Today is Jonah Proud Sky’s birthday. He is fifteen now. In another era, he would be a man. Instead, he is just a high school student.
He rides the bumpy school bus along with the other kids to the white school where they teach him arithmetic and states’ rights. He stares out the window at the desolate landscape of his people’s land. Arizona. Nothing grows here but despair.
But he catches sight of a coyote, on a raised hill, perhaps headed home after a night’s hunt. Jonah wonders if the coyote goes home sated or with an empty stomach.
Hello coyote, he says in his mind. You are sacred, and I am not.
Once outside the reservation, the bus slows to make its next stop and Jonah smiles. The bus door opens and three students climb about, one of which is his friend Lois Smith. Well, she’s sort of his friend. He thinks she knows his name at least.
As she passes to the back of the bus he lifts his smile to greet her, but she looks past him, not noticing his silent salutation.
Lois is a year younger, a black girl, and more beautiful than anything Jonah can think of. He just wishes… she knew who he was. He did talk to her once, a month ago, when there were no seats on the bus and she sat down next to him.
“Nice shoes,” he had said, of her pink sneakers.”
“Thank you,” she replied, her skin glowing, her eyes as bright as wild moons.
Since then he has thought of many ways to talk to her, but none have succeeded. But, he thinks, time is on his side. Yes, time is on my side.
After riding for another twenty minutes, the bus pulls up in front of the high school and lets the students out in a clump of adolescence and backpacks. Jonah looks at the long stretch of day in front of him and his shoulder sink. He hates school, hates everything about it, would rather be home or out on his horse, anywhere, really.
Here I am, he thinks.