I'll be reading at Small Press Traffic on November 7th, from my second novel, California Wasn't Good For Us. California Wasn't Good For Us is an urban Navajo story, a tingling maiden story, a story about the hate we turn on ourselves in response to racism and Catholicism. Madness, alcoholism, greed and violence destroy the Calabasas; this is the story of the one survivor, Cebolla. This novel is Rabelain in both form and content.
I will read from one of the four chapters: Grandma's Hands, The Body of Christ, D.M.S.R. or Shi[ H0zh=.
The Body of Christ
Pictures came and I had the first of a long series of pock marks. I am fat. Fat in fourth grade. I wear a matching scarf and hat for the Christmas play. We sing carols and Christ is born, even after I tell him to go away; I don’t want him.
There’s snow on San Bruno Mountain and Joey Z’s mom brings a tailgate full of it down for all the stupid kids to gawk at. I could give a shit and I’m in trouble for carving Bitch in the red brick stairway on the southwest corner of the Church. St. Dunstan’s no longer has a hold on me. I am moving north again, full time back to our house on Mississippi.
Momi and me and Belle go up there after school and weekends. There’s a lot to do ‘cause the house is shit filled with garbage from Uncle and Grandpa. We clean. We clean and we finds lots of open bills stashed here and there still in their envelopes with the windows on. Plastic files, they hide in drawer bottoms and dark corners. There are lots of kinds of pain killers and lots of kinds of relaxation pills. Momi know most of them from her experience in the hospital.
At night I sleep no matter how hard I try not to. We bring a load of Momi's stuff and put it in the garage every weekend. Belle calls Sunset Scavenger to bring a debris box for the parking space under the tree that is starting to push the cement up. We fill that with Grandpa’s shit. Then we fill it with Uncle’s. Everything with feces we throw away before even thinking we can clean it. There’s a lot of stuff like that. More than I thought, even though I already don’t bring my body down there. I sleep where I happen to lay. Saturday’s are the longest. We drive 101 to 280 and park by 6 or 7. I don’t know when we get back to Green Street, I just know on Sunday I wake up there.
When we get the first box filled she calls and they replace it with another. It goes like this for weeks and weeks and I only remember failing long division. Sr. Margaret thinks I’m stupid. When it’s clear I just can’t add. Arithmetic is the hardest thing I have ever attempted to really do right. Momi says it’s simple computation and while we clean up shit she tests me on multiplication. I know ones and five's and eleven's, the rest might as well be Latin.
We fill another box. And it’s almost two months of hidden division and sorting trash. Belle makes me a giant square with all the multiplication's drawn out. She tells me to memorize the patterns. See, if you look down this way the numbers increase by something and if you look this way these numbers make a square and those other ones make a ladder. She counts good because of bowling. She can make a perfect game. Momi says that means 300.
I sit down and try to copy out the table. I figure it might stick if I write it in my own hand. I’m especially concentrating on the cursive. Cursive don’t do nothing for numbers so I just make European sevens and figure that’s good enough as long as I remember.
Sr. Margaret tells me not to listen to my mother. Her math was old and in this day and age it can’t help me. All I know is Momi’s method is easier and mostly right. The only thing it doesn’t do is give me good explanations. Sr. Margaret requires good explanations. I gotta show her my work in the corner. I put scratches there to fake like computation. She can’t figure out how any one as smart as me could be this dumb. Everything with her is supposed to fit. I’m quiet while she is angry and that is the day she says, “don’t let your mother help you.”