After great-grandfather died, the old Indian who lived up in the side of the hill facing down on the railroad track adopted Boj. His name was Ed, he told Boj, because there were not many whites who could pronounce his Indian name correctly.
"You whites throw your tongue out of your head when you talk," Ed told Boj. "The People know to keep our tongues in our heads. We put our tongues up on the roof of our mouths when we talk. That is how we can talk in ways you cannot imitate."
"Your great western star, John Wayne, could not even imitate the simplest Navajo greeting," Ed remembered. "I met him once out in Arizona. People were embarrassed for him when he tried to talk like us. The children did not know they should not laugh at him and the women had to spank them with switches so they would leave him alone. I was a child then, raised by my aunt, who was probably not my aunt, but she told me to call her Old-Aunt and love her that way. One beating, I tell you, and I quit laughing at your Mr. Wayne.'
"And we don't talk very much, either," Ed added.
Ed was a squat, older man of unknown years. Even Ed was not sure of his birth year.
"I was born before the war," Ed would tell Boj. "I am not sure which war. You whites are always fighting someone. You go everywhere just to fight someone. The People used to go with you but we know better now. Now we stay home and fight fires in the forests, so the Earth Mother won't be alone."
"When the People would fight each other," Ed remembered, "we stopped usually at dark. We weren't trying to kill anyone, not really. It was more important to us to just touch a live opponent and run away."
"Our wars were more like games of tag," Ed said. "Until we met the white man."
Ed had green eyes, not brown. He insisted both of his parents were full-blood members of the People. However, somewhere back in his lineage there had to have been an open-minded person.
"It is certain I have an Anglo in my woodpile," Ed would say and snort with laughter.
Ed was short and thick. He had impossibly high cheekbones, thick lips and a wide, happy mouth. He wore his hair medium long, with a mustache so dense food crumbs from his Indian bread could not penetrate the top surface. The orts laid compliant on the surface of his facial hair until, with one heavy shake he would send them flying.
Ed wore denim jeans and scuffed boots decidedly down at the heels. His shirts were always the bright, flannel types, with faux stone snaps instead of buttons. He could get in and out of his shirt faster, Ed said, with snap down shirts, instead of ponderously fingering the buttons.
In fact, Ed lived alone in a hogan in the side of a red clay hill overlooking the railroad track quite because he could not work with intricate items. His hands and arms were normal, if short. They were even attractive, what with his thick biceps and well-developed triceps, the biceps for show and the triceps for the real work a man had to do. His hands were powerfully strong and well formed. Well formed, that is, until one got to the end of his fingers and thumbs, the point of the digits beyond the last knuckle. There his fingers seemed to have melted at some point and reformed in thick, unresponsive clubs.
"My toes are the same way," he told Boj one evening as they sat among the detritus Ed collected as self-appointed historian of his People.
"I think the Anglo in my background must have been part-elephant," Ed said, seriously. "He must have had a really tough hide and prominent outer features. There is nothing like this among the People."
"In fact," Ed told him, "the Human Beings have a hard time with someone who looks like me. There is a lot of the old superstition left about malformed People. Many of our People think the Earth Mother cannot make a wrong thing, so we must come from someone else. We need the bottle-nosed fly to go down to the fourth earth and talk to the Earth Mother for us, to bring some kind of reassurance about who we are and where we fit but the flies won't speak for us anymore and the hummingbirds can't because the fire ants killed them in their nests. That is why it is so dry these days, you know, because the flies and the hummingbirds are offended and few."
Boj was now continuing his lessons in religion, though he did not know it. Great-grandfather was gone, dead, seemingly unconcerned with passing, but dead anyway, whether it bothered him to die at 96 or not. Great-grandfather had never found his missing, sinister, left shoe but he believed God, who lived in eternity instead of time had that shoe, kept for God's own purpose, which purpose God would show to great-grandfather when he entered eternity.
Ed believed the animals once spoke for the Human Beings to the Earth Mother to redress the grievances of the People who could not speak to the Earth Mother for themselves. Once the Human Beings forgot how to talk to the animals, then the Earth Mother could not hear their distress any longer. They were a sinful People without a mediator. They lived and died on an increasingly unfriendly planet because they made the Earth Mother sad. She had withdrawn, the Earth Mother, to live in another sphere, apart from the People. No one could go talk to her there because the People could not go and the animals could not hear the People any more.
Boj would find out, as he grew, that all people, like the People, had some kind of religion, even if it did not include God at any point, not as shoe-stealing deity or absent Earth Mother. People had to have a religion to account for their own failures. Life became dark too often. Men were afraid of the things that went bump in the night, sure as they were that the night creatures were present, powerful and vengeful. Men needed light in the darkness.
Boj could never understand the religious people who tried to deny their religion. They talked about their faith system like it was a life-style, more like Weight Watchers or Alcoholic's Anonymous than eternal, revealed Truth. Boj could never imagine why anyone would die for a life style, or maintain the life-style if it cost too much to follow.
No, the People needed a mediator, like the bottle-nosed fly, to go down to where Earth Mother lived now, apart from the People, to argue for rain and cool breezes. The People needed a priest to make sacrifice to atone for their sins and so bring them into a right relationship with God. The People needed a mediator like Jesus, who could become sin for them because He had no sin of His own. The People needed a mediator.
The People needed.