It is another Christmas season for the community of Sōniyāw Reserve. John works in his trading post regardless of the season and always thought Christmas was a waste of money, especially when people should be buying food. It was bad enough people spent their money on alcohol and bingo but why waste it buying gifts for other people when they could be buying things for themselves.
His only employee, George, while usually quiet at his desk, is humming Christmas carols as he types on his ancient computer, punching in the inventory with every item humming as he clicked. John starts to tire of the noise but he decided to let it slide this time. George does not seem himself but the season has a way of doing that to people.
George stands at the door before he leaves and nervously looks at John, John notices this, “What is it George?” John grumps, knowing it will be about the wretched day tomorrow.
“Um John, I was wondering if I could leave early tomorrow,” George asks, looking at the floor, “it’s a special day for my family and Jimmy is happy to see another Christmas with us his family.”
John palms his face, “George, the inventory is not going to do itself, there are more furs than usually because of the stupid day tomorrow and I need it done.”
“I can be back later tomorrow to finish a half days work,” George pleads, “ I really want to be there for my family as soon as I can and I can leave enough firewood for the afternoon tomorrow so you won’t have to hire another person to do it.”
John in all his wisdom of not getting heat installed in his old lodge becomes interested, “You will do my wood for the afternoon tomorrow? Are you expecting extra pay or something because it ain’t happening you know?”
“Of course not John, no extra pay, consider it a gift from my family.”
“As a gift? No don’t be ridiculous, I have the gift of money and independence I don’t need a gift.” John grumbles as he looks away in disgust and pride. “Trust me, if I ever NEED anything, it won’t be from anybody in this pathetic place.” He continued, “Just never mind the wood tomorrow and come in tonight to finish your work that your getting paid for and don’t try to claim overtime because that is not happening either.”
“Thank you John, and have a happy holiday.” George utters, “Good night.”
John can’t stand the greeting, “Merry Christmas” what the heck is so merry about it? Shopping around, spending, more like wasting money on gifts. The people in this community are drunk half the time and spend what they have left to “house BINGO” what a joke they turned out to be.
Back in the day his boss was the same way, buying gifts, giving discounts and adding candies to the supplies people would buy and the old inventory used to include gift ideas, with a discount of course. The folks here loved his old dead boss but as far as he was concerned, he was only enabling the losers and saving them money to squander on booze and bingo. “Oh Andrew,” John starts, “you were such a fool, where did it get you eh? 6 feet underground and nothing to show for it, you sold me the business and you died with many of your fair–weather friends gathering around you. Poor buggers were only crying for the gravy-train you were, nothing more.”
Just as John starts to walks to his den, there is a knock at the door: “Who in the blazes is that?” John mutters.
He opens the door to see two rough looking winos that may have seen better days. It was hard to say if they were this way from birth or were made this way by making idiotic decisions. John decides to humour them: “What the heck do you want?”
“Good evening John,” one starts, “can you help a couple of ol’ classmates, ha ha, we want to know if you can spare a bit of food.”
John barely contains himself, he wants to bash the wino’s face in but he relents, “Listen you bum, I don’t want you or your fellow loser coming around here to ask for food or change or whatever else you can’t earn for yourself. I am sick and tired of you helpless-by-choice maggots trying to get sympathy from me, now get the heck off my property!”
“Band property,” One corrects him.
“JUST GET OUT OF HERE!” John is steaming at this point as he drives off the poor homeless men before him.
The two men scurry off to the reserve street where they almost stumble and fall. John stares at the men with an icy look that would turn anything warm and cozy into a block of ice. The appearance of John’s face is one of satisfaction as the men bumble about like the idiots he thinks they are. His stare turns icy again as he sees his neighbor from across the street taking the men into their warm and toasty home. He thinks the visit is for the night: “Fools!” He yells out, but the neighbors, who know him well, don’t pay attention and shut their door with a defying thud.
John believes people could not be any stupider or more foolish with their so-called acts of kindness. It is his belief that people only help others to look good in front of their peers as to appear good and kind. He never really cared what other people thought because their opinion was never any good anyway. There was only one person he wanted to impress, his old partner from way back, Thomas.
Thomas has since past away but he died a happy fellow that still had much in the way of money and an inventory so vast as to leave John with much, much assets. The funeral was sparse in attendance but the legacy the man left behind was much more important than the presence of a bunch of free-loaders.
John stands at his back window to take in all beauty his trading post has provided for him. At the edge of the yard that holds his bow target, he notices a man standing with only his pajamas on. “Another bum.” he says to himself as he searches for his glasses to get a better look but when he finds them and puts them on, nobody is in sight. “Good riddance.” He mutters.
John wakes to the sound of chains dragging on the floor in the hallway. He thinks that maybe a mouse is dragging a mouse trap with him from one of the cracks on the wall. He hears it again but this time it sounded more like leg-hold traps his old partner used to use to mangle animals’ limbs before they died.
He hears the door creaking as he peeks over his blanket, “who’s there?” He says, just above a whisper, “I have a gun beside me.” He continues.
“John-John, you would not hurt an old friend would you?”
John uncovers the rest of his face to get a look at the intruder, and there he was, Thomas, the only one who ever called him John-John. “Thomas?” John stammers, “It can’t be, your dead, you died a long time ago.”
“Yes I did,” Thomas answers, “it has been a long time and I have only suffered.”
“Thomas, you were the best, the best business man I have ever known. You and I did so much for the community, why would you be suffering?”
“We didn’t share John, our culture is plainly clear on that, we need to share and the rewards are the happiness of our people.”
“The people?” asks John, “The people are nothing but a bunch of spoon-fed idiots who needed our supplies, our inventory was always one of abundance. Without us, the people would have nothing.”
“Yet here I am, forever bound to drag every trap and snare for every animal I could have shared and given, instead I would save the meat for myself or throw it away instead of having to “contribute to free-loaders” as we would say.”
“Just take them off, don’t be an idiot Thomas!”
“There is a more dreadful fate awaiting you John.” Thomas warned, “a fate so terrible that the journey in the circle of life would take an eternity.”
“Circle of life?” John asks, “Are you on the journey?”
“I needed to stop and warn you, you need to change John, before it’s too late.”
“I see no need to change, I am doing so well John, I have everything and so do you.”
“What do I have but the fate I have given myself. The suffering is real John, constant pain, constant reminders that it could have been different, you can change John.”
“I don’t want to change, I won’t change, you have gotten too soft Thomas, pick yourself up, you only…”
“ENOUGH!” Demands Thomas: “There will be three others to come after me to warn you. I just wanted to stop, to tell you it is not too late now, but now is the time.”
John looks away from his friend, “Get out of here! Leave me alone, I don’t need to do anything.” John looks up and sees an empty space. He wakes up to find himself exactly the way he was when he fell asleep. “Thank goodness,” he declares, “it was only a dream.” John goes back to bed and falls asleep.
John wakes up to see a large eagle standing right beside his bed. The sharp beak and piercing eyes command a fear that few have ever had to endure. John looks blankly at the commanding presence and barely can utter a word, “wha…”
“I am the Eagle, spirit of Giving past,” says the entity as she looks a down at the petrified man lying before him, “in the past our people had the strength and the pride of an eagle, proud as the caregivers of their nests and their young.”
John finally finds his voice, yet quietly, “What do you want?”
“I am here to remind you of your past.”
Suddenly John finds himself at a foggy meadow standing beside the Eagle. He looks off to his right to see an elderly fella skinning the hide of a deer, it is his father, long since departed of this earth. His father stands there talking to somebody else, it is John when he was younger.
“John, please do as I told you to do.”
“Dad why do we have to give out my deer, I’m the one who killed it.”
“John we have to share what we kill to those in need, we will have plenty left over for ourselves.”
“People in need should go out and kill their own deer, we don’t need their handouts.”
“John, it is not a handout or charity, it is the way we do things in our culture.”
“Nobody cares about our culture, drinking and bingo are not our culture.”
“That is true but social gatherings and giving is important, people just have different ways of doing those kinds of things even if it’s not in their best interest.”
“They can get their own is all I’m saying.”
The Eagle looks at Johns expression and sees little difference. “John, this is the point where you should have learned your values but you insisted on going your own way.” The Eagle points to a young couple living in a shack, the young man goes outside to wait to get picked up for work but it doesn’t happen. The young mother and her baby have little to eat and it looks like there won’t be anything to improve their situation anytime soon.
“So what if their hungry, the young man should go out hunting not mopping around doing nothing, besides there has to be someone who can spare some food.”
“He has been waiting to go to work, their families live in overcrowded houses and their trap-lines are depleted and are being shared by their older siblings who are also just trying to survive.”
The baby starts to cry in the arms of his parents as his hunger increases. “These are the people in need that your father wanted to share with but YOU John, wanted to keep the meat to yourself.”
“Get me out of here, I don’t want to see poor people crying, get me home right now,” screams John as he turns around to find himself in his living room downstairs. “How did I get here?” He asks himself.
As he turns to go upstairs, he bumps into a moose man standing there with his antlers wide and strong but with a calmness he can feel. “Oh no, not another one,” John says as he palms his face, “who are you now?”
The moose man looks at John with sad suffering eyes, “John, I am Moose, spirit of Giving present, not a predator but a survivor among predators.”
Moose and John are standing outside the window of his employee’s rundown house. George is bringing a big bowl of fried potatoes to the centre of the table. “Dad, what is for supper?”
“FRIED POTATOES!” shouts George, with over done jubilation.
“YAY!” Jimmy yells, “potatoes again.”
John is flabbergasted, “What is so good about a big ol’ bowl of potatoes?”
“They are being sarcastic,” Moose explains, “this is probably the fifth night they’ve had to eat potatoes for supper.”
“That’s not too bad, as long as they’re eating something, that’s good, way to go George just like a man should be.”
“With the meager salary you pay him, he can’t afford more than what they have.”
“Well kudos to ol’ George, he has done well for himself.”
Six year old Jimmy turns to his father, “Dad, maybe these potatoes are making me worse, the pain seems badder after I eat them.”
“When I can save more money, we can send you off to a specialist, but this is all I can do for now. Sally dear, come to the table with us.” George says as he gathers his loving family and hold hands, “I would like to give thanks for the meal we are about to receive and blessings to all mankind.” George continues, “and I would also like to thank my employer John for his trust in me.”
“Ha!” Sally says, “why do you even mention that decrepit old man, he could have at least gave you a bit of a Christmas bonus.”
“Sally, John is alone tonight, his family is all but gone with only distant siblings who are like him.”
“No dear, they like to keep to themselves.” George declares as he notices Jimmy bending over in pain, he runs to his side, “Jimmy, oh my poor boy, just hold for a few seconds, it will go away.”
John looks away, “Please take me back.”
The Moose can sense the guilt in Johns words, “Why John? Do you actually care?”
“Of course I care you stupid Moose now let us go home, I grow weary of your mind games.”
John wakes up in a heaving sweat. He quickly looks around for the moose man and reassures himself that it was just another nightmare. He walks over to his den to look at some paper work that George will need to work on the next day. He carefully looks over some data and sees movement at the corner of his eye, at the wind frosted window facing one of the trees in his massive yard. He shrugs it off and continues his work. Again he sees something but he does look directly this time hoping it will just go away. The movement seems to increase. This time he looks up to see a great horned owl the size of a man deathly staring at him. Johns jumps up off the chair, “Cheese and crackers, what now!” He yells.
The Owl, spirit of Giving future, a symbol of death in Indian culture, does not make a sound. He only stares as if to know what John is thinking. He points to a place where there is no love for man in the winter, the street. John and Owl stand at a street corner as a couple hold each other as they cry walking to their empty humble house, “There was nothing that could be done Sally dear,” George says as he tries to assure his wife that things just happen sometimes for odd reasons.
“If we had the medicine, he would still be with us.”
“Darling, we still have each other but you are right, there was just no money.”
“Just no money, John could have paid you what you deserve and Jimmy would still be with us.”
John looks on in shear guilt, “No not Jimmy, the poor boy.” Owl just stands there and makes no motions or even stirs abit. “You did this didn’t you Owl? You are the death symbol therefore you could have done something, it’s all on you. If not you then who?”
Owl brings up a huge dark wing over John and brings it down to reveal a new sight. Two men are carrying shovels as they walk away from the local graveyard. They are talking about somebody. “Well that was quick, just a burial and no real funeral.” Says one of them.
“Tell me about it, he has the most expensive plot and tombstone but nobody there to bid him farewell, ha ha, another classmate bites the dust. What did we do to live so long?”
“Good genes and good jeans, they keep the body from falling apart.”
“This old man only wore the finest even to his grave, after I spit on it, I dug up some nice cufflinks.”
The other man starts laughing, “Hahaha, all dressed up and nobody shows up.”
“Hahahaha, poor bugger”
John feels outright sympathy for the recently deceased, “Who is this poor soul that nobody attends the funeral?”
Owl leads John to the lone grave and points at the tombstone with his large wing. John bends to get a good look, he can barely make out the name in the dark but then he sees it, JOHN
John takes a stumbling step back, “No, no it can’t be, this can’t be, you have to do something, I can change, Jimmy doesn’t have to die, I can’t die like this, I’ll change,” John cries, ” I promise I’ll change, I can take care of everything, I’ll change, ” John goes on his knees, “I’ll change, I’ll change, I’ll chan…” Suddenly, he is in his living room floor. “What? Where am I?” John gets up and peers out the window. “there’s still time, yes, there’s still time.” He opens the window and shouts out “I’m home, I’m back!” There is a soft knock at the door, more of a gentle rapping.
John opens it to find the same two men that came by yesterday, “Merry Christmas gentlemen, welcome, come on in.”
The two men look behind themselves to see who John is talking to, “This our last plea for food, please, we are hungry.”
“Hungry?” John yells, “no need to be hungry, here hang on.” John runs to his fridge and pulls out a rack of ribs, “Here take my best ribs, and here take my bread, cheese and whatever else.”
“Thank you,” says one thankfully, “are you alright sir?”
“Never been better, you boys need a ride somewhere? Here take my snow machine keys, drive around and live a little, here’s some money buy yourselves something.”
“Thank you sir, ol’ classmate, if you are our ol’ classmate.” Questions the other man.
“Yes, old classmates, now run along I have things to do today.”
The men jump on the snow machine and drive off. John looks around his home with a new sense of life. He skips over to his den and there he finds the data on inventory and his finances, “From now on, things are going to be different.”