enough berries to be comfortable. The sun’s heat has recharged me. I take my food and store it. WHO? WHAT? WHEN? HOW? I must be old. I am seeing things. Walk around my home. NOOO! THERE IS SOMETHING IN MY HOME! IT’S MOVING. I get scared, nothing like this I’ve seen before. I heard stories of the red people. No armor or feathers to cover themselves. Instead, they’re covered with fake skin. What am I to do? What is it doing all alone? I must get this thing out.
The child felt a tug, he started to cry, the turtle let go due to the sound, the sound let the turtle know it was in pain. The child was hungry, the child felt something wet and squishy, he put it into his mouth. The smell and taste was sweet, the child ate, the turtle was getting upset, cursing and yelling at the thing that’s my food. Finally, the crying stopped, that’s when the turtle stopped. He peeked inside, he saw a face covered in red berry juice, the thing showed its teeth, but the turtle did not get scared. Slowly the turtle felt a smile then pushed the thought out of his head. I am angry he thought. But turtle still wondered why it was alone.
Turtle knew that this being would not survive alone. The turtle started to push his home with the being inside. The turtle used to be quick but sloppy, always falling because of his skinny legs. At the beginning to push the shell was difficult, it was heavy and kept bobbing side to side due to its shape and how rounded it was. Turtle never gave up. His home started to change, the shape was no longer rounded but flat and smooth on the bottom. The top grew a little more to accommodate both turtle and the being. The turtle also started to change. He didn’t run any more, he moved slowly very carefully. This is why turtle moves very slow today, careful not to hurt the being. He was happy, his legs grew thick and strong, the being also started to change; he moved more, showed its teeth more to show a smile and it would giggle. But turtle would always tell the being to be quiet, that’s why turtles are quiet in his own way, but the being understood. The desert is a dangerous place. Turtle figured how to move the shell in different terrain. When he would get to the top of a sand dune he would climb on top of his shell and push the shell down as if paddling in water. The turtle enjoyed this. The being liked to see the trail the shell had left behind. That’s why there are always trails in the sand to remind us of this story. The turtle cared for this being.
One day some men were hunting and noticed the turtle and a being’s foot prints together. They followed this trail. Found the turtle and the child. They were Navajo. They knew the child was Navajo. They picked up the boy and the turtle with his shell. Took them back to camp. The child’s aunt, the mother’s sister lived in the village, she recognized the child. The people gave the turtle beads, stones, food, decorated his home with beautiful designs on its top. For a child has never survived without help. The people who help raise a child should not be overlooked.
Tobias Williams is a student at Navajo Technical University.