دینی آکسندین

کتاب: هیچی نیس، آرام باش / فصل 18

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Dene Oxendene

DENE IS IN his booth when he hears the first shots. A bullet whizzes through the booth. He moves to the corner and puts his back to the wooden pole there. He feels something hit his back, then the black curtain walls of the booth collapse around him.

The whole shoddily built booth is on top of him. He doesn’t move. Can he? He doesn’t try. He knows or thinks he knows he won’t die from whatever hit him. He reaches back and feels the piece of wood, one of four thicker poles that held the thing up. As he pushes the piece of wood away, he feels something hot lodged in it. A bullet. It’d gone all the way through and almost all the way out, almost into him. But it stopped. The pole saved him. The booth he built is all that came between him and that bullet. The shots keep coming. He crawls out through the black curtains. For a second the brightness of the day blinds him. He rubs his eyes and sees across from him something that doesn’t make any sense for more than one reason. Calvin Johnson, from the powwow committee, is firing a white gun at a guy on the ground, and two other guys are shooting on his left and right. One of them is in regalia. Dene gets on his stomach. He should have stayed under his collapsed booth.

Orvil Red Feather

ORVIL IS WALKING BACK out onto the field when he hears the shots. He thinks of his brothers. His grandma would kill him if he survived and they didn’t. Orvil breaks out into a run when he hears a boom that fills his body with a sound so low it pulls him to the ground. He smells the grass inches from his nose and he knows. He doesn’t want to know what he knows but he knows. He feels the blood-warm wetness with his fingers when they reach for his stomach. He can’t move. He coughs and isn’t sure if what comes out of his mouth is blood or spit. He wants to hear the drum one more time. He wants to stand up, to fly away in all his bloodied feathers. He wants to take back everything he’s ever done. He wants to believe he knows how to dance a prayer and pray for a new world. He wants to keep breathing. He needs to keep breathing. He needs to remember that he needs to keep breathing.

Calvin Johnson

CALVIN IS STANDING, head bent to his phone, but his eyes keep looking up from it. His hat is pulled low, and he’s standing behind where Blue and Edwin are sitting so they won’t see him. He looks over to Tony, who’s bouncing a little—he’s light on his feet like he’s ready to dance. Tony’s supposed to do the actual robbing. The rest of them are there in case anything goes wrong. Octavio never explained why he wants Tony in regalia, and why he should be the one to take the money. Calvin assumes it’s because someone in regalia would be harder to identify, and ultimately harder to investigate.

Octavio, Charles, and Carlos are near the table looking antsy. Calvin gets a group text from Octavio that just says We all good Tony? Calvin can’t help but start walking toward the table when he sees Tony doing it too. But Tony stops. Octavio, Charles, and Carlos watch him stop, watch him stand there, bouncing a little. Calvin’s gut spins. Tony backs off, still facing them, then he turns around and walks the other way.

It doesn’t take Octavio long to make the next move. Calvin’s never held a gun before this. There’s a gravity to it. A weight pulling him closer to Octavio, who’s now pointing his gun at Edwin and Blue. He’s pointing at the safe with the gun. He’s calm about it. Calvin has his hand on his gun through his shirt. Edwin crouches down to open the safe.

Octavio looks to his right then left, bag of gift cards in his hand, when stupid-ass Carlos turns his gun on Octavio. Calvin sees it before Octavio does. Charles points his gun at Octavio too. Charles is yelling for Octavio to put down his gun and give him the bag. Carlos is yelling the same thing behind him. fu@king Charlos.

Octavio throws the bag of gift cards at Charles, and as he does he fires a few shots at him. Charles stumbles back and starts firing. Octavio gets hit and fires a few more back at Charles. Calvin sees a kid in regalia go down ten or so feet behind Charles. This is fu@ked up, but Calvin doesn’t have time to think of it that way because Carlos puts three or four into Octavio’s back. He might’ve fired more, but Daniel’s drone plane comes crashing down on his head and Carlos goes down. Calvin has his gun pointed at no one, finger on the trigger, ready, when he feels the first bullet hit him in his hip, the bone. Down on one knee, Calvin gets another one in the gut, and he feels a sick weight there like he’d swallowed too much water at once. How could a hole make him feel more full? As he goes down, Calvin sees Carlos get hit with bullets coming from Tony’s direction.

From the ground Calvin sees his brother firing bullets at Tony. He feels each tiny blade point of grass pushing into his face. It’s all he can feel, those blades of grass. And then he doesn’t hear any more firing. He doesn’t hear anything.

Thomas Frank

HE DOESN’T THINK of the shots being fired as shots being fired. He waits for it to be anything else. But then he sees people run and stumble and drop and scream and generally lose their sh@t because soon, very soon, after what he at first thought must have been something else and not gunfire became in his mind and before his eyes definite gunfire. Thomas ducks incomprehensibly. Squats down and watches dumbly. He can’t find the shooter, or shooters. So stupid is he that he stands up to see better what’s happening. He hears a sharp whiz nearby, and as soon as he realizes that it’s the sound of bullets missing him, one hits him in the throat. He should have been keeping as low as possible, he should have dropped to the ground, played dead, but he didn’t and now he’s on the ground anyway, holding his neck where the bullet went in. He can’t figure out where the bullet came from, and it doesn’t matter because he’s bleeding badly into the hand that holds his burst neck.

All he knows is that the bullets are still flying and people are screaming and someone is behind him, his head is in their lap but he can’t open his eyes and it burns like hell where he knows or feels he knows the bullet exited. The person whose lap he is in is maybe wrapping something around his neck and tightening it, maybe it’s a shirt or a shawl, they are trying to stop the bleeding. He doesn’t know if his eyes are closed or if all of this has suddenly blinded him. He knows he can’t see anything and that sleep feels like the best idea he’s ever had, like no matter what that sleep could mean, even if it means only sleep, dreamless sleep from here on out. But a hand is slapping his face and his eyes open and he’s never believed in God until this moment, he feels God is in the feeling of his face being slapped. Someone or something is trying to make him stay. Thomas tries to lift his whole body up, but he can’t. Sleep floats beneath him somewhere, seeps into his skin, and he’s losing the rhythm in his breath, breathing fewer breaths, his heart, it’d been beating for him all this time, his whole life, without even trying, but now he can’t, he just can’t do anything but wait for the next breath to come—hope that it will. He’s never in his life felt as heavy as he feels now, and it burns, the back of his neck, like no burn he’s ever felt. Thomas’s childhood fear of eternity in hell comes back to him and it’s right there in the burn and the cool of the hole in his neck. But just as that fear comes it goes, and he arrives. In the State. It doesn’t matter how he got here. Or why he’s here. And it doesn’t matter how long he stays. The State is perfect and is all he could ever ask for, for a second or a minute or a moment, to belong like this is to die and live forever. So he’s not reaching up, and he’s not sinking down, and he’s not worried about what’s coming. He’s here, and he’s dying, and it’s okay.

Bill Davis

BILL HEARS MUTED SHOTS fire behind the thick concrete walls that separate everyone else from the coliseum employees. He thinks of Edwin before he can even register what the muted booms might mean. What happens to him right away, though, is that he stands up and moves toward the sounds. He runs through the door that leads out to the concession stands. He smells gunpowder and grass and soil. A mix of dread and long-dormant courage in the face of danger moves over the top of his skin like a nervous sweat. Bill sets off at a run. His heartbeat is in his temples. He’s skipping stairs to get down to the field. As he approaches the infield wall, his phone vibrates in his pocket. He slows. It could be Karen. Maybe Edwin called her. Maybe Edwin is calling him. Bill drops to his knees, crawls between the second and first rows. He looks at his phone. It’s Karen.

“Karen.”

“I’m on my way there now, sweetie,” Karen says.

“No. Karen. Stop. Turn around,” Bill says.

“Why? What’s—”

“There’s a shooting. Call the police. Pull over. Call them,” Bill says.

Bill puts the phone against his stomach and lifts his head up to look. Right away he feels a sting-burn explode on the right side of his head. He puts his hand to his ear. It’s flat. Wet. Hot. Not thinking to put it to his other ear, Bill puts the phone to the place where his ear had been.

“Kare—” Bill starts but can’t finish. Another bullet. This one hits above his right eye—makes a clean hole through. The world tips over.

Bill’s head slams against the concrete. His phone is on the ground in front of him. He watches the numbers count up—the time of their call. Bill’s head throbs, not with pain, just a big throbbing that turns into a full-on swelling. His head is an expanding balloon. The word puncture occurs to him. Everything is ringing. There’s a deep whooshing sound coming from somewhere beneath him, waves or a white noise coming on—a buzz he can feel in his teeth. He watches his blood seep out from under his head in a half circle. He can’t move. He wonders what they’ll use to clean it. Sodium peroxide powder is best for concrete stains. Bill thinks: Please not this. Karen is still there; the seconds are still counting up. He closes his eyes. He sees green, all he can see is a green blur, and he thinks he’s looking out onto the field again. But his eyes are closed. He remembers another time he saw a green blur like this. A grenade had landed nearby. Someone yelled for him to take cover, but he froze. He wound up on the ground then too. Same ringing in his head. Same buzz in his teeth. He wonders if he ever made it out of there. It doesn’t matter. He’s dimming. He’s leaving. Bill is going.

Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield

GUNFIRE BOOMS THROUGHOUT the stadium. Screams fill the air. Opal is already going as fast as she can down the steps to the first level. She’s getting pushed from behind. She shuffles along with everyone else. Opal doesn’t know how she didn’t think to do it, but as soon as she does she gets her phone out. She calls Orvil first but his phone just rings and rings. Next she calls Loother. She gets through but the call breaks up. She can only hear parts of words. A broken sound. She hears him say, Grandma. She puts her hand over her mouth and nose, sobs into her hand. She keeps listening to see if it will clear up. She wonders, she has the thought, Did someone really come to get us here? Now? She doesn’t know what she means.

As soon as she gets outside the front entrance, Opal sees the boys. But it’s just Loother and Lony. She runs to them. Loother’s still holding his phone. He’s pointing to it. She can’t hear him but she sees him mouthing, We been trying to call him.

Jacquie Red Feather

HARVEY’S HAND IS on Jacquie’s shoulder, pushing down. He’s trying to get Jacquie to go down with him. Jacquie looks at him. His eyebrows are furrowed intensely to indicate how serious he is about this push down. Jacquie walks toward the sound and his hand slips off of her.

“Jacquie,” she hears him whisper-scream behind her. She can hear the bullets, the boom and the whizzing. It’s close. She hunches a little but keeps walking. There’s a whole bunch of people on the ground. They look dead. She’s thinking about Orvil. She’d just watched him go by for the Grand Entry.

For a second Jacquie thinks it might be some kind of performance-art piece. All these people in regalia on the ground like it’s a massacre. She remembers what her mom told her and Opal about Alcatraz, how a small group of Indians first took over Alcatraz, just five or six of them, took it over as a piece of performance art five years before it really happened. It had always fascinated her. That it started that way.

She sees the shooters, then scans the field of bodies to find the colors of Orvil’s regalia on the ground. His colors stand out because there’s a bright orange in it, a particular almost pink orange you don’t normally see in regalia. She doesn’t like the color, which makes it easier for her to spot.

Before she acknowledges to herself that it’s him, before she can feel or think or decide anything, she’s already moving toward her grandson. She knows the risk of walking out there. She’s walking toward the gunfire. It doesn’t matter. She keeps an even pace. She keeps her eyes locked on Orvil.

His eyes are closed when she gets to him. She puts two fingers to his neck. There’s a pulse. She screams out for help. The sound she makes is not a word. The sound she makes comes from below her feet, from the ground, and with the sound Jacquie lifts Orvil’s body. She can hear the shots behind her as she carries her grandson’s body through the crowd toward the exit. “Excuse me,” she says as she moves through the crowd. “Please,” she says.

“Someone!” she hears herself cry out as she comes out through the entrance. Then she sees them there. Just outside the entrance. Loother and Lony.

“Where’s Opal?” she says to them. Lony is crying. He points out toward the parking lot. Jacquie looks down at Orvil. Her arms are shaking. Loother comes over and puts an arm around Jacquie, looks down at his brother.

“He’s white,” Loother says.

When Opal pulls up, Jacquie sees Harvey come running out toward them. She doesn’t know why he should come, or why she calls out his name, waves him over. They all get into the back of Opal’s Ford Bronco and Opal puts her foot on the gas.

Blue

BLUE AND EDWIN MANAGE to get out to Blue’s car without having to stop. Edwin is out of breath and starting to look pretty pale. Blue puts Edwin’s seat belt on, starts the car, and heads for the hospital. She leaves because she hasn’t even heard sirens yet. She leaves because Edwin is officially slumped in his seat, his eyelids half-closed. She leaves because she knows the way and can get there sooner than someone not even here yet.

After the shooting stopped, Blue could barely make out what Edwin was yelling at her from the ground.

“We gotta go,” Edwin said. He was talking about the hospital. He wanted her to take him. He was right. They wouldn’t get enough ambulances there in time. Who knows how many people had been shot. For Edwin, it was just one shot—in the stomach.

“Okay,” Blue said. She tried to help him up, wrapped his arm over her shoulder and pulled. He winced a little but for the most part was pretty unfazed.

“Hold it with pressure so it doesn’t bleed too much,” Blue said. He was holding three or four Big Oakland Powwow T-shirts against his stomach. He reached behind his back and the color went out of his face.

“It went through,” Edwin said. “Out the back.”

“fu@k,” Blue said. “Or good? sh@t. I don’t know.” Blue put an arm around him and let his arm hold on to her. They hobbled out of the coliseum like that, all the way out to Blue’s car.

When Blue pulls into Highland, Edwin is passed out. She’d been telling him, yelling at him, screaming at him to stay awake. There was probably a closer hospital, but she knew Highland. She keeps her hand on the horn, to try to wake Edwin up and to get someone to come out to help. She reaches her hand over and slaps Edwin a few times on the cheek. Edwin shakes his head a little.

“You gotta wake up, Ed,” Blue says. “We’re here.”

He doesn’t respond.

Blue runs inside to get someone with a stretcher to come out and help.

When she comes out through the emergency room automatic double doors, she sees a Ford Bronco pull up. All the doors open at once. She sees Harvey. And Jacquie. Jacquie’s holding a boy, a teenager in regalia. As Jacquie passes Blue, two nurses come out with a stretcher for Edwin. Blue knows right away there will be confusion. Should she allow Jacquie and the boy to go in Edwin’s place? It doesn’t matter what Blue has or hasn’t decided. She watches the nurses load the boy and take him away on the stretcher. Harvey walks up to Blue and looks at Edwin in the car. He nods his head sideways at Edwin like: Let’s pick him up.

Harvey slaps Edwin a few times on the cheek and he rustles a little but can’t pick his head up. Harvey yells some incomprehensible thing about getting someone out here to help, then gets Edwin halfway out of the car and puts Edwin’s arm around him. Blue squeezes between the car and Edwin and takes his other arm and puts it around her shoulder.

Two orderlies settle Edwin on the gurney. Blue and Harvey run alongside as they roll him through the halls, and then he’s through the swinging doors.

Blue sits next to Jacquie, who’s looking down at that angle, at the ground, elbows to knees in that position you take when you’re waiting for death to leave the building, for your loved one to come out in a wheelchair with a broken smile, for a doctor with a sure step to come for you with good news. Blue wants to say something to Jacquie. But what? Blue looks at Harvey. He really does look like Edwin. And if Harvey and Jacquie are together, then does that mean…? No. Blue doesn’t allow that thought to finish. She looks across from her. There are two younger boys and a woman who looks a little like Jacquie, but bigger. The woman looks at Blue and Blue averts her eyes. She wants to ask the woman why she’s here. She knows it has to do with the powwow, the shooting. But there’s nothing to say. There’s nothing to do but wait.

Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield

OPAL KNOWS Orvil’s gonna make it. She’s telling herself that in her head. She would scream the thought if you could scream thoughts. Maybe you can. Maybe that’s what she’s doing to make herself believe there’s reason to hope despite there maybe being no reason to hope. Opal wants Jacquie and the boys to see it on her face too, this belief despite everything, which is maybe what faith is. Jacquie doesn’t look okay. She looks like if Orvil doesn’t make it, she won’t either. Opal thinks she’s right. None of them will make it back from this if he doesn’t. Nothing will be okay.

Opal looks around the room and sees that everyone in the waiting room, everyone’s head is down. Loother and Lony aren’t even on their phones. This makes Opal sad. She almost wants them to be on their phones.

But Opal knows this is the time, if there ever was one, to believe, to pray, to ask for help, even though she’d abandoned all hope for outside help on a prison island back when she was eleven. She tries her best to keep quiet and close her eyes. She hears something coming from a place she thought she’d closed off forever a long time ago. The place where her old teddy bear, Two Shoes, used to speak from. The place she used to think and imagine from when she was too young to think she shouldn’t. The voice was hers and not hers. But hers, finally. It can’t come from anywhere else. There is only Opal. Opal has to ask. Before she can even think to pray, she has to believe she can believe. She’s making it come but also letting it come. The voice pushes through and she thinks: Please. Get up, she says, this time out loud. She’s talking to Orvil. She’s trying to get her thoughts, her voice, into that room with him. Stay, Opal says. Please. She says it all out loud. Stay. She recognizes that there is power in saying the prayer out loud. She cries with her eyes shut tight. Don’t go, she says. You can’t.

A doctor comes out. Just one doctor. Opal thinks that might be good, they probably report death in pairs, for moral support. But she doesn’t want to look up at the doctor’s face. She does and doesn’t want to know. She wants to stop time, have more time to pray, to prepare. But all time has ever done is to keep going. No matter what. Before she can think to do it, Opal is counting the swings of the double doors. Every swing in counts as one. The doctor is saying something. But she can’t look up yet, or listen. She has to wait and see what the number of swings will say. The doors come to a rest on the number eight, and Opal breathes in deep, then lets out a sigh and looks up to see what the doctor has to say.

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