“He’s not dead; he just had a slight heart attack,” Steve said. She cried in Steve’s arms and peeked over his shoulder. Ah, look at the old man with no teeth and puckered lips; so skinny, mostly bones. His white hair swept his heart. He lay in a coma in an oxygen tent with tubes running into his chest, arms and stomach. He also suffered a slight stroke. The doctors marveled that at his age he held his own.
A priest arrived to administer the last rites, shoving her aside while he blessed his forehead.
“He has not worshipped Catholicism for years ever since he secretly joined the Native American Church,” she said, pushing him back and quivering with anger that this man would just assume.
“Ah, so the poor soul is not Christian then. No wonder he worships in secret,” the priest said.
“The American Indian Religious Freedom Act has allowed him for twenty-one years to practice his peyote religion openly. Our church believes in the Bible but we use peyote to commune with Jesus,” Steve said.
She glared at the priest.
He spun on his heels and hastily left the room.
With shaky fingers, she covered Grandfather with another blanket. “He always complains of the cold and the swamp cooler. He’s not going to die. That priest…” With long strides she hurried towards the exit and ran down the hall, holding a hand to her mouth. This Clorox-stinking hellhole must have a damned bathroom.
She barely made it to the toilet, folded over and emptied her stomach.
Steve waited for her at the bathroom exit. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder, led her to a chair, and grasped her hands in his.
“He knows you love him, Holly,” he said.
She wiped her eyes, remembering Grandfather’s wish for her to act strong and shuffled back to his room.
The case he gave her at Pecos had words engraved on the leather: Dr. Alfred V. Kidder, Professor of Archae-ology, Harvard University. The case contained a black and white photo with the words, Pecos Bones, scrawled across the back along with the date December 23, 1915. The photo showed a slender, recent Ph.D. grad, an Indiana Jones wan-nabe, with burning ambition in his eyes that bespoke of a hunger for fame. He stroked his moustache with a delicate hand. The Pecos ruins drooped in the background of the photo, not as time-ravaged as present day. Dust caressed old-time trucks parked in the distance. Tents poked out from the earth like giant ant hills. He stood with hands on hips and puffed-out chest by a pile of bones. One booted foot rested atop a skull like a trophy, yet his furrowed brow and eyes reflected a sadness that revealed his conscience. The photo showed wear, not just due to age; Grandfather apparently twisted the picture in his hands many times.
She dropped the papers and with shaky fingers gathered the diary into her arms and shoved the photo into the case.
Grandfather fluttered his eyelashes and moved his lips. His fingers grasped at the bed sheet.
She ran out the door with Steve at her heels.
“He’s awake,” she yelled at the nurses.
The first thing he did when he gained full con-sciousness was motion her to come closer. He spoke in a voice slurred by his stroke but between her and Steve they understood.
“Did you bury me at Pecos? My heart beats there still because the Pecos is where we began. Life and death should come full circle,” he croaked.
“Governor, didn’t you hear the doctor? You can’t die yet. I’m going to bring home the bones. You have a re-union to look forward to.”
In his confusion he must have misunderstood her words. He thrashed about the bed and the attendants tied him down.
He cried something about his rusty magic. “Why does my spirit linger in the crossbow of life?”
RETURN OF THE BONES has won BEST HISTORICAL FICTION for the 2013 NEW MEXICO / ARIZONA BOOK AWARDS!
A dazzling, family epic of love and forgiveness. Return of the Bones is a very special book inspired by a true story -- In 1915, 2,067 skeletons were stolen from the ghost pueblo of Pecos and transported to Harvard University for medical research...In present day and across the miles, the wind carries their cries to Grandfather who hears the bones longing for home.
Hollow-Woman and Grandfather are the last of the Pecos people, but Hollow-Woman is not interested in ancient skeletons. She works at an Indian casino and is of the modern ways, while Grandfather is a shaman and values tradition. She hopes the road trip will heal their broken hearts.
Grandfather fashions a magical dream catcher to help her "see" her ancestors' lives, and come to love the missing bones, as he does. While driving a ratty old pickup-camper, the cantankerous Grandfather and stubborn Hollow-Woman bicker from New Mexico to the Peabody Museum.
A glowing literary work, with religious undertones of the persecution of Native Americans by the Catholic Church's Spanish Inquisition. Return of the Bones pulses with emotion. The pages are filled with the comical way Grandfather looks at the world while embracing the heartbreak and spirituality of the Native American peoples.
You may know these famous bones on which landmark studies proved that exercise prevents osteoporosis!
Did you know that President George W. Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush, dug up Geronimo's grave and stole his skull to be used as initiation into the Skull and Bones Society at Yale?
Genre - Historical fiction
Rating – PG
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