OK

Listen.

This is a story.

One day, Nanapush found himself loping along a wide and twisted path through an unfamiliar forest that bumped up against the wiikwedong. As he went along, he was thinking that he was just beginning to be hungry and hoped that he'd find some food before he really began to think about being hungry.

Nanapush noticed as he went along that the path was growing more and more twisted, curling around like a gookoosh's tail and seeming to take him nowhere. In fact, Nanapush began to suspect that he was looping back and back and back again on paths he'd already trod.

Worse, he wondered whether he might be walking along the back of the giant serpent known to inhabit the forest. He tried to set aside that thought because it made him nervous and, therefore, a little hungrier.

By and by, Nanapush had an idea. He'd mark a spot he'd just reached along the path and then see whether he came back to that spot. That way, he'd know whether the path was taking him back to places he'd already been.

So, Nanapush found a stout-looking wiigwaasi, which isn't always easy, alongside the path and scratched into its white bark. Then, he squatted next to the marked tree and shat a handful of sticky pellets. These he formed into a ball and smeared across the marks he'd scratched into the birch tree, all the time reminding himself of how clever he'd been.

Reassured that he was in control of the situation, Nanapush once again began moving along the path. But, unknown to him at the time, back at the tree he'd marked, other creatures were stopping by to check it out. The first, as always, was ojiins who buzzed all over the surface of Nanapush's mark before landing on just the right spot and loading up his tiny legs with its full and heady fragrance.

Next came waagosh, his reddish fur flashing in the shafts of the light that shot through the forest trees. She was joined presently by amik, his flat tail making slapping noises on the hardened path; waawaashkeshi, who thought he just might have rubbed his velvety antler nubs on this very tree, then agongosens, who cast aside his empty acorn shell and ran in nervous circles around the base of the birch before noticing magwa’s disapproving look and settling down. Even mooz made an appearance just as opichee settled in a branch overhead and bushy-tailed zhigaag awoke from her day nap and pushed out of the briars.

Magwa, as custom demands, rose up and took charge of the ensuing conversation.

"Does anyone not believe that this is Nanapush's mark?" he asked the assembled creatures.

None spoke up so aandeg, performing his ancient task to perfection, croaked out his confirmation of their assent.

"I think Nanapush means for us to follow him on some adventure he wants to share," ventured waagosh. "But, which way was he going?"

Mooz ambled up onto the path and studied the earth for a number of minutes.

Dropping one massive antler to point the way, he said only, "There."

So, the strange collection of animals, each with his or her own reasons, perhaps, set out along the winding path that ran through the woods that abutted the wiikwedong.

Up ahead, Nanapush had no idea that any of this was going on, but he was quite certain that his growling stomach required a nap of him to settle things properly. Finding no hint of his scent or the marks he'd left on the birch tree, even as the path became even more curled and twisted, he had been growing more and more perplexed for the last many minutes.

Which made him sleepy.

So, Nanapush dragged out some fresh spruce boughs and carefully laid them out on a bare patch alongside the path. He did so to cushion his poor head, which had grown weary from constantly reminding him how hungry he thought he might be while scheming to find a way to fix the problem.

Presently, the band of fellow creatures rounded a sharp turn, of which there were many, and found Nanapush sleeping there. When he didn't awaken right away, despite the racket a gaggle that size might make, the creatures withdrew into the forest and waited for the next thing to happen whatever that might be.

While they bided their time, some of them foraged for a little sustaining food while others took after Nanapush's example and napped. A few found themselves caught up with inevitable squabbles, but only a small amount of fur and feather was shed.

When Nanapush awoke, he remained still for a few minutes, just so he could remember where he was. Then, he sat up and stretched out his lanky limbs, clambered to his feet and set off again. Opichee, who had been nearby watching, let the others know that Nanapush was on the move. In a minute or two, the creatures, who now filled the path from side to side and extended back for many dozens of feet, set out again.

The road was now growing so grotesquely gnarled and twisted that Nanapush feared that he could get lost standing still or that, once moving, he'd meet himself rounding a curve. He was soon to be saved, though, as up ahead, in the distance, he saw an open field at the forest's edge.

It wasn’t just an ordinary field or clearing, though, all green and sun-dappled and redolent with the scent of leaf and flower . Oh, no. Instead, it seemed, strangely enough, to be covered with a bumpy carpet of brightest orange.

When Nanapush reached the edge of this strange place, though, he saw that it wasn't carpet at all that lay before him, but a field (and just in time, too!) of ripe pumpkins. As he stood and marveled at the sight, licking his lips and planning his plan, the creatures behind him swarmed past by the thousands and began tearing into the bounty.

"But, but, these are my pumpkins!" Nanapush raged to no effect. In fact, he might as well have been whispering into a northern gale. "I reached here first, you greedy good-for-nothings and I am oh-so-hungry."

The swarm paid him no attention, so Nanapush dove into the field himself, angry, ravenous and determined to deny the pumkins to the other creatures by eating as many as he could.

The result was predictable.

Many hours later, Nanapush sprawled on the ground in the middle of the field, unable to move because of his wild feasting, his belly swollen and aching like it never had since the last time he had suffered such good fortune.

And yet, despite all that eating, a half a field of succulent, tender, undisturbed orange globes still spread out before him with no other creatures were in sight. Not all creatures, as we know, partake without restraint and it could be said of his road friends that they were of just such a conservative nature when it came to found food.

"I think I'll just take a little rest," Nanapush said to anyone who could hear, "but I intend to return to the pumpkins shortly for, as everyone knows, I am the undisputed feast king."

And so he took his rest.

The pumpkins would no doubt be there when he awoke.

Originally posted to megisi on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 03:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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