– Nonfiction by Solamon Jacobs –
Honourable Mention in the 2021 Dreamers Flash Fiction & Nonfiction Contest.
A buzz, brick walls, peeling paint, bolt retracted with a clank—your metal door swung open. They swooped-in. A noble cause? Simply another ward of the state, a forgotten child. Nancy Reagan warned, “Just Say No.” Diagnosed, force-fed, prescriptions, methamphetamines. Stop. Focus. But Ronald screamed, “Just Say No.” To education, childhood, friendships, sleepovers, first kiss, teenage lust. “No” to forgiveness. Education withheld and nonconformity brutally punished. All that was left to nurture was a withering sapling hoping to become an elder.
As your elder’s trunk snapped, you turned and ran, saw in hand, like a terrified child unsure which way the sky was falling. That northern wind ushered a different kind of cold across the reservation’s barren lands, a cold that set in your bones, a cold that attacked each breath, a freeze that never seemed to thaw.
Off in the distance, a poll skidder sputtered to life. Just before it stalled, the sound of its revving engine roared across the snow, across the frozen lakes, across the graveyard of stumps that stretched to the distant tree line like uneven, wooden tombstones.
Who will pay for your tombstone? You suppressed the plunger, tingles flooded your body, toes curled, hair on end. You checked your pulse, the other hand shielded your eyes. Two years stuck in that circular pattern, repeated twice a day, until you’d fallout on a bus stop bench, behind a dumpster, or in a holding cell. You wanted to punish yourself. You needed to feel the pain and misery you’d inflicted on others, your heinous actions you excused as anger.
At first you took your anger out on bugs. You’d rip wings off butterflies, light ants on fire, and pour salt on slugs. Your growing wrath would spread. All that stray cat did was defend itself. Why couldn’t it just love you?
What was wrong with you? You hoped returning to the White Earth Reservation would prove therapeutic because the system had sucked the life out of you. You craved belonging, was scouring for an identity, tracking a sense of history while pursuing spiritual improvement. A lost child longing for acceptance, acceptance from a family, a community, a nation you didn’t even know—strangers with names, skin, and features similar to yours.
Your wife and newborn child have provided a strange, new sense of acceptance. But you’ve still had a rough time since ditching the streets. It’s been years, and you still can’t get used to shutting the door behind you. You weren’t born in a barn, but you’ve been living in a converted one the last three years. It feels like you’re in prison, except you’re the one locking the doors. It took years before you abandoned your sleeping bag. Most nights you pass out on the couch, floor, or in the backyard. You’re contemplating running away so you can finally get a good night’s sleep.
Those pills made sleep impossible. You’d wander the house, staring at your foster family, imagining their dreams. Your foster dad, once caught you sitting on the kitchen floor devouring a chicken leg you’d dug out of the garbage. So he grabbed you by the shirt, and screamed in your face, “Throw it away and go to bed.” You threw that bone across the room, turned around, and tried to bite a chunk out of his leg. You screamed like a wild animal as he pulled you off and slung you aside. You screamed and fought all the way to the Juvenile Detention Center. You were still screaming when they slammed your cell door.
About the Author – Solamon Jacobs
Sol Jacobs is a creative nonfiction writer with work published in Inverted Syntax, Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, Flint Hills Review, and recently won the 2020/1 Intertribal Agriculture Council Storytelling Competition. Jacobs is a mixed-blood Ojibwa who graduated from Emporia State University in 2017 (BA), Sierra Nevada University in 2019 (MFA), and is currently attending the Institute of American Indian Arts. Jacobs lives with his wife and two children at the foothills of the Rockies.
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