Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Greed Makes The Con

One of the long time street people, “wino” to the older generation, before the euphemisms all became politically correct, is shuffling along, following a well fed, another euphemism, gentleman down the street. He’s shuffling along, off the edge of the sidewalk, as if he believes that he doesn’t deserve to be on the same level as the well fed gentleman. The well fed gentleman is strolling along on the sidewalk, laughing at everything the street person has to say and not looking in his direction. To any observer, it would seem that the street person is telling the other, one funny joke after another.

“I’ll tell you George, when we were young, you were the person who’d ask me for help,” the street person says as he stumbles, recovers, and continues, “and, and I wasn’t ashamed to give it to you either, no, I was always the first to step up and help you,” he kicks at a stray dog that wanders too close, and continues again, “Remember that time that the kid down the road from you wanted to kick your a--? Well, I was the one who made him leave you alone and he never did bother you again after I had a talk with him…now you won’t even help me out with enough for a bottle?”

George begins to whistle as he walks.

“I ain’t shi---n you George, I will pay you back as soon as my GA check comes in. I’m expecting it on Saturday. What’s today, Monday or Wednesday? I don’t know, all I know is that I’m telling you the truth this time, and how much do I owe you, about fifty bucks?”

George walks on.

“I’ll give you sixty bucks when I get it if you lend me enough for one bottle, George. Please?”

George glances at the street person, at the passing vehicles and at the store windows, where it seems that everyone is watching, and thinks, “I hope they don’t believe that I’m friends with this guy. Where are the police when you need them? This is getting embarrassing!”

“Come on ‘Bro,’ lend me something? Listen here, I’ll tell my ol’ lady to pay you back when she gets her lease money next year. How does that sound? She’ll do it too, I promise.”

George sees his destination about one and a half blocks further on, and picks up the pace, hoping to outdistance the street person, but he is matched stride for stride.

The street person notices another street person walking along with her head down, on the opposite side of the street, going in the opposite direction. He waves and hollers, “Julene, wait for me by Big Bear Alley, I’ll be right back! I’m talking to my friend and he’s gonna help me out with a jug! Wait there!” he says, signaling and waving his hands.

“I’ll sign all my land over to you when the B.I.A. building opens up tomorrow if you help me out George.”

George slows his pace, breathing hard, because he’s so well fed and because he’s not accustomed to strenuous exercise of any kind anymore, and asks, “You don’t have any land left, do you?”

“Yes I do. I have two hundred and eighty acres. It’s out by Four Horn Lake and I’ll sign it all over to you tomorrow, if you help me out today, I promise,” states the street person emphatically.

“I thought you’d sold all your land that time you moved to Washington?” questions George.

“No, no, I kept half of it because I wanted to give it to my boy. He’ll be turning eighteen, next month, I think. I wanted him to have some place to live if he ever wants to live in the country.”

George stops and turns to face the street person.

“Phew, phew, I thought you’d never stop George. I was about to quit you right back there,” says the street person, relieved and smiling.

“Huff, huff, huff, now you’re not lying to me, are you?”

“Cross my heart, I’m telling you the truth. Do you think I’d lie to you? H—l, I’m doing my best to help you out and all you can do is ask me if I’m lying? Humph. I should just walk away right now and you’d miss out on some good land!”

Breathing hard, George asks, “What would your wife and son say if you were to give me your land? Wouldn’t they try stopping you?”

A vehicle horn sounds and George smiles and waves to someone driving by in a 2008 Chevy Avalanche.

“That’s my wife. She’s probably checking on me to see where I’m at. I’m supposed to meet with her for lunch, and I was supposed to be there about thirty minutes ago. Do you see what happens when a person meets up with a good friend on the street?” he says, condescendingly.

The street person spots a snipe nearby and picks it up. He places it between his lips and asks George for a light.

George says, “I don’t even smoke; so why would I carry a lighter?”

The street person angrily throws the partial cigarette down and begins to walk away.

“Wait! Wait! Why don’t you come with me and I’ll write a check, but first I’ll get you something to eat. You’ll get your drink my friend, I assure you, you will! If I have to take your land off your hands, I think that you should receive more than a, what did you call it, a bottle?”

The street person stops and walks back to George, but this time he steps onto the sidewalk and proudly brushes some of the street dust from the front of his coat. Smiling, and obviously satisfied, he puts his hand out, expecting George to shake.

George fearfully hopes that the street person hasn’t seen, as his face uncontrollably wrinkles and takes on a look of total disgust. “I sprained my hand this morning, and I can’t touch anything with it, because even a simple touch causes the worst pain. Let me give you a rain check until tomorrow, after you’ve signed the land over, ok?” George says.

The street person says, “Listen, George, you don’t have to feed me, I’d probably lose it if I ate today anyway. Why don’t you just write a check and give me some money now? I’ll meet you at the B.I.A. office bright and early tomorrow, and I’ll sign every acre over to you. After all, you’re helping me out today, aren’t you?”

George says, “Yes, absolutely my friend!” as he scans the street, hoping that none of his friends have seen him standing with and talking to the street person. “What would they think, he thought?”

“I’m really hung over George, so if you could get me the money right away, I’d be thankful,” says the street person, and then he asks, “Is there anywhere close by where you can cash your check?”

George looks around and says, “As a matter of fact there is, I can cash one right here,” indicating a small clothing store located about ten feet from where they are standing, then walks and enters the business.

The street person waits outside the door, smiling and greeting everyone who enters or passes by.

“Twenty five dollars, man, I thank you George! You are a friend indeed to the needy street people and I’m going to let everyone know that too! I’ll bet that the next time that you run for council you make it in!” laughs the street person as George hands him the money.

Before parting company, George asks, “Now you’re sure that you’ll be there at eight in the morning, promise?”

The street person swears up-and-down that he will be there on time and they walk separate ways.

George looks back before entering the restaurant and sees the street person talking to another, before they cross the street together and enter a local liquor store.

In the restaurant, George excitedly relates his good fortune to his wife, telling her to keep it to herself and not to say anything to anyone until everything’s final. She shares his excitement and they begin to make plans for the land’s use.

The next morning finds George exiting the B.I.A. building, angry and feeling like a genuine fool, after waiting for over an hour for the street person to show. He hasn’t seen hide-nor-hair of the man and he’s late for work.

At the same time, the street person is walking along the sidewalk, following a local merchant who is out enjoying some nice, fresh, spring air. To any observer, it would appear that the street person is telling the other, one funny joke after another.

-- Calvin Tatsey © 2008

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


The late-afternoon Sun bathes the snow covered road, the fences running parallel to it, and the lonely, snow-spotted fields that eternally flow into the nearby foothills, with brightness…

An old man stands upon the road, alone, coatless, and apparently distressed; his long-White-hair hanging in three neat braids, as eyes that have seen seventy-three summers search for a wolf that he’s heard howling, somewhere in the distant hills.

It is February twenty-third, and the quiet, sunny and windless late-afternoon, begins to define another time and place for him; so-much-so, that he repeatedly calls his wife’s name out-loud…

“Natoyist-siksina -- Medicine Snake Woman…,” then absolute quiet, interrupted only by the far away wolf’s howl again, as if in response to the agonized articulations of a heart and mind that have known happier times, have known a woman’s love, and have known a World that no longer exists.

Standing quietly and listening to the wolf, he thinks in Blackfeet, “Help me my brother, my heart is hurting…”

He sighs deeply and begins to walk again; his lowered head and slow step interprets a heavy heart and grieved soul.

As he walks on, he remembers, and time passes by without notice; the World becomes a shell where his body remains; his spirit once again runs like the wind and Natoyist-siksina is with him.

They sit together holding hands, on rich green grass along a riverbank, on a clear summer day thick with the fragrant smells of honeysuckle, peppermint, fresh air and clean water, where birds fly about and sing throughout the aspen leaves, fluttering in the breeze…Natosi -- The Sun -- smiles as he showers them with warmth, light and happiness; laughter and sounds of life float from the nearby camp, filling their ears with peace, paralyzing time...they are young again…

She watches a small child splash and play in the stream, as its mother laughs; she watches a group of young boys as they return from an imaginary buffalo hunt; she watches an eagle as it soars past the Sun and he watches her.

He can’t describe his feelings for her in simple words; he lets his heart describe them with song. All he knows is that he has never seen another woman as beautiful as she is and that she owns his every waking moment, where she personifies his dreams…

She looks at him and becomes embarrassed by his obvious regard. He places his arm around her shoulders and draws her nearer. They welcome the twilight and greet the stars together…

“Ooooooohhhhh…,” and his heart draws the memory away, sending it back into its world! He stumbles and stops walking, weaving slightly. “Ooooooooohhhhh…” resounds again and he slowly turns around. A large-black wolf stands on the road from where he has just come, not more than thirty feet away.

He smiles, lifts his hand and says, “Oki Niscunnie -- Greetings my friend. Nitaapiiwa -- How are you?”

The wolf’s eyes begin to smile.

They watch each other in silence, then the old man says in Blackfeet, “My only friend has gone to the other side; have you come to take me to her…?”

The wolf watches.

Fluent Blackfeet passes from the old man to the wolf again, “I want to go with her; I’m lost without her and I don’t know this World anymore…”

The wolf begins to howl and the old man walks off the dirt road and stops, clearing the snow from an area, he slowly sits and begins to sing his death song. His heart is bursting with pride, as he sings the song that has never been sung. Tears roll down his cheeks as the wolf sings along…

An Owl flies past and all is silent.

-- Calvin Tatsey © 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008


1:00 am on a night following a day filled with domestic-disillusionment and boredom: Sonny, a Native American man in his early twenties, is about to go to bed, when a knock sounds at the door of his one room shack. He quickly looks at the single bed near the table to see if the knock had disturbed his common-law wife, who lays there sleeping. No movement, so he quietly lifts the short-two-by-four that has been braced against the door and cracks it open. Mist escapes, as warm air meets freezing temperatures, blending with the visitors’ breaths, and then rising to nothing.

“Hey brother, it’s me,” a voice chimes from outside, in a noticeably under toned slur. “Can we come in?”

“Shhhh, Beverly’s sleeping and I’ll never hear the end of it if I wake her up!”

“Awww, come on, it’s cold out here,” says the man as he playfully pushes on the door and laughs. “I see that you got a hot fire in there, aaaaayyy, and we’re cold, aaaaaayyy…! Hey, you’re actin’ too good for us, enit bro? Whasup?”

A female voice drunkenly states from outside the door, “Yeah, Sonny, we’re hungry too, ooks…ha, ha…!”

Several people laughing from outside, both male and female cause Beverly to groan and make a sound with her lips, as if she’s eating a tasty meal.

Alarmed, Sonny visibly winches and glances at the bed again. “Wait, let me get my coat and I’ll be right out, shhh…”

Closing the door, he stands and stares at the bed for a few seconds, checking for any sign of consciousness; satisfied that his wife is still sound asleep, he tip toes to the end of the bed and rummages through a pile of clothing that has apparently been thrown over a wooden bench.

Not finding what he’s searching for, he takes a step and lowers himself to his knees, gazing under the bed. His arm disappears beneath the bed and retrieves a thick, brown, Carhartt coat. He stands up and his eyes once again search for animation on the bed -- all’s quiet on the home-front…

He quietly goes to the door and hangs the coat on the doorknob, then back to the wood heater, where he opens its front. “Shit!” he whispers as he vigorously shakes his hand and shoves a finger into his mouth. Blowing on it, he thinks, “Man, I should have used a glove, damn…!”

Before exiting, Sonny stops and looks over the one room shack, which he and Beverly have shared for the past two years. “She’s forever worrying about this place’s catching on fire…,” he thought. “She’s silly,” he verbalizes out-loud and immediately holds his breath, fearful that she’d heard, as he waits for her to call his name. No sign of movement from the lady on the bed. “Thank God,” he whispers.

Quietly pulling the door shut behind him, Sonny places his finger to his lips and says, “Shhhh, don’t say anything until we’re at least a mile from here; she has ears like a cat…!”

Everyone’s laughing and trying to outdo everyone else with humor as they walk through a snow covered alley. The sky is clear and the stars are bright; the visible streetlights appear to be reflecting straight up and each footstep makes a squeaking, crunching sound. A cloud of fog like mist follows the group, precipitated by their laughter, breathing and verbalizations.

“Where’s the party?” Sonny asks Coyote, his friend and the man who’d knocked on his door.

“Ha, ha…there’s a big one going on over at Leena’s house. We were all over there when your ‘chippie’ offered a fifth of ‘B.V.’ to anyone who’d go get you, geeeeze, ha, ha…you’re quite the ladies man enit? I asked who was man enough to brave the cold with me and, let me see,” doing a 180 while still in motion, he mumbles to himself, “…three, four, five, six…seven, seven of us volunteered and not all were men, my friend; I guess these skanks think they’re men, ha, ha…! We’re all crazy, home boy, too crazy…!”

While turning back around, Coyote slips on a patch of ice and nearly falls.

Laughing, Sonny stops, blows on his hands and asks, “Okay, who’s got a bottle? I know you winos wouldn’t walk three blocks without any minioakie, napioakie, or assockitsee stuffed in your empty pockets…!”

A shivering, high pitched female voice laughs, and says, “Ohhh, I knew you were gonna ask that…! Coyote just told us that you’ve been on-the-wagon for a while and that you wouldn’t drink with us, but I knew that you would! We even betted on it, ha, ha…! Coyote, oh Coyote, yoo-hoo, you owe me ten dollars my friend!”

“We came over dry Sonny,” says Coyote.

“Aw shit and I was just looking forward to some internal warmth, Dog!”

Everyone’s laughing hard and making fun of Sonny for his shallow resolution. Sonny laughs too and the group walks on, shivering, jabbering and jovial.

A male voice from behind asks, “Sonny, I thought that you and your woman were living in The Housing Authority, housing?”

The group laughs without pausing their fast, escape the cold walk and Coyote responds for Sonny, “Shit holms, he can’t get a unit from housing; not after he f----d up the tribal chairman’s son last Indian Days…! Hey Sonny, you kicked his ass good enit, ha, ha…!”

“Gooder,” came from behind, and, “I sure wish it was Indian Days weather now, ohhh, f—k it’s cold, brrrrrrr! Let’s walk faster!”

The reference to housing evoked a feeling of guilt from Sonny’s conscience. He thought of his and his common-law wife’s current circumstances and he immediately began pondering what she’d do when she woke-up, cold, probably lonely, and with him absent... He felt sad, but thought, “That’s alright, I deserve to get away from her once in a while…she always thinks that I shouldn’t leave her side, and now that she’s pregnant, she’s even more of a burden…besides, they said my ‘chippie’s’ there; I wonder which one…?”

“Bang, bang, bang,” and the wooden door, with a piece of plastic held on by duct tape, covering a gaping hole in the window, opens. Loud laughter and voices conjoin the exiting mist as the group enters.

Sonny pauses, assures the correct “sag” and unzips his Carhartt.

They pass through the kitchen, where Sonny notices empty beer cans scattered about the counters and the table, and looks down as his shoe encounters a broken bottle.

A shrill, female voice rises above the drunken pandemonium as he enters the next room. “SONNY! Oh my love, where did you come from? Oh my God, I can’t breathe! EWWWWW…ha, ha…!”

Sonny smiles as he recognizes Janet Kills Fast and all her glory…! “She’s the one I was hoping it would be,” he thought, happily.

Janet, a young lady of about nineteen, tall, voluptuous and beautiful, with an air of sensuality, health and good living about her, physically disengages herself from a fortunate young man and seductively-saunters over to Sonny, throws her arms around his shoulders, and buries her face in his neck, exclaiming, “I’m glad that you came; I really missed you…! Will you be mine tonight, honey, hmmm? I’m lonesome and I need…”

A clamor of scraping chair legs, falling beer cans and chairs, stomping and hollers abruptly-ends her exclamations of affection, as two males rise from their seated positions and begin to fight among the scrambling partiers.

Sonny pulls his date into the kitchen, out of the way of the beginning free-for-all, where, reaching into the refrigerator, he withdraws a beer, pops-the-top and begins to gulp.

He feels his date being yanked from his embrace and drops the can in surprise. Sonny recognizes the man who’d been hugging Janet upon his entrance. The man says to Janet, “Hey, where you goin’? You’re mine!”

She giggles and turns to face him, languidly-tossing her hair, she looks over her shoulder at Sonny. “I should f—k this dude up,” thinks Sonny, and reaches to reclaim his prize.

Simultaneously, a small boy of about 2-3, totters into view and crying, enters the melee occurring in the next room. A female screams for everyone to stop and demands that everyone leave the residence, while she snatches the child up, hugs him, and backs into the kitchen’s entrance, crying and still screaming.

Sonny stops, looks at the child and at the lady, at his prize, and thinks, “This party has gone south,” as he disgustedly turns and walks to the door.

He can hear Janet calling his name, screams, hollers, and a child’s frightened cry, all growing faint as he proceeds into the frosted night…

As he enters his one room hovel, Beverly, a plain, slightly overweight lady of about 22, is consumed with the task of adding more wood to the nearly burned-out fire. She’s cloaked in a quilt from the bed, her hair’s out of order and she’s angry; but Sonny thinks that he’s never been happier to see anyone in his entire life, as he warmly says, “Hi beautiful, get back to bed and I’ll do that...”

She glares at him, sniffs, and asks, “Where have you been? You smell like you’ve been drinking!”

In the morning, Beverly senses a noticeable change in Sonny, as he literally falls over himself, in efforts toward making her comfortable and happy.

She likes it, and she smiles as she feels the baby kick.

-- Calvin Tatsey, © 2008