The next morning the ship docked at the main port of Indian Island. Cap’n had said his goodbyes to Meribah the night before, so now made only polite goodbyes to the rest of the group. He then went off in search of his contact with whom he was to trade his haulings.
The group had gained two members, Meribah and Nathanial, but it was also losing one. Rin had decided to stay with Karteen, who he cared for deeply. While everyone else walked down the dock to the city, Lily stayed to wish farewell to Rin.
“The Métis and other races live here,” said Meribah leading the way. “The Métis live for the most part on the outskirts of the city acting as a buffer between the Indians and all others. We can stay here for an evening or two, we should by then have a way to get off this rock.”
“Well Meribah,” began Joel, “we may have to stay for longer than that. We are, after all, on a quest.”
Meribah tilted her head in thought and disbelief, “Well I guess, God can be anywhere. I just expected it to be a little more, well posh.”
Lily came running up after them, stopping just short to wipe a tear from her cheek. She then regained her composure, and carried herself with the pride that they were used to seeing.
They decided to walk to the centre of town, and there, they hoped, they would find an inn. The town was like many Joel and Marc had seen on earth in the nineteenth century. Buildings made of stone and wood, only the most luxurious ones had brick. Street lamps made of iron set not much higher then a foot ladder for the unfortunate person who had to light them. Wooden planks stretched over a patch of mud where the street was being repaired. Children ran about, from alley to crevice, playing tag. An old Indian sat on his step whittling away at his wood which wore a tingle of blood. They walked by a house where a lady mowed her lawn, while her husband white washed the fence. A dog ran up to the group and danced around Joel, who patted its forehead and scratched its scalp.
As they walked by a general store, an Indian boy stumbled backward and landed in the midst of the group. Joel and Nathanial made to pick him up, but Marc stopped both where they stood. The boy looked up at Marc and nodded as if thanking him.
“And if I ever,” hollered a boy from the doorway, “catch your moccasined feet in my store again, I’ll not stop short of breaking your limbs. Do you understand, Cooked Potato?”
The young boy stood and spat on the ground in front of the fat owner. “Aubidaek.”
“Don’t you speak your twisted tongue in my face!” shouted the owner, and swung his fist toward the boy. The Indian stepped aside, and the proprietor lost his balance and landed face first in the Indian’s spit.
The Indian stepped over the owner and squatted beside him. “My name is Mukwok, your name is Cooked Potato.” With that, the Indian walked up the street, in what one could only explain as graceful pride.
The owner looked up at the group for help, but they having seen the episode walked on. Nathanial walked toward the boy and began to help him up.
“Bloody savages! They don’t belong here,” grunted the boy.
Nathanial let go of the boy letting him fall once more in the Indians spit. “I, sir, had turned the other cheek to your rudeness, but I have no more to turn.” Nathanial walked toward the group, who had stopped to trade for some crafts further up the street.
“Marc, why did you stop Joel and me from helping the Indian boy get to his feet?” asked Nathanial to Marc.
“A munusino, a warrior, has different ideas of what courtesy is than we do. He would have just shook you off, insulted at your attempt. There’s a time for giving a munusino a hand, and a time to give him a knife.”
“What language was that, and what does obidok mean?” asked Meribah.
“It’s Ojibwa, and aubidaek means certainly,” said Marc to Meribah who was very puzzled. “I’ve always lived in Canada, and I’ve had to talk and trade supplies for fur with Indian traders. His name, Mukwok, means bear and I’d treat him as if he were a bear, if I were you. The Ojibwa are a very proud hunting people, and would not take kind to someone helping up a brave who was knocked down.”
“A brave?” asked Joel. “He was only ten years old.”
“And you, Joel, are only eight,” said Lily.
They bought a few purses and sacks from an Indian lady who was very happy to part with them for some of Joel’s spices. Marc asked her where they could find some clean lodgings in trade for spices or work. She directed them away from the ocean and towards the west of the city to a quiet log building named Myeengun, the Wolf.
They walked into the Myeengun and waited in the lobby as Joel rang the bell for service. A boy, who was obviously a Métis, walked in from the doorway behind the front counter. Joel introduced himself and began to explain their dilemma while the manager nodded with concern.
“Well Joel,” said the manager, “I don’t believe we have a problem. I accept both goods and service in trade for lodgings. Unless you have a problem with a little manual labour, I believe we can work something out.” The manager then studied each member of the group in turn. He stopped when his eyes met Marc who was looking the other way. “That is if your two winged ones aren’t as lazy as most of them are.”
Marc turned from the window where he was watching a few children climb a leafless tree. “I can assure you, mister.” Marc looked closely at the manager, and he at him. “Robert Laplante!” They both walked briskly to each other and hugged tightly.
“I don’t think there will be a problem after all,” said Meribah.
After leaving their belongings in their rooms, everyone reported for work. Joel, Lily, and Nathanial went to the kitchen, and Meribah and Marc went to the backyard where a large gazebo was being built.
They ate supper at dusk, and stayed at their table past midnight. The tables were cleared and dishes were done by two groups of people who had come in later that day.
“…and that’s how its done,” said Robert. “Three shifts, one in the morning, one at noon, and one after supper. The people who are working on the supper shift tonight will be moved to the noon shift, and your shift will be move to the morning. This will leave you the rest of the day to do what you will.”
Meribah and Joel excused themselves and went to their room. Soon after, Lily too left, leaving Nathanial and Marc to talk with Robert.
“So tell me, Marc,” said Robert, “how long do you plan to spend here on Indian Island?”
“Only a few days, until we can find a ship that is going in our direction,” said Marc, getting a nod from Nathanial.
“You can’t mean that,” said an astonished Robert. “Nobody would willingly travel during Christmas.”
“Christmas?” asked Nathanial. Robert nodded gravely while rubbing his thin beard. “We had no idea that it was so soon. If you’ll have us, we’ll gladly stay until after Christmas.”
“Then it’s settled, you’ll stay and I’ll see you tomorrow morning.” He got up and extinguished the lights. “Now get to sleep, you do have the morning shift tomorrow.”