Touch Me All Over

102 Starry Wilderness: Betsy James3


by Betsy James  –  Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan/Feb 2016


These are the names of knots:

Kitten at Your Ankles.


A Door and Two Windows.

Grandma Wept.

Also: Up Sideways, Pig in the Fire, She Lies Down Happy; Windwhistle, See Peace, Hand Me Over, and Four Low; Kneebreak; Seven Hands. My great-grandmother knew so many that she tied knots to remember knots by, and by the time she was seventeen she sat among the best twiners in our warren. Everybody said I’d do the same. I’d been given her name, Hilil. It was considered a prophecy.

I was proud, but in a quiet way. I was sixteen, and felt my skill as a propriety, like a heavy water jar balanced right. Sometimes I spoke the names aloud: Sideways, Lilybloom, Show Me Twice. I dreamed knots. In my dream I’d follow the spun thread, whatever it was–wool, cotton, linen, silk–the way you’d go on a journey, beginning with one thin line and ending with a garment lifted from the twining frame and laid on a human back.

To know your calling young is a blessing, they say. My little cousins came to me to have their sashes tied and their hair braided. Whatever it was, I could twine it, I could subdue it and get it snug without snag or tangle. It was as if, once I’d got hold of it, I could braid the world.

Our world: the Yan of the cave warrens of Sulik, whose twining can be bought at any fair in the West. Once, you could buy mine.

On a spring day not long after my sixteenth birthday I stood up from the rug in front of my twining frame, bowed to the others at their work, and excused myself. I untied the latch cord of the side door and slipped out.

The air outside the warren was startling. Inside there were a few windows open, and the ventilator shafts, but those were baffled with old rugs to slow the draft. Outside the air was all over, like cold water. Though I was layered in mantles it needled my neck and wrists, probed the hems of my skirts. I was wrapped and safe, so I liked it. The sky was cobalt, the aspens budding green. I took my time strolling to the privies, past the middens below the caves.

The middens were ash piles, earth, heaps of worn-out sandals and mutton bones, broken crockery like the two halves of the tureen my aunt had dropped the week before. Among the potshards were some that were different from ours, tossed out by peoples who had lived in the warrens before us. This made them mysterious to me, for the Yan have lived there half a thousand years.

That older trash lay under ours, but as gophers and badgers grubbed their own warrens they kicked bits of it to the surface. So I was not surprised when, on the end of a badger’s tip, I saw something shine.

My best friend, Nim, had found a blue bead on a gopher’s front porch and had taken it to her father, who set it in a ring for her. I left the path and went to look. On the sliding dirt of the tip, glittering in the day, lay a glass knife.

It was the size and shape of an ash tree leaf, clean as if it had never been buried. I tipped my head to look at it, this way, that way. It twinkled.

I picked it up. The glass was clear as water, faintly gray, like the feather of a gray glass bird. I could see how sharp its edges were, and did not test them with my thumb. I wrapped it in my handkerchief and tucked it in the seam-pocket of my tunic. I was pleased. When the privy door would not stay shut I let it swing–there was nobody to spy, only the tangled slope below the caves, and wilderness beyond–and felt content that my life had blue sky, aspen and treasure in it.

When I had dawdled back I let myself into the warren and returned to my loom. I had settled into the rhythm of twining–twist, loop, tug–when Asha, the loom warden, said to the room at large, “Somebody forgot to tie the latch cord.”

She was grinning. Of course everybody looked at me, because I’d been the last to come in the door–and because I never forgot to tie the latch cord. I never forgot to tie anything.

I jumped up. “But I tied it! I’m sure I did. I’ll get it–”

Asha waved at me to sit down. “I’ve tied it for you. Let us laugh at you, girl, you never give us occasion.”

Everybody chuckled. I was so embarrassed that when I got to the end of my warp I found I hadn’t twined it properly, and it came loose at the selvage.

I was twice mortified. I undid what I’d twined and began to fix it, but I couldn’t get the yarn, a slubby fine wool, to obey me. The end came loose. When I’d fixed that, the yarn broke. I tied a mending knot, pulled out one of my hair sticks and used it to weave the ends back in. My hair came unbound and fell, and the rest of my hair sticks fell out with a clatter.

I wound up my hair and pegged it. Only half would stay. When I picked up the shuttle, the yarn broke–I had spun that yarn myself–and fell away in loops.

Nim, who sat at my right, said, “Hilil!” She put her hands on her hips, the way you’d laugh at a messy baby. “Look at you!”

Asha glanced over. Raised her eyebrows.

I didn’t know where to look. I ducked my head, hunched my shoulders, bent to my frame. The gentle chuckles passed. The only sound was whit, the thread pulled through; chuh, the scratch of the comb.

As I rewound the wool on the shuttle I felt my silk sash go loose and slide down. The cord itself had parted. Softly my shift, tunic, overtunic fell open.

I didn’t move. I was afraid to move.

The glass knife!

I laid down the shuttle. Clutching my robes around me, I rose and went again to the side door. Asha said, “Hilil, are you all right?”

I shook my head. I didn’t have to untie the latch cord; when I touched it, it fell to pieces. I pushed open the door and ran. At the midden I knelt, fumbled the knife out of my handkerchief, took it between thumb and forefinger and laid it back on the badger’s tip, whispering, “Sorry! I am so sorry!” to whatever needed to hear.

Nothing answered me. The aspen rustled their new buds, everything was open and at peace.

Nim had followed me down the path. “Hilil, forgive us, we teased because you’re always so good. Are you sick?”

“No,” I said. I stood up, tying what was left of my sash. It broke in two.

“Yes,” I said.


There were nine ceremonies. There ought to have been eight–the Yan count eight of everything–but eight didn’t work. In the holy cell I lay face down on an ancient and sacred blanket, covered by the silk altar-shawl my grandmother had twined, while the elders prayed and chanted and swung the incense pot.

As the blanket raveled and the shawl frayed the elders replaced them with common rugs, then mill-made linen, then rags. Nothing made would stay whole. In the end I lay between an old bearskin and a wild dog’s hide.

Whispering, I told of the glass knife. No one knew of any such magic, any such curse. They looked for the knife, but it was gone; perhaps the badger had buried it, or had carried it back into its hole. The priests purged me, sprinkled me with white meal. I lay unmoving while a priest brought from another clan tied my body with black ropes that, as the elders watched, parted and shriveled as if laid on a fire.

I had cried all I could. I lay on my belly or my back, whatever they told me. I heard my mother and father weeping in the anteroom. I was afraid to touch anyone, or be touched; after a while I was afraid even to move, lest the whole knit-knotted world fall apart, along with everybody I loved.


After the ninth ceremony they let me go.

I asked them to. I was afraid to touch my mother or my sisters or my little cousins. I couldn’t hold a basket, or tie a shoelace, or wear clothing. The thought came to me: I am deadas strangely struck as if I had touched lightning.

Yet the choice to pick up the knife had been my own.

“I’ll go,” I said. “Please don’t trouble any more. I’ll just go.”

No, no, no, they said. But they were relieved, I could see it. I had heard whispers that I should be killed, but nobody wanted to do it. Even my mother had stopped coming to the anteroom, as if she had given up to death a child who could not live.

So it was that, as spring turned to summer, I left the caves of Yan and entered the wildwood with only the bearskin to cover me, barefoot and alone.


Last year’s leaves were a cold carpet. I walked as a doe walks, one careful foot, then the next, on and on among the slim aspen, into the wilderness, farther and farther from the caves of Yan.

I had no thoughts. As if my thoughts, too, had been made things like knots, and had fallen apart. Branches caught at my unbound hair.

Now and then I came to a path with sandal prints and the crescent stamp of mule shoes. Each time I crossed it and kept on through the wild, as if human paths were like human threads, something I could break.

Though I was careful as a doe I did not have hooves as she did. Condemned to die, I thought I would notice no other pain; but stones bruised and cut my feet, and thorns raked my legs until I cried. I told myself it was for the thorns I cried, and not for being what I was.

I walked a long way, through woods and vales. Late in the day I came to a canyon with cliffs of tumbled sandstone. The bottom of it was a long green meadow where a stream looped through, already in shadow. I was so thirsty; I found a place that was not so steep and picked my way down toward the stream.

At the base of the cliff above the talus slope was a shallow cave, hidden by scrub oak from the valley below. I stood a long time on its sandy apron, beseiged by thoughts of home and friends and the boy to whom, in some lost time, I had been promised. What good was shelter to me now? I made my heart numb and kept on down the slope, pressing through the darkening brush.

The stream at the canyon bottom was lined with willow and young aspen, it lisped and plished as it flowed. I drank, and washed my feet. Wrapped in the bearskin, I sat on the bank with my hands laid in my lap, one on the other. I was afraid to lace my fingers together.

Dusk thickened in the trees. The moon rose, past full. A night-hunting wolf would find me, or a lion. I sat listening to the water flow and flow away.

Jink, chink of harness, the jingle of a bit. On the turfy bank, the slow thump of hooves.

A wolf or a lion–to die that way was one thing. But men… The underbrush was a riddle of moonlight. I pulled the bearskin to my neck. Wincing on cut feet, I pressed back into the rustling shadow.

A man’s voice said, “Eh.”


Spoken low: “It was big.”

I did not move. Nor did they move, two men leading a laden mule, just shapes against the moonlit woods. Hush, plish, said the stream. The shadow that held the reins passed them to the other’s hand. Drew from the roped heap of the bundle a long pole. Whispered in the Plain tongue: “There.”

“Wait until it moves.”

“Nuh.” He raised the pole: a lance. Drew back his arm.

I said, “Don’t.”

The lanceman startled. The other shifted on his feet. “Witch!” he said. But the first man shortened his grip on the spear. Strode forward.

I stood up, breathing in gasps. Already doomed, why had I said Don’t? I pulled the bearskin round me.

The first man laughed. The other said, “Don’t touch it!”

But the spearman shifted the lance to his left hand. Lunged, and with the gloved forefinger of his right hand flicked back the loose hair from my face. “You don’t want this?”

“It’s a spirit!”

They were paidmen, in armor of patched and ragged leather. The first laughed again. “It’s a girl, you ass.” He grabbed my arm right through the bearskin and dragged me, stumbling, to the mule. The bearskin opened and fell, held to me only by the grip of his gloved hand. His look was all over me, like a tongue. “By steel, by fire–see what the gods have given to their sons!”

He stabbed the lance into the turf and dragged me to him. Fumbled under his tunic, found what he sought. His mouth was on mine; I twisted; he shifted his grip and I was gone.

Gone: His glove had come unstitched at the seams, and the heavy bearskin, falling, had pulled it away.

He grabbed me again to his breast. His vest, tunic, undersark blew away from his body like burst bags, and hung down over his belt.

“Leave it! Resh, leave it!”

Pah!” With his body he pinned me to the laden mule. I writhed once–and he stood near naked, his belt and breeches melted back in shreds. The mule’s girth strap broke like a spiderweb, saddle and load slid off with a thud. Bare except for the halter, the mule leapt forward, tugging at the reins.

With a shout that was half cry, the naked man sprang away from me, leapt onto the mule’s back and dug in the heels of his dissolving boots. Cursing, the other ran after. The first slowed enough for his comrade to jump up behind, and they were gone, crashing down a streamside path I could not see.


I picked up the bearskin, sobbing–with relief, and with despair so absolute that my thoughts, like what I touched, fell apart like rotten cloth.

Even weeping ends. I stood on my cold, cut feet. The stream flowed. The wolf did not come, nor the lion. The mule’s shed baggage lay in a heap, and groaned.


It groaned with a human voice. I snatched the bearskin round me and fled into the brush.

Nothing followed. Again I thought, If I am to die anyway, why am I afraid?

Because I’m not dead yet. To be alive is to be afraid of dying.

That seemed a dilemma as mad as having my clothes fall apart. I made a sound like Hoh!–not laughter, but the sound you make when there’s no way out. I picked up the dragging edge of the bearskin and went to see what groaned.

It was a man, bound by his wrists and ankles. Not a paidman, not a well-dressed trader with goods to rob, just a dark man, young, in breeks and common tunic. He had been struck on the temple, and the wound had bled down across his mouth.

His lips moved.

I laid my hand on the rope that bound him to the pack. The strands of hemp uncoiled like snakes.

I had never before looked closely to see what happened when I touched a made thing. I set one finger on the moonlit cords at his wrists and ankles. It was like watching a night-blooming flower: what had been tight and hard parted, opened, fell away. He rolled onto his back with a cry, like a child laid down sleeping. Then he drew breath and sat up, looking wild.

I backed away. Said in Plain, “They’re gone.” He put his hands to his head. The dried blood crossed his face like a brushstroke. “Those men are gone,” I said.

He blinked. Gaped. I had never seen anyone think before: weighing this, judging that, trying to make what he saw be understandable, when that was not possible–like a glass knife from a badger’s tip that cuts all ties at a stroke.

I put one cold foot on top of the other. “They ran away. They might come back. You shouldn’t stay here.”

He licked his bloodied lips. In accented Plain he said without suspicion, “Place to hide?”

I shook my head. Thought of the paidmen returning for their captive, armed with new lances. I motioned for him to follow me.

He rose, staggering. “Gods,” he said. I held out my hand to help him. Snatched it back. “You lead,” he said.

He followed me through the willows, across the narrow meadow. We made a lot of noise, groping up the brushy talus in that still night. At the foot of the cliff he leaned his hand on the stone, his forehead on his hand. I said, “Wait here,” and felt my way along the cliff. Found nothing. I came back to where he was.

Whispering, he said, “What are you looking for?”

“There’s a cave.”

“Who…” He shook his head. “Thanks. Go on.”

It was farther up-canyon than I had thought. I showed him how to press sideways between the cliff and the oak brush until we broke out onto the sand at the cave mouth. There were my footprints. The cheek of the sandstone was still warm from the sun.

I said, “It’s too shallow for bears.”

“That’s good.” He laughed as he spoke, not a real laugh but the kind you can hear like a ghost in the voice. He followed me into the cave and knelt in the dimness, both hands on the earth. “Are you a spirit?”

“No. But don’t touch me,” for he held his hand out, palm up.

He drew it back. “They would have sold me to the mills. They prey on lone travelers, the clanless. Please–who are you?”

Clanless indeed. I too knelt. “I’m cursed.”

“That’s not your name.”


“Mine is Timon.”

After a moment I said, “Mine is Hilil.”

He put his hand to his forehead, bowed, and spoke my name. His accent made it sound new. “Thank you for my life,” he said.

I was silent.

“I have nothing to offer you.” He held out his empty hands. “Tell me what the curse is?”

I scrabbled away. “Everything I touch falls apart.”


“Everything made. Ropes, ties, cloth. Sewing and stitching and knots–I don’t know what else. It falls away undone.”

I watched him consider this. His right eye was some light color, his left was swollen shut. He wore one earring, gold with a pearl drop. He said, “Everything made by hands?”


“Everything made by hands falls apart anyway. Sooner or later.”

I had not thought of that. “But it would fall apart now.

“Is that how you dealt with the paidmen?”

“Yes. The one… The one…”

“I know which one. He tried to rape you?”

I turned my face away.

“And then everything–” He began to laugh in earnest, but softly.

And by every god and goddess, it was funny. The paidman’s clothes dissolving, his white buttocks twinkling in the moonlight as he ran for the mule. I laughed, too–into my hands at first, then more easily. Then I wept, wiping my eyes on my wrist.

He leaned as if to touch me. Hesitated. Held out one open palm and said, “I wasn’t made by hands.”

“I can’t.”

“Try it.” A white gleam in the shadow, his grin. “I don’t have much to lose.”

Cringing, I touched his hand. His fingers closed around mine. He said, “See–my shirt’s still on.”

“I haven’t touched it.” I kept my arm away from the cloth and held the hand that was rough, human, warm.

“Why were you cursed?”

Holding his hand, whispering, I told this stranger about the glass knife. As I spoke his thumb stroked my knuckles as if to count them, one-two-three-four, and four again, and four. It was like speaking to myself: of lying on my face, untouched, day after day; of the nine ceremonies; of leaving my mother, my kind father and my betrothed, my nieces and sibs. Of setting out alone, barefoot, wrapped in a bearskin.

I pulled my hand away from his and held my fists against my body. “No one must touch me, ever again.”

“Hilil.” He was pulling his tunic over his head. He folded it and laid it aside, unbuttoned his shirt, slid out of his breeks.

No, I thought. No.

But I didn’t speak it.

He was sleek and pale, naked except for a pendant hung round his neck on a cord. He wrapped his arms around me, tweaked up the bearskin and lay down, holding me against the curve of his body the way the new moon holds its ghost.

Then I did whisper, “No.”

“I won’t. What thanks would that be?” His sex stood up hard against me. “Sorry about him. He’s got his own ideas.”

Embraced, held close, I felt the cord at his neck part, the cool pendant drop. I said, “I told you.”

He drew me closer and rubbed his nose against my nape. “Gods,” he said. “How strange.” He sounded happy.

I held his hand to my cheek. It went slack, and after a little so did his willful penis. We all slept.


When I woke the cave was dim with dawn, and Timon was gone. So were his clothes. Cool against my arm was the fallen pendant, a flat spiral of shell with a hole in the middle. Waves must have scoured the hole, not humans, for it lay in my hand unchanged.

I carried it to the cave’s mouth. I rubbed it against my cheek, my lips. I did not dare think or feel anything. Generations of cord had worn a groove into the shell.

Crackle and crash in the brush. I had hardly time to gather the bearskin around me when Timon came crouching along the base of the cliff. His eye was not so swollen, and he had washed his face. He had a bundle of tools with him, hammer and measure and the like, and a little pack. “Hilil.” He held out a water bag of woven hemp.

I tucked my hands into my armpits.

He nodded, and with frowning care tipped the bottle above my lips. I had to look at him then, his face, his hands. I blushed all over.

When I had drunk he corked the bag. “There’s a bit of food,” he said, and gave me a bag made by tying a kerchief at the corners. When I took it from his hand the knots uncoiled and the weft melted. Broken oatcakes fell into the sand. “I forgot,” I said.

“So it’s true?”

Hadn’t he believed me last night? What had he thought of me, then, that I’d slept with him naked? His shirt had bone buttons; I put out one finger as if to play Who Shall I Marry? and touched them, one after another. They fell off, tinker, tailor, Roadsoul, thief. “Sew them back on yourself,” I said. He sat back on his heels. I held out the pendant. “And you can braid a new cord for this.”

I thought he would shrink from my hand. Instead I never saw anyone get out of clothes so fast, not even my niece when she was two and nothing would stick to her.

“Otherwise I’ll forget,” he said as he yanked off breeks and stockings. His face and sex were dark, his body like new copper. He took the pendant from my hand and laid his unbruised cheek on mine.

I said, “Careful of your earring.”

“Right.” He sat down crosslegged. We gathered the bits of oatcake, blew the sand off them and ate, looking at each other out of the sides of our eyes.

I said, “That pendant’s old.”

“I found it on a riverbank.”

“You shouldn’t just pick things up.”

“I pick things up all the time. I’m an altar maker,” he said. “And a carpenter, that’s how I earn my bread. But my true work is building altars.”

This made no sense. The altars in the caves of Yan had been there for generations, no one knew when they’d been made. They never changed, either, except for asters in autumn, willow catkins in spring.

“People already have their own,” he said. “Naturally. But…” He held the pendant to his good eye and looked through the cord-worn hole. “I pick things up as I walk,” he said. “As they’re given. Then I use them to make altars.”

A cloud of bushtits came stitching through the oak scrub in the rising light. Timon looked at them through the hole. They flew, and he turned and looked at me instead. He was smiling. “You’re the most interesting thing I’ve found so far.” He caught the strap of the little pack, rummaged, and began to pull things out and set them on the sand.

A shard of mica. A headless clay doll. A snakeskin, a feather, a burned corncob. A button, a little glass star–any number of small, battered things, like the hoard of a magpie or a child. A glass bottle of cheap ink, stopperless and dried up. He held up a tin fork flattened by many wagon wheels. “A fork in the road.”

I turned my face aside and smiled. I had laughed the night before, but that had been grief.

“Little bits of lives,” he said. “You were a twiner, you said? Knots.”

I nodded. The names; I didn’t dare even think them.

“Call these bits the threads. When the time’s right, I’ll choose a few and twine them together to make an altar. It’s strange how I always find exactly the right things.” He began to drop them back into the pack. “I’ll build it in the woods, say, in a hollow tree. Or by the road, at the foot of a milepost. Then I walk on again, picking things up.”


“To knit the world together.”

I had twined cloth to be worn for generations. “But the wind. And the rain. The altar would fall apart.”

“Right.” His eyes were a peculiar gray, very clear. I wanted to look at them for a long time, perhaps to be able to say what color they were. “But by then I’m building the next one.”

I said, “Would you build an altar for me? To…” To twine me back together. I did not say it. I looked away.


“I can’t pay you.”


“For what?”

“What have you?”

A girl who can’t keep her clothes on has only one thing to trade. I said, “You could take that. I can’t stop you. But I won’t trade it.”

He made no move to take it.

Bitterly I said, “I’ll trade you everything I used to have.”

“Done.” He began to sort through his pack.

“Everything I used to have is gone. What good is that to you?”

“I don’t know. When I first find something, I don’t know what it’ll be good for.”

With the flat of his hand he smoothed a place in the sand at the cave mouth. Stared at it. We sat so still the bushtits came back to flit, whispering, in the net of twigs.

I thought he would ask me how I wanted my altar to look. He did not. He smoothed the sand into a square and drew a frame around it with his forefinger. On the side that faced the canyon slope he left a gap.

From the pack he took a pink pebble with a white stripe all the way round it, the ink bottle, a blue silk scarf torn in three places, and the fork. Then a wooden box. In it, wrapped in unspun wool, was a hummingbird’s nest. These, with the pendant, he set in a row next to the empty square.

He looked at them. So did I. The nest was lined with silken spiderwebs.

He dropped pebble, scarf, and fork back into the pack. Laid the pendant aside, and, after a moment, the ink bottle too. He took up the nest–it was tiny in his hand–wrapped it again, put it in the box, put the box in his pack.

The empty square lay in the sun, sandy and warm.

“There,” he said. Sat back.

That was my altar? I had given him everything I used to have, and in exchange I got nothing?

Gold sand, smooth and open. And a gap.

I leaned forward and set my hand inside the square. Not in the middle. It left a slender print. “Thank you,” I said.

I wondered if I was healed now, twined back together. So did he, for he took from his pack a stumpy old paintbrush and held it out, eyebrow cocked.

I took it. The ferrule fell off the handle and the hairs blew away. “Did you think it would work?” I said.

“It always works.”

I laughed. Because it was true. The world was still falling apart; but in that moment, I wasn’t. I was just sitting in the sun, amazed, with someone I had found. I set my sandy hand on his thigh and kissed him. A little later I pushed him over to lie on the warm square of the altar and gave him what I had as a gift, not trade.

Nothing fell off.


Later, lying half over him sandy and sunburned, I said, “Timon.”


“Ask you something?”


What I might have asked: How shall I live all my life naked?

What I asked: “I want to say aloud the names of all the knots in the world. Will you listen?”

He shifted to look at my face. “Yes.”

Whispering, I spoke them against his body.

Kitten at Your Ankles.

A Door and Two Windows.

Grandma Wept.

As I said their names I felt them in my hands: Up Sideways, Show Me Twice, She Lies Down Happy. See Peace and Nine Sisters; Windwhistle, Lilybloom, Twice Lost and Cat Caught the Tiger. Fat Baby. Sing.

He listened. As I spoke I stroked him like silk, I touched his waist, his bruised eye.

Name after name. The light moved across the sand. The bushtits came, whispered, left. Red Mountains, Traveler, Stars Through Fine Rain. Water in a Clay Jar. Long Evening, Fists.

The names went right through him. They parted the very grains of his flesh, I looked through him into firmaments dissolving for eternity, stars and comets and unending winds.

Sweet Cherries. Morning.

Open. That’s the first knot anybody learns: you pull one end and it lets go.

Touch Me All Over and Grieve Unto Death.


“That’s all,” I said.

Silence. Sunlight.

His breast rose and fell. “Hilil. Your hand’s on my earring.”

“I’m sorry!”

I pulled my hand away. The pearl had not fallen. I touched it again. It trembled on its gold ring as if he had been born with it, as if it were not a made thing.


Thus we left the cave: Timon carrying the bearskin, I wearing his spare shirt and trousers, barefoot and wincing until we got to the next big town and he could hire out his carpentry to buy shoes.

We traveled for two years, then he found a master carpenter he liked in Welling-in-the-Mountains and that’s where we’ve been since. He still builds altars. I’ve learned to garden and to cook. I’m tough to barter with, a dancer, a fair scribe, and I sing.

Sometimes the world holds, sometimes it doesn’t. Timon’s shirt comes to pieces or the handle falls off the skillet or I lift my daughter and see right through her, stars, a trillion suns. When I dream about the glass knife it still lies on the badger’s tip, shining, waiting to be picked up. I’ve never gone back to Sulik. But I’ve kept my great-grandmother’s name, Hilil.


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Betsy James on Writing, Art, and Walking in the Desert

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