A new short story that I hope you enjoy. Not nearly as sad as the last one:
One of Her Names
She had two names. When people addressed her in the “real world,” she heard them say Lucy. Sometimes in formal situations, or when a clerk was reading the name on her license, her given first name was read out loud. They would say something like, “Lucille, thank you for shopping at so and so store,” or “Thank you for choosing our generic car insurance Lucille.” When children in the hospital used reverence with the words “Doctor Lucy,” she would do anything for them. All it took was a smile, or a frown and some puppy dog eyes. Ice cream and cookies from the kitchen, wheelchair races around the walkways in the park next door, everything they asked for was fair game. So that had been one of her names, Lucy, the one that she would never use again.
When she left her childhood home on the Umatilla Indian Reservation near the Northeastern corner of Oregon she spent a fair amount of breath telling other people that she was from Pendlton, and that her parents worked on some fancy committee for the rodeo. That story had followed her through college in Seattle, medical school in Portland, an internship in Boise and, finally, a residency in Chicago.
She loved her new city. Her new model condo in Chicago was a cozy dream home compared to the single bedroom trailer she had grown up in. She had dinner with her doctor and nurse friends after work on most days, gossiping about which new doctor was cuter than the old one, before walking to her building and riding the elevator up. There was no man upstairs, or any romantic partners for that matter. Lucy’s life was about her work, and about the children she was treating. It was not about where she had been, or who she had grown up to be, or where she was going to go. Lucy had accomplished, she had achieved, and she had a condo in Chicago, a residency at the Children’s hospital, and a group of gossipy girl friends. Lucy’s life was perfect then.
The days she was having now were lonelier ones. She often talked to herself. It helped her to remember. Before she was Lucy or Lucille, she had been given a good name. One that was born of the Earth and given to her mother in a dream on the night before labor. The dream was about a girl who was wandering the world alone, the last person on Earth maybe. She just took one step after another, through forests, mountains, valleys, abandoned towns and frightening nights. The left foot always in front of the right foot until the girl finally came face to face with a young man. The young man was also alone, and wandering. They stared at each other for a long time, unable to talk. The man spoke, in an unfamiliar accent. He asked the girl if she could tell him her name. The girl said, “I will give you only the hint that I am the last of my people. I carry with me the culture and the history of the native Northwest tribes. I carry the knowledge of humans, animals, trees and rivers.” The young man was still guessing names when Lucy’s mother woke up.
Her father’s name was Tuuptúup, which meant silver fox. When Lucy was born, the story of the dream convinced Tuuptúup that his daughter would be named Hulí. This was the word they used to describe the wind. It tells the stories of the animals, of the mountains, of the skies, and of the forests. It was his daughter, like the wind, who would carry these stories. So this had been, and would always be her real name.
Now Hulí would just walk, for hours, with a backpack full of things she felt were vital to life. Stuffed so full that she used twine and old shoelaces to tie things to the outside. It was not at all odd to her that the possessions she carried with her had become her company. She felt a certain companionship to the bed roll and blanket she slept with. When she found a spot she felt like sitting, usually under a tree, she would recite stories from her childhood, sometimes to no one at all, but most of the time they were just to herself. She had turned her back on them when she left her family’s trailer on the reservation in Umatilla. She had never been back, choosing instead to call a few times a year and write cards and letters for holidays and birthdays.
She knew that it was happening. Everyone knew it. Everyone who could, ignored it. Everyone who couldn’t, died. It was plain to see. Greenland’s Ice sheets, glaciers at the top of Kilimanjaro, the Himalayas, Glacier National Park, all of them melting. Then it was the earthquakes, the hurricanes, easy to ignore in Chicago, the planet’s natural way was trying to tell her for years. She hadn’t been listening though, unless it was to one of her co-workers, or Oprah on demand. In 2004 a 9.2 earthquake caused a Tsunami that killed 230,000 people. No one she knew got hurt though. In 2009, the USGS recorded 30 quakes registering above 6.0, 13 of those were higher than 7.0, and not one of them were within 1,000 miles of Chicago. In 2010, an 8.8 earthquake hit Chile so hard that the Earth’s axis permanently shifted by three inches, and shortened the days by a little more than a millisecond. The Sea of Aral disappeared and the Bay of Bengal swallowed islands. The air was getting hotter and the giant ice cubes were feeding the oceans with fuel, and not just the oceans, it was the lakes and the rivers. Flooding was everywhere. It wasn’t until Lake Michigan put Soldier Field under water, that a woman with two names chose to use only one.
— Lee St1 —