Shell Shaker Chapters 9–10 Summary
by LeAnne Howe

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Chapters 9–10 Summary

Chapter 9: Borrowed Time

Durant, September 24, 1991: Shakbatina, briefly narrating in the first person, says that she has been waiting for six generations, eventually splitting her spirit in half. She watched her children forced out of Mississippi and the ensuing Civil War which punished those who had driven them out. Now she has returned and caused the prairie fire. “Hah,” she says, “I wonder who will recognize me?”

Carl Tonica, at his desk in the casino, has a stomachache. He wishes he’d applied for a government job; instead, he has to call the FBI to discuss McAlester’s murder. He tells the agent that Auda did it, not Susan, but the agent simply complains about budget constraints and Indians.

Tonica had known the Mafia was closing in on the casino, but McAlester wouldn’t listen. Vico and Hector D’Amato, both mafiosi, had tried to groom McAlester, but there was confusion over who was conning whom and too many shifting alliances, especially given the additional involvement of the Irish.

McAlester had for years lobbied other tribes to invest in the casino and would not listen to Tonica’s warnings that the Mafia would soon spot his deceptions. Tonica had also suspected Auda of stealing documents.

Suddenly Tonica hears a voice: a woman tells him she is “a descendant of Grandmother of Birds,” and when he looks outside, he sees an old woman with a sign:

I know where McAlester hid the ten million.

Tonica is still trying to reason with the FBI man on the phone and warns him that someone might murder Auda if he doesn’t act quickly, but he is soon distracted by the voice again. The voice says that she is there to stop him from offending anyone else.

After Tonica’s phone call, the D’Amatos tell him he has two days to find the money McAlester stole from them. Tonica says the money must be around here somewhere; Vico tells him he doesn’t believe that. Tonica smiles and says that there’s an old lady outside who says she knows where it is.

When Tonica goes outside, the woman says she is Shakbatina and asks him to come with her.

Later, a janitor tells Choctaw police there was no lady in the parking lot; Tonica seemed not to have even seen the eighteen-wheeler that hit him.

Chapter 10: Funerals by Delores

Durant, September 24, 1991: Delores is kneading bread dough for the funeral and wishing she and Isaac had been together for the past fifty years. She knows he wants to speak to her alone. When he had called her about McAlester’s murder, they had both cried, and she realized he still loved her but could not forgive her for sending him away.

Tema, Adair, Dovie, and Delores discuss the fact that Choctaws are “Code Talkers” in that what is important to them isn’t written down. Delores has a painful feeling that Dovie will soon leave her. Perhaps, she thinks, it’s because she’s thinking about the responsibility of burying McAlester. Delores has conducted funerals for many years, since she laid out her mother, but this funeral seems different. She considers the act, taking a moment to commune with the spirits.

Delores first drove to the Billy ranch in 1939, the day after her mother died. There, she addressed an elderly woman—Nowatima, Susan’s grandmother and the Billy matriarch, descended from Shakbatina herself—who was holding an ancestral stone. Delores asked what she should sing for a mother’s funeral. Nowatima, 114 years old, told the story of how the Choctaws left Mississippi. She then sang the funeral songs all night and said that Delores was the one she had been waiting for.

Dovie and Delores had already escaped to Hollywood when their mother died and they had to return to wash and dress her body. Afterwards, Delores set fire to her contract: “No more Westerns. No more cowboys and Indians. She wasn’t going back to California.” She decided to relearn the traditions and create a small, traditional funeral parlor. But after an accident involving the death of a teenager, who surprised an old woman who...

(The entire section is 1,271 words.)