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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Nokomis Just Doesn't Get It!

Nokomis Just Doesn’t Get It
By: Christine McFarlane

The wind, whispering yet screaming cold makes Nokomis and her great granddaughter pull their jackets closer to their bodies, shivering as they brace themselves against the cold air.

They’re going to dinner. After all, Nokomis had just received a big fat cheque in the mail from the government. It was her payment to compensate her for what happened at the residential school she attended many years earlier. The scars though not visible, lay beneath the strong fa├žade she presented to the world around her. Never letting anyone get too close, flinching if she heard raised voices, or saw conflict in any shape or form. If it wasn’t for her children and their kids, Nokomis was sure that she would have picked up the bottle. She had seen so many of her relatives who had gone through the same thing succumb to the drink because it was easier to drink, than to deal with the feelings of what was lost to them head on.

There is an uncomfortable silence, as Nokomis and her great granddaughter head out. Nokomis breaks the silence between them when she asks Michelle

“Are you ready for the new school year?”

Michelle, who is walking in tandem beside her Nokomis towards the car shakes her head and replies, “Yeah I am sort of, but I gotta get some more clothes. Last year’s clothes, they’re just not cool.”

They arrive at the car, a small-dilapidated K-car. The kind of car that gets you to point A and point B, and that almost everyone on the reserve has.  Michelle often wondered if the K car was an Indian special and if the Chrysler corporation had dibs on everyone who resided on the reserve, because even when your car died, everyone went out and got the same car again. Or maybe, Michelle thinks, “we’re just too cheap to get a car that will let us drive farther.” Let us escape from reserve life and go somewhere more exciting.

Nokomis and Michelle open the car doors. They are immediately assaulted by the smell of the worn out leather, and the staleness of cigarettes previously smoked. They settle into the seats, Nokomis taking the wheel and Michelle riding shotgun.
They’re on their way.

There is silence for a few minutes, but then the gravelly voice of Nokomis breaks the quiet “You know Michelle, back in my day, I only had one uniform for school. I had to wear it whether I liked it or not.”

“I know,” says Michelle as she rolls her eyes. She’s heard this talk before. About how lucky she has it in today’s world. She gets to wear different clothes every day, she has a tv and a computer, her parents are both educated and have well paying jobs.

Oh she knows she’s lucky, but her Nokomis just does not understand that to make it in high school, you gotta have the latest fashions and brand name clothing. I mean, “come on” Michelle is saying in her head, “I would die if I was labeled a nerd. It ain’t cool and it means a certain death.”

(short fiction story written in Banff, Alberta) a work in progress.....

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