Rose Okanese, a single mother with two kids, has been pushed into a corner by Rez citizens to claim some self-respect, and decides that the fastest way to do that would be for her to run the reserve's annual marathon. Though Rose hasn't run in twenty years, smokes and initially has little motivation, she announces her intention to run the race. One quality Rose doesn't lack is spontaneity which sometimes clashes with her iron will and though she has initial regrets about opening her mouth, her life begins to dictate that she must follow through. But as fate will dictate, one rather huge unforeseen outcome of her decision is that she will have to do battle with an old inadvertently conjured demon that feeds off the strength of women. She is a truly mean old spirit who can invade other women and have them do her bidding and in no time has the Rez in an uproar. As Rose discovers, the old demon has been unintentionally called forth by Rose's teen daughter, Sarah, which complicates Rose's life just a little more. The spirit woman creates a reign of fear and havoc by appearing to people on the reserve and freaking them out, all of which leads to incidents of extreme humour and plot-twisting bemusement, liberally sprinkled with some jittery acts of valour. With a cast of unusual and unfamiliar characters, Dumont interweaves a tale of motherly love, friendship, lustful longing, wîhtikow lore, and Rez humour and keeps the hoopla going until the race is done.
At the story's vortex is Rose, a woman destined to face her fears and provide some rich laughter while doing so. Will she send the demon back to where it came from before the spirit claims her teen daughter? Will she get back together with her philandering, rock musician husband before her girls grow up? Will she sort out her best friend's winter pregnancy? But more importantly, will she get this all done before her big, face-saving race with Dahlia Ingram, a woman whom God has designed for one purpose: to run long distances at high speeds with effortless grace.
Dawn Dumont is a Plains Cree comedian and actress born and raised on the Okanese First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada. Dawn has made people laugh at comedy clubs across North American, including New York’s Comic Strip, the New York Comedy Club, and the Improv. She began her comedy career in Toronto on stages such as Yuk Yuk’s and the Laugh Resort. Dawn is currently a comedy writer for CBC Radio and the Edmonton Journal, and is a Story Editor for By the Rapids, an animation comedy series on APTN. Dumont’s writing has been published in the anthologies Native Women in the Arts and Gatherings, as well as in Rampage Literary Journal. Her personal essay “Transformations” was published by Toronto’s Now Magazine. Most recently her play, Nicimis (Little Brother) was workshopped at Native Earth’s Performing Arts Weesageechak Begins to Dance Festival in Toronto, with artistic director Alanis King. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Nobody Cries At Bingo published by Thistledown Press in 2011 is a rare and beautiful fictional memoir of her growing up in the culture of the Okanese First Nation.
Dahlia Ingram was six-feet-two inches tall with legs that came up to Rose Okanese's bicep and every inch of those long legs were encased in some futuristic-looking silver stretch pants designed to show off every bump and curve - except that Dahlia didn't have any of those. She was a creature of bone and muscle, covered with a mop of blonde curls. Nature had designed Dahlia for one purpose: to run long distances at high speeds with effortless grace, and she, and no one else, was Rose's competition for the Annual Okanese Marathon and Fishing Derby.
In this particular year, Dahlia had already ran three marathons, three half marathons and four 10 Ks and it was only June. This was Rose's second race, in her lifetime. (Well, fifth if you included races she ran in elementary school). She'd done okay in those - never last, just an innocuous second or third last depending on whether or not one or both of the asthmatic Bower twins was in attendance.) She'd never had an athletic performance that resulted in someone taking her aside afterwards like the coach in Rocky and patting her on the shoulder: "Yuh got real talent, kid. But you're still a bum."
Rose had her bumps and curves poured into an orange tank top and a pair of black spandex shorts. The spandex shorts had been $19.99, a Walmart splurge, forced upon her by her sixteen-year-old daughter Sarah who had added, "There's no law saying you have to be dorkiest person in the race." Rose kept crossing her legs, subconsciously hoping that it distracted from the size of her thighs.
Probably the best thing she could do to appear smaller was to move away from the human licorice next to her. But the idea of standing alone was more frightening than appearing to be the number ten.
"I'm kind of nervous," she blurted out.
Dahlia continued to stretch her quad muscle, her long leg bent in half like a flamingo.
"I bet you don't get nervous, hey?" Rose continued when there was no reply. "This must be like taking a walk in a park or something? Like walking from your bedroom to your kitchen? I bet you'll go for another run this afternoon, right? How long is this run gonna take you anyway?"
Dahlia looked at Rose like she had just noticed her for the first time. Her eyes, permanently crinkled at the corners from wind, swept from Rose's full face, already flushed, down to her slightly protruding belly, over her knees pointing inwards to her purple and white Saucony sneakers.
"Nice shoes," Dahlia said. Rose beamed.
"They were a gift. From my kids."
"Mom!" Callie yelled. Rose looked over and saw her eight-year-old daughter waving a bag of cotton candy. "Did you eat?"
"I'm good, honey!" Rose called back. "That's my daughter Callie," she explained to Dahlia. "Do you have any?"
Dahlia shook her head. She moved into the runner's stretch and dropped her knee down to the ground. For a tall woman, she was very flexible.
Rose tried to replicate the stretch but found her lower back laughed at her so she settled for bending forward from the waist in a bouncy motion.
"You know ten weeks ago, I hadn't run in twenty years. I sure as hell never thought I'd be here right now, lined up at this race, next to a pro like you. Funny how life throws you into some strange situations, huh? I mean I know I'm the one who signed up for the race and I'm the one who drove myself here - so when I think about it that way, I'm the one who threw me into this. Still, it's funny. . ."