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Chapter Two


The Sundancer


            It felt good driving on the flat, trafficless roads north to Selkirk, legs now warm in the summer air and Canadian music on the radio. Sky as big as he had ever seen, crosswinds perfumed, forests dotting the roadside the farther north he went. Murders of crows flew en masse among the treetops, swampy bogs pungent as he passed, not a soul in sight.

            Thomas found the Sundance by the river just out of town past a small limestone church, old pick-up trucks parked along a line of trees beside an open field. So on that June summer day wearing his kilt, he saw Josh clad only in a golden skirt sundancing and waving eagle feathers in front of the great Tree of Life that was covered with different coloured prayer ties. Having missed the few two days, his skin was already burned into a vermillion red and his technique was smooth. It was the afternoon when Josh and three other sundancers walked to the huge poplar tree and had hooks of bone pushed through the skin on his chest. Each of the two hooks were attached to long sinew attached to the Tree of Life, each other the four sundancers representing each of the four directions. Josh had the West position around the tree.

            There was a sacred clown called a Wendigokaan that danced around backwards trying the do everything against convention, embodying his contrary nature. The clown ran around at will wearing a leather mask and leggings entertaining the crowd until each of the four sundancers were given a command to walk backwards facing the poplar. The sinew stretched and ripped the skin from Joshua's chest, blood dripping from below the other three scars he had from the previous three summers. But it was a few hours later when he witnessed Josh drag buffalo skulls around the Tree of Life that he realized how serious and gruelling this honoured ritual was. His twin was calm when they hooked bones with string through the skin just behind his shoulders attached to four buffalo skulls behind him. Stomach cringing, Thomas watched him pull the cluster of skulls that skidded along the grass, horns crashing all over the place in summersaults and flips, chucking up chunks of grass. The skin pulled but didn't break - not until Josh had completed a full run around the Tree of Life. When the bones snapped free, ripping the skin from his shoulders, the Sundancers roared with hoots and shouts, celebrating that he had just purified the sins of his family through his own suffering. Blood streaked down his back gleaming sweat mixing with dripping blood.

            Thomas sat transfixed; he couldn't believe it was his identical twin brother.


            After the Sundance ended and Josh was changing and drinking water, not a drop of which he had been allowed for four days, some of Joshua's Métis Indian friends invited Thomas to sit at their campfire near tents pitched near the Sundancing field. It took them a while to get over their initial shock that he was Joshua's twin brother, and were in the phase of realizing that they are different people, a time when strangers said strange things as if to distinguish them from each other. Not a comment about his odd apparel.

            "Joshua stayed in that small cabin of his all winter without any heat," said Andre. "Can you believe that? The managers of the RV Park kept coming out to make sure he was still alive. They even left soup for him at his door." Instead of paying rent for an apartment, Josh had purchased a small cabin for a thousand dollars beside the Brokenhead River in a town called Beausejour. He owned the cabin but paid a small monthly fee for the land and electricity. With only an electric heater he squeaked through the notoriously cold Manitoba winter with some nights getting as low as minus fifty. It was, as his friends told Thomas, dangerous. It was his indifference to extremism that they wanted to convey to Thomas, something he was aware of, and by inference that he was the ‘soft' twin, the one who worked in an office and lived a ‘normal' life.

            Like many things, the Sundance was an event that had to be seen to be believed. Josh had spoken about it before but the images Thomas had were nothing like the real thing. Completing the four years of Sundances was one of the things that he had tasked himself with in an effort to become a fully accepted Métis Indian in the Red Man's world because it was considered one of the highest honours to graduate as a Sundancer.

           Thomas then noticed a movement that he recognized intuitively, a sauntering with grace and a slight posture issue that had always belonged both of them. To their friends, it was their most distinct trait. With the sun setting and the horizontal rays highlighting his long hair, the only thing Thomas saw was his over-sized teeth. Without a word they both started laughing, and at the same time pointed at each other, laughter the same cadence increasing in decibels.

           "Brother!" A bear hug locked them together for a moment.

           When Thomas stood back to look at him a tingling sensation crept up his spine that reached his temples. After years apart it stunned him to see another person as unique as himself, especially the sight of his beard, which was identical to his own.

           "I've missed you Tommy," he said.

           "It's been too long Josh."

           "Man, what's with the dressing technique?"

           "Birthday party for Jamieson last night-"

           "You flew in that kit across international borders just to come here to watch me graduate?" Nodded. "That's says something, doesn't it?" He put his hand on Thomas's shoulder. "It's been a long two years." He felt a familiar pang of guilt at the sight of the bags under his eyes and the wrinkles on his face. It hammered home how long he'd been out of his life.   



Table of Contents
Part One - Canada
1.      The Twin From the East Returns  
2.      The Sundancer  
3.      Waxing Gibbous 
4.      The Second Coming of the Messiah 
5.      The Sacred Twin Story 
6.      The Sign of the Pahana 
7.      Palongawhoya and Poqanghoya 
8.      Rainbow Thunderbird and Red Phoenix 
9.      The True White Brother 
10.    The Lost Louis Riel Notebooks 
Part Two - Hong Kong
11.    A Mixture of Revulsion and Pity 
12.    A Classroom of Scallywags 
13.    Illegitimati non Carborundum 
14.    The Distant Fire of Empyrean
Part Three - Burma
15.    The Monastery of Sacred Tablets 
16.    The Outpost of Tyranny 
17.    When the 12th Moon Comes 
18.    The Pigeon Left & the Crow Took His Place 
19.    Go North and Find Your People 
20.    Finding Orwell 
21.    Though the Monkey is in a Hurry, the Tree Branch is Not 
22.    The Castle at God's Toes 
23.    The General and Sergeant Betel Nut 
24.    The Tattooed Station Master 
25.    Reverend Crow's Life's Work 
26.    Yield Not to Adversity, But Press on More Bravely 
27.    A Bitter Cuppa Tea 
28.    The Thirteenth Tribe 
29.    When a Lamp is Lit You Must Expect Insects 
30.    John the Christian 
31.    A Guardian Angel Named Hanna 
32.    The Bar Car & Betel Nut 
33.    The Son of Light 
34.    Slipping the Karmic Knot
Part Four - Hong Kong
35.    The Tonsure Warning 
36.    The Phoenix Reborn 
37.    Touching the Empyrean 
38.    Joshua the Gatekeeper 
Part Five - Canada
39.    Lapsit Exillis 
40.    Thunderstones 
41.    The Time of Great Purification  




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