Shell Shaker

by LeAnne Howe

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Chapters 5–6 Summary

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Last Updated on June 22, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1424

Chapter 5: Prayers for the Mother

Durant, September 24, 1991: Auda is lying in bed watching smoke rise toward a hole in the roof when she realizes she is not in her own room. She sees a man who looks unfamiliar, until suddenly she recognizes him: it is Red Shoes. He embraces her, and the pair make love. She asks him to tell her what he knows about the Inkilish okla and Filanchi okla (English and French people, respectively); he responds that these groups will one day force them out of their lands, take their food, and set up casinos.

Auda examines the tattoo on the man’s face, which he says signifies truth. The pair begin to cry, knowing that they cannot stop what is coming. Auda’s dream shifts, she realizes she is dreaming and alone, and she cries herself awake.

Adair comes in. Auda explains that she has dreamed of Red Shoes; Adair says that they have all been having strange dreams, and that Auda must get up and come to the jail, where Susan has been taken following her confession. Aunt Delores and Aunt Dovie are coming, too, and Gore has been making notes all night about the case.

Auda tries to remember what happened in the jail, but she can’t. She remembers her mother, in 1983, calling McAlester an Osano and telling Auda to “finish with” him. Susan was furious with him for refusing to help an old Choctaw man, Fred Tubby, by providing a water well. Susan felt McAlester was starving his own people. Over the years, she became increasingly critical of her daughter’s relationship with McAlester, until the pair had almost stopped speaking entirely.

Susan is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter: “Powerful medicine.” Auda, a firstborn with no offspring, feels inadequate in comparison. Instead, her words about the Choctaws’ history are her progeny.

In the kitchen, Gore is sweeping up broken glass. Auda thinks he looks familiar. Gore says that Auda was taken to the county jail instead of the Choctaw Nation’s jail to protect her from vigilante killers. He has just submitted papers requesting that Susan’s case be heard in the Choctaw Superior Court.

Auda explains to Gore and Tema that she thinks she killed McAlester, but also that, for a moment, it wasn’t her. She accepts Gore’s offer to represent her; he reminds her where they first met, at the conference. A neighbor arrives with some food as a gesture of solidarity.

Auda talks about how she first met McAlester and what they originally planned to do for the Choctaw nations. At first, they were a popular couple, but then the Casino of the Sun was built. It made twenty million dollars per year, but somehow, sixty million dollars was deposited: the tribe made more money than it reported. Auda thought the casino was set up to benefit the Mafia, not the Choctaw people, because of the involvement of Vico D’Amato and Carl Tonica in its finances. McAlester was laundering money for the Genovese family, who owned Shamrock Resorts and bankrolled the casino. Recently, McAlester had been siphoning money from Shamrock. Auda believes the D’Amato brothers will think she shot McAlester for the money; Gore says that Auda could be tried as McAlester’s accomplice as well as his murderer—but only if it could be proven that the money being laundered was from an unlawful source.

Gore feels that Auda isn’t telling him everything. He asks why she shot McAlester instead of calling the FBI—and why didn’t she shoot Carl Tonica? Auda cannot say, but Tema guesses that McAlester raped her.


(This entire section contains 1424 words.)

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does not know where the missing ten million dollars is, but knows that McAlester had been financing the Irish Republican Army to underwrite bombings.

Gore says they will need to hire more lawyers and investigators. He could beg the court for mercy, plead insanity for the women, or plead guilty. They could also offer suggestions as to who else might have killed McAlester, given the financial tangle, but Auda says he must not do this. If he is going to represent her, he must tell the court that she is guilty. He shakes on it.

At this point, Susan returns home. Outside, Choctaws are singing chants in support of the Billy women.

Chapter 6: Koi Chitto, the Bone Picker

The Gulf Coast, December 1738: Koi Chitto is making his way toward Big Trace. An alligator is stalking him. Alligators terrify the Inkilish okla and Filanchi okla, but the animals are revered by Koi Chitto’s tribe.

Koi Chitto left Yanàbi Town the day after Shakbatina was buried. He looks at the alligator and thinks it must be a gift. He cuts its tail off and begins roasting it.

An old woman appears unexpectedly, and Koi Chitto realizes she is an animal spirit and passes her his tobacco pouch. He tells her that he is cooking. She “bob[s] her head up and down like a porcupine” and refuses the offer of alligator meat, saying that it is for him, to give him strength to finish what he has started. She tells him it is “bone-picking time” and encourages Koi Chitto to carry out his wife’s ceremony, even though he insists it is too early. The porcupine spirit then “goes up in fumes.”

Koi Chitto dreams of Anoleta. In the dream, he runs to save her from a fire; then, a voice tells him that Anoleta is dead.

Koi Chitto wakes and swims in a river, feeling that something is wrong. He walks three more days through swamps, and an old woman at Nanih Waiya offers him sanctuary. When he explains what his quest is, she gives him a canoe but sadly says that they cannot stop what is coming. She also offers him her grandson as a traveling companion, as well as some mulberry cloth to trade.

When Koi Chitto first met Shakbatina, she was trading healing plants and salt. To marry her, he had to promise to hunt for only two families, and he agreed.

Koi Chitto and the woman’s grandson leave in the canoe and paddle until they spot two women fishing. The women flee, leaving their basket behind: it contains a catfish, a man’s foot, and a child’s hand. Koi Chitto is furious; he explains to his companion that Inkilish okla trade with anyone, even cannibals.

All night, the two men paddle. In five days, they come to the outskirts of Yanàbi Town. Runners say that a bone-picking ceremony is being prepared for. Nitakechi comes to meet them and says that Red Shoes is becoming hungrier, a true Osano. But soon, many men from the Filanchi okla, including Bienville and the Blackrobes (monks), will come to observe the ceremony.

Koi Chitto explains his dream that Anoleta has died. Nitakechi says he has been dreaming of Shakbatina and is sure she wants Koi Chitto to pick her bones, even though this is not normally the role of the husband. Nitakechi also says that the war chief, Choucououlacta, has promised to protect Anoleta if she will marry him, and this will bring ten more towns to the support of Yanàbi.

Koi Chitto smokes the dreaming tobacco and dreams of Shakbatina, seeing her death again. He thinks that her final message had been to make peace now—but make war when the right time comes.

The ritual is for renewal. He sings a love song and smokes his pipe over and over until he enters the na tohbi. On the third night of the ritual, he covers himself in bear grease and goes to Shakbatina’s burial scaffold. He examines his wife’s decayed body. She has been laid out and ceremonially cut in the traditional fashion and is now partially mummified.

Drums beat, and Koi Chitto, “at the center of na tohbi,” begins to dance until he sees his wife coming towards him. He declares that he is the Bone Picker, the dancer of death and life. Because the ritual involves sex magic, in his vision, he ejaculates onto his wife. She encourages him to dance with her, to tear the remaining flesh from her bones and get inside her, which will release her. He does as he is bidden, tearing Shakbatina’s skull and spinal column from the rest of her body. He knows that her bones will be painted and placed in a box, and that one day, in a long time, he will see her again.


Chapters 3–4 Summary


Chapters 7–8 Summary