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A truck pulls up next to Christine, and the boy inside
offers her a ride. He is Kennedy Cree, better known as Foxy, Pauline’s
son and Christine’s cousin. Christine gets in the truck and they
drive off. Foxy offers to take her to Pauline’s house, but Christine
is not in the mood for Pauline’s self-righteous preaching. Christine
asks Foxy if Dayton’s mother is still around. She has died, but
Dayton still lives on her land in a new house next to her former
residence, which is now boarded up. Christine asks Foxy to take
her there, and although he has a strange reaction to her mention
of Dayton’s name, he agrees. He puts in an eight-track of Santana
on the car stereo and they drive off.
Christine finds a spare key and lets herself into Dayton’s
house. The house is very clean and new. Christine is surprised to
find a picture of herself on the wall, next to a picture of Dayton’s
mother and one of Lee and Dayton together. Christine puts her things
away and lies down on the couch. When Dayton arrives, she pretends
to be asleep, watching him through half-closed lids. When he sees
Christine, Dayton nervously files away some papers that are out
on his desk. Christine makes a show of waking up, and the two have
a very awkward conversation. Christine tries to tell Dayton about
her health condition, but does not get very far. Dayton lets her
stay. Christine goes to the guest room and takes a long rest.
When Christine wakes up, Dayton is gone, but has left
a note saying when he will be back. Christine sets herself to finding
the papers Dayton put away so hastily when he saw her on his couch.
The papers are not in Dayton’s drawers, so Christine searches the
rest of the house, and they turn up in a box of detergent in the
laundry room. Most of the papers are newspaper clippings that tell
a surprising story: Dayton had become a teacher at a public school
just outside the reservation, but one of his students had accused
him of “improper conduct.” Dayton denied all the allegations but
was nonetheless sentenced to five years in jail. The papers also
contain some Xerox copies of other articles, one about Dayton’s
mother’s death, the other an interview with Dayton just after he
was released from jail early for good behavior. In the article,
Dayton said he had learned accounting in jail and had gotten a job
with the tribe, hoping to leave the past behind him. Christine spends
the rest of the day looking around Dayton’s house.
When Christine’s supply of pills runs low she calls Charlene,
her friend in Seattle, who was supposed to send her a refill. Charlene
has sent the pills to Aunt Ida’s. Christine has Dayton drive her
to Ida’s during the day, when Rayona will be away at school. Ida
is watching her soaps when Christine arrives. They get into an argument
and Ida shouts that she never wanted Christine. Christine starts
to leave as Ida tries to call her back. Christine tells Ida just
to take care of Rayona, and Ida storms off.
Christine’s journey to Dayton’s house is, in a sense,
a return to her childhood. Now that Lee is dead, Dayton is perhaps
the only person still alive who shares the same experiences of growing
up as Christine does. On the way to Dayton’s house, Foxy puts on
an eight-track recording of Santana on the truck stereo. Although
Foxy does not really recognize the songs, Santana is of Christine’s
era and returns her to her childhood. Christine’s reaction to this
small bit of pop culture indicates that part of her still longs
for the era of her childhood. The Santana song is an apt anthem
for the ride to Dayton’s house, since visiting Dayton is, for Christine,
a journey into the past.
When Christine arrives at Dayton’s house, however, she
is struck by how new everything looks, and the house becomes a hopeful symbol
of new beginnings. At this point, Dayton’s house is practically
the only thing in the novel that has a feeling of novelty. Everything
on the reservation, as well as everything Christine has encountered
in Seattle, has been old, used, and worn out. Dayton’s shiny new
house represents the possibility and allure of starting anew. Even
so, this monument to newness stands next to Dayton’s mother’s boarded-up
residence, an inescapable reminder of the past. The old house remind
us that, like Christine, Dayton is burdened by his past and plagued
by bad memories that remain even after he has tried to build a new
life for himself. There is, however, sometimes a good side to holding
on to the past, and although Christine is a portion of Dayton’s
past, he does not mind her staying in his house. Likewise, the pictures
Dayton keeps on his wall clearly demonstrate that there are in fact
some memories he wishes to preserve.
The final scene of the chapter is another case of confrontation brought
on by misunderstanding. As is the case with Christine and Rayona,
the misunderstanding between Christine and Ida goes both ways. Although
Christine is rude and combative, Ida refuses to listen to Christine
and does not give her a chance to explain. We later come to understand
Ida’s wild remarks better when we hear her own story, but at this
point we can see only how bruising her remarks are to Christine.
Because we hear Ida’s words through Christine’s ears, we are able
to interpret them only from Christine’s perspective. When Ida says
she never wanted Christine, she assumes that Ida means she never
wanted Christine as a daughter. As we learn later, however, this
is only partly true, and the remark becomes more understandable
when seen in context. Caught up in the confusion of the moment,
Ida retreats “into a place [Christine] couldn’t see.” Although Christine
means these words literally, they could also refer to events she
does not know of in Ida’s life, and it is because Christine cannot
see this place that she cannot understand her supposed mother.
Ace your assignments with our guide to A Yellow Raft in Blue Water!