Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield
Opal delivers mail for the United States Postal Service. As she works, she considers her superstitions, like not stepping on cracks and delivering the mail to the odd-numbered houses first to get the bad out of the way “before getting to the good.”
When Opal was around Orvil’s age, she pulled spider legs out of her leg, too. She recalls how her mother would never let her kill a spider in the house, saying that spiders “carry miles of web in their bodies, miles of story.”
She checks her grandsons’ phones regularly, and recently she found a video of Orvil powwow-dancing like “he knew exactly what he was doing.” He was wearing the regalia an old friend had given to her.
Opal had pulled spider legs out of herself the Sunday before she’d left Ronald’s house. She had noticed that Ronald had taken to standing in the girls’ bedroom door at night, and then he mentioned wanting to do a “dream ceremony” with them. Opal readied her bat, which she nicknamed Storey. Her fears were confirmed one night when Ronald entered their room and pulled at Jacquie’s ankles. She grabbed the bat, came up behind him, and brought it down hard on his head as she heard a deep crack. The girls fled the house and went to a shelter.
Jacquie disappeared from her life a year later, arrested for some reason Opal didn’t know. Opal had then met Lucas and told him about Ronald. He insisted that she had to find out if she’d really killed him that night. A week later, they took a bus to Ronald’s house and hid behind a mailbox until they saw him walk up the stairs to the house.
A large woman, Opal encounters a pit bull on her route, and when the owner calls it back, the dog flinches. She considers that the dog was probably just trying to “spread the weight of its own abuse,” judging from its flinching reaction.
Octavio arrives at the home of his grandmother, whom he calls Fina, in a feverish state. She tells him that it could be the flu, or it could be a curse. Her own father cursed her when she was eighteen and pregnant and told him that she was not having the baby. After the abortion, she was sick for about a year, and her mother sent her a “clump of fur” to be buried at the western base of a cactus to relieve her symptoms.
One night when Octavio was a kid, he and his father had just sat down at the table for dinner when bullets came flying through the house. His father threw his own body in front of Octavio’s; he died that night.
After his father’s death, Octavio’s uncle Sixto began coming around more. He gave Octavio alcohol and blunts. Six months later, Sixto stopped coming by, so Fina told him to spend more time with his cousins Manny and Daniel. While playing video games in the basement one evening, they heard a commotion upstairs and ran up to find Manny and Daniel’s father throwing their mother against the wall. Manny attacked his father and ended up slamming his head through a glass table. The boys drove him to the hospital, dumped him in front of it, and left. When their father was released, he returned home, but their mother met him at the door with his clothes and told him to move out.
Manny and Octavio stole their first car around the same time, a Lexus that wasn’t too flashy....
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They rode around silently, smoking the Newports they found in the dash, before leaving it in a parking lot.
Sixto was later driving under the influence with Octavio’s mother and brother in the car; he crashed and killed them both. Octavio moved in with Fina, who told him not to talk to Sixto. He eventually made his way to Sixto’s house, and his uncle told him about an altar that Fina used to keep in her closet that he and Octavio’s father found when they were kids. Octavio couldn’t figure out why his uncle wasn’t talking about his mother and brother at all, and then Sixto told him that he and Octavio had “bad blood” in them. He lit a plant on fire in what seemed to be a sort of ceremony and blew a powder into Octavio’s face.
Waking from his feverish sleep, Octavio is told by Fina that they are going for a drive. Octavio falls asleep during the drive, and when he wakes, he finds Fina on the hood of the car, battling an unidentified animal. She screams for him to rip out a clump of its fur. He gets out and finally succeeds with the task. Back in the car, Octavio learns that the animal was a badger and that Fina is setting up a medicine box for him. She explains that some people have a feeling that they have done something wrong, and they punish themselves for it. She says that the badger fur can help him “learn how to stay down there. Way deep down inside [himself], unafraid.”
Daniel has made five guns for Octavio with a 3D printer (which was itself printed by a 3D printer) and sold them to him for five thousand dollars to use at the upcoming powwow. Manny has died, shot after a period of bringing home that no one questioned the origin of for the family.
Daniel opens an old email from Manny and writes him a response to catch his deceased brother up to speed on all that has happened since he died. Daniel has become excellent at coding and has learned multiple languages. He spends most of his time online, engaging with people who like him, even though they don’t know him in real life. This stands in contrast to school, where he feels that the only people who really talk to him are his brother’s old friends. Their mother is getting out of bed more these days, making it to the TV but leaving broken things all over the house. He doesn’t feel any remorse about helping Octavio rob a powwow, because their father never taught them anything about being Native.
With his five thousand from Octavio, Daniel buys an expensive drone so that he can watch things develop on the day of the powwow. He does a practice run, taking it to the coliseum. As he gets closer to home plate, an older man nearly swats the drone down, but Daniel manages to save it by taking it straight up and home.
Back at home, his mother screams. She has found the envelope of cash that Daniel left for her, just as Manny used to do. She hugs him and apologizes over and over, and finally he’s apologizing to her, too, as they cry so hard they shake.