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Excerpt - Breath of All That Is



1        Grandma Jewel

            Inya pulls my paintbrush away from me and cries. “Mata, stop hitting me—”

            “You’re a pest!” I hit her again and take the paintbrush back.

            “Mama, she’s painting my braids,” my little sister tattles.

            “Young lady, it’s time you visit Grandma Jewel,” Mama shouts. “Ever since Daddy went to Iraq . . .” Mama throws up her arms and I hear tears in her voice. “You are much too big to hit your sister. Put your paints away.” She gives me her ‘I mean business’ look. “You better listen closely to Grandma.”

            Mama sends me across the wash and past the big cottonwood tree to Grandma’s house when I fight with my sister. Grandma is a storyteller. She teaches us old Yavapai stories and makes up new ones, too. She says we learn lessons from everything — yache, idji — plants, animals, and even from the stars in the sky.

            When Grandma answers her door, her eyebrows look like question marks. “Squabbling again, are you?”

            I hang my head. I don’t feel good when I hit my sister or put paint in her hair.

            Grandma’s eyes crinkle up. “You miss your father . . .  It’s good you’re here — I need your young arms and legs to help me.”

            “Because I’m fighting again?”

            “Well, that. And because I’m old and creaky.”

            “You’re not so old. Look how tall and straight you are!”

            “I’ll take out my teeth to prove it,” she teases.

            “Your teeth don’t come out,” I say. “Maybe you’re just too lazy to do your own work!”

            Grandma grins like a new sliver of moon and tweaks my nose. “Then I’m in good company, Mata.”

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