That Was Then, This Is Now

By
“How dare you! Ever since last May you have been nothing but trouble for me and for our -- correction: my tribe. I don’t know what keeps me from banning you from this tribe right now. Get out of my sight at once!” burst Grandfather.

Sweet Eagle didn’t mutter a word. He limped over to his section of the longhouse, tears swelling in his eyes.

That is why Sweet Eagle hated his grandfather -- he never understood, and Sweet Eagle never thought that he would.

Or would he?
CHAPTER 1

Sweet Eagle was home, in his small section of the longhouse on the Alaskan Reservation. Sweet Eagle was a Socotian Indian of 4’10” -- small for his age, but it never bothered him very much. He was very brilliant however. He went to public school -- Anchorage Middle School -- despite the hate that his parents had for the “white school.”

His passion was language. He would love to read and write, but he could only do so in school. Grandfather banned books on the reservation because they were made in “corporate America”.

In school, Sweet Eagle wasn’t Sweet Eagle. He was Brian. Everyday, before school began, he would change his clothes. In his locker lay Brian’s long sleeve shirt and jeans. Casual is what Sweet Eagle yearned to be.

Brian would always stay in Mrs. O’ Rourke’s English class. On even numbered periods he would read, and on odd ones he would write.

Never having any friends, Brian wanted to try out for all of the spring sports. On Tuesday, Sweet Eagle signed up for Football and Lacrosse -- he still had time to decide which one he would pick.

That was when everything went wrong.


On Thursday, Sweet Eagle had to get to his locker to change for football, go over to the lacrosse field and change again, run back to his locker to change into Sweet Eagle for Grandfather and catch the bus. Basically, Sweet Eagle had to do an hour and a half of activities in about one hour.

Fortunately, Sweet Eagle made it to the bus in time -- but he needed to change on the bus. He did not have time to get to his locker and run back -- despite Sweet Eagle being the fastest runner in the school.

Sweet Eagle took the back seat so that he could have some privacy to change. On the late bus, the Anchorage students preferred the front of the bus, for some reason that he never understood.

Sweet Eagle slowly dazed off. He remembered the time when he used to have fun with Grandfather, when they used to go camping.

Grandfather and Sweet Eagle would spend a week or two camping all naturally -- it was for private time for Grandfather to teach Sweet Eagle religion, but lax Grandfather would always allow some extra fun in.

Grandfather would start the fire by gathering some kindling wood. Since he was nine and got his crossbow from father, Sweet Eagle would hunt the elk. After the necessities were found, Sweet Eagle would gather some wood for the tents -- they never brought any, mostly because Grandfather always though that anything Mother Earth makes is good enough for us.

But that was when Sweet Eagle and Grandfather had a strong relationship. That was then, this is now!
CHAPTER 2

Sweet Eagle hardly woke up in time to get off the bus at his stop -- which was a mile away from the reservation already. He walked down very casually, making sure to “stop and smell the roses”, almost literally.

Sweet Eagle had walked right in to Grandfather. Grandfather’s countenance flamed, and then Sweet Eagle noticed something.

He was still Brian. He did not have his moccasins or buckskin hunting shirt, nor did he have on his headdress. He was wearing a shirt and jeans.

He knew he was in trouble.

“How dare you! Ever since last May you have been nothing but trouble for me and for our -- correction: my tribe. I don’t know what keeps me from banning you from this tribe right now. Get out of my sight at once!” burst Grandfather.

Sweet Eagle didn’t mutter a word. He limped over to his section of the longhouse, tears swelling in his eyes.

Then Sweet Eagle remembered why Grandfather hated him -- and also why he hated Grandfather.



At night, after Grandfather and Sweet Eagle would eat dinner, Grandfather would always fall asleep -- and Sweet Eagle counted on that -- if he was going to write. It worked for the first twenty-one days without fail, but on the twenty-second day…

Grandfather emerged from the tent behind Sweet Eagle, who did not notice him until Grandfather started throwing each of the books he found into the campfire. After the fifteenth book was hurled in, the campfire was about as intense as Grandfather’s face was when he saw Brian.

Finally, Grandfather seized Sweet Eagle’s most prized notebook. When he threw that in, the fire started to crackle, the same way Sweet Eagle felt.

CHAPTER 3

Sweet Eagle woke up the next day without meeting the council. He had his ‘Brian’ outfit lain out, but he decided to dress like a Socotian.

He did not change when he went to school. He went to English first period, but did not write or read. He followed his schedule throughout the day -- Math next, then History, and so on. He never would revisit English for the rest of the year.

He took the regular bus home.


When Sweet Eagle walked into the village, he was guided to a seat in front of the council, which consisted of Mother, Father, and Grandfather.

Easily, mother voted to keep Sweet Eagle in. More easily Grandfather voted him out.

All of it was too much for Father. Sweet Eagle may have been his son, but he and Grandfather had the strongest relationship possible.

Father thought for hours, conferring with Mother and Grandfather.

“I have decided to cast my vote in favor of…”

Sweet Eagle would never know if Father understood.





Join the Discussion

This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

watergate said...
Jan. 15, 2009 at 1:32 pm
Great Piece. Can't believe it got in the top 40 thats amazing
 
bobshuck said...
Jan. 14, 2009 at 8:42 pm
I have mostly seen stories about people not fitting in nowadays, and many of them are so similar that they bore me. However, this piece is different in setting, and this setting is so crucial to this piece: an indian boy, indian tribe, ....

This piece is excellent, and stands out for the rest. No wonder it made it on the top 40 over everyone else on this site!
 
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