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Fiction

Baby, You're a Star

On the third anniversary of my mother's death, she knocked on my apartment door. I was surprised to see her looking so good after her years in the grave. Aside from a certain meaty odor, you might have thought she'd returned from a weeklong camping trip.

"Why haven't you called me?" she asked.

For a moment, I thought she was serious, but then I caught the joke. Yes, at her best, a boundaryless mother can ignore minor things like mortality and physics.

She inspected my studio with the sad-ass wall bed that I hadn't shoved back into the damn wall since I'd moved into the place.

"You live in a terrible neighborhood," she said. "And this is a terrible apartment. What happened to you?"

"Got laid off a year ago," I said. "Been living on unemployment and food stamps."

"So much for that PhD," she said.

I used to be the poster boy for the American meritocracy, the reservation Indian boy whose thesis, "A Variety Show of Sinners: The De(con)structive Spirituality of the American Entertainment Conspiracy," got him a tenure track position at Eastern Washington University.

Yeah, I was, and am, a smart motherfucker.

I would have loved to say that I boozed my way out of the university, but I couldn't bother to live down to that stereotype. No, due to a Neapolitan ice cream tub of intellectual arrogance, racial inferiority complex, and poverty guilt, I simply stopped moving. Officially, I'm bipolar, but I think every damn Indian is bipolar. Colonialism causes manic-depression.

"What happened to you?" my mother asked again.

I paraphrased Viktor Frankl. "The best of us did not survive the reservation. It was the liars, cheaters, and thieves who lived."

"Fuck that," my mother said. "And fuck you."

She hugged me. I hugged her back.

"The thing is," she said, "I can't even haunt this shitty apartment. It's new construction. You can't haunt something that doesn't have history."

Jesus, there are constant opportunities to change your life. And it takes a certain genius to ignore all of them. recommended

 

Comments (3) RSS

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3
Hey Sherman's turning over a new leaf! He's giving us an insight into his life! (Blah).

The First Draft Diary Entry Writer continues churning out nothing and we have to say we like it or we're racist. Same trick for over twenty years now.
Posted by nasdiij fan on February 17, 2013 at 2:29 AM · Report this
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I'm pretty sure that Alexie's mother and mine would have gotten along nicely. I certainly know how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory--it seems to be hot-wired into some of us more than others, for reasons that remain mysterious to me. Alexie greets his situation with a certain equanimity, and this prevents me from feeling an emotion like pity, which I am certain he wouldn't want, anyway. A poignant read, thanks.
Posted by msleah on January 23, 2013 at 1:22 AM · Report this
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Nations have been getting destroyed for the past 50,000 years. Only those whose destruction occurred within a couple centuries of industrial printing and widespread literacy are remembered, and so become the paradigms of tragedy. Native Americans are lucky in that regard. And I'm an asshole. Welcome to the internet.
Posted by DisorganizedReligion on January 16, 2013 at 5:36 PM · Report this

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