Doing Time

Timeless by Aaron Yazzie of the Institute of American Indian Arts
Timeless by Aaron Yazzie of the Institute of American Indian Arts

There are liquid nooses that drip from the roof tops in White Clay.

Entwined are the bodies of many Lakota men and women who purchased an addiction by paying with their lives.

She is held without bond within the four bars of White Clay, Nebraska.

A state run incorrectional institution built upon addiction and paid for by the people who once scattered their own.

The money she receives from her first of the month check isn’t enough to bond her way out.

It’s all taken in exchange for the enflamed water that scorches her soul and solidifies her mind into an unconscious state to take away the pain of yesterday’s hangover.

She awakens every morning with the sun shining upon her weather- beaten face. Beer bottle cap tops and pebbles fall out of her entangled hair as she lifts her head off the store front pavement she passed out on the night before.

She sits up to check her Indian purse to make sure her money is still inside, then reaches down to feel if the zipper of her pants is still up, as men sometimes unzip them down throughout the night.

The mobile captive makes her way to the closest bar so that she can murder her hangover with sure fire shots from a Colt 45 aimed down her dry throat. She feels herself drowning in despair as she once again fades into an ethereal haze.

Out of money, she smiles and asks for spare change from patrons entering the bars throughout the day. She gleefully accepts whatever amount they give her and remembers to thank them kindly for each contribution made.

After a few beers, she becomes that unshakable sister hollering, “Hey sis! Hey bro!” Because family helps when needed. But she isn’t their family. Her real family consists of five daughters and a son who live with grandma when mom is on lockdown in White Clay.

Her oldest daughter is sixteen years old and has a daughter of her own. She drives down highway 87 when Unci (Grandmother) has enough gas in her rez bomb to make sure her mother still staggers from one bar to the next.

She never stops though. She pretends not to look as she passes by with both visors down. She doesn’t want her mother to wave her down only to offer her a smelly hug and a wet beer kiss. Visiting hours were over a long time ago.

Sometimes she wishes she too could stay within the four bars of White Clay and make it a family tradition. She has problems too and no one to guide her. But she has her baby and siblings to care for, she isn’t as selfish as her mother she claims.

Prisoner #69360 is serving what seems like a life sentence without the possibility of parole. She admits to her many crimes committed after an interrogation session of fire waterboarding. She feels guilty for the time she was five and her mother’s boyfriend molested her. She is guilty of being drunk at fourteen and being raped repeatedly. Every man she’s known has beaten the innocence out of her. She is guilty and deserves to be here. This is where she belongs.

Her will to live was broken like the many treaties made with the united states government.

The liquid chain on her wrists and ankles clings tight

Unable to figh t She falls to the ground

In front of car headlights

This shit just ain’t right!

The guards are armed with Silver Bullets and hold Colt 45s.

Ready to takedown anyone attempting to sober up.

Everyone must pay repeatedly for the crimes they’ve committed.

By serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole

Or passing out drunk somewhere down death row.

Her only escape is to get back on the red road

And follow it back home

To freedom.

See Darin G. Janis’ other award-winning stories and poems, including: “Dragging Through Time”; “The Falling of Leaves”; and “How the Rainbow Was Created.”

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