duct duct duct
subscribe submissions contributors back issues trumpet fiction contact us legal links
support ducts
art gallery
best of ducts

Down the Street, Behind the Store

Logan Newby

Completely naked buffalo

I don't like sitting here behind the general store with my girlfriend, but I find myself doing it quite often. I'm not going to call her my girlfriend anymore. I'm just going to call her by her name, which is Sandy. I don't even know her middle name, but her last name is Carmichael. If for some reason we broke up, I would not try to get back together with her. I'm sorry to say that because I believe she truly does love me. If I could make myself do one thing in the world it would be to love Sandy Carmichael as much as she loves me, and she deserves such a thing as much as anyone else, but maybe she deserves it just a little bit less because she's too tall and generally unattractive. I'd lean over right now and give her a kiss but I don't want her to get the impression that I like doing things like that. We're also very young.

I am not white, by the way. I'm an Indian. My father tells me not to refer to myself as an Indian because it was never the name we gave ourselves. He told me, "If anyone ever asks you what you are or where you come from, you tell him or her that you're from the Choctaw tribe, formally located in what is now referred to as Mississippi United States." If you asked me right now what I was or where I was from I would tell you that I'm an Indian and assume that would be good enough for you.

Last night, I was sitting in my room drawing on a piece of driftwood that my father brought home from work. He specifically told me to draw pictures on the sides where the bark had been roughed away. He told me to draw a picture of a buffalo. When I showed it to him, and he saw that I had made the buffalo wear a bow tie, he punished me by making me throw up my dinner. Then he made me draw a completely naked buffalo, and sat and watched me as I did so. I cried a little bit when he made me throw up, but not because my feelings were hurt or anything, but because it's a natural reflex for one to cry when they're vomiting.

I just put my arm around Sandy's waist. I like doing things like that sometimes. She put her head on my shoulder, which is what I expected her to do. Then I put my head on her head. You'd think by the look of us that we were older than eleven years old. Sometimes when I'm sitting here with her like this I want to hear some music. Behind the general store you don't usually hear a lot of music. I could sing something but I don't really know any songs.

I just asked Sandy if she wanted to marry me but she didn't hear me because she's asleep. She falls asleep all the time. I think she's just used to me hardly ever saying anything to her. I'm looking down at her arms folded in my lap. Her skin is almost as dark as mine, and she's not even an Indian. I'm glad she didn't hear me ask if we could get married.

After I threw up my dinner and cried last night, my father and I said a prayer that we always have to say before going to bed. "Oh Great Spirit, Whose voice I hear in the wind, Whose breath gives life to the world, hear me. I come to you as one of Your many children, I am small and weak, I need Your strength and wisdom. May I walk in beauty, make my eyes behold the red and purple sunset, make my hands respect the things that You have made, and my ears sharp to hear Your voice," and there's a lot more to the prayer but that's as far as we go because my father says the rest is basically just re-wording the first part. We also say the prayer in the morning sometimes, if there's something important going on that day which might require the guidance of the Great Spirit. I remember one morning I asked my father who the Great Spirit was and why we prayed to it. He told me to just eat my breakfast. After I was done he made me throw it up. I can't eat sausage anymore because of how awful it tasted when I was throwing it up.

Whenever I look at Sandy I tend to think about my mom. I feel like I should say that my mom is a very average person. A lot of people talk about their mothers as if they were A'akuluujjusi, goddess of creation. I mean, I respect my mother, of course, and I love her, don't get me wrong -- I have no idea why anyone wouldn't respect and love their mothers -- and I would cry if she died. I can picture myself at my mother's funeral, crying over and over into my hands. (That's how I can tell that I do not love Sandy, because I would not cry if she died). But in regards to my mother, I probably wouldn't love her and respect her more than anyone else if she weren't my mother. I'm probably the only person who looks at their mother objectively like that. I wish I didn't feel that way because if my mom knew that she'd cry herself dehydrated. I'm not trying to be funny here, by the way.

Sandy just started breathing heavily. She has asthma and it gets real bad when she's asleep. It doesn't help when I put my arm around her and hold her real close to me, but I do it anyway. Right now, I'm scrounging through her pink little girl purse to find her inhaler. I've found it, and right now I'm waking her up so she can breathe into it. She's really a very unattractive girl. And we really are too young to be cuddling together behind a general store all day. I don't regret anything right now, though, but I probably will when I'm older. But I have a feeling I won't even like girls when I'm older. I don't know why I think that but I do.

My father wants me to be home by nine o'clock and it's getting about that time. I don't have a watch on or anything, but because I'm from the Choctaw tribe, formally located in what is now referred to as Mississippi United States, I can sense that kind of stuff. Sound silly? It is. Sandy is just now asking me to walk her home, and I told her I would. She lives about three blocks away. I hate the smell of her house. Her father smokes all the time, and it's always these weird foreign cigarettes that leave this disgusting odor. You'd think he does it on purpose. Most cigarettes, they don't smell so much as they do suck the breath out of you. These cigarettes, though, and I forget what they're called, smell sort of like rusty metal. I want to get Sandy out of that disgusting house and move with her to Germany, or wherever. I don't care where we move, actually.

Right now I'm telling Sandy goodnight. She knows I can't spend the night but she asks me anyway, just to be romantic I guess. When you're eleven years old you really don't know how to be romantic, but you do the best you can. When I leave, she's standing in the door watching me. I hope I'm not walking funny or anything. Her mom usually comes to the door to say hello to me whenever I'm over, but I didn't see her. Her mom's a pretty lady and very nice. Sandy thinks she's A'akuluujjusi, goddess of creation, and I'll just go ahead and let her think that. I turn back and wave to Sandy before I round the corner. She looked embarrassed because she didn't think I knew she was watching me.

It's probably eight forty-five and it only takes five minutes to get home from Sandy's house. I'd have time to walk slow and enjoy myself, but I get kind of nervous when it's dark outside. I don't run or anything, but I walk kind of fast. When I run, it makes me even more nervous. When I see a car pass by I get scared that they're going to stop and kidnap me. I wouldn't mind as long as they drove by Sandy's house and picked her up as well. We could be kidnapped to Germany, I suppose. I can picture myself giving Sandy the grand tour of Berlin, showing her all the attractions, and even though I have never been to Germany I would introduce each scene as if I passed by it every day on the way to school. Then the kidnapper would maybe rape and kill us. I'd hate that. It wouldn't be worth the trip to Germany. I can see my house now. The kitchen light is on. I didn't expect my parents to be in bed before nine o'clock or anything, especially when their eleven year-old son isn't home, but it still made me kind of uncomfortable.

Right now, I'm walking into my house, and my father is sitting at the kitchen table, reading the newspaper. I look at the clock and it's 8:55. My father looks up at it, too, and then asks me, "Do you know what time it is?" and I can tell by the tone of his voice that there's no way I'll be able to answer the question without sounding like a smart alec.

"Aren't I on time? I didn't think I had to be home until nine," I just said.

"Yes, but it's still dangerous for you to be out this late."

"I was just down the street behind the store. Sorry. You knew I was there and I told you I'd be home at nine. Sorry."

Now, my father is removing a plant from his pocket. "I want you to take this asparagus root and sleep with it tonight," he's saying. I ask him why I should do that and he told me to stick my finger down my throat. I haven't eaten anything since this morning, so I'm just throwing up bile. I'm gagging and crying and spitting all over the floor in the kitchen. My father gets up from the table and takes a handful of paper towels from the counter. He cleans it up himself. I thought for sure he'd make me do it.

Right now he's handing me the asparagus root and telling me to go to bed. I get scared that all that digestive fluid that I threw up is going to eat through my teeth, so I run to the bathroom to rinse my mouth out. It's ridiculous to think that digestive fluids could eat through your teeth. I avoid looking in the mirror because I just got done crying, and I always want to punch myself in the face when I see what I look like after I get done crying. The asparagus root in my left hand is the roughest and driest thing I've ever felt. I get it wet a bit and then dry it off. It feels a little better.

I climb in bed and put the root under my pillow. When I lay down on it, it's not as lumpy and uncomfortable as I thought it might be. My father is coming in to say that Great Spirit prayer with me. "Where's the asparagus root?" he's asking, and I show him that it's under my pillow. He sits in the wooden chair that's right next to the bed and starts saying the prayer.

"May I walk in beauty, make my eyes behold the red and purple sunset..." I try to think about what that means. I can look at a sunset, but apparently I can't behold it without the aid of the Great Spirit. It probably doesn't mean that, though. Sometimes a prayer will say something kind of simple like that, but it'll mean something a lot more important. Maybe I need the Great Spirit so that when I look at the sun it won't hurt my eyes. When my father's finished with the prayer I act like I'm asleep. I can hear him leaving the room and shutting the door.

It's completely dark in my room. I experiment with the difference in having my eyes open and having them closed. The only difference is that it's more comfortable with them closed, so I keep them closed. I'm dreaming right now. The Great Spirit starts talking to me about how to be a better person. The Great Spirit is an owl with glasses and a graduation cap. He talks in a British accent and is telling me that in order to be a better person I have to sleep with an asparagus root under my pillow every night. The Great Spirit Owl is sitting on a tree limb, and I can see little ants crawling all over it, circling it over and over.

I ask the Great Spirit Owl, "Can digestive fluids eat through your teeth?"

The Great Spirit Owl tells me that no, they can't, and that I'm only eleven years old and shouldn't think so much about stupid things like that. I'm shocked that the Great Spirit said "stupid" because I sometimes get in trouble for saying that. Then the dream starts to change into me riding a bike with Sandy near a bridge. She's falling off her bike and into the water, and I'm screaming, "No! Sandy! No! Sandy!" The owl flies by and tells me not to ever let that asparagus root leave my pillow. I'm screaming at Sandy but she's drowning anyway. I love her so much. I don't want her to drown because I love her so much. I yell at Sandy to breathe into her inhaler, but she knows that only works when she's having trouble with her asthma, not when she's drowning. I'm crying so hard because I love her so much. I want the owl to save her but he doesn't want to get his graduation cap wet. I know this is just a dream but I'm crying so hard right now. I feel like I could live forever and I would never be this sad again. I yell at Sandy once again to breathe into her inhaler but she doesn't do it.

I wake up crying. I'm checking to make sure the asparagus root is still under my pillow. It is. I think it's probably about three o'clock in the morning. I wipe my face on the blanket and close my eyes. I want to call Sandy but it's three o'clock in the morning. I'll see her tomorrow. I go back to sleep and don't dream.

Return to Fiction