*This is the first draft of a story I am working on for my Fiction Writing class at my University. It has been workshopped and I confused almost the whole class with it. I’m hoping to post the revised copy soon. Yet, in the mentime I really want one person to say, “Hey I think I understand the symbology in that short story.” Yeah, something like that…
“Hey, Crow! Get those dirty bird-heads outta my park, you ol’ squaw,” the grotesque brown or rather burnt-skinned male demanded at me and the nine kids of the Black-Bird Daycare. As I glared at him from across the public space, I thought, figures, my first day as the Apsaalooke (Ap-saa–luke) daycare director and trouble comes banging on my door.
Pulling out my cell, I hit up Drew Dancing Dog’s number and told him he’s needed immediately at the park with no delay. He’s nearby so he should be here in a few. Dancing D better get his butt out here before I get myself in trouble. Him calling me squaw, the racist bigot Latino! And they say it’s the whites against blacks in this country with these problems. Try living on a Res.
My friend and fellow Crow arrives within those few moments as predicted to save the day, again, I hope.
“By the trickster, what did you do now Lokni (Lok-nee)?” Drew asks while cursing under his breath. There are children present, so he tries to keep the “F” s to a lower growl. “This guy is huge, but you could take ‘em. Watcha call me for Crow?
“Yet, Miss Annie White Clay, then I’d have to make a damn report to the town sheriff, and you know how I hate paperwork. Chief doesn’t make me do paperwork unless it’s punishment, Lokni!” D stares at me for some long seconds, not even caring that he loves using my nickname rather than my given, then continues. “I’m going to have to fill out paperwork. Am I wrong in this? Please say I’m wrong.”
D says this rather loudly, gaining the attention of the angry man staring daggers across the way, on purpose might I add, while the children go play and leave the adult warrior and myself to deal with whatever will happen. They know better by now. They all know their protectors can handle things within and outside of tribal lands.
This was only meant to be a fun trip to some museums and lunch at the park. Things always are fun with their Lokni around. I smile. It never fails. Trouble follows me every turn I go. But, truthfully none of us would let that squaw insult go, and I know sweet little Running Bear told D what happened before he reached my side. Perhaps I should just stand here and watch the show? Yes, let us sit back and enjoy.
“D, I think this time the paperwork will be filled out by someone else.”
“Really? What makes you think…” his question trails off as he sees Mr. Big stalk across the grounds zeroing in on me. “You have got to be kidding me Lokni?”
“Nope!” I plop myself down, cross-legged and wait.
“Hey! I’m not going to tell you stupid birds again. We don’t want you Crows in our town. Get outta here now or I’m calling my boys. You hear me? You deaf, squaw? Tell your boy to back off and leave with them brats too.” The fool laughs as the kids decide a retreat to the van is a wise move. Smart, the food’s in there.
“What did you call her? You bastard!”
Damn, now I must calm D, or he too will have a shitty day. By Old Man Coyote himself, I didn’t want this.
“Calm down,” I say in a low tone. “Sit with me and thank Father Sky for the shade.”
He looks up. Storm clouds roll in where a once clear sunny day beamed down. Rain starts to pelt the ground and rumbling comes in from the distance.
“Oh.” Is all he says as he too sits gracefully folding to the packed earth as we wait for the nearly red-faced, fuming man to gain more ground.
The big guy is no longer thinking straight. Why is he even in the park, with no kids too? Perhaps a drug deal, meeting a gang or he’s just lonely?
Not even ten feet away from our still forms, the male stops as the sky falls. Sheets of raindrop in through the roof of heaven and lightning strikes the sky in ribbons. The children, smarter than us three, already went to the small rec center to wait out the storm, all knowing it wasn’t safe in the van. They took their lunch with them. Hungry little birds.
“Sit down! Be still. Let us talk peacefully, sir, before the roof caves in.”
I don’t know if he’ll listen after his words toward me, but I try.
“Why should I? You two don’t belong, at all. This is our home. This city is too full, and we don’t need you natives moving in. Go. This is Latino territory.”
“Lokni, he isn’t going to listen. Let it be done so we can get the kids back to their parents.”
I sigh. Why? Why may these mountains not be more like bumps? I don’t want this to be. I want to make peace for even his life is sacred and as such to be rejoiced.
A feeling of love surrounds me, and I know unfortunate things happen, even to me, to us all. This man’s eyes are blinded by hate, and so that they may see others someday with clearer vision, I will take his pain today.
I stand with more grace than I truly own and raise my chin high.
“Into each life, some rain must fall,” I yell to the sky.
And with that, the man and I are two feet apart. He is pummeled to his knees, as well as I, by the heavy downfall. Droplets stinging my skin and eyes, I don’t dare close the only means of him seeing into my soul through my rare blue gems.
“Stop this! Now,” he demands.
“I cannot stop what I am not doing. I did not call the rain. That is beyond my capabilities. Trouble merely follows me. You simply had the misfortune of placing yourself in my path, of showing racism in front of children, and of needing the kindness of love, my friend.”
He jerks his head up, glaring at me. Yet, at that moment I see in the shadows of his soul the pain he has endured, both emotional and physical. For years he has known no love. I see the tracks in his arm and the dark circles from little sleep. I also see the yearning he can’t express: the want and need for a friend who truly cares for him and does not give false love.
D has already loaded the kids in the van and started the journey back to Crow Lands now that the storm has receded. He knows my life’s path has changed. The man’s good like that.
Today is my first day as daycare director and the last as well, with the Black-Bird children. My friend knows I will be fine for we are Apsaalooke and strong of mind and body.
I hold out my hand and sit cross-legged once more, waiting for him to decide our fate. Like him, I have had a hard life, but I am hoping we can help each other find a path that helps others out of darkness. A path that might bind us with light if the Old Man be willing.
I sit waiting to see what the Trickster will do next.
Three Months Later…
I’ve been back to visit with my Apsaalooke sisters and brothers about seven times to take care of important matters, but for the most part, Damian and I spend our time floating from town to town helping at local homeless shelters. We are working out the logistics for a non-profit to help those like us, ones needing out of darkness, but for now, we go where needed.
One day I hope to bring Damian to meet my uncle, Chief Red Crow, who thought is damn funny to name a girl Lokni, but my friend is not ready. Someday, he will be, and I will show him the Trickster’s people.
“Where’d you go off to Lokni? Lokni? Chica Cielos! Fine, Annie, you there?” he raises his voice with each question as I deliberately ignore him.
I laugh; I’m training him to call me Annie, not Lokni.
“Yeah,” I reply dragging the word out as long as I possibly can.
Now he can’t stop laughing at me and my goofy face, braids forming a mustache, and he snorts, grabbing his stomach hoping for more oxygen.
“Ha. Ha,” he drawls after air comes back to his lungs. “I mustache you a question, girly. Dinner? Drew Dog called and wants to come over with that new wife of his.”
I sigh. I do this a lot with him around, but I’m also happy sighing too.
“First, his name is Drew Dancing Dog. Second, duh, I want them over and I want steak. You’re cooking, no, make that grilling with all those veggies you put in foil, too. And don’t forget the mushrooms or I get double ice cream later!”
“Like I’d let you use my grill. And, would I really leave the ‘shrooms off the menu so you could have ice cream with your lactose intolerant big butt?” he asks this while staring at said body part.
This is a new thing going on with him. He’ll snatch glances at me when he thinks I’m not looking. I laugh inside. To think he called me squaw when we first meet! Now I really wonder what those early people thought that word meant besides woman. Many saw it as the term for wife. Funny.
After Damian goes to get dinner started, I sit out by my tree – the one I talk with Coyote at. Thank you. Just, thank you Old Man. I’ll never complain about my nickname, rain or trouble coming to my door, at least for some time. I am a trickster’s child after all.
This mountain of a man has become a true friend – hopefully, more.
Apsaalooke – (or Absaroka) The name of the tribe, Apsáalooke [ə̀ˈpsáːɾòːɡè] (Ap-saa-luke) meaning “children of the large-beaked bird”, was given to them by the Hidatsa, a neighboring Siouan tribe. French interpreters translated the name as gens du corbeaux (“people of [the] crows”), and they became known in English as the Crow.
“Old Man Coyote is traveling alone in a cold and wet world. As four ducks fly over, he asks each to dive beneath the waters and bring up some earth so that he can make the land. The first three ducks dive unsuccessfully. Old Man Coyote asks the fourth duck, Hell-Diver, to bring up some earth. The duck dives deep and finally surface with a small piece of mud. With this earth Old Man Coyote travels from east to west and makes the mountains and rivers and the animals and plants. As it is still a lonely place, he molds from the earth an image he likes and blows a small breath into it. The first man is made, but Old Man Coyote is not satisfied. He tries again and prefers his second attempt, the first woman. Old Man Coyote is no longer alone. He teaches the people how to live and pray and gives them their language and clan system and many of their ceremonies.”
squaw – The word squaw has been used in a very racist and sexually abusive way, especially in recent decades, so it has negative implications such as the word “nigger” does for the Black culture, the word “squaw” is the same in Native cultures. It is also not an Indian word. In the Algonquiane languages, which were spoken on the East Coast and were the first to be encountered by Europeans, many feminine nouns end in a suffix with a “kw” or “skw” sound. For example, in Meskwaki-Sauk, Thakiwakwe means a Sauk (Thakiwa) woman; in Micmac, muwineskw means a female bear (muwin); and in the Abenaki language, Cimakskwa means Mrs. Cimak. Europeans might have thought that meant “skwa” or “kwe” was the word for “woman.” It’s just a suffix, like the English suffix “-ess” in “princess” or “seamstress.” By itself, “squaw” means nothing in any living Algonquian language and no Indian speaker would ever use it to refer to herself, any more than an English woman would refer to herself as an “ess.” (The words for ‘woman’ in the three languages listed above are ihkwewa, epit, and behanem.)
Chica Cielos – A Spanish phrase meaning “heavens girl” in English.
Lokni – (Lok-nee) The name Lokni is a baby boy name. Originated in Native American culture, it means- Rain falls through the roof (Miwok). It can be found among many various tribes in North America. Of note: although the name is masculine in nature, Annie received this nickname because of the trouble that always follows her. Chief Red Crow, her uncle, gave her this.
To learn more information on the Apsaalooke people visit the tribe’s website at http://www.crow-nsn.gov/