Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Short Story Submission

Well, I took the plunge and submitted a short story (and two poems) to the Sheridan Edwards Review. I find it funny that I was so nervous about it. I guess it is always hard to put yourself out there to be judged by others. We are all so hard on ourselves that the thought of possible rejection is a scary thing.
I was going to post the short story on the Newman Creative Writing Club blog, but stupid me, I forgot the email address for logging in. (I told you we are hard on ourselves.)
So, if the few of you who are followers are willing to take the time to read it, I think I will post it on here. If you take the time to read it, I would love comments on it as well. If you don't take the time to read it, I understand. I'll hold it against you . . . but I understand. ;)

Grandpa Amos, the Indian boy and my Cherokee Battle
As I sat in grandpa’s old, rusty, blue pick-up truck, I could feel the pools of perspiration dribble down my chapped cheeks. The hot summer wind raced through the open windows and tangled my dark brown hair into a mangled mess. The red, Oklahoma soil was so dry that my body was covered in a thin layer of red mud and sweat. On any other day, this grime would probably consume my thoughts. This day was definitely not just any other day though. I was on my way to an authentic Indian Pow Wow.
Grandpa Amos wasn’t my real grandpa, not by birth anyway. My grandmother had been married and divorced two times and the grandpa sitting next to me in the old blue truck was her third husband. He was full blooded Cherokee Indian and was different than the other two grandpas. I had only met my birth grandfather a couple of times and the second grandpa was a man I had never met at all. But Grandpa Amos, now he was different. I spent time with them every summer and they came and visited us in Kansas several times a year. He took time to get to know me and talk to me. He taught me about the restaurant that he and grandma ran in Chickasha and would make me whatever I wanted to eat whenever we went to visit. So he wasn’t my grandpa by blood, but he was still my grandpa and that was okay by me.
He grew up on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma and although it was the twentieth century, he knew most of the old ways. He spoke some of the Cherokee language and liked to dress up in authentic leather attire and dance in Pow Wows, and now he was taking me to one. I was so excited!
Images of what this adventure could possibly be like raced through my ten year old mind. Dozens of dark skinned men and women all dressed in animal skins and feathers, dancing and stomping rhythmically around a large fire. Drums would be hauntingly pulsing alongside the group and encouraging the dancers to move to the beat. The figures floated through my imagination as we drove along the red, dirt roads that lead into the reservation. In less than five minutes I would be witnessing real live Indians at a real live Pow Wow.
I tightly gripped grandpa’s rugged hand as we entered the wide doors of the . . . community building? SLAM! There goes one image already erased from my mind. Why in the world would they hold a Pow Wow in a community building? Indians didn’t have community buildings. They lived in tee pees and held their dances outdoors with a huge bonfire. Seriously? A community building? Well, this was quickly becoming a huge disappointment, but I went inside anyway.
There were people of all different ages inside dressed in elaborate costumes. Some had head dresses made of feathers in all hues. Others wore leather costumes that had been painted in reds, and greens and blues. Okay, maybe it isn’t so bad. At least the idea of costumes was right. About fifty of these people had formed a circle and were moving in very slow, somewhat jerky motions. Not exactly what my friends and I do when we dance to the radio, but there was something captivating about it. Behind them, in the far corner of the room were two men. One of the men stood behind a large drum and was beating it with his hand. The other man held a microphone, yes a microphone; another image that was certainly not present in my imagination. He was doing what I assumed to be some kind of singing or chanting of some sort. Whatever it was, I found it to be quite repulsive.
One vision that heavily drew my attention was that of a little boy. He couldn’t have been more than two years old and every stitch of his clothing was made of hand sewn leather. He had tassels and fringe hanging from every inch of his tiny body. It seemed that everyone around him was more consumed with how adorable he looked in his outfit, including me, than he was. He stood nearly two feet away from the drummer and remained quite still, staring at the man in wonder and amazement. The boy appeared mesmerized by the pulsing beat of the drum and he was not alone. As I looked around the large room, many of the spectators were also mesmerized. But, I was ten and so my ten year old mentality caused me to become disinterested quickly. I asked grandpa if I could go outside and then left the building to check out what was happening out there.
The air had cooled down and the sun had set by this time leaving the whole area around the building to be dimly lit by an old light post. Under the post stood fifteen or so Indian children talking amongst themselves. The orange-yellow glow of the light bulb cast unusual shadows all around, making the kids appear somewhat intimidating. Despite this impression, I put on my brave fa├žade and walked up to them to see what was going on.
“Hi! My name is Becky. What’s yours?” I said to a thin, dark haired girl.
“Cas.” She practically whispered as if she was scared of me or something. “Why would she be scared of me?” I thought to myself, but I decided to continue the conversation.
“What are you guys doing?” I asked.
Finally a less timid young boy spoke out and said, “We’re going to play tag, do you want to play?”
I jumped at the opportunity with all my soul. I love to play games, especially tag.
“You’re it!” The boy screamed at me and all fifteen children scrambled.
The game had begun! I have always loved a challenge, so I darted toward the young boy who had just screamed in my face. He ran like the wind and so I quickly realized that my speed would not prevail in this situation. I decided the best way to win at this was to trap him and so I chased him to a place where he became blocked against the corner of the building. As we both raced toward the side of the community building, he realized what my scheme actually was and attempted to dart around another corner. This change in motion slowed him down just enough for me to be able to brush my hand against his left leg.
“Gotcha! Gotcha!” I yelled with glee.
Unfortunately for me, he didn’t seem to agree with this statement and came up to me, looked me square in the eye and said, matter-of-factly, “No you didn’t.”
“Yes I did,” I protested. “I touched your leg.”
He pushed closer in towards my face until I could almost feel the tip of his nose touching mine, and growled, “Did not!”
“Yes I did you lousy cheater.” I shrieked through gritted teeth. By now, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. Not only because I had been running, but because I was mad. I mean really mad. I absolutely hate cheaters. Worse than brussel sprouts or cauliflower or even wearing dresses, I hate cheaters!
It didn’t matter how mad I was though, because I am pretty sure that he was madder. I say this only because as soon as I got the last syllable out of my mouth, I felt a sharp pain run through my lower lip. He had hit me. He had actually hit me! As soon as I had come to my senses, if you could call it that, I swung my fist as hard as I could right back at him. The battle had begun.
Fists began to fly and every kid who had been playing tag gathered around us as we rolled and scuffled in the dirt. I don’t remember much of the battle simply because I was outmatched. It could have been the fact that the fight was so short, but it could also be that I got creamed by this kid and most people don’t like to remember the bad parts of a story.
All I know is that the next thing I remember was the crowd breaking apart. My vision was blurred with sweat and the instant swelling of my left eye, but through the haze I saw a tall figure coming toward me. At first I was sure that it was Superman, because he was wearing bright blue and red, but it wasn’t Superman, it was Grandpa Amos. He swiftly separated the two of us and grabbed me by the arm, pulling me away from what could have turned into something very ugly.
Inside I praised this dear man who had saved me from the slaughter, but then he began to speak. “Becky.” he said. “What on earth were you thinking? Do you realize how stupid that was getting into a fight with that boy? Well, you sure are lucky that you were losing. I can’t imagine what an ambush it would have been if you actually had the upper hand. Maybe it will teach you a lesson.”
His lecture was painful and so were the bruises I had received from the fight. But the thing that hurt worst of all was the look of disappointment I saw on grandpa’s face as we walked back into the community building. I don’t know if it taught me a lesson or not but I do know that I avoided fights as much as possible after that.
The ride back home after the Pow Wow was rather silent. My mind reflected on the events that had unfolded that evening. I thought about how grateful I was that I had nothing more than a black eye and a fat lip. I thought about how different my ideas of Indians and Pow Wows were compared to what I saw, and I thought about how much I loved Grandpa Amos and how he may not have been Superman, but how he was a hero, to me.

4 comments:

  1. Very sweet Debbie! I think we all have childhood memories that we reflect back on, where we think of our grandparents, aunts, uncles, or parents as our heroes! I liked it!

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  2. Very nice Debbie. Sorry your first Pow Wow wasn't what you expected but it sounds like it created quite an experience for you anyways. Aren't grandpa's the best. I really miss mine.

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  3. great story! I loved your descriptive language. I felt like I was riding along in the truck with you. How much was auto-biographical? I have to admit I was disappointed with my pow-wow experience at the community center-type place, too.

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  4. Honestly, the story is mostly autobiographical. Everything except the "rescue" from my grandfather. It was my mom who came to my rescue and was actually the hero of the story, but since I started out talking so much about my grandpa, I decided that he needed to be the main character rather than bringing my mother in at the end. I thought it would not flow as well and would be quite confusing to the reader.

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