All Your Horses Someday
It is the day after Christmas
and I think we might be moving. I'm playing in my toy closet
while Mama takes down the tree. When I bring my new dinosaurs
out to play in the living room, the tree is all gone and mama
yells at me, "Julian, go back and play in your room! Do
I look like I'm trying to get things done out here?" I wanted
my T Rex and my Long Necks to finish their fight in the long
green clumps of pine needles that have fallen from our Christmas
tree, but Mama is trying to clean. My T Rex is going to eat my
long necks, one by one. He's going to surprise the mamas and
the babies while they play in the grass. Except Mama won't let
me play in the grass. I have to stay in my toy closet or my bedroom
I think we are moving because my
mama only puts things away when we are about to move. Right now,
she's piling all of our things, old clothes, new clothes, our
pots and pans from under the sink, our boxes of Pokemon macaroni
and cheese, all of it, into big brown boxes that have started
to show up around our house. I want to play with all my Christmas
toys one at a time, but she is packing those away, too, and then
taping up the boxes. Mama was doing it when I got up this morning,
and while I ate my cereal, and she's still doing it now. My mama
never cleans the house. Not like this.
"Mama, why are you putting
all my toys in the boxes?" I say. She's taking down all
of our moons and stars off the walls and tossing them into boxes
with some clothes she picked up off the living room floor. She
sings to herself and kind of walks around slowly. She takes a
long time to answer me. "Mama, how come?" I ask. "We
are going to live some where else for a while, somewhere far
away," she says. "Baby, remember how I told you that
your Daddy lives in North Carolina?" I nod. "Well,
we're going to go there for a little while. You can meet your
grandma, your uncles
" She stops packing for a minute
and comes to sit on the floor with me. "Hey, little man,"
she says and lifts my chin up so I am looking at her. "It
will be just like in all the stories of your Daddy and his five
Indian brothers on their horse farm. How does that sound to you?"
"Okay," I say. Mama goes
back to her packing, mixing my toys in with her clothes and our
movies and her stars and moons from the walls. I wander off to
a brand new patch of rug that I have never seen before. It no
longer has clothes piled up on it. I find an old Cheerio and
put it in my mouth while Mama is not looking.
At night sometimes my mama tells
me stories about my daddy. He is an Indian without a reservation.
Mama says the government is bad and won't let Daddy and the other
Lumbees have their own reservation, which I think is like a big
Indian playground with campers and trailers. That's what it's
like on the Penobscot reservation where I play during pow wow
So, my daddy is Charlie the
Lumbee Indian, with one side of his face painted like a warrior.
He lives in a trailer during the day where he paints pictures
and plays guitar and tames horses. But at night the side of his
face painted like a warrior begins to look more like a bird,
and he becomes like the super heroes in Justice League. He rides
on the greatest, biggest of all the horses all over Fayetteville,
North Carolina, where he doesn't have a reservation. He can make
the biggest horse fly and he goes where he's needed. That is
how he came to my mama. He saw her swimming at a lake one day,
and at night he could hear her crying. So, with his face painted
like a warrior and himself looking like a bird, he made the horse
fly over Fayetteville. He was higher than the stars, and he looked
like that time that the cow jumped over the moon, or when people
count sheep. My daddy was so powerful that even if he fell, he
wouldn't get hurt. He was an all-powerful warrior. He flew to
my mama's yard and the horse touched down with its feet thumping
and it sounded like thunder. Just then, he rode through the one
window of the basement apartment. He looked like Charlie again,
not a bird. He saw her crying alone and asked what's wrong. Mama
was lonely and tired of people coming over that she didn't like.
They came around giving her gifts and magic dusts and drinks
of poison to try to make her happy and all it did was make her
sick. But my daddy took her away that night. He took her away
from the basement apartment, and when the bad people came around,
he and Mama just rode away across the stars for a while. He played
his magic guitar and painted his pictures, until she was almost
happy. She was his queen for a while, but my mama belonged in
a far away land with snow and Christmas trees, so she brought
my daddy north. But daddy didn't belong there. It was too cold
for a dark bird to live, and there were no horses for him. So,
sometimes Mama visited Daddy, and other times he appeared to
her as a bird, just for a little while, far away up north where
she was. And when my mama was almost all better, he pulled some
dust from the stars and made me. Then he got on his horse and
rode away. Mama got in her car and drove north to have a baby
and was all better again. And now we are both happy, and Charlie
the Indian rides around the world at night, pulling dust from
the sky, singing songs, painting pictures, and just being a bad
ass Indian Warrior like an Indian Batman.
My mama's name is November,
just like the month. She has yellow hair and when I draw pictures
of her I color her hair yellow and her skin orange or pink. I
have been coloring pictures for a long time, because Mama and
me have been riding in her truck all my life now. She came and
picked me up from kindergarten while I was playing in the snow
with my friends. She came over as soon as she'd packed the truck
up, and all the boxes with my toys are in the back. There are
trash bags tied up and I can see some of my stuffed animals poking
through. They get to ride in the back of the truck. Sometimes
people call mama "Nova." That's not a month at all.
It's a kind of car one of Mama's men used to drive us to the
Mama told me to say goodbye to
my friends and my teacher, and then we got my lunchbox and my
painting and got in the car. I will miss my friend Eedy, but
I'm going to marry her someday. She is a Passamaquoddy Indian
and I am a Lumbee one. One time we got caught at my house with
our underpants down, because we were looking at each other's
penises. Eedy didn't have one, though.
Every time I wake up, Mama tells
me that we're in a new state, and tells me how to say it. I ask
her, "Is this one North Carolina, yet?" "Tomorrow,"
she tells me. We pee at gas stations and sleep in hotel beds
and eat hot dogs that she buys at the gas stations. Mama's truck
is full of all the boxes, but I can't see my new Christmas toys
anywhere, even though Mama tells me they are there. I keep looking
back at the garbage bags of my stuffed animals. I worry that
the wind will make the bags and boxes open and all of my toys
will fly out the back, and land on the side of the road for some
other little boy to find. I worry some other little boy will
have my Christmas on the side of the road.
I am sticking my hand out of
the window and pretending to catch all the different signs and
telephone poles on the side of the highway. Mama is so quiet
and so boring sometimes. She's listening to her rock and roll
music and smoking a black cigarette that smells like peppermints.
I watch her yellow hair fly around her face out of its ponytail,
and the fringes on her brown jacket fly around, too. I pretend
like they are tiny, stringy people who are standing on her chest
and arms, dancing.
" Mama, tell me a story about
Charlie the Indian and his five Indian Brothers," I say,
catching another telephone pole. " Tell
me a new story, Mama, not one of the old stinky stories."
Mama is singing loudly. When the words to the song stop she says,
wait until the song is over and then I will."
She sings loudly, "Hey, hey, what can I do
I breathe loudly so she can tell I want my story right now.
"Okay," she finally says.
a new story about Charlie and the Uncles.
"One afternoon, little
man, when your mama was still just a young girl, she was sitting
on the floor of the trailer and playing solitaire. Charlie was
sitting on the couch with his face half painted, singing a song
and playing his guitar. 'Darlin, it's an awfully hot day,' he
said to your mama. 'Let's go for a swim.' So your mama agreed.
They put on their swimming clothes and walked way out behind
the trailer, and behind the horse barn. Your daddy used to tease
me, and say I'd better not get caught behind the barn with an
Indian. And when I asked him what if he caught behind the barn
with a white girl, he said they'd sings songs about him in the
I like the way Mama talks about
her and my daddy as if they are really in a story. Sometimes
she forgets, though. Like now, when she is quiet for a moment
while she's talking about him. It's like she forgot she was supposed
to be telling me a story.
"Where was I, Julian? There
were chickens and dogs that ran around with the horses. Your
mama and Daddy stepped over them. They walked all through the
woods past the garden of collards and spinach and carrots, and
eventually they came to a lake. This lake had a special rope
swing hanging down on it and the rope swing had been there longer
than some of the trees, some of the flowers, and some of the
people who now use it. The rope was as thick as your mama's arm.
"Now, as you know, your mama
is a girl from New England. And she's used to swimming in lakes
and oceans and swimming pools. This was a creek, and you could
not see to the bottom of it. 'Is it safe?' she asked Charlie.
'It looks like Alligators and snakes could live in there.' Charlie
assured her it was perfectly safe and not one reptile had ever
been seen in all the years he'd swam there."
"Mama, were there frogs, there?"
I ask. "They aren't dangerous. You know, Iguana man- the
super hero nemesis-he could have lived under the water! He eats
alligators! But then, Ulysses the water king would come eat him
and keep you safe!"
Mama continues on with her story.
"So Mama and Charlie swam. Charlie, with his warrior powers
of turning into a bird, could do the most amazing tricks from
the rope swing. He was like an acrobat up there. He'd fly forward
by one hand, and jump off in a somersault. He'd skim the water
with his foot and make magical rippling waves. He'd dangle by
his feet and grab your mama by the wrist, and then she'd be skating
across the water. In this way, he could make her fly, too.
"Now, Mama and Charlie never
went anywhere without at least one gun between the two of them.
And while Charlie was dangling by his feet, Mama was standing
on the creek bank drying off. Just then, she thought she saw
something under the water. In fact,
She thought she saw one big eye
looking right at her!"
I covered my mouth to hold in a
scream! "IGUANA MAN! IT WAS IGUANA MAN! Wasn't it, Mama?
Was he down there ready to eat up Charlie like he eats snakes
"No, It was not iguana man,
Julian. Mama thought it was probably an alligator looking at
Charlie's brown hands and thinking about them for lunch. So,
Mama grabbed the gun. She fired it into the water just once.
And then, slowly, something started to come out of the water."
"What was it, Mama?"
"When the creature stood up,
it was no reptile at all. It was only your old Uncle Buster who'd
been swimming down the creek and had swam over under the water.
And when he stood up, Mama and Charlie could see where the bullet
had taken the hair off the top of his head."
I laughed. "That was a funny
story, Mama." She turned the radio back on. "Oh! Fuck!
The Rolling Stones are on!" she shrieks and then sings along.
I put my face toward the wind and started to go to sleep thinking
about Uncle Buster under the water where Iguana man could have
When we get to North Carolina
we are not in a new house or an apartment. We park the truck
in someone's yard where there are horses walking right by. Mama
gets out of the car and opens the gate and then drives through
the horses. "Julian, this is going to be your very own horse
"Is that why we came here?"
I ask her." So I can live here and be the king of my own
"No," she says. "We
came here so they can see you. It's time."
"Time for what?"
"No matter what, you are Charlie's
first born son, and someday you will be put first. Don't forget
that." I hear her breath deeply and we start walking past
the horses. I can't stop staring at them, they are so much bigger
than I thought they would be. I make out the shapes of some of
them, even in the night. One is grazing in the grass and I think
he can see me out of the side of his giant eye. Some more are
standing together in a group nearby us. Mama walks without even
looking at them, not even impressed at all. I can't stop looking
at how big they are. They are such nosy animals that they follow
us the whole way to the door of the trailer. One is walking right
over me, and I wonder if he's going to bite my head or kick me
in the bottom with his hard round foot.
The trailer sits in the middle
of the horses' yard. Mama talks to me while we walk to it. She
keeps telling me all about how this horse farm belongs to my
daddy's Grandpa Roy, and these are all their horses. She tells
me, "Julian, these are all your horses someday." The
trailer is dark when we walk inside, but the door is unlocked.
I can see the outline of a person sleeping on the couch. A few
dogs lift their heads from the rug and look at us curiously,
and then go back to sleep. "Mama, do they know we're here?
Where is my daddy and his five brothers?" I ask. "Shhh
is sleeping now, Julian. Don't worry, he'll come to us."
"Is that my daddy on the couch?"
I ask. "No," Mama whispers. "It's your Uncle Mouse,
he probably left a bed free because he knew we'd be here tonight."
Mama finds an empty bed in a small room next to the door and
we climb in it together. "Mama, don't the Lumbee people
want to see me?" I ask, "Why do we have to wait until
"Hush, child." She says, "Try to get some sleep.
Your daddy is out riding his horse across the sky. You need to
let him be to do his things." She rubs my back and we snuggle
on the bed. I can see the stars out the window, and the horses
walking by. Every now and then I hear a noise close to the trailer.
"You hear that?" Mama asks me. "That's a horse
rubbing against the other side of this very wall because he has
an itch." I go to sleep looking at the stars with one eye
open for my daddy in the sky.
My new Uncle Mouse is a crazy
looking man, and I can't stop watching him. He is a Lumbee Indian,
like me. We are both brown. He is so crazy looking and I am afraid
that when I grow up, I will look like that, too. He has curly,
fuzzy gray and black hair and green eyes like the Incredible
Hulk. When he walks, his jeans look like there are almost no
legs in them because his legs are so skinny and small. He is
not much bigger than my mama, but somehow I know that he is an
old man, even if he isn't anyone's daddy or grandpa. When I woke
up that first morning, I stood over him while he slept on the
couch. He wears blue jeans when he sleeps instead of pajamas.
When he opened his eyes he looked back at me for a minute and
said, "I bet you is Julian. I seen your pictures."
Only he said it "Julie-Anne" like a girl from my old
school. I don't like to be called names and Mama won't let anyone
call me Jules, because she doesn't like the way it sounds. "I'm
not a girl," I told him. "I'm Julien!"
He laughed and said, "I hear you, boy!" Then he got
up and went into the bathroom and left me standing there while
mama was still asleep in the back bedroom. I could hear him peeing.
It sounded like he had to go for a long time.
My new Uncle Mouse is the oldest
of all my daddy's brothers. They all lived in the yellow house
next to this trailer when they were little kids like me. They
all rode the bus together and came home to ride all these horses
that belonged to all of them. My daddy did, too. I haven't seen
My other new uncles are Ronnie,
Buster, Lennis, and Bill. Lennis is a policeman, and Bill is
in jail. Ronnie rides a motorcycle and Buster watches TV in the
trailer most of the day. Sometimes he goes outside where Mouse
is working with the horses and helps ride them. Buster and Mama
are both inside all day, but they don't seem to talk to each
other much. When I met Buster he was standing at the microwave
in the kitchen. He leaned over and looked at me real close. He
said, "Well, I'll be damned if it isn't Charlie's boy. I'm
your Uncle Buster, boy." Then he made a big fuss over my
curly hair. He took off his hat and I could see he was bald on
top with silver and black curls on the sides of his head. Just
like in the story where Mama shot him! He said, "You see
this hair, boy? This is curly Lumbee Indian hair, boy. You got
it, and you damn sure didn't get it from your mama." And
then he opened a beer and took his TV dinner to the couch. I
didn't ask him what happened to the top of his hair. I already
heard that story.
Uncle Mouse is always at home.
He lives in the trailer where we sleep. When I am done with breakfast
in the morning I ask Mama if I can go to the barn and see the
horses. She says that I can, but I have to stay near Mouse, and
that I must never, ever stand behind any of the horses. All of
the horses are dangerous, even the ones that Mouse has already
When I am outside I disobey Mama.
I don't stay near Mouse. I stand at the other end of the barn
and watch him work with the horses. I snuck some of our Oreos
out of one of the boxes Mama packed, and I've filled my pockets
with them for the horses. I have a book about some horses that
like to eat apples, but these are all my horses someday, and
I know that they like will like Oreos.
I know Uncle Mouse can see me standing
over here. He doesn't say much, though. He just keeps feeding
the horses and bringing big heavy buckets to each horse's stall.
A stall is a horse's very own bedroom. I sleep in the same bed
with Mama now that we are in North Carolina. At night I snuggle
up to my mama and I say "Mama, do you remember when we both
went to school together? Do you remember the coffee shop where
we walked to get me cookies and hot chocolate? Do you remember
the snow? Do you remember going to the Children's Museum on my
birthday when I was 3?" We talk about these times late at
night in bed. Before we came to North Carolina, she used to tell
me stories about my Lumbee Daddy and His Five Indian Brothers
on their Horse Farm. I don't know why we are here now, talking
about our old house. Mama can't seem to explain it right, either.
Uncle Mouse hops on one of the
horses. "You staying there?" he asks me. I don't know
what to say so I look at the ground and draw in the dirt with
my sneaker. Uncle Mouse rides away from the barn fast. I stand
at the end of the barn for a long time and then I start to walk
down the middle of it. I'm trying hard to see the horses, but
I can only see the bottoms of their feet and sometimes the top
of their heads. I see one set of feet that are white and have
gray spots, and I decide, "This is the horse I will feed
Oreos to." I grab an empty bucket and put it over next to
this horse's stall, his bedroom. I climb up on it slowly and
look at him. He's much bigger than I thought he would be. I never
knew a horse would look so big up close. I can see that the holes
in his nose are wet and that his eyes are almost as big as my
fists. He has a white and gray face with black and gray spots,
just like on his legs. I want him to be my friend. I reach in
my pocket for my Oreos. They are crumbles now, but I grab a handful
for him and he eats them when I offer them, he licks my hand,
too, and it makes me laugh. "You're my friend," I say
and I reach up to pet his ears. They look so soft. We used to
have kittens with soft ears before North Carolina. Mama gave
them to my friend Eedy. I wonder if this horse's ears are like
my kitties' ears.
He moves so much faster than I
knew he could. All at once I know I am no longer standing on
the bucket, I'm dangling by my arm and this horse is biting it
and shaking me! He's trying to eat me! I scream and cry bloody
murder and I know I'm in trouble. "Let me go!" I scream
at the horse. I am so sorry that I disobeyed my mama, and I know
no one can save me from this horse! I fall to the ground with
a terrible shaking thump.
When the ground stops moving I
stand up. I know my arm is bleeding. I can see big teeth marks
in my arm, like a monster made them. The horse has eaten some
of the sleeve of my sweatshirt. I look at the horse, still staring
at me from up high. I move away from it and throw a rock at its
door. "I hate you!" I scream. "You are a bad horse!"
I yell at it.
I hold onto my arm, crying, and I walk out of the barn. I hear
the sound of hooves behind me. I turn around, fast. There's
a man with wild hair up high on a horse coming right at me. I'm
still crying and I can feel my nose running into my lip. When
the horse gets closer I can see Uncle Mouse is riding it. He
reaches down and grabs me by my good arm and puts me in front
of him in the saddle. "The bad spotted horse tried to eat
my arm!" I yell. I am mad at that mean horse now, but I
am still crying. Uncle Mouse just laughs. "You'll be okay,
boy. Your daddy got bit by the same horse few years back."
He ruffles my hair and holds me close to him with one arm. He
makes a clicking noise with his mouth and the good brown and
white horse we are on starts to run. I sniffle a little bit and
we ride towards the trailer to my mama.
When we get back to the trailer,
I'm afraid to go in. Uncle Mouse gets me down from the horse
and says, "Go inside, boy. Your mama'll fix you up. Tell
her I said you gonna be okay." He makes the clicking noise
with his tongue again, kicks the horse's belly with his feet
and rides away. I sit on the stairs of the trailer holding my
arm. Mama will be mad at me for disobeying her. I can blame Mouse
and say he left me alone, but I still wasn't supposed to go near
Mama throws open the door to the trailer and snatches me up.
"Oh, baby boy! What happened!" She doesn't sound mad
at all. She sees all the blood on the shredded sleeve of my sweatshirt
and hugs me. "Oh, my poor little man!" I am so glad
that she isn't yelling at me that I cry on her shoulder. She
holds me for a minute and looks me in the eye. "I know who
can help," she says. "How would you like to meet your
grandma, MaryBelle?" I nod my head. "Don't worry, monkey,"
she says. "Your grandma has helped many a little boy who
played with horses when he wasn't supposed to."
"See that big yellow house
there? That's your Grandma MaryBelle's house," Mama says.
I already knew that. Mama told me that Grandma MaryBelle and
Grandpa Roy are very, very old and they live in a yellow house
right next to their horse farm. You have to open a gate to get
out of the horses' yard and then you are in Grandma MaryBelle's
driveway. Grandpa Roy is never
home because he owns a pool hall called Little Reno's. He works
behind a bar and talks to other old Lumbee men all day, and Mama
says that they all wear cowboy hats. Grandma MaryBelle has programs
that she likes to watch on TV, and she cooks and then goes to
"Lord Alive, It's Charlie's
Young'n," says the old woman who answers the door. This
must be her. My very own grandma, my own daddy's mama. She is
really small, I know I'm going to be bigger than her soon. I
always thought my Indian grammy would look like the old Indian
ladies on TV. But she doesn't, except she is very brown and has
lots of wrinkles. She doesn't have braids or feathers or anything,
and she's not wearing a dress. She's wearing a pink sweatshirt
and blue jeans, and she has short white hair and glasses. She
is holding a little dog and has a cigarette in her mouth. It
is all white, and it doesn't have any brown on the end at all,
like mama's do. She must know my Daddy more than anyone, even
my mama. She bends down and gives me a kiss on my head. She holds
me tight and says, "Boy, I hadn't seen you since you was
a baby. I thought maybe I'd never see you again." She looks
at Mama. "Looks like your young'n got into some trouble,
Nova. C'mon inside."
Grandma MaryBelle gives me some
milk and cookies and takes my shirt off. "So, MaryBelle,
it's been five years since I've seen you. How have you been?"
Mama asks. "Well, I been going to church. I been feeding
my young'ns when they too ornery to do for themselves. Other
than that, things the same. I been keeping up with my programs."
Grandma MaryBelle sits beside me and starts looking at my arm
where the horse bit it. "Have you seen Charlie lately?"
Mama asks her. "I heard he was around these days."
I listen hard. I am eating my cookies
and I see a picture of me when I was a baby up on a shelf in
a silver frame. She has my picture from last Christmas up on
the refrigerator, too. I like having a grandma. I never had one
before, because Mama doesn't like her mama. She said they have
"Sure," Grandma MaryBelle
says. "Charlie comes around once in a while. He ain't stayed
up in the trailer in a long time, and he don't stay here. But
he comes around for dinner once in a while. I been trying to
get him to go to church and pray to the Lord, but he don't go
with me." Grandma MaryBelle pours something wet on my arm
and it burns. It hurts worse than the bite. I cry and yell out,
and she hugs me. "It's okay. I just cleanin' the wound.
It's s'pose to hurt." "Grandma
MaryBelle, my Daddy is an all-powerful warrior, he doesn't get
hurt," I tell her. She chuckles and puffs on her cigarette.
"I seen him hurt himself a time or two," she says.
"But he's powerful, right?" I ask her. "Course
he is, Chile. He's made in the image of God the Father."
She says to my mama, "You still looking for Chile support
girl?" Mama doesn't say anything. "Well, I don't blame
ya none. But chasing him around down here and shakin him down
for money ain't gonna make him want to spend time with his young'n."
"Be patient, Chile," she says to my mama. "He'll
be around sooner or later."
After Grandma MaryBelle bandages
me up, I go outside to play for a while. We had to throw my sweatshirt
away. So, I sit out on Grandma Mary Belle's front steps, outside
of the horses' yard, and watch. Uncle Mouse runs the horses around
for a while. He cracks a whip and makes them dance and run every
which way he wants them to go. Some of them are baby horses,
and they don't behave very well. They don't always do what Uncle
Mouse wants them to do, because they want to play. I know what
Uncle Mouse walks up to the gate
and yells to me, "Hey, boy, you want to help me out some?"
I shake my head no, grabbing my arm protectively. Uncle Mouse
just cackles. "I don't blame you none. Don't worry, boy,
I'll get Buster off his ass!" He walks back to the trailer.
"Hey!" I yell at him. "Are the baby horses in
trouble?" He just laughs. "No, the baby horses are
just fine. I need help getting their daddy fixed up for the horse's
sale tomorrow in Maxton. He's all broken in and ready to sell.
Probably going to make us some good money, too. Sure you don't
want to help? I got to put shoes on him, and you can at least
watch." I tell him no, and stay on my stoop while he heads
towards the trailer to get Uncle Buster off his ass. But these
are all my horses someday, I think to myself. How coms
he's selling one? How come he's selling someone's daddy away
from the babies? Is that something like what happened to my daddy?
If he comes back are they going to sell him away from me? What
if I don't get to talk to him enough first?
Grandma MaryBelle yells through
the screen for me to come inside. She made us some sandwiches
out of some leftover chicken she had, and mama and me watch her
programs on TV with her. For a while there is a preacher on there
talking about God, and sometimes people sing. Then we watch The
Price is Right.
I hear something loud out front,
and I look out the window and see two men on a motorcycle. They
come barging in the house, moving as fast as two lightning Pokemon,
and they almost looked like the same person, except one is a
lot older than the other. The both have black hair and their
faces look the same. The older man is behind the younger man
and hitting him with a hat and yelling at him. "I don't
give a damn what you was doing! When your young'n is here all
the way from damn near Canada, you can at least stop by and say
hey to him!"
"Hey Ronnie," Mama says.
The men stop, and they both stare at us. "How you been Charlie?"
Mama gets up and gives Ronnie a hug. Charlie comes over to me.
He takes his brown cowboy hat off his head and puts it on mine.
"Hi Julian, I'm your father," he says softly, like
it's a secret just for me. Everyone can hear him, though. I look
at him, unsure if I believe him. This is not a nighttime warrior.
He is not carrying a guitar, paintbrush, gun, or any of those
things. He has not been training horses with his brothers. He
is just a normal man in front of me. But his face is like my
own, with plain brown skin, big dark lips, and the curly Lumbee
hair that everyone promised me he had, just like mine. Brown
eyes like me. "Where is your face paint?" I ask him.
"My what?" he asks. "I thought you were a bad
ass Indian warrior," I say to him. "I thought you changed
into a bird at night and rode horses across the stars. I thought
you were as powerful as Batman." He grins at me and says,
"I see you got your mother's mouth, boy." I am disappointed
that he does not have half his face painted, and he's not much
different than other daddies, except he's new. I don't know why
Mama told me these things.
"Well, I can't ride you on
a horse across the stars, boy. But if your mama will let me,
I can take you up the road to get an ice cream." Mama nods
and tosses him her keys. We go outside and get into my mama's
truck, just me and my dad. "I don't have a lot of time this
afternoon, son. I got to get back to Charlotte. But I can spend
a little bit of time with you today. And maybe I'll see you again
Outside Uncle Mouse has the big
daddy horse tied to a rope by its lip. It doesn't move very far
that way, because when it does move it pulls on its lip and it
hurts. I can see its teeth and it looks mad and sad at the same
time. Uncle Buster holds the rope and Uncle Mouse is putting
new horseshoes on its feet. My dad and I get in the truck and
ride to the ice cream parlor. My dad driving a plain old truck,
and me wearing his cowboy hat with my busted up arm.
Jennifer Lewis has a B.A. in Sociology from the University
of Southern Maine, where she takes classes in English just for
fun. She lives in Portland, Maine with her five year old son,
Dominic, and two cats, Iggy and Isabella.