Luttery-epilogue by fanzhongqing



Ashleigh Luttery

Jennifer Graber

Native American Religions & Cultures

12 December 2011

                        An Epilogue to Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony

       “You got a name?”

        Helen Jean giggled to herself. Of course she had a name. Who didn’t have a name?

       “Helen Jean, but you can call me whatever you like.”

       The tall Mexican smiled a toothy grin and stroked his side burns. She always wondered

why men kept their sideburns so bushy. The Mexican’s side burns were nice though, tamed but

long, jet black, and shiny like the reflection of the night sky on still water back home at Towac.

He was tall and strong, with a sunburned face full of wrinkles. Oddly enough, Helen Jean found

him handsome and couldn’t help but get nervous when she looked into his eyes. They were a

deep brown, not hazel like the weird Laguna Indian that she’d just left back behind at the bar.

       “Helen Jean? That’s odd that you have two names. I’ll call you Arena.”

       Arena, huh? She didn’t really like that name and didn’t see why he couldn’t just call her

by her name, but something about the way he swayed as if the world were spinning, made her

second guess resisting the new nickname. She shrugged. He wouldn’t remember her anyway.

She only cared about getting him to help her out a bit. She’d seen him and his buddies looking at

his check from his railroad job back at the bar. Yes, he could help her out a bit.

       The Mexican walked her to his truck and popped open a beer and passed her one. She

couldn’t see the label, but she assumed it tasted terrible anyway.

       “Oh, no thank you,” she muttered.

       “No thank you?” the Mexican asked.

        He seemed genuinely shocked.

       “How else are we to have a party unless you don’t drink up?”

       “I’ve had a little too much wine already today.”

        Helen Jean batted her eyes while the Mexican gulped down the beer for himself.

       She couldn’t pretend to be asleep any longer. The Mexican’s blinds were damaged and

bent in different directions, letting in the sun. Maybe they had been damaged in a fight. Who

knows what goes in men’s lives?

        The Mexican was sweaty, heavy, and smelled of stale beer and sand. She’d laid there for

about an hour after the sunrise and poked him repeatedly. He wasn’t going to wake up any time

soon. Fortunately, before they’d gone to bed, she asked him to help her out a bit and he gave her

eight dollars. She’d been given more, but it was better than nothing. He did make her some eggs

and rice, and she was grateful for the food.

       In the dim light, she struggled to find the bathroom. Running her hands along the cool

mesa walls, she eventually found a narrow bathroom at the end of the hall. There was a light

green slip hanging from the shower rod. It obviously belonged to a woman. A girlfriend? He

hadn’t mentioned any other women, like the war veterans who bragged about all of the women

they’d slept with during their glory days. She definitely hadn’t asked. There was some lilac

shampoo, with the bottle top crusted over. A past girlfriend? Helen Jean figured this would be

the right time to wash her hair. She didn’t know when she would be able to put in her tight

signature curls, but at least it would be clean.

       It was time to go back to her apartment. She hadn’t been there in the past two days, and

she desperately wanted to change her clothes. Her tight blue pants were starting to chafe and she

was curious about trying on the green slip. The Mexican was still snoring, stiff as a rock. Helen

Jean gathered her things and rolled the light green slip into her purse. It was cool and light,

similar to the fuzz on caterpillars she’d played with as a child. She was sure she could wear it

with something.

       On the way to the bus stop she heard loud, irregular snoring, sounding like the

unpredictable thunder before a summer thunderstorm. She followed the sound and found a

drunken man passed out. Another drunken Indian. She looked on with sadness then quickly

noticed his wallet lying about a foot away from his left hand. Thirty five dollars! Before she

could even consult her conscience, she found herself slipping the dollar bills into her purse. She

felt bad, but at the same time rationalized that she was helping the drunk. He would only spend

the money on more drinks…right? This was the big break she needed. This time she would

actually leave Gallup for a larger city. Maybe Albuquerque? When she’d worked in the movie

theaters, she would oftentimes hear her boss talking about visiting his older son in Albuquerque.

Helen Jean could only imagine and dream of the opportunities that she could take advantage of

in such a large city. Maybe she could get a bus ticket out east on Highway 40 out to

Albuquerque. She’d love it if she could bring her sisters out there.

       Stephanie and Elaine were not in the apartment, as usual. She would like to have been

able to tell them goodbye, but at the same time she had come up short on her rent the past three

months. It was time to go. She wouldn’t have to deal with the awkward goodbyes and the

patronizing looks Stephanie and Elaine always gave her. It always made her question herself, and

that was the last thing Helen Jean needed now. She packed her bags and prepared to leave for

the bus stop. There was a 10:20 bus leaving on Highway 40 and going straight to Albuquerque.

She felt as though it was going to be a good day; she just knew it. All she could think about were

the times when her grandmother would tell her stories about Manitou, the Great Spirit who lived

alone in the center of the sky who looked over all of the people. After her grandmother died, she

hadn’t listened to many stories. But it always brought her comfort to think that the spirits were

looking after her no matter where she was.

       Albuquerque was a strange place, full of Spanish décor and heritage, intermixed with

Indian fusion, but also a place breeding with tourists. White people came to see the western city,

something they would not have been able to see out east. Helen Jean felt ashamed that she was

still circling around the same type of men, but she was trying to do better. Her grandmother

always said one could never be perfect, that it was a process in bettering oneself. She couldn’t

expect to be an angel immediately just because she was in a new city. Fortunately for her, while

scoping out the nearest bars, she stumbled upon Albuquerque’s Munchers, a western themed

diner for tourist. Helen Jean was fortunate enough to land a job there as a waitress. Of course she

had to wear stereotypical Indian regalia. But she wasn’t going to mention that she was a Ute and

would normally wear long deerskin dresses, not short, skimpy dresses made out of colorful

cotton fabrics and fake eagle feathers. Who was she to mention that? She wasn’t going to mess

this up. She couldn’t lose her job.

       The owner of the diner and her husband had been kind to Helen Jean. If she washed

dishes at their home and cleaned their bathrooms, they let her stay in the garage. She wasn’t sure

if they actually liked her or if they liked the cheap labor, but she didn’t need to ask. She had a

clean and comfortable space that she made her own.

       She’d saved all those letters she’d written on Stephanie’s pink stationary and finally had a

few dollars to send back to Emma and the girls. A few days ago, she’d received a letter from

Emma. She felt nervous and waited before she opened and read the letter.

       Dear Helen Jean, we all miss you so much and it deeply warms our hearts to know that

you are well and on the path to having a successful life out in Albuquerque. We would love to

come and visit, but as you know, I don’t make much money and the girls are always busy

washing dishes down at the local diners. There isn’t much going on out here. I am still working

in Cortez. On a sad note, the Rainwater twins were arrested the other day. There has been a new

development since last time we talked…

       Helen Jean couldn’t read on any longer. Janice, her oldest younger sister was pregnant.

They were not sure who the father was, but it was more than likely a black man’s child. Great.

The white world barely respected and acknowledge the Indians as a whole. Now Janice was

going to have a black man’s child? Helen Jean did not know what she was going to do or even if

there was anything for her to do at all. She couldn’t let her sister end up like all the other Indian

girls who were run off the reservations because the fathers of their children were black, white, or

Mexican. Those girls only ended up circling around the same bars every night looking for a

bottle of wine they could share with some pathetic war veteran. Helen Jean could only pray to

Manitou, to the White god, or any other gods and spirits for that matter, that Janice would not

suffer the same fate. But she couldn’t focus on that right now. It hurt too much to think of her

baby sister as one of those Indian women in Gallup with their long dirty hair, stained pants, and

blouses held together by safety pins. Tears welled in her eyes, but she closed them tight and

forced them back. She could not cry—not for herself and not for her sister. Besides, there was no

time to cry. It was 8:07 and she was already late for work.

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