chapter 19

New Schoole

When school started up in September Raven set things up so that I could go to the reservation school. Now it’s not that I mind being the only non- Native American kid on the reservation school. I try not to pay attention to those sorts of things. It’s just that when I walked in the class room the teacher had to say, "Class this is Trooper. He’s Chinese and the only non- Native American in this class so be nice to him."

"Gee thanks, lady", I thought to myself. "Why don’t you just stick a kick me sign on my back while you’re at it?" Now everyone was staring at me. This made me nervous and I started to shake my leg, which I sometimes do when I’m nervous. So I crossed my legs trying to stop the shaking. I felt like Silver Ear did when she had to cross her legs to hold it in. Apparently the teacher thought so to because she asked, "Do you need to pee?"

"Uh no," I said.

"You crossed your legs and you’re shaking," she said as if I hadn’t noticed but now everyone in class did. "It sure looks like you have to go." The class was giggling now, as I went to take my seat. This was not a good first day. At lunch I sat alone, hoping someone would see me and feel bad and sit with me. But they didn’t. I’m a shy person so I always wait for other people to make the first move, so I don’t do anything embarrassing. I was still sitting alone a week later when someone finely did sit next to me. He was a tall kid with long hair like Raven and LB’s but it was braided. "Hey," I said with a mouth full of sandwich (with no squirrel in it) when he sat down. I was so excited I didn’t care about the whole don’t eat with your mouth full rule. I started thinking about something cool or funny to say and where we could go to hang out after school.

"Hey", he said back, "Uh listen…."

Oh on, that wasn’t a good signed when people started a sentence with "Uh listen…."

"The other kids think you’re... a little... he paused trying to find the right words. It was only for a second or two, but the suspense of having to wait for me was like an hours. A little what? , A little ugly. A little weird. Was it because of my eyes? Did the other kids think one blue eye and one green eye was creepy. Did they know I was a werewolf? … "Stuck up," he finely said.

"What!! But I haven’t talked to anyone since I got here!" I said in shock. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. "Exactly," he said. "You never talk to anyone and you always sit alone like your too good for us or something’, he said. "But...But… I’m shy, isn’t it obvious?" I protested. "Well the other kid’s think you’re snubbing them, just thought you should know, he said and then he left. I don’t know what hurt worse. That everyone at school thought I was stuck up or that he’d only sat with me to tell me that. I was so hurt and mad at the same time. How could those stupid kids think I was snubbing them? It was so obvious I was just shy and didn’t know anyone. Or at least it should have been obvious. "Well I’ll show them," I said to myself. I picked up my tray and sat with a big group of kids at a table near a window. Would a snob do this I thought to myself? "Hey," I said in an excited but weak voice when I sat down. "Hey, they all said at once and continued with their own conversation. "Thanks for asking!" said one girl very sarcastically. She had very long braided hair that went down to her waist. At first I didn’t know what she meant and then it hit me. "Oh I’m sorry. Can I sit here?" I asked. "Too late now," she said not looking up from her lunch. Well this is going well I thought to myself chewing my sandwich. Ok I’ll tell a joke, I told myself. That will break the ice. So I sat there and tried real hard to think of a funny joke, but I couldn’t no matter how hard I tried. At some point I accidentally spilled some mustard on my shirt, so I dabbed at it with my napkin trying to wash it off. When the girl with the long braided hair saw what I was doing and asked, "Did you spill something on yourself?" I thought I would try saying yes in a funny way so I said, "Uh no I just felt like dabbing at my shirt with a napkin. It’s all the rage in uh… Milan." Which sounded really, really, really stupid. What kind of joke was that? Not only did no one laugh, but she got mad, thinking I was trying to be a smart ass. "I was just asking! No need to be rude!" she yelled. "I ...I ... was trying" I stammered. "Oh, you just felt like it!" she said and stormed off. She went to complain about me loudly enough so I could hear from the other table. The other kids at this table looked confused, because they hadn’t been listening and went off to talk to her. I tried not to listen to what she was saying but she was so loud I couldn’t help but over hear her say things such as," What a jerk! Thinks he’s so cool just because he has one blue eye and one green eye." After that I sat alone the rest of lunch that day. I was very relieved when lunch was over. Believe it or not another kid did sit with me the very next day. It was a girl with short hair. "Hey", I said, "how’s it going?" I asked in a weak-cracking voice while trying hard not to sound too needy. "Fine", she said. We sat there in silence as I tried to swallow my sandwich. Why is it when you really want to say something your mouth always gets dry? "Hey listen," she said. Oh man not again, I thought bracing myself for more bad news. "The reason the other kids aren’t all that nice to you is because… Well you’re mixed." "Mixed what?" I asked confused. "Mixed race, half Chinese half Native American," she said annoyed I was too dumb to figure it out. "What…?" I said more confused then ever. "But I’m not half; I’m just Chinese being fostered by a very nice Native American family," I said. "Yeah, well we can tell you’re half," she said picking at her meat loaf with her fingers. "Oh… uh how?" I asked still confused. "We have kind of radar; it’s like gay radar, only for race," she explained giving up on her meat loaf and eating her chips instead. I was really confused now. Was she insulting gay people or me? Either way it wasn’t very nice. "That’s probably the only reason they are fostering you," she said munching on her chips. "Why else would they take you in? I sure wouldn’t want some strange Chinese kid with weird eyes in my family, disgracing my ancestors. Hey are you going to eat that?" she said pointing to my candy bar. "You can have it." I said. I wasn’t hungry anymore now anyway. I can’t explain why this bothered me so much. I’d already found out I was a werewolf so being told I was half Indian shouldn’t have been that big a shock. Yet I was hurt at the thought the Packers may have only wanted to help me because I was part Indian, not just part wolf. Or because they liked me.

 

 

*****

 

Just Because I’m Blind Doesn’t Mean I Can’t See.

When I got back to the house I saw Gram-Gram reading one of her Braille books on the couch. The Braille books were covered with little bumpy dots that when Gram- Gram ran her fingers over them she could read it like a normal book.

"What’s wrong Trooper?" she asked putting down the book as I made my way to the kitchen.

Not eating lunch had made me starving for dinner. I wouldn’t mind eating a few squirrels today.

"Uh nothing, I lied.

"Something’s bothering you. I can tell by the way you’re dragging your feet. It sounds like your shoes are made of concrete."

That was the amazing thing about Gram-Gram; although she was blind she scenes things better then most people. Not just with people but in the house too. Everything in the house was in an exact spot for a reason. If anything had to be moved there were taped x’s on the floor to show exactly where it needed to be put back. If she ran into an object out of place she’d gently touch it and sniff it then move around it. Gram Gram’s nose was her chief weapon. Out of all of us her nose was definitely the best. Before she eats anything she’d sniff it.

"Too much pepper or not enough salt," she’d often comment before sticking it in her mouth.

She said if she needed to she could tell me every ingredient in a food. Not the easy ones like cheese on toast, the complicated ones like a roast beef. Half a teaspoon of salt, a pinch of pepper she’d say after just one bite. Silver Ear said there was no need to write a recipe down, all Gram- Gram needed to do was taste it and she could figure out how it was made-or at least the ingredients used.

"I had a bad day at school," I told her.

Gram-Gram’s eyebrows narrowed when I said that.

"What did they say to you?" She asked.

Dang she was good, I thought. A bad day at school could mean anything. If I had told any other adult they would have just thought I had done bad on a spelling or math test. So I repeated the incident at lunch.

"What! Who told you that?" said LB coming in the room when I was finished.

I wondered how long he’d been listening.

"I bet it was that little butt head Steven Marks," said LB through clenched teeth and some looked like they were already turning into sharp wolf teeth.

"LB," shouted Silver Ear also coming in the room.

Sheesh! How many people were eavesdropping today I thought to myself.

"Well its true," said LB.

"Don’t listen to them, Trooper, race has nothing to do with why we took you in," said Gram- Gram giving me a reassuring pat on the back. I instil felt better when she said that. Like a two tone weight had been taken off my back.

"You know the first Native Americans were a lot more open minded," she said.

"Being different meant you were an individual. In fact Native Americans were fascinated when we met our first African American."

Red suddenly poked his head out from the kitchen, and he smiled.

"Even gay people were looked up to, because they were considered half woman and half man. Best of both worlds." contuied Gram Gram.

‘Really?’ I asked.

That’s why we all watch "Will and Grace" TV reruns," laughed LB loudly.

"Wow, so what happened?" I asked.

"White people happened. No offense Silver Ear," said LB.

Silver Ear rolled her eyes like she had heard that a million times.

"That’s not actually..." Gram- Gram started to say, but LB continued as if he was telling the story.

"They came and we felt bad for them so we gave them food, then they turned around and stole our land and gave us small pox. Since then Native Americans haven’t been as trusting," said LB.

"That’s not it," said Gram-Gram. "It’s because when they came they brought their prejudice with them, and spread them to us, no offense Silver Ear", who was looking pretty guilty now. To make her feel better Raven wrapped his arm around her. (I’m not sure when he came in the room.)

"Yeah, but they also brought us medicine," Raven pointed out. "Which helped us survive the small pox? Not the first time but much later, in the hospital."

"But we wouldn’t have had small pox in the first place if they hadn’t given us those blankets," said LB.

"The point is you can’t blame a whole race of people for something someone else did," said Raven.

"Exactly," said Gram- Gram.

"That’s what I love to hear my grandchildren say. If only your mother could have been this open minded." She drifted off. "There’s nothing sadder than losing a child. Thank the good Lord I have been blessed with four grandchildren and soon another grandchild."

"Another grandchild?" I stated. She leaning over to me, "I was counting you and Red and Silver Ear too." She hugged me and I felt better already. No one had ever said I was like a grandchild before when I was in a foster home, even if I had lived with them for a year.

******

After dinner I asked LB if he wanted to show me anything in wolf form. He was still mad about the school incident and was still thinking of ways to get back at the other kids. I was trying to distract him. That only seemed to work for a second because even after we were both in wolf form in the backyard he was still pacing around trying to plot revenge. I wasn’t mad at the kids anymore. LB was taking it harder than me. Suddenly LB stopped pacing and a sly smile crossed his face and he lifted his right leg.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Leaving my scent", he replied as he lifted his leg up higher.

Then a large stream of yellow water started to squirt the tree before I turned away.

"Now you know why I was drinking all that Gathered at dinner," LB laughed.

"Uh not really," I said a little grossed out.

"When you leave your scent, it keeps other bigger animals away. It lets them know a big bad wolf was here", explained LB.

"Why can’t you just put up a sign?" I asked jokingly.

"Animals can’t read Trooper, you know that," LB said with a snort.

"Oh right," I said embarrassed.

"Usually males do this, so you could say it’s a guy thing," added LB. "Now you try, kid."

"What?" I asked baffled, surely he didn’t mean…me.

"Come on, it’s natural," said LB like this was no big deal. "It’s no different the writing your name in the snow," he said.

I had never done that in my life but I knew what he meant.

"Oh ok but don’t watch me," I said embarrassed we were even having this conversation in the first place.

"Fine," said LB as he rolled his eyes.

I didn’t think this was going to be easy, but to my surprise it was. It turns out wolves can pee on command when they need to. That’s kind of cool in a gross way I thought to myself.

"Now imagine what you could do with all that urine, said LB laughing.

"What?" I asked wondering were this was going.

"Pee kid, urine means pee," said LB his back still turned away from me, which I appreciated.

"I knew that. It’s just… uh… what would you want to do with it?" I said a little afraid about what his answer would be.

"In wolf form nothing, but in human form you could put it in a soda bottle. I think Mountain Dew would be appropriate. Then you could give it to those racist kids at lunch."

He started laughed hysterically. He laughed so hard he fell over and started rolling around in the dirt. If anyone had seen him they would have thought he’d gone mad.

"That’s another thing you need to know while we’re on the subject, said LB when he was tired of laughing.

"What?" I asked.

"Rolling," said LB still on his back.

"Rolling in what?" I asked afraid where this was going.

"Rolling in stinky things," said LB starting to laugh again.

"What did you say?"I was not sure I heard him right. Or rather hoping I hadn’t heard him right.

"Now rolling in stinky things is another thing wolves do for a reason," explained LB.

"Wolves do this for several reasons, one is to mask or camouflage their own scent from prey. It’s also a great way to communicate to others wolves and let them know you have found a pile of something like … Uh… I don’t know smelly cheeses that you’re willing to share if the others can track down the scent," LB said.

Oh yeah this is great dinner conversation I thought feeling sick.

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