On "Summer Wind" by Lee Francis

2020 EDIT: It’s always interesting going back through pieces you wrote 10 years ago. I didn’t know then that asking students to write from a different perspective or with a different voice was something I’d be guiding teachers to do. It makes me want to pull back out this collection of short stories and look at them again.

A little preface for this piece…

It’s a reader response to a story from Moccasin Thunder, a collection of American Indian stories. One of the more challenging novels I taught during my student teaching was William Faulkner’s A Light in August. I’m actually rather sad that I’ve managed to lose my annotated copy of this novel. Anyway, one of Faulkner’s ways of getting into characters’ heads was particularly intriguing to me. That is, he would state what the character was thinking, “and place those thoughts in quotation marks,” then tell what the character was thinking …with subconscious thought in italics. I can’t remember whether or not I’ve employed this particular method in my blog here. If I haven’t, it’s about time, and if I have, then I’m probably due. My goal was to show the progression of subconscious thought, similar to anyone’s the angrier they get.

The actual assignment asked us to rewrite the story in a different point of view, either shifting narrators, type of narrator (e.g. omniscient, limited omniscient, etc.), shifting person (e.g. 1st or 3rd). I chose this character because it’s interesting to me to explore one’s hatred for another group of people, mainly because it’s not something that I comprehend. SO without further ado…

“Summer Wind”

This is totally not where the girl wants to be right now when all her friends are out cruising and hanging. She’s stuck behind that stupid register all day with all those idiot customers who have no idea or respect for how hard it is to work on the front end.

She couldn’t believe this one woman the other day. Old lady. Indian. God knows she must be slow. The girl sighs heavily and starts ringing the old woman out. She’s there with some boy who the girl thought might be cute if he wasn’t so damn dark.

“Twelve dollars and twenty-seven cents.” She wonders if her disdain for those natives came out in her voice. When she’s tired, things like that are harder to hide.

The girl couldn’t believe the audacity of that woman. The girl gave her the total and the woman smiles this saccharine nasty-ass-sweet smile. Damn woman spent five minutes rooting around in her purse trying to find her wallet and the girl’s thinking “You best stop grinning at me,” …thinking god damn injuns holding up my line, why don’t you go back to the reservation we stuck you on…

Then, and then she started counting out all this change. Slowly. Like the molasses the girl’s mother talked about when she was late getting out of the bed in the morning. She wanted to say, “Damnit old lady, I know you have some paper in that billfold,” thinking “Why couldn’t she pay in bills”…thinking the genocide of the Holocaust was wasted on the Jews… But she didn’t say any of these things. And then the old woman dropped all the quarters on the floor and had to start over again.

“Could you repeat the total, dear?” Her voice was still sticky.

“Twelve twenty-seven,” the girl spat. Literally, though less intentionally than one might believe. She sent a mock-apologetic glance at the people in line behind the old woman who were snickering to themselves at this point. Probably at the retardedness of the lady.

The girl was so angry by the time the old woman got through counting and recounting that when she gave the girl the coins, the girl was so flustered with rage that she dropped them all over everywhere thinking, “Shit,”…thinking I can’t believe these goddamn fucking injuns wasted all this fucking time

“I could count it again.” The soft voice penetrated the girl’s inner monologue. “Just to make sure it’s all there.”

The girl shook her head. “That won’t be necessary.”

“Okay, then dear. You have a nice day.” The girl turned shades of red as she watched them walk away.

When they’re out of earshot, she said, “Damn, injuns” under her breath thinking “Thank god they’re gone,” …thinking why didn’t the white man wipe them all out when they got here? Would have done the entire world a whole lot of good…

Ugh. “Can I help you?”

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