(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Because the actual language of “Ark of Bones” is its primary virtue, the story is difficult to describe. It is a first-person account of Fish-hound, a young black male, who goes fishing one day and is followed by his friend Headeye, who claims to have supernatural powers because he possesses a mojo bone, a totemistic object of African superstition. The story attempts to create the rhythm and idiom of southern black dialect and to emulate the syntax and digressions of an uneducated black youth. Although the ages of Fish-hound and Headeye are not revealed, their language and actions suggest that they are in their early teens.

The plot of the story at first seems aimless, with Fish-hound describing how Headeye follows him to the Mississippi River and how Fish-hound tries to dodge him so as not to reveal the best fishing spots. Events take a turn toward the metaphoric, however, when Headeye catches up with Fish-hound and tells him that the mojo bone is a key to the black experience, the only one in the world. Headeye recounts the story of Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones, in which it is foretold that the bones shall be bound up and shall rise again. Headeye himself prophesies that Noah’s Ark will come again and seems to be watching for it to appear on the river, while Fish-hound tries to ignore him and continues fishing. The story moves into fable when Fish-hound indeed sees a gigantic boat floating on the water, moving and standing still at the same...

(The entire section is 557 words.)