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Where the Buffalo Sleeps...(Excerpt)

Posted on September 7, 2010 at 9:41 PM

Sometimes I dream of my Grandmother in my backyard. She is walking towards me all beautiful and shiny. She has become an angel, and old softly wrinkled angel. When I dream of her, I like to believe that she has come to check on me, that I was her favorite. This belief comforts me.

I think of my sisters and categorize them, I think of my brothers and they become one. Different colors all running into one, to create one darkly masculine color.

I often wonder why I think like I do, and I wonder if other people have these thoughts. Do they think, “Why me?” all the time?

Do they stand back and take a look at themselves and the ridiculous situations they find themselves in?

Do they find themselves ridiculous?

I do.

I was collecting my mother’s stories because they were starkly rich. I collected them because mine ran dry, and hers flowed and sparkled like a freshly thawed creek in early spring. My door was closed and I couldn’t find the key anymore. And then I remembered that I had swallowed it when I was ten. It had hurt as it slid down my throat. I jumped up and down crying looking at my mom. She covered her laughter with her eyes and her forever floured hands. I don’t remember if I ever got that key back, but I do remember that another one came to me. I was 26 and I had a dream so vivid, I thought I was going to die under my skin. Be a walking, talking, seeing body bag of skin.

“There was a white horse running in the frost, he was frost incarnate. Breath puffing and hooves thumping. Trees cheered him past as the sun rose to melt the white gold from their hands and faces. Still he ran. He ran so fast his hooves left the ground and he burst into millions of disturbed frost particles all gently sparkling, and spinning falling back to the ground. No one ever seen that horse again, but they whispered about him in the dark and in the morning over coffee with too much sugar and too much milk.

 

But I did.

 

I was driving by the very field he was running in, and I saw his eyes looking at me from behind the eyelids of an old man. They sparkled with the knowledge that he is truly unique, and no one that was ever born or ever will be born will be like him. God, how I envied him, his place in the universe that will never be occupied by anyone else. I thought he was death. My death and that I would stay with him only my body bag of skin would continue on without me like a stranger. I would watch this stranger that I only ever saw in the morning mirror drive on with her own distinct thoughts. I envied her too for being so un-uniquely distinct, for possibly fitting in where I never could, where I never wanted to fit in.”

 

I write because there’s nothing else I can do as good, or better. I take a deep breath and plunge right in, and deal with the consequences of my mess up later on. It makes me think that I know what I’m doing, it makes everyone else think the same. When inside I’m still the little girl with scary thoughts in her head turning to scary dreams at night when all the lights are out and I can hear my brothers and sisters snoring beside me on our big bed.

 

 

I can hear my mom and dad drinking and there’s pow wow music playing so loudly I am half expecting to wake up in a big canvas tent at a pow wow somewhere. I am amazed that everyone around me is still sleeping, howcome I’m awake?

 

I crawl out of bed, over my little sisters and over my little baby brother who always sleeps with us now, because my mom and dad smell like booze and ashes. I peek from the hallway into the living room and I see people sitting around talking and drinking lots and lots of beer. Some are sleeping and some are falling asleep, everyone has shiny greasy faces and hair.

 

My mom sees me and calls me over, she tells me to dance Pow wow for my uncles. She starts to talk about how all of us dance, and have danced since we could walk, her chin starts to rise in pride and she gets up and turns the Pow wow louder. She tells me to dance for my uncles. I start to dance right there in the living room in front of them, because I don’t know what else to do to make them let me go back to bed.

 

 As I’m dancing, everything around me changes and I’m dancing on top of a mountain, on the shore of a shiny sparkly lake. Everyone is gone and I’m dancing and my heart is soaring and everything is perfect, cold and peaceful. There is no drunk mom or drunk dad, it’s just me and my brothers and sisters and they are happy to be there, and there’s food to feed them in the morning. I keep dancing and I feel my breath starting to come in gasps but I keep dancing, stepping faster and lighter then I ever did in my whole life. I am not dancing for these drunk Indians in my living room; I’m dancing for my brothers and sisters for their tears and their hunger and their anger and fear.

 

I am always dancing for those Indians that lost their way or forgot how to dance, the Indians weighed down by their sorrow filled scars. . I want to see them smile again, I don’t want to feel sad when I see them walking on the road to their towns. I don’t want to feel anger at them for their lives being the way it is, I want them to wave at me and smile when I’m driving past them with my car too full to pick up any more Indians on that highway to numbness.

 

 

I’m done dancing and I leave after listening to them all tell me how I can improve my dancing, “keep your feet closer to the ground” they all tell me all the time. Any closer and I’ll be nailed to the ground right through my feet all that will be left to do is wave my arms like a warrior doing the Eagle dance, something forbidden for little girls that should be sleeping anyway. I see my best friend, my brother in the hallway. He waves me over to him and whispers in my ear, “That’s why I pretend to sleep they always make us dance.”

 

The music changes to something I don’t remember now and everyone is dancing, but not pow wow dancing they are bar dancing. The kind of dancing we see in the bars when we are waiting outside it in the station wagon and we sneak to the door to see if our parents are still in there, because we think, “maybe they forgot we are out here waiting.” My brother and I start to play, we’re yawning and playing cars, we take them out into the living room where everyone is dancing and we drive our cars in and out and in between their dancing shoes. That’s all I remember of those nights, but I know that there are millions of nights like that all waiting to be remembered again. Or maybe they have rotted and died away like so many other memories, all tattered and in raggy pieces just waiting idly by to be forgotten and wiped from my memory forever.

 

I write because I can’ wrap my head around daily things sometimes. This is how I deal. This is how I pretend that I fit in and that I am dealing.

 

Categories: Book, Elaine McArthur

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4 Comments

Reply George Spelvin
10:23 PM on September 7, 2010 
This has some very nice touches to it. It's certainly a collection of fond memories. I would be careful to cut out the places where there are repetitious ideas. For example,

I am always dancing for those Indians that lost their way or have forgotten how to dance. Those Indians that are weighed down by their sorrow filled scars. (could be changed to) I am always dancing for those Indians that lost their way or forgot how to dance, the Indians weighed down by their sorrow filled scars.

Also, you might describe how you are dancing. An Indian dance? The fox-trot? The waltz?

Anyway, I would just go back and tighten up those places that tend to wander.

DO
Reply jipper
11:06 PM on September 7, 2010 
This is melodic in style, and captive in narritive.
Yes, it's a good way to deal with.... I too enjoy dealing with it by delving into the thoughts of the past.
Enjoyed
Jip
Reply Phil Neale
3:32 AM on September 8, 2010 
Fantasy with a thick streak of the Dreamtime, as Maoris call it.

This buried me in iots rhythmic flow, and I could 'see' everything that you wrote.

Everyone has memories of a similar type, but you seem to have drawn yours out in a much wider and colourfull thread.

Phil
Reply Brandywine McArthur
1:52 PM on September 8, 2010 
Doug Ordunio says...
This has some very nice touches to it. It's certainly a collection of fond memories. I would be careful to cut out the places where there are repetitious ideas. For example,

I am always dancing for those Indians that lost their way or have forgotten how to dance. Those Indians that are weighed down by their sorrow filled scars. (could be changed to) I am always dancing for those Indians that lost their way or forgot how to dance, the Indians weighed down by their sorrow filled scars.

Also, you might describe how you are dancing. An Indian dance? The fox-trot? The waltz?

Anyway, I would just go back and tighten up those places that tend to wander.

DO


Thank you. I made the suggested changes and yes it does flow a little tighter than before. Much appreciated :)