The Plague of Doves

by Louise Erdrich

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Last Updated on February 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 621

Antone's love affair with C. was very intense, and their athletic sex would make them hungry. C. had a habit of wiping Antone down with milk, which one day his mother smelled. He lied and said he had gotten work at the creamery. She heard “cemetery,” and Antone did not correct her. He went the next day to the Pluto cemetery to seek employment, which he got. 

At seventeen, Antone became a gravedigger. Quickly he found that he could not leave C. and also that he liked the quiet of his occupation. While he was working in the cemetery, the manager died and Antone dug his grave, too, then became manager himself. C. remodeled her house so Antone could walk from the cemetery to her place without being seen.

Antone’s mother became ill. Soon she might have to be put into a nursing home. She complained that Antone needed a wife, but he could not leave C.

One day, C. announced that she was marrying the man who had remodeled her house. She said she couldn’t marry Antone, now twenty-five, because the age difference was too great and she was a doctor who must remain respectable. So, C. married Ted Bursap and Antone began to study law.

One evening Ted went to Hoopdance for work, and Antone walked over to C.'s house. The pair made love.

Now, Antone thought about how much he would like to bury Ted, who slept next to C. and tore down beautiful houses to build ugly ones.

Antone saw C. every day. One day, Antone went home to find that his mother had fallen, so he decided to put her in a nursing home. They needed to sell the house to finance this, however, and nobody was buying.

It was suggested that Antone should sell to Ted, but knowing that he would tear the house down, Antone could not. He took the state bar exam and imagined living in his house with C., then realized his dreams were useless. He sold the house to Ted. 

Antone rented a room at the Bluebird Motel and walked to C.'s home, which was also her office. When she offered to stop Ted tearing down the house, Antone said that instead she should pack and go with him to a new city. When she said nothing, he suggested she buy the house back from Ted and they could both live there.

They left for Antone’s old home, which was already being torn down. C. shouted at Ted to quit, but his machine ripped open a wall, out of which a swarm of bees poured. Antone carried C. into the garage, then went back to find Ted lying under a swarm of bees. Ted survived, but a year later a single bee stung him and he died instantly.

Antone passed the bar and went to Washington but returned after some years to the reservation, where he would marry Geraldine. Mother refused to leave Pluto, so Antone still visited her there. One day, he was standing at the empty lot where Ted had torn down the Coutts house when a woman stopped her car and got out. It was C. She said that she had always told Antone she would get old and that this was why she had to make sure he would leave her.

About a month after his wedding, C.’s name comes up, and Geraldine says that she is a doctor who won’t treat Indians. Antone, defending himself, says that C. treated him. 

Geraldine says that people like that always make an exception. Antone realizes that even if he had been the same age as C.—Cordelia—it would not have mattered.

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