The Night Watchman
eBook - ePub

The Night Watchman

Louise Erdrich

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  1. 464 pagine
  2. English
  3. ePUB (disponibile sull'app)
  4. Disponibile su iOS e Android
eBook - ePub

The Night Watchman

Louise Erdrich

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Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning author Louise Erdrich'sgrandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C., this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman.

Thomas Wazhashk is the night watchman at the jewel bearing plant, the first factory located near the Turtle Mountain Reservation in rural North Dakota. He is also a Chippewa Council member who is trying to understand the consequences of a new "emancipation" bill on its way to the floor of the United States Congress. It is 1953 and he and the other council members know the bill isn't about freedom; Congress is fed up with Indians. The bill is a "termination" that threatens the rights of Native Americans to their land and their very identity. How can the government abandon treaties made in good faith with Native Americans "for as long as the grasses shall grow, and the rivers run"?

Since graduating high school, Pixie Paranteau has insisted that everyone call her Patrice. Unlike most of the girls on the reservation, Patrice, the class valedictorian, has no desire to wear herself down with a husband and kids. She makes jewel bearings at the plant, a job that barely pays her enough to support her mother and brother. Patrice's shameful alcoholic father returns home sporadically to terrorize his wife and children and bully her for money. But Patrice needs every penny to follow her beloved older sister, Vera, who moved to the big city of Minneapolis. Vera may have disappeared; she hasn't been in touch in months, and is rumored to have had a baby. Determined to find Vera and her child, Patrice makes a fateful trip to Minnesota that introduces her to unexpected forms of exploitation and violence, and endangers her life.

Thomas and Patrice live in this impoverished reservation community along with young Chippewa boxer Wood Mountain and his mother Juggie Blue, her niece and Patrice's best friend Valentine, and Stack Barnes, the white high school math teacher and boxing coach who is hopelessly in love with Patrice.

In the Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich creates a fictional world populated with memorable characters who are forced to grapple with the worst and best impulses of human nature. Illuminating the loves and lives, the desires and ambitions of these characters with compassion, wit, and intelligence, The Night Watchman is a majestic work of fiction from this revered cultural treasure.

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Log Jam 26

As the train pulled into Fargo, Wood Mountain wanted Patrice to write down the two addresses.
“Because you’re a baby. I mean, not streetwise. This way I have a trail in case you get lost.”
“I can find my way.”
“In the bush, sure. You and your cramp bark.”
“I have been in town.”
“A city, Pixie.”
“What do you know about it?”
“More than you. Once, I visited my sister. And I’ve had fights down there.”
“Did you win any?”
“Well. You should have. Okay, here is where I’m going.”
Pixie—Patrice—wrote the addresses on a scrap of newspaper. She didn’t tell him about the emergency address. Bernadette was his half sister. Wood Mountain pocketed the bit of paper. As he rose, he looked down at her. Without thinking, like it was natural, he tried out the smile he practiced in the shaving mirror. Oh, and she responded, didn’t she? Looked at him wonderingly. He felt her eyes on him as he turned around. Watching as he walked down the aisle of the train and out the door. . . .
And she was thinking, What was that? That smile? Like he saw it on some cheap movie poster. A smile like the dough in her lunch bucket—sad and raw. Not even half baked. Patrice settled back into her seat and took out the syrup bucket. She ate several pinches of the pemmican, looking out the window into downtown Fargo. The Empire Tavern. She saw Wood Mountain walking along. Swinging his duffel bag. If he walked into the bar she’d never speak to him again. He walked past.
Okay, maybe sometime, she thought as the train pulled out.
She slept so hard the pattern on the seat’s upholstery bit into her cheek. When she woke, and put her fingers to her face, she could feel the dimples from the harsh cloth. They had come a long way and were passing through St. Cloud. In no time at all now they would be in Minneapolis. The wiry lady had claimed the seat beside Patrice. Now she was using narrow silver needles to knit a white froth of yarn into a weblike blanket for a baby. The delicate folds streamed down and puddled in her lap. Patrice looked away from her, but the lady noticed that her seatmate was awake and introduced herself.
“What takes you to the Cities?”
“I’m looking for my sister, and her baby.”
“Ohhh?” Bitty’s face quivered as she talked. She was a flat emaciated woman. Her scalp showed through colorless wisps of hair. Her lips were pale and thin. “How is your sister? And her baby? I supposed you’re going to visit the new baby.”
The woman anxiously pursed her lips and squinted at her needles.
“Not exactly. She’s lost. I mean, we haven’t heard from her. And I’ve never met the baby. I’m worried something has happened.”
“Oh my goodness no, no, no! I hope nothing to the baby!”
The woman’s needles continued to switch back and forth. The insectlike clicking intensified. Suddenly the woman turned to her, with an air of delivering a solution to the problem. “I’m going to pray for your sister.”
“Thank you,” said Patrice.
The woman closed her eyes but continued on without missing a stitch. Her clay-colored lips moved. A sweetness played across her features. Patrice turned away and shut her eyes to sop up the remnants of sleep. When she turned back, the woman was still praying and knitting. The blanket was even longer. Patrice nearly spoke, but the woman’s lips were still moving, and her murmur was intense, nearly audible. Patrice turned away again and stared out the window. The flat lush fields were left behind and replaced by stands of oak and sandy pastures with milk cows grazing. In the distance, to one side, she could see a clump of tall brown structures. Abruptly, the back lots of tumbled houses and then brick warehouses lined the tracks. The pace slowed to a mild rocking and the size of the buildings increased. Soon taller buildings reared to either side of the tracks. Once, another train blurred past, inches away, like in a dream. At last, they slowed to a creeping pace and entered a structure of shadows and tall pillars where the train hissed to a stop.
“Here,” said the woman, opening her eyes.
She rolled up the filmy blanket and handed it to Patrice.
“This is for your sister’s baby.”
The little woman slipped into the aisle.
“Thank you!” Patrice called, but the little woman did not turn around. Patrice held the blanket to her face for a moment. It had a null scent—it didn’t even smell of yarn. No, wait, there was something. A sort of powdery private sadness. The woman had lost a baby, Patrice thought. But the blanket felt like an insurance that she would find Vera and her baby. She pulled her makeshift suitcase from the rack over her seat and stuffed the good-omen baby blanket inside. Then she followed the other passengers along the aisle.
Patrice stepped down onto the platform and followed a sign to the main ticketing and waiting area. There were benches, like church pews but with intermittent armrests. The wood was solid, warmed and stained by so many people sitting. She sat down too. She remembered her lipstick, and applied a fresh coat with help from her compact mirror. People looked up, as they always do when a woman applies lipstick in public. Sometimes, Patrice did this as a test, or as a way of checking behind her, if she felt threatened. This time she looked into the mirror just to gather her determination. This was bound to happen. She was bound not to have foreseen something. What came next. How was she going to get from the train station to the address? She had supposed she could walk. Miles were nothing to her. But now she had seen enough of the size of the city to know it was more than miles. It was street after confusingly similar street. She needed advice. Maybe one of the women at the ticket window. She put away the lipstick and walked over to the window.
“Take a cab, dear. Just wait outside on one of those benches.”
A taxicab, of course! Like in magazine stories. Patrice went through tall handsome doors, fitted with brass, and sat down on a bench near the curb. A car pulled up. She showed the address to the driver and asked how much it would cost to go there.
“Nothing,” said the driver. “I’m going there anyway.”
“No,” she said. “I will pay you something.”
“We’ll see. Special price for a pretty lady.”
She opened the door to get into the backseat.
“Sit up front, why don’t you?” said the driver.
“No, thanks,” she said. She was positive that she remembered the backseat from a magazine story. She would not be fooled. The man got out of the car and put her bag on the car’s backseat. He opened the passenger door for her and ushered her into the car. All of this happened in a matter of seconds. He was a broad brown-haired freckled man with freckled hands. His suit was rumpled and baggy, and he seemed in a hurry. She sat in the front seat. He had that sharp smell, like Barnes, but also different, like he’d had a drink already. She wished that she’d taken a different cab. And it surprised her a little that he wore a suit and tie. He hadn’t let up talking for a moment and was driving forcefully along, taking turns with great swings of his arms, sweating although the day was cool.
“You’re from where? Never heard of it. What’s your friend look like? What was she wearing last time you saw her? Say she has a baby, huh? And you’re from where? Never heard of it. There’s lots to do here. You’ll like it here. You want a job? There’s jobs. I can get you a job right now. You have to know the right people. I know the right people. A cabdriver? No, I’m not a cabdriver. I drive people around but I’m not a cabdriver....

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