Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"Maria O-Soza"

Maria O-Soza

Short Story
By Lynne M. Colombe
March 2013

For living on the Reservation, she had a crazy name. Her mother didn't stick around long enough to explain why she had a Spanish name like Maria Catalina Francesca Ortega-Soza. She was the only kid who played basketball on a South Dakota reservation, whose first last name was just a big, "O," followed by a dash, and then, "Soza." She would have rather squeezed Whirling Wind Thunder into "WW-Thunder," than, "O-Soza" when playing the Pine Ridge Thorpes.

Nonetheless, she grew up well with her mother's-aunt's-cousin, who had lost her own daughter near the time Maria needed a home at the age of two. That was twenty years ago, and now she was grown up, and changed her name to Maria Catherine Medicine, in honor of her foster mother who died three years prior. Maria had posted her name change in the local newspapers, but only her cousin had showed up at the court. Nobody protested; she belonged to nobody.

She was bright enough, with handsome, even pretty looks.  She was average in all ways physically, not superior in any sport or social club in school. She did possess a confidence, an aura of calm that other people picked up on. People wanted to be around her, but she did not always want to be around them.

Maria worked with buffalo. She fed them, took samples of their feces, and did lab work as needed on the herd. She helped to organize the woman's aspect of the kill each year, after the old men decided on the right day to do the killing of a designed number of buffalo. The kill meat would be processed into mostly cubed bison for distribution among the Tribal people in times of celebration or mourning. She saw many families, some joyous, some devastated, coming in and out of her log cabin office nearly each day, carrying their annual 40 pound allotment out the door in cardboard boxes housing white packaged meat.

Her foster mother had taught her about the kill, having never had a child to pass the language or knowledge onto. Within a year after the loss of her only child at 45 years old to crib death, Maria's mother left her for the weekend at Catherine Medicine's house, and never returned. Catherine filed paperwork at the tribal court when Maria was six years old and had to attend school. The court had determined at that time to leave the girl's name until she turned eighteen years old. Her identity and her spirit would be mismatched for nineteen years.

Speaking Lakota was something she liked to do, but there were fewer and fewer grandparents, and more and more grandchildren who did not speak at all. The elders were proud of her for being capable of speaking, and speaking in the correct gender, speaking well. But she longed for girls of her own age to gossip in Lakota as she heard the grandmothers do.

She recalled the many times her foster mother sat at the kitchen table on a Saturday, country music playing softly in the background, sipping coffee with a friend or cousin. They always spoke in Lakota. When their stories were really good, they lowered their voices, and then broke the spell of their honest talk with loud laughter, covering their mouths, and tilting their heads, bodies pushing against the backs of their mismatched chairs. The Formica table with silver legs held up the conversations of great laughter, funny stories, "carrying on," and agonizing pain over many years while she grew taller and older around elderly women who loved her.

Now she was alone. There was nobody to be her cousin, her brother, her sister, or her friend at times when she needed them the most.

"The days that the older ladies had talked about are over."

She reminded herself of this when she felt the loneliness that came in waves, usually when she walked in the door to her little 2 bedroom house on the river, where her foster mother had left the home in good repair, to last at least 20 to 30 years. At night she heard the water, the rain rushing against the slat windows that HUD replaced six years before, and tried to keep from feeling afraid of the darkness and scratching noises outside. 

Each day she rose just after the sun and said her morning prayers, put a pinch of tobacco in the oak tree outside her house, drove to town, bought a coffee at the gas station in the main village, and got ready to feed the buffalo. She hated the times they had to corral the great beasts that had never been corralled until they were bred back out of extinction. She watched them eating the tops of the grass, bending their massive heads, and gnashing their horns on occasion at the northern winds.
The deer and the antelope ate the grass the buffalo left behind, and each animal that was left on the prairie participated in a great dance. Maria often reflected that it was the last prairie in the Midwest unaffected by fracking, and by drilling and killing the land and water as they knew it. 

"There are no more old days, and few old people," she would say, at times; to herself, to the buffalo, and to the wind. She spoke out loud and spoke in Lakota, and then breathed in deeply.

It was like speaking into a vacuum of space out on the prairie with the animals; and for a moment there was a forgotten freedom recollected in the mind of a contemporary, Sicangu girl.

Draft 2:  3/14/2013

Author's Note:

This story is a short story that was written as a quick write exercise.  I do have more professional works, but only so many stories do I share... and provide to the WWW for free.  :)  

If there is any interest in unpublished works that I may be hoarding, please contact me via email or comment.  Thank you for reading!


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1 comment:

  1. Hello Lynne! My name is Sarah and I am working on an assignment for a college communications course. I was wondering if you would be willing to answer some questions for me? If you can help, my email is Hope to hear from you soon! Thank you


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