Kwax’ilanokume spent months memorizing how Man-Eater came to the Kwakiutl. The penalty for making any mistake at that evening’s Hamatsa ceremony was death.
An hour into his performance a fly entered his mouth. Kwax’ilanokume gagged, momentarily stopping. He’d just resumed singing when the spear entered the back of his head.
Michael Coolen is a composer, pianist, actor, and writer who lives in Corvallis, Oregon.