Thomas Hubbard
 
 

 

RAYMOND MOSES, EARLY JUNE

So a truck comes this morning to haul away two abandoned cars

from the big open space overlooking Tulalip Bay, the big open space where
Indians set up fireworks stands every year and

sell to townspeople for celebrating the fourth of July.

 

Walking from the longhouse to the school, tribal elder Raymond Moses pauses
to watch the junkmen maneuver

their wreckerís towing crane into position and hoist both of the

beat, windowless hulks, one at a time, onto a flatbed trailer.

 

Raymond owns a little bit of July fourth, having been decorated for

bravery in Korea, fighting for the same army that killed so many Indians.

"Ironic, enit?" He grins, "But just like in World War II,

the other side wouldíve done us even worse."

 

Hitching at his Levis and tugging the bill of his "Korea Veteran" cap,

the old brave spits through stained teeth into the gravel and strides

slowly across the road, onto the parking area shared by tribal court,

tribal assistance and the tribeís alternative school for Indian kids.

 

Inside the school office, Raymond Moses glances out to

see the truck and trailer heading to town with the two wrecks and

those old eyes that watch the tribeís children daily in school,

those old eyes take on a familiar expression.

 

A horizon-gaze, brows compressing, almost squinting as when

a voter sees the same old politics, or a laborer looks at his paycheck and feels
ripped off, or like when the mother greets her teen daughter

coming home disheveled, just after dawn.

 

Some kids call Raymond "Teatmus," storyteller or teacher in Lushootseed,

the pre-invasion language, and he watches them grow through childhood when
heís not busy taking care of the tribal longhouse where one day,

those who stay will dance the rites of passage.

 

Raymond sees grandchildren of his contemporaries outgrow the

elementary school, middle school, high school, he watches dark eyes

peek through straight black hair at the sad path of parents who

bought at the carry-out because they werenít welcome at the bar.

 

Raymond Moses grins at hiphop clothes, juvie detention haircuts

he acknowledges resigned faces and he looks off when kids

make fun of the old ways, because he knows, when these kids

go into town they pass dozens of mute road signs naming their relatives.

 

At every curve, every crossroads on the road to town,

signs stand black and white and silent alongside the old road

"DONíT DRINK AND DRIVE (in memory of Jones, Hatch, Young,)

"DONíT DRINK AND DRIVE (in memory of Williams, Cleveland, Zackuse)

"DONíT DRINK AND DRIVE (in memory of Hillaire, Parks, Fryberg, Henry)

"DONíT DRINK AND DRIVE (in memory of dad, mom, uncle, auntieÖ)."

And long before legal age they drink on the way to town.

 

Raymond knows the signs along Tulalip Road, the road to town, built

decades ago by braves caught speaking their language or their beliefs, braves on
a chaingang along Tulalip Road where nowadays signs name Indians who

drank their way along that road ó eased their pain, enit?

 

Painful how the land was taken, the language was taken, the old names

were taken and the old ways were taken and folks hung on to poverty

cause it was all they had left besides the pain of being unwelcome along

streets built on their ancestorsí ten thousand year homeland.

 

Raymondís old eyes show that loss, that resignation of witnessing the

drunken, mistaken exit of a loved one who may soon be named on a new

sign along Tulalip Road, or who may someday return to slowly fall apart

like these two abandoned wrecks on their last ride to the junkyard.

 

A while after the truck disappears up Tulalip Road, children

wander in to begin their schoolday, and Raymond Moses greets them

by name, greets them with a smile, with old eyes full of high expectations,

expectations that some will grow up strong and the tribe will survive.

   

Copyright © 2002 Thomas Hubbard.  All Rights Reserved.

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