Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Nine 


The True White Brother


Josh told him how the history books said Riel's son died when he was about twenty-three years old of an accident but what they didn't know was that his son's wife was three-month's pregnant.

"So he's really his great grandson or what-have-you. Regardless, he's a real Riel. He's a cool guy, and one of the main peanuts in the package, as it were." They both watched him order a beer, and then scan the bar. Josh raised his hand and motioned for him to join them. Thomas wasn't in an overly social mood but his curiosity to meet lineage of a true Canadian hero proved greater than the gravity of his jetlag.

"Robert Riel. How the heck are you?" said Remy. He pronounced ‘Robert' in the French way: ‘Ro-bear.'

"Rainbow Thunderbird! Haven't seen you since that night," he said, laughing. They shook hands.

"That evening was nothing short of classic. I still have that girl's phone number." Looking at Thomas, his moustache was identical to the moustache his grandfather wore in his famous portrait, as was his dark wavy hair. Only pudgy cheeks bespoke of a man who drank a lot of beer.

"Is this your brother that you talked about that night?"

"Indeed it is. Just in from the Far East." Robert Riel put out his hand.

"It's a long flight isn't it," he offered in an attempt to acknowledge how worn out he looked.

"It is. Over half a day in the air is too long. No one can know how exhausting a trans-Pacific flight is unless one has done it."

"Do you mind if I join you?"       

"Absolutement mon ami."

"What happened to your forehead?" he asked Josh. "And yours too?" They both raised their hands to feel the red welt.

"Tom Foolery," a wave of the hand. "Thomas just had his naming ceremony. His spirit name is Red Phoenix." Bringing his chin towards the base of his neck, he studied Thomas for a moment.

"I remember this from my mother," he said, placing his pint on the table:

The Phoenix bird, dost thou not know him?
The Bird of Paradise, the holy swan of song!
On the car of Thespis he sat in the guise of a chattering raven,
and flapped his black wings, smeared with the lees of wine;
over the sounding harp of Iceland swept the swan's red beak;
on Shakespeare's shoulder he sat in the guise of Odin's raven,
and whispered in the poet's ear ‘Immortality'
and at the minstrel's feast he fluttered through the halls
of the Wartburg.

"Where's that from?" asked Josh, showing great respect.

"My mother loved the phoenix. She used to recite that to me because my grandfather liked the phoenix too. I think it's from a Hans Christian Anderson poem."

"I must say, I don't know too much about the phoenix," said Thomas, probing for any insights he could offer him.

"The only thing I know about the phoenix is that your spirit hails from Heliopolis - the ‘City of the Sun' where the red egg is deposited on the altar of the Sun God, when you are ready to burn to death and be reborn again every 550 years." He could tell he had a good grasp of mythology.

"Um, there's something I'm a little vague on. If a phoenix is a mythical bird, then how can it exist?"

"The spirit of the phoenix can embody crows, eagles, ravens, herons or peacocks," he said, speaking to the table and looking shy. "The phoenix usually has gold and red plumage."

"Plumage. I love that word," said Josh.

"My brother said that you are the grandson of the founder of Manitoba - the homeland of the Métis people," he said, trusting his instincts. "And a hero of Canada." Robert again sized him up for a moment.

"I never know whether people who make statements like that are pulling my leg or not. But I dare say, knowing your brother's enthusiasm for all things Métis, I'd say you were on the level." His eyebrows arched upwards as if he was constantly begging for someone to listen to him.

"We're twins Robert, and we're Métis. Doesn't that say it all?" He looked at Josh and then back to Thomas, still deciding if they were joking around.

"Put it this way," said Thomas. "As twins it's very difficult for us to lie. Seriously Robert, we're big fans. I even have your grandfather on my computer as a screensaver at my office in Tokyo because it reminds me of Josh." He stroked his beard. "Though I like him better with his moustache than the beard." The thought of shaving down to a real Louis Riel Métis moustache crossed his mind. Josh too pulled at his moustache pensively.

"I'm the grandson of his first son," he volunteered. "The one who was killed in a car accident. Historians don't know but his wife was pregnant when he died so I never met my grandfather."

"In a way, that sort of makes you royalty among the Métis, doesn't it?" Robert Riel had that protective look of impending irony on his face. He didn't reply.

"Are you in to the Métis movement? Or don't you care about it?" Thomas, feeling a bit reckless and frustrated, wanted to determine whether he was one of these prancing tits who never stood for anything, or if he did care about his pedigree. At the sound of this question something changed in his demeanor. Straightening his posture, he looked to the bar and then leaned forward towards the brothers, pint in hand. Josh, also sensing a change, leaned forward as if participating in a cabal known to only a few of the select. Josh offered him a cigarette, and Thomas was there with his lighter.

"Yes, I care," he replied, but there was a hell of a lot more said in his eyes; echoes of sincerity. They raised their glasses and toasted those who looked white yet couldn't fit into the system because they lived on Indian time and experienced life with the heart of a Red Man.

They spoke about the Métis Rebellions of 1869 and 1885 until the bar was packed. Soon patrons gravitated towards their table because of Robert Riel. Thomas knew it was just a question of time before he or Josh brought up the day's events.

"How much do you know about the True White Brother prophecy from the Hopi tribe?" Josh eventually asked in a low voice.

"The Pahana prophecy? I know a lot about it," he said. "It's one of the coolest beliefs in Native mythology. I like it because the Pahana will be Métis - like us."

"Do you know if your grandfather knew about it?" Thomas asked.

"Actually, it was one of his most passionate areas of research. He believed that the Pahana would be the next revolutionary leader in North America. He wrote a lot about the prophecy and spent hours scouring documents to learn more about it. That's why he spent so many years in America after the founding of Manitoba." He paused to light a smoke, and offered Thomas one. "Historians say he was running away from the law, but the truth of the matter was that he was doing everything within his power to gather old parchments from among the Sioux and the Lakota tribes to learn about the Second Coming. In fact he himself believed that he might be the long-awaited Messiah." Suddenly, Robert put his elbow on the table and spoke just above a whisper.

"Within the family and written in his notebooks, it's believed he went to the asylum in Montreal to think through his research and give himself an opportunity to discuss the possibility that he was the Pahana. But the staff at the hospital had never heard of the Hopi Prophecies so naturally they thought he was crazy. But in actual fact it was quite conceivable that he was a descendent of the Israelite Tribe of Manasseh and the Lammanites. But the thing is that he wasn't a twin." The brothers looked at each other.

 "Wait. Are you two identical twins?" he asked, regarding them with a keener eye.

"Yes, we're identical twins."

"Truth be told," said Josh, "it's one of the reasons why we'd like to find out more about it."

"You mention that he kept notebooks about his Pahana research?" said Thomas. "What ever happened to them?" Again Robert looked behind him and moved closer to them, out of range from prying ears.

"Isn't it providential that we should meet like this tonight?" he said, hiding his expression in the foam of his pint.

"Why's that?"

"Because I have my grandfather's notebooks at my place," His moustache dripped with beer as he spoke. "In fact I've recently been going through them because we're in the Seventh Phase, but there are things I simply cannot figure out."

"Well Robert, I can tell you that we're keen to have a look at his research and to share any knowledge we have about the coming of the Pahana," said Josh. A grin crept across Robert's face.

"Why don't we think about heading back to my place after we finish up here, to discuss the coming of our fellow painted horse?"

"Painted horse?" Thomas was no longer willing to let anything pass him by.

"The painted horse is what the Indians called the mustang because it was a mixed breed. It also happened to be one of the best horses in the world. So for me the Métis are painted horses."

"And the meaning of mustang, I believe, is untamed." The wind howled outside but could not compete with their laughter.



Part One - Canada
1.      The Twin From the East Returns  
2.      The Sundancer  
3.      Waxing Gibbous 
4.      The Second Coming of the Messiah 
5.      The Sacred Twin Story 
6.      The Sign of the Pahana 
7.      Palongawhoya and Poqanghoya 
8.      Rainbow Thunderbird and Red Phoenix 
9.      The True White Brother 
10.    The Lost Louis Riel Notebooks 
Part Two - Hong Kong
11.    A Mixture of Revulsion and Pity 
12.    A Classroom of Scallywags 
13.    Illegitimati non Carborundum 
14.    The Distant Fire of Empyrean
Part Three - Burma
15.    The Monastery of Sacred Tablets 
16.    The Outpost of Tyranny 
17.    When the 12th Moon Comes 
18.    The Pigeon Left & the Crow Took His Place 
19.    Go North and Find Your People 
20.    Finding Orwell 
21.    Though the Monkey is in a Hurry, the Tree Branch is Not 
22.    The Castle at God's Toes 
23.    The General and Sergeant Betel Nut 
24.    The Tattooed Station Master 
25.    Reverend Crow's Life's Work 
26.    Yield Not to Adversity, But Press on More Bravely 
27.    A Bitter Cuppa Tea 
28.    The Thirteenth Tribe 
29.    When a Lamp is Lit You Must Expect Insects 
30.    John the Christian 
31.    A Guardian Angel Named Hanna 
32.    The Bar Car & Betel Nut 
33.    The Son of Light 
34.    Slipping the Karmic Knot
Part Four - Hong Kong
35.    The Tonsure Warning 
36.    The Phoenix Reborn 
37.    Touching the Empyrean 
38.    Joshua the Gatekeeper 
Part Five - Canada
39.    Lapsit Exillis 
40.    Thunderstones 
41.    The Time of Great Purification  

Another Neil Young song
but this one is covered by kd lang,

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