Monday, April 22, 2013

Out of a Border Town

Original Story by
Lynne M. Colombe

The store on the corner had only one gas pump and one option, regular unleaded.  If you had a hybrid, you would be better off going inside and buying vegetable oil from the market area.  Owned by an elderly Lakota man, and his sole, homosexual son, the store accepted a wide variety of payments, including EBT, but only one brand of anything.  The store stocked every reservation essential:  toilet paper, Pine Sol, dish soap, trash bags, Ramen Noodles, hot dogs, sliced bread, bologna, chips, packets of yeast, diapers, fresh fruit, and other sundries consumed in the life of the average Indian.

The gay son was named Homer, after the town in Nebraska where his mother was from.  She was enrolled over with the Winnebago, and went back to her own relatives a year after he was born.  He spent summers there, at times in Sioux City, depending on where his mother was living.  Mainly, he grew up around the Rosebud, at the border town, helping his father.  He didn't like his name, and went by his nickname, "Nando."  Nothing was said about his being gay around his father; the old man knew, but didn't speak of it.  Nando didn't live an open life, and maintained a reserved lifestyle, as would have been done in a traditional way.

Nando was tired of selling eggs and Doritos to grandmothers and their twenty-one grandchildren.  He wanted to escape from the one gas pump town, and the graveyard with more people in it than those living.  He had no companion.  He knew the man was old and would not live forever, yet he wouldn't allow himself to think that his only ticket off the reservation might be through the granite stone truth of one day, the old man dying.  Nando thought of this often.  He came, always, to the same answer; that there was really no solution, because he would never wish the old man dead.

There were places on the reservation where he could go and be himself.  He watched his reputation.  People liked to talk about anyone different than themselves.  Long ago, there was a social order, and a place where he fit in.  In contemporary days, there was only contradiction.

Often times, he went to visit the cemetery, north of the family store.  The plot was a century old, not the same as in town, and bore only the bones of his ancestors.  He sat near his grandmother's grave, swept it, and replanted, trimmed, and maintained tulips every spring.  A heart grew still in the cemetery, the headstones always cold.  Only his grandmother knew how much Nando wanted out.


  1. I remember laying on my grandmothers grave on a hot and humid summer day, I lay and wept uncontrollably, grabbing handfuls of dirt and grass and smashing them back into the ground. I wept for a way out, I wept for a way back in, I lamented the loss of my family. I had been separated from my children and wife for the summer, and now she had told me she wanted it to be permanent. I had gone back to the rez for a summer; was I a permanent fixture now? I didn't want my children to grow up without a father as I had, but I didn't know how to get it all back. The truth is you can never get some things back; you can't make someone love you. So I wept, clothed in the satcloth and sitting in ashes; until I heard my grandmothers voice, loud and clear "Sit up." It frightened me, I sat straight up and looked for her, called to her "Cunsi tell me what to do." We talked, mostly I listened. I left the graveyard and I knew what I had to do. I think it might be time for another visit.

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