A Space for Women of the World
Coyote was sitting on the mesa, enjoying the view, smelling the fresh air. He sprawled out on his belly, thinking about how it was a good day to be alive. The feeling proved fleeting however and Coyote suddenly found himself restless.
“I’m going to see what Grandma is up to!” Coyote screamed to no one in particular. Some prairie dogs stuck their heads out of their holes to see what all of the ruckus was about. “Get out the way!” Coyote yipped as he jumped over their heads, tail flying through the air.
“Oh crap!” screamed the prairie dogs and they stuck their heads back into their holes.
It was a warm spring afternoon and Grandma sat beside her corn field, her loom towering over her like some great precipice. Her old weathered hands, wrinkled yet strong, worked in the beginnings of a new pattern on a rug. She was content, thinking about the warmth the sun was casting on the back of her neck, when a horrible shriek interrupted her work.
“Grandma!” Coyote screamed. Her shoulders practically jumped out of their sockets as Coyote went on, “Hey Granny, what’s new? What’s happening around here? You make any dinner yet? Can you make me some fry bread?”
“Coyote! I’m busy working right now. Why are you always bothering me?”
“I’m just bored, trying to figure out where all the action is. Jumping juniper beans, this rug is beautiful, Grandma!” Coyote sat down, admiring the many different colors of maroon, black and cream.
“Thank you, Coyote. And no you cannot have it.” Coyote let out a long sigh. Siiiiiiggghhh. Then he stretched his arms way out in front of him and stuck his butt in the air.
“So let me get this straight. I can’t have this rug?”
“But Grandma! Who else could be so deserving of this rug? Bear? No, that guy stole my bike. Skunk? No, he stinks. Crow? Well, that guy just gives me the heebie-jeebies. Just think, Grandma, I would take this tapestry of great artistic magnificence with me everywhere, sleep on it every night, and brag to all of my friends. What do you say? Mine?”
“Coyote, first off, since when do you have friends? Second, you ran off with two of my sheep last week. I had to go pick them up at the trading post. They’re both grounded for a month.”
“That was completely consensual and in no way my fault.”
“How many peyote buttons did you sell them?”
“I had nothing to do with that.”
“No excuses. I told you a thousand times to stay away from the sheep corral.”
“Fine!” yipped Coyote. “I’m going to find my own rug then! And you will bow down to me when you behold its supreme exquisiteness and I will not share!” And with that, Coyote ran off into the hills. Grandma shook her head.
In his rage, Coyote ran all throughout the night, paying no particular attention to which direction he was travelling, cursing under his breath, scaring the prairie dogs. It wasn’t until the moon had almost made its entire journey across the star-studded sky that Coyote realized he was no longer on the reservation but on the outskirts of a city. Hungry and defeated, he walked over to a dumpster behind Del Burger Taco, longing for companionship.
He lay down and was soon drifting in and out of sleep, but a loud crash in the dumpster startled him quite severely. He jumped up when he realized that something was moving around inside. His long, scrawny legs trembled slightly when he shouted,
“Reveal yourself, beast! I am not afraid of you!”
The top of the dumpster flew open and from it emerged Raccoon munching on a cheeseburger.
“Hey,” muttered Raccoon, food particles spilling out the sides of his mouth.
“Raccoon! Where have you been, cousin?!” Coyote jumped up and down, all signs of trembling gone.
“Just living the city life, man. Trying to avoid all those bill collectors,” Raccoon chuckled, took another bite of cheeseburger.
“You got any more food in there?” Coyote asked, salivating at the mouth. Raccoon disappeared back into the dumpster, emerged a few minutes later holding French-fries.
As they chomped away, Coyote noticed for the first time that Raccoon was wearing a fresh pair of moccasins and the coolest t-shirt he had ever seen. It was covered in Native designs, all fluorescently colored.
“Raccoon! Where did you acquire such a beautifully crafted t-shirt?” Coyote voiced as he lost himself in the patterned neon pinks, electric greens, and sunny yellows. Raccoon looked around to make sure that no one was listening and brought his voice down to a whisper.
“There’s this place not too far from here, a place that can provide for all of your hipster needs.”
“What’s a hipster?” Coyote whispered.
“They’re sort of an enigma actually because even making the attempt to categorize them would be too main-stream!” Raccoon stood tall underneath the spotlight guarding the back door of the Del Burger Taco, his shadow long and ominous against the brick building. He put his arms in the air, spilling pickles from his cheeseburger and continued, “I know of this place, Coyote! It is a great structure with giant glass windows and neon lights. And inside they have rows and rows of clothing, delicate pieces of fabric covered with all kinds of Native designs and fringe and beads! They have moccasins in all various hues, Indians in headdresses printed on shirts! I even found a great pair of underwear with traditional prints.” Raccoon lifted up his shirt to reveal a scanty pair of neon orange panties.
“Jumping cacti! Those are the coolest pair of underwear I have ever seen!” Coyote remarked, shaking his head in disbelief. “You must tell me, Raccoon! Where is this majestic fortress located?!”
“You must journey into the depths of the city, follow the Dog Star until it disappears,” said Raccoon, taking another bite of his cheeseburger. “You must make your way through the winding streets, the squatter’s tents, soaring skyscrapers and thick smog. There you will find a store with all of your Native American fashionista needs. It’s called: Suburban Trendsetters.”
“Suburban Trendsetters! Raccoon-cousin, thank you for imparting this knowledge to me. Grandma is being a real wench these days, won’t even share any of her beautiful tapestries with me. I will travel to this so-called hipster land, find what needs finding and then make Grandma super, super jealous,” Coyote shouted, throwing his paws into the air valiantly. “I will not let you down, Raccoon!” And off Coyote went to venture into the great city.
“Hey!” Raccoon shouted. “Next time you see Grandma, tell her she still owes me $2!”
Coyote was enjoying the gentle patter of his feet against the asphalt. He did exactly as his cousin had told him, and ventured deep into the city streets until he lost sight of the Dog Star. Having found his way to the squatter’s tents, he met some cagey gophers and traded some of his signature blue corn mush for some vibrant red shades.
“If only Grandma could see me now,” he mused as he trotted along in his new sunglasses. “I look so hip.” He was thinking about how it was a good day to be alive, when suddenly some great towering structures began casting eerie shadows on the bubblegum stained sidewalks. Looking up, he yipped loudly,
“Ye’iis!” *Navajo gods
Coyote broke into a clumsy and ungainly gallop. He cut a corner and darted down a dark and mysterious alleyway, fearing that the great towering beasts might smite him.
“I knew they’d come back to claim me some day!” he screamed out of breath. Emerging out onto the street he collided with two small furry creatures. After tumbling to the ground, Coyote shook his head in an effort to regain his composure and found himself face to face with two of the ugliest brutes he had ever seen: cats. Two fluffy and well-manicured ones to be exact.
A calico poof ball sat up and hissed,
“Hey! Watch where you’re going, you ugly dog!” The calico cat looked around and picked up a pair of glasses. “Ugh Moon-Moon! He just ruined my super cute black frame spectacles.”
“He just made me spill my macchiato, Patches!” an albino cat in acid-washed skinny jeans chimed in, picking himself up from the concrete. Coyote jumped up and shook wildly as if he had water-logged fur.
“Do my eyes deceive me?! Why are you two hairballs just standing around when great monsters are wandering the streets?! AND I am also very handsome BY THE WAY,” Coyote snorted. Both cats looked around with wide eyes, their fur standing on end.
“Monsters? What are you talking about dog?”
“Have you both been struck blind?!” Coyote pointed to a large metal and concrete monster with his lips. “How are they not crushing you with their massive feet?”
Moon-Moon was trying to salvage what he could of his macchiato. “Gah! I don’t think they used soy milk in this,” he groaned.
“That is what we call a skyscraper,” said Patches, fluffing her tail. “You must be from some weird backwoods part of some crappy middle of nowhere town.”
“Don’t those baristas know that cats are lactose intolerant?!” cried Moon-Moon as he adjusted his skinny jeans. “Now I’m going to be all farty.”
Coyote turned his head to the side and then frowned. Then quickly added,
“Well of course I knew that, cats! What kind of fool do you take me for? I was just trying to get a rise out of you two fuzz balls.” Coyote said as he pranced around and adjusted his sunglasses. “So this is city life, huh? I must confess I am not very impressed.” And that’s when he saw it, right in front of him, with neon lights casting fluorescent hues and large glass windows boasting white manikins in assorted garments and get ups: Suburban Trendsetters.
“Hot damn!” Coyote beamed. “I have arrived on the scene!” He quickly left the befuddled cats that were scrunching up their faces and waving their paws.
“Hey! You better buy me another macchiato!” screeched Moon-Moon but Coyote had already disappeared through the front doors of unfamiliar territory.
Coyote removed his sunglasses and found himself immediately breathless by all of the pristine racks of clothing, jewelry, mirrors, paintings, vinyl, etc.
“Hipster heaven,” he whispered to himself. Dubstep was playing in the background and Coyote began to gyrate slowly to the heavy broken bass line, his hips with a mind of their own. He pulled a green knit sweater with gold bow and arrow patterns off of a hanger and very gently held it next to his cheek.
“Hey, what can we do for you, bro?” asked a squat Pug with an expertly sculpted mustache and plaid fedora.
“Good day fellow canine!” said Coyote practically bouncing on his toes. “I have traveled far and wide in need of a new wardrobe. Tell me, do you have any other fabulous t-shirts such as this one I am holding here?” Coyote held the sweater up to the Pug’s voluptuous black eyes.
“O.M.G. Native décor is so in right now. Lucky for you we just got in a new shipment, bro.”
“Lead the way my wrinkly friend! Grandma’s going to be so jealous.” Pug led the way through a labyrinth of sequined clothing and trinkets, all of which were beckoning to Coyote.
“I just have to say,” Pug stated as his tail bobbed through the air, “that I’m a huge supporter of the vanishing race. You know, my great, great grandmother was some sort of Cherokee Indian princess and because of that, I feel deeply tied to the land. Also, I’ve tried getting Native American scholarships but since I can’t technically prove that I’m Cherokee, I don’t qualify. Totally unfair. It’s not like Natives even need scholarships; they have all that casino money.” Coyote burst into a loud, raucous cackle.
“If I had a dollar for every time I heard some oaf tell me that they’re great aunt or grandma was a Cherokee princess, well I wouldn’t need any scholarship money for college either. And what is this I hear of a vanishing race? Are Natives invisible to your great big eyes…” But before Coyote could finish, Pug threw a t-shirt at him and quickly interjected. “Here, try this on.” It was an electric blue colored V-neck with a white stencil print of Geronimo. Coyote squealed as he pulled the t-shirt over his giant ears and head. “If only Grandma could see me now!” He began walking up and down the aisle in mock fashion run way style.
“Bro, you look so tough and bohemian right now. Hey Squirrel, come take a look at this,” Pug barked.
Coyote was fluttering his eyelashes in a mirror when Squirrel approached, his bushy tail flicking around speedily.
“You look so HOTT in that,” Squirrel squeaked, his hair slicked back into an asymmetrical up-do. “You know what would really compliment that t-shirt, dude? We just got these in yesterday.” Dubstep continued to bounce off of the walls, making the entire building vibrate.
“Lay it on me, bro,” Coyote articulated as a warm glow emanated from his eyes.
“Behold: yoga mats with Navajo prints on them,” Squirrel said squirrely. “We did recently change the name simply to ‘prints’ though due to a lawsuit with the Navajo nation, but that’s beside the point. I have one myself. I paid $100 for it but I feel like it really helps me celebrate my American Indian heritage so it’s totally worth it.”
“Hot damn! Are you Native? What tribe are you, brother?” asked Coyote as he picked up and examined the pastel pink and purple yoga mat.
“Oh I have no idea. I just know that my great, great grandmother was an Indian. My siblings and I used to tell people when we were younger that we were Apache just because we thought it sounded cool.”
“How dare you?!” Coyote screeched as he dropped the yoga mat and covered his V-neck with his furry paws. “You’re hurting my new t-shirt’s feelings!”
“What are you talking about?” said Squirrel absently. Pug looked at Coyote blankly as he adjusted his fedora.
“Because Geronimo was an Apache you buffoon!” Coyote hollered in laughter as both Squirrel and Pug shrugged half-heartedly. Coyote picked up his yoga mat and tucked it tightly under his arm. “Enough of this malarkey! Show me to check-out please!”
Coyote dropped harlequin socks, teal moccasins, embellished t-shirts, shimmery leggings, feather earrings, a yoga mat and more onto the check-out counter. A Poodle with heavy black eye liner and a multi-colored headdress chewed noisily on a piece of gum and rolled her eyes.
“Hot dog!” Coyote shouted, startling the sales associate, the beads on her headdress jangling slightly. “That is one breathtaking war bonnet, friend!” Poodle continued to chew her gum and look at her hot pink nails. “Tell me, Poodle, about every valiant and stoic act you accomplished in order to earn that diadem of the highest respectability.”
“Oh this?” said the Poodle who had started listlessly scanning items. “I just bought this at a music festival last year. Everybody was wearing them.” Coyote scratched his chin as dubstep continued to rattle the walls and glass windows of the building. The broken reverberant drum beats were making it hard for him to think.
“Ah well surely you must be a heroic and just leader to have acquired so many feathers! I salute you my good friend!”
“Heroic deeds? Not really. But I am trying to honor the noble savage. Plus it’s just super, super cute.” Coyote scratched his head, then scratched his chin some more, then started to make shifty glances at those around him. In the corner stood Guinea Pig, who had green hair extensions that fell down to her shoulders. She accidentally dropped her smart phone and as she bent over to pick it up, a large dream catcher tramp stamp was revealed on her backside. Coyote cringed and wrinkled up his brow. He looked over to his left and saw Ferret with a great long beard and a brown flannel shirt, browsing flasks with Navajo textiles printed on them. Coyote began to feel a deep nausea in the pit of his stomach.
“Poodle,” Coyote said as his lips formed a hard line, “I am just about 100% sure that you have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.”
“Excuse me?” Poodle snapped, stopping mid scan.
“You know what I think? I think this store is full of a bunch of rubes gallivanting around in overpriced rip offs of Native American culture.” Coyote began to slowly back away from the register. “I once knew a guy who had to wait 25 years before he earned his headdress. 25 years! And here you are making a mockery of it.” Mania began to slowly fill Coyote’s eyes and his pitch.
“I don’t understand what the big deal is,” Poodle said, putting her hand on her hip. “It’s just fashion.” Coyote’s fur pricked up on the back of his neck as Guinea Pig and Ferret turned their heads to see what all of the ruckus was about. Dubstep continued to pulse tangible bass waves through the air. Coyote looked directly at Squirrel’s asymmetrical hair-do and Pug’s mustache, both of whom were looking at him with calculated eyes.
“Have I been deceived?!” Coyote yelled as he threw his paws into the air. Guinea Pig and Ferret both scampered away. “Have I mistaken appreciation for appropriation?!”
“Whoa bro,” said Pug pugnaciously as his tail and fedora bobbled over, “what’s with all of the feistiness?”
“I’ll tell you about the feistiness, Pug!” Coyote screeched as he jumped onto a table that was housing innumerable lacy garments and wooly sweaters. “Consumerism is making me feisty! There is no honor in this, this…fad! There is only misguidance! A disconnect from origin and community!” Coyote ripped off his Geronimo t-shirt and threw it on Squirrel who was trying to scurry away. Pug erupted into wild barking and Poodle just continued to stand idly by, chewing her gum. “This is just a commercialization of Grandma’s culture,” Coyote cried over the dubstep, throwing his red shades to the ground, “and Grandma’s culture is not your decoration!” Coyote began howling and riotously throwing whatever he could get his paws on into the air, making the store rain a multicolored mess of fabrics and chaos.
Grandma tightened her chiffon maroon scarf that was tied around her head, adjusted the turquoise squash blossom on her silk shirt and closed her eyes to enjoy the feeling of sunshine on her skin. She was listening to the sound of wind gently swooshing through the bushy bushels of corn planted in the red earth. Opening her eyes, she pulled a pair of ancient scissors from her skirt pocket and began to cut her newly finished rug from its loom. She loved the days when the quietude of the reservation was palpable and chuckled to herself gently. But then she noticed something from the corner of her eye. It was casting up large dust plumes as it approached her hogan. She hastily put her scissors away, picked up her tea, sipped and squinted her eyes at the dirt road to see a cop car approaching. In the back seat, she detected a furry, mangy grey animal of some sort.
The car came patrolling up her drive way and stopped abruptly. An officer, with his golden badge glinting in the sun, got out and walked to the back door of the car. He threw the door open and from it emerged Coyote with his large head hung low.
“And don’t you ever come back you hear?!” the cop yelled as he slammed the door. “You’re lucky they didn’t press charges.” The officer quickly got back into his car and peeled out of Grandma’s drive way, leaving a massive and moving dirt and debris column in the cloudless sky.
Grandma put her cup of tea back down and returned her attention to her loom. She resumed snipping the final threads. Coyote quietly walked up beside her and plopped down his wide back side. He thought about how his throat felt dry and scratchy.
“Haven’t seen you in a while,” Grandma said as she held up the maroon, cream and black colored rug to examine it. She was feeling quite proud of the heavy geometrical pattern. “Where have you been?”
Coyote was unable to make eye contact and stared blankly at the mesa out in the distance.
“I went to the city, ransacked a store and was almost arrested,” Coyote said. Grandma let out a long sigh. Siiiiiiggghhh.
“And did you learn anything this time?” Grandma said, looking down on Coyote.
“I have a very heavy heart,” Coyote said in a strained voice. Grandma remained silent for some time.
“Well, that’s usually a pretty good indication that you did.” Grandma sat down next to Coyote. She held the rug in her hands and admired the fibers, then threw it around Coyote’s shoulders. He sniffled slightly. Grandma picked up her tea, took a sip and they sat in peace.
Melanie Fey is a Diné (Navajo) writer, zinester and Indigenous feminist. She hails from Flagstaff/Dinétah, AZ but currently resides in Portland, OR. She acquired a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from Arizona State University and is still patiently waiting for that to pay off. Melanie is one of two co-creators/editors of the Native American feminist zines Empower Yoself Before You Wreck Yoself and The Nizhoni Beat and was also a participant in the 2015 One Flaming Arrow: Inter-tribal Art, Music and Film Festival. Look for her other published works in zines such as Survivance: Indigenous Poesis, From Hell to Highwater: Vol. 2 Issue 7/8 and Stories from Oyate: Modern Native American Voices.