I found the following short story among some of my old writings. I was a 19 year-old freshman in college when I wrote it. I’ve cleaned up a little of the language, but for the most part, it’s verbatim:
9:27 on a Saturday night. Grandma and I were weaving baskets under the light of the pale moon. She was telling me great stories of old as she often did when we were making our art. Although they made me sad, they made me proud. I wasn’t listening this night though. I was worried about leaving the reservation again to sell our crafts, like we often did, but it had to be done. We needed all the money we could get. I looked over at my neighbor’s and my own yard, strewn with broken down cars and littered with empty bottles of booze. I looked up, the stars glittered ferociously; little eyes in the sky that witnessed all of us since the dawn of time. Ah, if only I knew their secrets, except I probably wouldn’t like what they had to say.
And some boys scuffled down the street.
The last time we had left the reservation, we set up our shop at a near-by gas station. It was summer and tourists could never seem to get enough of “the cute little Indian things.” That time we had sold all we had to sell, and Grandma and I were mighty happy with the profit. I bought myself a Hershey’s chocolate bar, and still remember so clearly the rich, delicious taste as it melted in my mouth…
“Hey squaw,” leered a passing boy, interrupting my little piece of heaven, “I’ll give you a dollar if you suck my cock.”
Him and his buddies laughed and then threw a couple of rocks at me. They grew bored quickly and left me alone, finally, but my mouth had turned sour, my face burned with shame. My face still burns with the shame.
When they had gone, I raised my head and brushed my long, thick hair aside. Thankfully, Grandma hadn’t been close enough to hear. It would have broken her heart, and I don’t think she has much heart left to break. I then remember vividly meeting the eyes of a girl, roughly my own age, staring right at me. She smiled weakly, waved her hand ever so slightly, but I did not give either back. She looked confused; perhaps people usually smile, wave back at her. And then I saw in her eyes my own pain reflected so starkly, I couldn’t breathe for a second. It surprised me how quickly and vehemently the thought came, but I wanted to throw rocks at her.
I wanted to kill her. I wanted to strangle her in hopes that my own pain would die with her…
“Grandma, you should go to bed,” I whispered.
“Yes,” and she rose wearily, as if the whole world was resting on her shoulders.
I gathered up our fruits of that Saturday, and went into our run-down house. The door didn’t close completely. It never does. This reservation, every reservation should have so much more than it does. Should have the bounty of the abundant land that surrounds it. We were promised as much, right? But then again, we were promised a lot of things. Not one treaty had been lived up to fully since the settlers came all those years ago. I rinsed my hands off in the sink, waiting for the water to run clear. It didn’t. It never does.
America, I hear is one of the richest countries in the world. So, why are my people living in a little Third World right in its midst? We don’t have the luxuries that the rest of the country has. How are we supposed to preserve and perpetuate our culture when the rest of humanity seems to be against us, ridiculing us, oppressing us when we are scraping to just get by?
Sometime ago, the government came in to a near-by reservation and built wonderfully modern houses for the folks. Stoves, dishwashers, the whole nine yards. I guess it was an oversight, but they neglected to install electricity and indoor plumbing. One of the residents of these fancy new homes started a fire in the stove to heat the home, and as is custom, cut a hole in the roof to release the smoke. Then someone came and took pictures and let’s just the government wasn’t too pleased. What were they supposed to do? The man was just trying to keep his family warm.
Bitterness boiled in my throat, almost causing me to choke. I thought of poster I once say:
“Save the Whales”
What about us, I silently cried. What about us?
In the distance I heard a few shouts, some gunfire. A couple of drunks were probably at it again. Nobody need destroy us; we were doing a pretty good job of it on our own.
And then the tears came, they always do. The weight of this world physically forcing me to my knees. Sobbing, I thought of the burial grounds, and how so many graves, only a foot long, were there. I thought of my own little grave. Maybe it was best he hadn’t made it.
And another shot rang out.
Again, I recalled my last visit to the gas pump and that girl. Hatred was a vicious cycle that had to be stopped somewhere, and I don’t think it will be with me. Darkness is a nice cover for shame, so I took a walk, breathing in the deep scent of the earth. Something stirred beneath the surface, a ticking time bomb maybe. All around me I could see the fall of humanity, of myself, of my people. The wind whispered words of wisdom I was too deaf to hear or too young to articulate or too lost to even find. And suddenly, unexpectedly, I came to the realization that
I would die
On a day
I’d like to thank Clinton Lee Two-Dogs Stull for taking the time to share his life and stories with me on 29 March 2001 which inspired this work.