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Daydreaming (Short Story)
March 12, 2019
I knew Ms. Matheson was crazy when she said Christopher Columbus discovered America. I was trying to focus on the tired Power Point presentation she was so proud of that she turned the lights low enough for any fourth grader to fall asleep. I’d rather daydream myself. If you’re going to dream anyway, you may’swell remember where you been.
I went to Uncle Med’s house in my spirit, which is the easiest way to describe the daydream space. I went to the basement where all his friends be on the couch passing around a cigar like they took Kindergarten lessons about sharing really seriously. I imagined telling Uncle Med what happened in school today, and I could hear him saying, “Columus ain’t discovered shit [which I ain’t supposed to say cuz I’m just a kid according to my mother who also say I’m an old soul so she can’t seem to make up her mind about who I’m supposed to be, let alone what I’m supposed to say]” on inhale, then blowing smoke out of his mouth like the punctuation Ms. Matheson always be making us put at the end of a complete thought. Which makes me go off [in my head] on how some folks always trying to end something and I wonder how do they know that thought don’t want to run or jog or crawl or anything else it wants to do except be trapped by a boring period like I’m trapped in this boring seat.
I once told Mama school was boring and asked her if I could get home schooled but she said she would go crazy. I’ve seen her crazy before and it ain’t cute. Crazy is when the dishes pile up in the sink because PaPaw’s favorite song is playing on repeat and she’s looking through pictures on Facebook and crying but saying she’s okay. And crazy looks like yelling just because we late to a school I don’t like anyway, and when I remind her of this fact, she gets to talking about what I don’t know about the state. But who wants to know about Kentucky? I’m partial to Georgia, myself, which is where I was born and where we lived before my mama’s Daddy died and everything changed. Or crazy is when she’s saying “Where are my keys? Where are my keys?” like a chant that gets louder and all the while they are on a table she is acting like she can’t see. And even though her crazy ain’t something I could take on a daily basis, I know and I have a feeling she knows that she could never go as crazy as a teacher getting paid to tell lies to little kids.
In my spirit, I visit Uncle Rock and Arielle, and I’m laughing thinking about what he would say if I “discovered” my cousin Arielle’s Barbie with the long rainbow hair that I wanted to cut off with the scissors my mother uses to cut out pictures of my Uncle Dog, who’s in heaven saying, “Get down, Asali Brown!” every time the cousins dance, which is what he used to say before he broke his heart and never came home from the hospital.
“Baby (Uncle Rock always calls me “baby” even though I’m well into my preteen years), you can’t discover something that belongs to somebody else.”
Then I say, “Spain told me to do it. Elizabeth or Isabel or whatever her name is sent me on a mission.”
Uncle Rock, just being himself, says, “If Elizabeth or Isabel or what’s her name told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?” All his examples have to do with dying, like when he says I’ll get the rickets and die if I don’t eat my green beans.
And I say, “It depends on how much money they give me to jump.”
Then he says, “Baby, no amount of money is worth your life,” and here we go with the death examples again. Who said I wouldn’t have a parachute?
Mama says Uncle Rock gives extreme examples because he is the baby of the family and the big kids, herself included, used to scare him with lies. She says a lie is just a story and every story has a purpose and she doesn’t know why their purpose was to make a baby scared.
But Ms. Matheson isn’t telling the scary kind of lie; she’s telling the kind of lie Mama said you never tell about somebody because all some people have is their own reputation. She told me as much when I told the lie that Two Bear smashed Lele’s lego block house when really I did because some things you can’t just agree to disagree on (like when a cousin says she has the right to all the blue legos just because she was born eighteen months before you were) and I’d much rather smash something and get it over with than waste time with all this wasting breath. I can hear PaPaw say, “I ain’t about to argue with you when I could be using that air to breathe!” And that’s when I know he is with me because how else would I hear that? But Sarah Allen said that’s just my own memory because she’s an atheist and drinks pressed juice.
Mama say some people can afford to not believe in anything they can’t see because they can see everything they think they need. And I think she is talking about people like Sara Allen who I don’t like because she’s always talking about the funky horses she owns and I haven’t got mine yet even though I wrote it in my Mama’s wish book that night she let me stay up until 11:11 for the first time ever. I think parents be trying to punish us with early bedtimes for that one little tiny year we spent waking up every hour of the night.
Ms. Matheson had a baby during the summer vacation, so she must be operating on no sleep to bring in some [word I'm not supposed to say] like this. Uncle Dog was a teacher and he would never have made us sit through a slide show of lies. I take my spirit to his classroom and leave this room behind.
In Uncle Dog’s class, he lets us ask the kinds of questions that will get you a writeup here. He says, “I’m going to give you some facts that everybody agrees on and you tell me what questions come up for you. Fact one: Spain sent Columbus to discover (he leans on discover so I know it's a clue) new land. Fact two: Spain sent three ships: The Nina, The Pinta, and The Santa Maria. Fact 3: Columbus sailed with 90 men. Now what kinds of questions do you have?”
And I say, “Why did they need all those people if they were just exploring? Remember when you read us those York poems that didn’t rhyme? Lewis and Clark just brought York along to find some land, then made him do all the finding since they thought he was just a slave.”
Uncle Dog says, “Good questions. Any more?”
Two Bear says, “Were all the men on the boats ninjas? Ya!” Then Two Bear starts kicking like he don’t know karate don’t come from Spain. And he gets too close like he almost always “accidentally” does, so I have to show him what happens when you interrupt my right to mind my own business, which is what Mama says colonizers tend to do. But I’m not saying my cousin is a colonizer because at least when he comes around throwing arms and legs while me and Lele are just minding our business rebuilding the house I said he smashed, I know he just wants to play so I take a break from Lele’s game and play his. Then before you know it, Lele’s not mad about it anymore and we are all playing Two Bear’s fight game until some grownup walks in and tells us to stop fighting like we don't belong to each other.
Uncle Dog says, “Frenches!” to make us get back to the matter at hand, and here comes Lele with her oldest cousin answers: “I know what happened. They sent three ships and ninety men because they knew there were already inhabitants there.” She’ll look around, then say “Inhabitants means people who live there,” real slow like eighteen months is a light year.
And I’m just trying to cosign like any good cousin would do, “Yep, They was gon take all that shh…!”
I stop myself but not before Uncle Dog busts out laughing like he likes to do with his head thrown back and all his teeth showing.
And I’m in my spirit place laughing with him because its been a long time since I heard him laugh like that since the tubes made it hard for him to laugh and he spent so much time in the part of the hospital where kids weren’t allowed to be that I forgot what it was like to laugh in the same room with my Mama’s big brother.
But then here comes Ms. Matheson calling me back to my body by botching my name: “Ah-Say-Lee, is something funny?” Which makes me mad because in the second place, I been telling her my name all year long and in the first place, I was just about to have a dance contest with my cousins so I could hear Uncle Dog say, “Get down, Asali Brown!” when she broke through with her ugly face looking like the Wicked Witch of the West. And then I’m thinking about how this is what Mama must have meant when she told her big kid students how the West uses might to force their ways on everybody else and before I know exactly what I’m doing, I’m up and screaming, “You’re a witch!” and running out of the room with my backpack like I got somewhere to be while she’s calling me to come and clip down but I don’t care because Mama say she don’t trust her biases no way, so unless I’ve interrupted somebody else’s right to mind their own business, I won’t get in trouble for clipping down.
I walk the halls because Mama says you should take the path of least resistance and it ain’t nobody to resist me in the hallway. And Mama says disagreements should always be calm unless somebody is threatening your ability to mind your own business and that’s not a disagreement; that’s domination and you better fight like hell. And even though Ms. Matheson was interrupting my ability to spend time with the only teacher I ever loved, I didn’t feel like fighting, so I walked around instead.
I list the facts like Uncle Dog taught me:
Ms. Matheson is telling a flat-out lie on Christoper Columbus.
It’s the opposite of the kind of lie I told on Two Bear because it’s a good lie that won’t ruin a man’s name.
Mama says a lie is a story and every story has a purpose, so I need to figure out what the purpose of this one is.
I miss my uncle and my grandfather and the days before I knew what it felt like to laugh and cry at the same time.
Mama says when your emotions feel like a storm striking the ocean, you should write. Writing contains the waters, makes it so nobody has to drown.
I take out my journal.
Dear Ms. Matheson,
You a lie and a half. Columbus ain’t discovered nothing but hell. He came here to steal, kill, and destroy, which makes him the devil in my book and the Lord’s. You know it and so do I. My Mama always says every lie is a story and every story has a purpose. So Ms. Matheson, what exactly are you trying to do to me?
Asali (pronounced a-Sah-lee, not A-SAY-Lee. I think you were thinking of “assailant.” I think you were thinking of Columbus.)