Writer’s Block: The Spirit of Fine Day
Grace—and new alliances—are the true measures of victory
Using grace and understanding, one young man turns an enemy into an ally.
Charlie left his last class ten minutes early on a washroom break, walked purposefully to the football field, and waited for Dirk and his goons to show up. He waited patiently, showing no emotion. Outwardly, he was confident, but inwardly his stomach was churning. Yet he was not afraid. Deer Runner (an elder and former champion prize fighter) had trained him well—pushing him beyond his limits in the physical and mental aspect of a warrior’s training, and preparing him spiritually. He was ready.
Charlie re- created his confrontation with the school bully earlier in the morning as “the young giant” (Deer Runner’s name for him) and his gang, jostling and laughing, made their way to class. Charlie walked straight to Dirk, blocked his way and challenged him. “Dirk! You’re slow and clumsy. You’re a bully and a racist. I’m going to teach you a lesson you won’t forget. Meet me after school on the football field at the nearest goal post. Bring your goons. They can watch me kick your butt.”
Dirk couldn’t believe his ears. He was speechless as Charlie headed for class. Finally, he yelled, “You’re going down, Bannock Boy!”
Charlie’s mind went back to the happy days growing up on the Sweetgrass Reserve with his friends—playing soccer, riding horseback, hunting in the bush and swimming in Battle River. He longed to see his wonderful Kokum, who raised him. Kokum told him that the elders saw in him the character of the great warrior Fine Day, who was war chief under the mighty Poundmaker. “But I see you as Charlie Little Wolf—my grandson—now almost a man. We sent you to the big city to get a white man’s education because you cannot succeed without it. But know this, too, you also cannot succeed without knowing the ways of the Cree, the teachings of the elders, our Nehiyawewin language and our culture and traditions.”
Charlie’s thoughts went back to Lakeview High School. He couldn’t forget Dirk’s cruel persecution during the first semester—how he tormented his friend Benny Jackson, and disrespected Skye, his girlfriend. Charlie knew he’d have to fight Dirk, and to win, he’d have to train.
It was the month known to the Plains Cree as pimahamowipisim—when the snow geese fly to the south—when Charlie began his training, the most difficult undertaking imaginable. When it was over, Deer Runner told him, “You have the heart of a warrior and because the spirit of Fine Day is with you,
you will win.” But then he said a most difficult thing.
“When the young giant is laying in the dust, defeated and unable to rise, what will you do? Remember the great chief Poundmaker, who defeated Colonel Otter and the government forces at Cut Knife Hill in 1885. He held back his young men and allowed the soldiers to escape back to Battleford, Sask. He showed great mercy to those who would have shown him no mercy. It is the way of our people.”
The last bell rang. Hundreds of students poured out onto the field. Dirk and his entourage made their way through the crowd, laughing and joking, throwing fake punches and high-fiving one another.
“Let’s get this over with, Dirk. I’ve got hockey practice in half an hour,” taunted Charlie, demonstrating his confidence.
“You won’t be in shape for hockey or anything else, Bannock Boy. They’ll be taking you away in a body bag,” shouted Dirk.
With the fury of a raging animal, Dirk charged. Charlie’s left heel caught a low mound of grass, and he stumbled momentarily as Dirk’s left hand caught him full- force. Charlie staggered and fell. The crowd roared, believing their champion had made short work of the challenger. Dirk, too, thought it was over.
Charlie started to regain his senses, still in a fog. He hurt badly. How would he ever live this down? The battle had been lost over a clump of dead grass.
Then he heard it—the piercing cry of a Cree warrior echoing in the distance. Charlie strained to see through eyes clouded by blood, sweat and dirt. He saw the clouds rush away, and there, riding the wind, on a magnificent war horse, was a vision of the great war chief Fine Day. “Fine Day, you’ve come to help me,” whispered Charlie.
“Have courage, my son. You are a warrior of the Plains Cree. Fight like one. Use his strength against him. Victory is yours.” Then the apparition, shrouded in swirling mists, faded into the distance.
As he lay there, contemplating the amazing vision and Fine Day’s words, Charlie’s courage, confidence and energy returned. He bounded to his feet. Dirk was facing the other way, orchestrating the crowd’s victory cheers. Suddenly, the crowd fell silent.
“He’s up, Dirk. Pound him down!” yelled one of Dirk’s fans. Dirk slowly turned around, incredulous. His face contorted with rage, the young giant rushed his opponent. Charlie faked left and delivered a single, devastating blow, driving Dirk to his knees. Now in pain and about to lose everything, Dirk could not rise. The fight was over.
The crowd, in shocked disbelief, having watched their hero fall so ignominiously, moved back towards the school in silence, leaving Charlie and Dirk alone on he field of battle. Neither said anything for a long time. Then, Charlie reached down and pulled Dirk to a standing position.
“Why are you helping me, man? I wouldn’t have helped you. I’m your enemy, remember?” said Dirk hoarsely through blood-caked lips.
“You’re not my enemy, Dirk. I won a fight, that’s all,” said Charlie.
“Yeah. You’ve got something I don’t have, man. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I’m finished. I won’t be able to show my face in the school.”
“Actually, Dirk, you could turn this into a big win if you look at it the right way.” “Serious? I don’t see how, man, but I’m listening.” “First, you have to see yourself as you are.” Dirk stared down at the ground for a long time. Then he looked up, tears welling in his eyes. “I know you’re right. I am a bully, a racist— a jerk. I was jealous of you and Skye. How do I deal with that?” “You already have Dirk; you’ve admitted it.” “What now, Charlie?” “Change your life, Dirk. Respect your teachers. Help and protect the weaker students. Treat everyone as equals. I know you can do it.” “Will you help me, dude?” “Count on it, man. Besides, we need you to captain the hockey team. We’re going for the championship this year.”
“Charlie, you’re an awesome dude, you know that? I cannot tell you how sorry I am for how I treated you. I’m going to make it up to you, I promise. Thank you for everything, man.” Dirk extended his hand for Charlie’s. “Friends?” “Friends,” said Charlie, with a lump in his throat. And so the young men, who only a short time before were bitter enemies, walked slowly off the field—dirk leaning on Charlie’s shoulder. ■