“Nevada looks exactly like a guillotine blade with a nick out of the edge.” — Steve Day
His older brother, Ronnie, was outside, playing Indians and Indians with the neighborhood kids. Dave played alone in the basement of his grandparents’ home, the cool spot where Grandpa escaped the summer heat to read his books and thumb through old photo albums. A low-slung beach chair was the only place to sit above the dirt floor. It was a short reach to a small wooden bookcase that held two shelves full of canned goods from the tribal food bank. Most of them were peas. Grandpa and Dave hated peas. He wondered why Grandpa had fought so hard for them.
The bottom shelf was packed with books: “Black Elk Speaks”, the “Holy Bible”, “To Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street”, “All Dogs Go to Heaven”. Dave knew the titles of every book Grandpa read to him and Ronnie.
Along the opposite wall stood baskets of maize and potatoes. Between those walls, Dave sat cross-legged and raised his worn shoe box full of tiny figures above his head as far as his thin arms could stretch.
“Let the games begin.”
“Beep, beep beep.” Dave poured them ceremoniously into the dirt.
Among the hand-me-down mix of zoo animals, dinosaurs, cowboys, Indians, GI Joes, and chess pieces, he searched for his favorite — Atsah. His big brother was studying dinosaurs at school and said it was a ‘tear-a-tackle’, but Grandpa told Dave it was Atsah, the secret name for the eagle. He found it and picked it up, circling the jumble of pieces below. “Caw, caw, caw.”
With his free hand he took the smooth, brown, rounded shell his grandfather had brought home from a faraway beach and held it to his ear. He could still hear the waves crashing on the shore. It had the shape of a tortoise.
“Chay-da-gahi going to roll all over you.”
The rubble of knights, soldiers and bishops was flattened under the tracks of Chay-da-gahi.
Next, Dave landed Atsah on the middle shelf of the bookcase. Pulling books from the bottom shelf, he used them to build walls and a bridge for his troops. Half of the books were in place. When he pulled out the massive “Global Atlas,” a thin book propped up behind it, facing the wall, dropped with a soft plunk. Dave picked it up. Blowing dust from the cover, he brought it to his nose and smelled the musty scent of old leather. He perched it on his folded leg, and like a blind man learning Braille, he slowly ran his fingertips over the embossed gold letters of the title and spoke the words aloud: “World. War. Eleven.”
“Davey, lunch is ready,” Grandma called from the top of the stairs.
“Coming.” He put the book back exactly as he’d found it. Grandpa’s probably hiding it from Ronnie. He hurriedly piled the others in front of it.
Climbing the stairs two at a time, he was eager to ask Grandpa if he had silver medals for all the rest of the world wars.
Conversations with a Deaf Chippewa: Thanksgiving Eve
Dave walked into the small house he shared with his deaf cousin and clicked the kitchen light switch on and off.
Wrapped up in a tattered fleece blanket with his hand poking through a hole, Glenn aimed a small flashlight at his coffee-stained, dog-eared book. He acknowledged Dave’s presence with a nod and said, “Father won’t let Calvin chew tobacco.”
Dave signed and said: “What’s Hobbes doing?”
“Emptying cereal boxes to get the prize.” His eyes widened at the gift Dave placed on the table between them. “Who give you this?”
Dave tapped a clawed hand twice on his shoulder.
“Your boss give you this?”
Dave nodded and circled the table. Pulling up a chair, he sat next to Glenn. They stared at the turkey on the label.
The turkey stared back.
“Well,” Glenn said, reaching for the neck, “you going to open it or just stare a hole in it?”
Dave shrugged his shoulders. Rifling through a pile of papers littering the tabletop, he searched for something to write on — a past due gas bill. Picking up a pen, he wrote: “For medicinal purposes only.”
Glenn frowned at the message while Dave continued writing: “’Cuz, Cousin. If you really need a shot, write down why and take one shot, maybe two, but no more. This bottle should last till the end of the year between us, right?”
Over the months to come, the level of bourbon in the bottle declined while the notes underneath it piled up:
I had study 1960 scoop
I was slave at native children home group
They lie to me and avoid parent is looking
Mom been there
They said no name of Glenn
I watched “Rush Hour” today.
How can anybody be sad watching a Jackie Chan Movie?
But when he and Chris Tucker sang and danced to “War”
I thought about all the wars my grandpa told me about
The war 70 years after the pilgrims landed
World War One, the war in Korea, Pearl Harbor,
the War of the Worlds, the wars at Wounded Knee, the war in Viet Nam, Afghanistan, the war of the roses, the Rose Parade, the Redskins vs. the Steelers and the Cowboys. . .
so I drank a shot to World War III.
i had walking trial last week 7 mile up hills and 7 mile down hills..
i broke my toes nail soon fall out..
stupid i need boots next time..
not slipper shoes..
i saw so beautiful water fallllll…
i drink it water so freshhh
It’s December 29
One shot for Wovoka
One for Leonard Peltier
Home from work the next day, Dave saw that the bottle and notes were gone. In its place was a single short note from Glenn.
Your father was here.
He took turkey in field and shot it.
Close Captaining or How Quickly Daft Jumping Zebras Vex
10 Columbus Circle
New York, NY 10019
To the Twelve Monkeys Who Type the Closed Captioning:
My deaf cousin has been living with me for a few months. I told him the closed captioning on your news show is done by voice recognition software. He insists it’s typed by twelve monkeys. He has a collection he would like to share with you along with the following message: “What the fuck?” . . .
THE GHOST CARD TODAY RESCUED
TAXATION WITHOUT REASONING
BEING A LITTLE HIT HIPOCRITICAL
COST OF PETROL YAM IS RISING
YOUR RAFT TWO TAX RETURNS
HORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER
MASS ITCH SNOW STORM
THE ROCKIES VOTED TODAY. MOST OF THE BAIL OUTS HAVE BEEN COUNTED.
LIFE PAN HAS INCREASED DUE TO GREENHOUSE GAS EMOTION
HE IS DESCRIBED AS A GEE HAW
. . . and a p.s.: WATCH THIS. DO IT. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rf_42L2eMS4
Thank you for your time and attention to this madder.
©annjames2022 & glenn bressette