Interview With a Cook

My InterFiction badge begins to glow and I clasp a hand around it with excitement. It’s been a while since my last assignment, the fictionverse has been in a bit of a chaotic uproar ever since someone thought it would be a good idea to gather the worst villains in all of Fantasy-Land and put them in a room together… bad things were bound to happen.

Ahem. :whistles innocently:

My room fades away and then solidifies into a very different view from my bookshelves and clutter. I am outdoors. There is a slight breeze and a chill to the air. In front of me is a copse of birch trees, and sitting on a bench under the trees is a man I recognize instantly. He can be none other than Mikonan, from Tammy Lash’s “White Wolf and the Ash Princess.” I stride over to him confidently.

“Boozhoo! Mikonan, right?” I call out, stumbling over the unfamiliar language. Mikonan speaks fluent English, his mother was an English missionary, after all, but since reading his story, I have grown fascinated with the Ojibwe tongue, and wanted to help him feel that I was making an effort. I think that goes a long way, with Mikonan. “Am I pronouncing that even close to correctly? My name is Jenelle. I am from the InterFiction Gazette, did they tell you I was coming?”

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 3.36.47 PMMikonan smiles at my faltering attempts at pronouncing his name and the rapid-fire questions I am throwing at him as I cross the space between us. “You can call me ‘Cook’ if it’s easier.”

I note ruefully that he does not mention my pronunciation, and I can feel my ears growing warm as I realize I probably butchered both the word for “Hello” as well as his name. And yet, I cannot feel embarrassed in front of this quiet character, something about him puts me instantly at ease. I am pulled from my thoughts as I realize he is still speaking, still answering my multitude of questions.

“Hi, Jenelle!” (He does not stumble over my name at all) “It is nice to meet you. I was told someone wanted to interview me. I am honored. My ‘brother’ is the one that people normally seek. It is best that you chose me over Jonathan. I am the more interesting of the two of us and I tend to talk a bit more than he does.” He grins and it invites me to smile with him.

“My readers are very interested to get to know you,” I say, seating myself beside him and pulling out my recording device. “Can you tell us a little bit about yourself to get us started?”

He rubs his hands together and pauses. “A little about myself? I am son of Odedeyan, Chief of the Mountain of the Ojibwe. I am to be next in line as leader of my people, but I do not feel I am ready nor do I feel I even deserve the position. My place is to be Healer of my people. I use the medicines of the ancients and the medicines of the English. My missionary mother taught me the ways of English medicine and the rest I learned aboard on my brother’s ship–watching the ship’s physician and reading his books. I taught my brother some of the things I know, but he needs to further practice his stitching to become as good at it as I am.” He snickers and I find myself enjoying his obvious sense of humor.

“So you are very self-taught. That is impressive. Can you describe what a day in your life looks like?”

He stares up at the beech trees towering over us. “Describe one of my days? I must admit, things are drastically different from last year. I am just as busy, but it is not aboard a ship or journeying through the forests of my people. I am here, in my brother’s home tending to him and helping him with his family. I am having difficulty finding Ojibwe medicines to help him. English medicines have not worked either. I will not give up hope. There is a cure for Jonathan out there somewhere. I know it will be found. I have faith the Lord will not call him home, yet. I cannot imagine a life without my brother.”

“I hope he gets well soon,” I exclaim fervently. I nibble on my thumbnail, but refrain from following this trail of the conversation, as I am aware it will cause spoilers for a story not yet complete, instead, I ask, “In the book White Wolf and the Ash Princess, you do not show up until the second half of the story. Can you tell us a little bit about what you are doing in the pages where we can’t see you? I know you work with Jonathan, but can you expound a bit on what your role is in his enterprises?”

Mikonan rubs his hands together again. “Jonathan’s duty was in England–to tend to the mission that my father gave him. Mine was to be at my father’s side to learn from him–to be the next Chief of the Mountain–but I could not do it. My heart was not in it. I was too far away from my brother and the duty he was called to fulfill. I was told I could not interfere with Jonathan’s decisions, but I was told I could keep an eye on him from afar–so..I spent eleven years away from my people aboard my brother’s ships to be nearer to him, to his ‘duty’–to England. I found a calling on the ocean that I loved just as much as medicine. Cooking. The meals that I made for the English helped them forget my Ojibwe name. They began calling me “Cook”.”

“Ah! I thought it was more of an official title. I did not realize it was a nickname! Speaking of the mission your father gave to Jonathan, I am extremely curious to know more of the details Odedyan has with him, regarding the care of Izzy. I don’t want to wander into the realm of spoilers, but can you tell me anything more about that arrangement and why it was made? And how did you feel about it at the time?” I ask.

“Much has changed for the Ojibwe since Edward has come. Much.” Mikonan fixes me with a significant stare. “Our copper and the selling of our people made Edward a rich man. This has not gone unnoticed by other English men. There has been a steady flow of strangers since Edward. Some are curious about the Ojibwe Nation (and the other Nations in our Council: the Potawatomi and the Ottawa). They are only interested in making a new start for themselves in a new world. Others are here for the furs of our animals. A few are here to spread the Good News from their Books. We are waiting for another type of man, however. One that is just as destructive as Edward. This man is bound to come. Man’s heart is naturally sinful–and who can tell what evil can next fall upon our people.” He pauses for a long time, then continues. “It was not safe for Izzy to stay among the Ojibwe. The blood that flows in her veins is special. Some will find that threatening. Odedeyan, however, has yet to disclose why the arrangement with Jonathan was made. My brother desires to know why he was chosen. He feels he was an unworthy choice. Father promises that all will be known soon.”

“Thank you for explaining that,” I scribble a few notes in my notebook. Then I glance at him sideways. “Although I wouldn’t describe White Wolf as a romance, there are definitely romantic threads woven through it. So… tell me, is there any love interest in your own life?”

Mikonan shifts, but I cannot tell if the question has made him uncomfortable. At length, he shrugs. “There has been no time for love. The ocean has been the place where I have spent most of my adulthood. There is one that I have often thought about. Binidee. She has been a pleasant distraction from the smelly men I have had to live with on the great water. We grew up together in the village, but I left at fifteen. Her life went on just as mine did. Much time has passed. I am not sure if she even remembers me. I am home now–perhaps…maybe…I do not know! A future with a wife and a family of my own is wishful thinking. I still have no time for love. My English brother takes up so much of my time. Worry fills my heart and there is not room for much else.”

“Mmm hmmm,” I glance down at my notebook. “One final question. It’s one of my favorites to ask, though you may not understand it the way I mean it… how do you feel about the Author? If you could ask the Author to change one thing about your story, what would it be, and why?”

Mikonan shoots me an odd, unreadable look. “I feel we all have an Author of our lives. Our stories are all written. We just have to live them according to His instruction. I must admit, I have seen great tragedy and heartbreak. I have also seen blessings among them. I would love to see the end of this story. The one that includes myself, Izzy, Jonathan–and Odedeyan. I cannot see beyond today and that terrifies me. Will my brother again be well? Will he find the same peace that Izzy has found? What of me and my future as Chief? I do not want it–yet, this is the will of my father. Is it also the will of the  Author? What of the new blood that flows in the veins of Ojibwe? What will become of our people? So many questions…so many fears. I try to find joy, but it is becoming increasingly difficult. I do talk to the Author. I have been asking for direction and answers and yet, I have none. I do not need a happy ending for myself–but I do ask for one for my brother. Jonathan has suffered enough. That is all I ask. Nothing for me. All my prayers to the Author are for Izzy and Jonathan.”

I stand up. “Miigwech, Mikonan,” I say. “It has been a true pleasure chatting with you. I hope that your story turns out the way you hope, and that the Author does not put you through anything too terrible in your coming adventures.”

My badge begins to glow again, and the last thing I see as the world fades around me is the tall man standing alone among the birch trees, one hand raised…


Thank you, Tammy, for letting me interview one of your characters! It was delightful!

received_10212074247798681Tammy and her family homeschool and live in a 100 yr old farmhouse in the country. She writes children’s stories & is published in Keys For Kids.

If you enjoyed this interview and would like to learn more about Mikonan and the books in which he appears, you can find him in White Wolf and the Ash Princess

You can also learn more about his author in the following places:

WEBSITE - a recent post includes a sneak peek at the sequel, “Letters From the Dragon’s Son”

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

~ jenelle

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