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The Mark of Mello
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Glenard Price cruised into North Idaho with money on his mind. He was a man made of missions, of desires and ambitions. His greatest accomplishments in life had been his swift and savvy deals in real estate, as a developer. His successes not only made him rich, but also very proud.


In life, Mello left his own people to care for the spiritual needs of strangers. He’d traveled with the spring wind into his new camp, tending to the strangers with neither contempt nor prejudice. All he asked in return was a burial in the customs of his ancestors.

  His two apprentices, Nikiti and Lonato, constantly quarreled over who would become head Shaman when Mello retired. They went to great lengths to outdo each other, even during Mello’s burial. They hauled his corpse up a mountain, Mello’s favorite place, where he’d spent many rising suns walking in parallel worlds. From this place, one could see the great giving river where they caught fish and next to which they dug camas root.

  On the mountain, the two young men dug a grave in the traditions of Mello’s people, the way he had explained on several occasions. They gathered dry branches and placed them in the grave, then erected a sturdy wooden platform above the grave where they placed Mello’s body.

  Nikiti prided himself for digging faster, while Lonato boasted a better woodchopper. Together, they lit the branches in the grave and stood back watching the flames grow and then devour their old Shaman and teacher.

  Smoke from the fire filled the already gray day with haze and when Mello’s remains fell into the grave, the two Shamans stirred the coals and waited for the fire to burn down.

  While they waited, they argued over which one would speak the words that would guide Mello into the spirit world.

  “I’m older,” Nikiti said. “I have the right of age.”

  “But I’m wiser,” Lonato said. “I’ll get him there quicker.”

  They couldn’t come to an agreement, so decided to have a contest to see who could throw his hatchet the farthest.

  Nikiti went first, since he was oldest, and sent his hatchet far into the distance, the blade striking a tree and sticking. Lonato’s throw sailed just as far, only striking a different tree, also sticking. This solved nothing between them.

  Next they threw spears, only their throws were again evenly matched, both powerful. They shouted to see whose voice would carry farther, but
they were again equal.

  Finally, they concluded that they’d both speak for Mello and hope that the spirits didn’t become confused by the different timbres of their voices.

  Lonato placed Mello’s sacred eagle feather in the grave over his ashes and both apprentices together covered the grave with the earth they’d taken from it. Nikiti removed from beneath his buffalo-skin shirt a bone filled with the blood of Mello, taken from the wound that had killed him.

  Already Lonato had etched a symbol into the earth, two parallel lines with a horizontal line bridging them. The symbol meant passage in Mello’s native language, specifically the passage between worlds.

  First bowing to the four directions, Nikiti sprinkled some of the blood over the symbol.

“Spirit of Mello,” he said, “find your way to your ancestors.”

  Lonato grabbed the bone with the blood from Nikiti, trying to stand taller than the other man. He sprinkled the blood into the air. “From this moment forward,” he said, “anyone who sits in this spot will know the mind of Mello.”



  Nikiti grabbed the now empty bone back and buried it next to Mello’s grave.

  Lonato narrowed his eyes at Nikiti as both men extracted their tobacco and pipes from their waist pouches.

  “We’ll smoke from my pipe,” Lonato said.

  Nikiti disagreed. Each smoked from his own pipe, doubling the powers of the ceremony once again, and praying they weren’t causing confusion. When all was done, they descended the mountain to purify in the river.


  Glenard Price cruised into North Idaho with money on his mind. He was a man made of missions, of desires and ambitions. His greatest accomplishments in life had been his swift and savvy deals in real estate, as a developer. His successes not only made him rich, but also very proud.

  His wife, Eloise, didn’t mind her husband’s pride; it had made her life easy, earning them enough money so that she didn’t have to work at a job she found meaningless.

  Right away, they began to look at property, for building their home on. They looked for weeks and settled upon ten acres that both of them loved, enchanted by the remarkable view overlooking the Pend Orielle River.

  The spot they chose for building, however, rested directly over the grave of Mello.

  The Price’s house was of the large rustic variety, hand-hewn log beams and rockwork throughout. Glenard spent much of the time wheeling and dealing and making things happen, while Eloise stayed at home, tiring of the construction around her.

  Her weariness caused her to turn the other cheek to the spot on the floor. When the builders finally left and she saw the spot, she didn’t say anything about it to Glenard. Knowing him, he’d want to tear up the entire floor and put in new wood.

  Eloise tried to scrub the spot out, but the more she scrubbed, the brighter it became—two vertical lines with a horizontal line bridging the two. Strange that if something had spilled there it would leave this mark. It never occurred to her that it might be the mark of an ancient Shaman.

  Finally, she placed a rug over the spot and dragged Glenard’s favorite chair on top of it.

  That night, when he returned home, the first thing Glenard did was sit in his chair; and the next day he decided not to go to work, but to sit in his chair and watch the view of the river. He dug out of a box in the garage his old tobacco pipe and found a packet of tobacco in his closet. He hadn’t smoked his pipe for months.

  Eloise didn’t know what to make of him and retreated to her sewing room where she’d started to sew a quilt.

  Glenard went to work less and less. He instead sat thinking Mello’s thoughts.

  One day Eloise, feeling feisty after spending all morning quilting, asked Glenard, “What happened to your ambitions?”

  “I can’t bear to break the land apart,” he said.

  Eloise opened the fridge and looked in. “That’s what you do, you buy land and you cut it up and make a profit. It’s always worked before.”



  Glenard puffed his pipe. “It’s not what the land wants.”

  They went on this way for weeks, Eloise becoming increasingly frustrated, Glenard becoming increasingly one with the land.

  Eloise continued to make ever-finer quilts and began selling them on ebay. But she couldn’t make enough to pay the bills and hated the idea of getting a job herself.

  The cupboards nearly bare, Glenard decided to go to work one day, at the ceaseless request of Eloise. When he returned home to sit in his chair,
however, Eloise was already sitting in it, one of her quilts wrapped over her lap.

  “I didn’t realize what a nice chair this is,” she said.

  Glenard’s chest tightened. He walked over to Eloise, his breath heavy. “Go ahead and get out of it.”

  Eloise shook her head. “I like it. It calms my nerves after quilting all day.”

  The chair became a thorn between them, both of them enjoying the thoughts of Mello and not wanting to give up the spot for anything.

  It got to where they were competing over the chair constantly. They held contests with each other to see who could cook the best pasta primavera or
the best double-layer cake. Never could one outdo the other. In the summer, they competed over who could grow the biggest marigold. Both grew the same size. Both yielded the same deep color.

  After awhile, Glenard had no choice but to return to full-time work. Their cupboards were bare again and the bills piled high. After a few days of working, he returned home wearing a deep frown and told Eloise they were moving.

  “We don’t need a house this size,” he said. “It’s not worth it.”

  Eloise nodded in agreement. She shoved aside the chair, lifted the rug and pointed to the spot on the floor. “We may need to repair this first.”

  Glenard had the floor replaced and put the house on the market. It sold right away, but already the mark of Mello was beginning to come through the new floor.

  They moved into a house the size of their old master suite, and as time passed, the Price’s began to dread their small house, wishing they’d never moved.

  “It might be fit for a couple of moles,” Glenard said, “but not for us.”

  Glenard went back to work with his old passion and soon had enough money in the bank to buy an even bigger house than the first.

  Every now and then, Eloise stopped her sewing and wondered whatever happened to their desire for simplicity, where it came from. Never did she realize it was the mark of Mello

North Idaho Creative Writing Story Mello | | | |
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