Under the Knife

Charley Many Rivers does not know why his name is different from his grandfathers, though he has heard the stories: that many rivers flowed into his mother, that many people named Rivers were his parents. Charley cannot make sense of either explanation. When he is old enough, Bill Rivers tells him a story.

Coyote was married once, maybe more than once. But his wife grew old, and became ugly—and his daughters were young. Coyote went away for a time, and when he returned he no longer appeared like himself, but like a young person. He courted his daughters then, fooling them and his wife. And after a while he married the daughters, all three. Before long a child was born, with a long pointed nose, sharp ears, and paws where its hands and feet should have been. As soon as it opened its eyes, the child pointed to Coyote and said, “There he is! That is my father and grandfather!” The old woman peered sharply at Coyote for a moment, and then began to scold: “You shameless one, don’t you know better than to come courting your own daughters!” and she chased him away. That night Coyote crept back and changed places with the child, and was suckled at his daughter’s breast, and grew up and became himself, Coyote.