Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Cleveland Indians by William J. Hughes

The Indians, the natives, were gathered outside gate A. Indians, natives, from Ohio, Minnesota, Iowa. Chippewa, Shawnee, Sioux.

Opening day, Cleveland Stadium. The Indians were there to protest the Cleveland Indians, with their Aunt Jemima, watermelon, Indian logo. That was a quote from a syndicated columnist.

The Indians stood in a circle, a hoop, heavy coats against the spring chill. The signs they carried spoke of racism, disrespect, and shame. The ball team’s logo. Other tribes were in Atlanta doing the same.

The early arriving fans filed in past the Indians, more curious than hostile. Opening day would be a somber one, the Cleveland fans still in mourning for the three team members killed in the Florida boat accident.

“Hey, hey what are we doing there?” a beefy security guard watching over the Indians wanted to know.

Two of the Indians, a man and a woman, were tying something to the chain link fence.

Now two beefy security guards wanted to know what was going on.

Each Indian was tying a short leather pouch, braided with bright beads and white feathers, onto the fence.

Two local news channels focused their cameras on the fence. An anchorwoman got a microphone near the Indian man and the security guard.

“What’s this?” the security guard demanded.

“These are medicine bags. For the spirit. For the three young men who died in the boat crash. We wish to send them safely along on their journey.”

“Oh.” None of that in the security guard handbook, so he got on his walkie-talkie.

“You say they are spirit symbols?” the anchorwoman asked.

“Yes,” was her answer.

“For the players who died?” she asked.

“Yes, a peace offering.”

The anchorwoman didn’t quite know what that meant.

The lead security guard got an answer on his walkie-talkie. He turned and looked up at the stadium’s office windows. Someone was on their way.

That someone, in gray slacks and a blue blazer, with the team logo on the pocket, came jogging across from the stadium’s lower level. He was younger, thinner than the security guards.

A few clumps of fans stopped to watch what was going on, the rest of the crowd filing past them.
The young man in the blue blazer wanted to know. He asked the much older Indian. “What are you hanging there?”—interest in his question.

“Peace offering.” Directly to the point. “A message for the other life.”

The big security guard spoke at the young man’s ear.
“Yes, yes, I understand.” Irritated. He spoke on the walkie-talkie. He looked up at the stadium’s office windows. He waited, he explained. He waited.

“Yes?” walkie-talkie at his ear. “Yes, yes, I see. Yes, I understand. Yes, yes, I’ll make sure of it.”

The young man was in charge. “That’s it, everything stays. Have one of the men make sure that no one disturbs anything. Got it?”

“Got it.”

The young man nodded his head. The Indian man understood. The young man hustled back to the stadium. The Indians reformed the hoop, a hand held drum keeping an ancient beat.

(Epilogue: The Indians finished fourth in their division that season. The medicine bags stayed. So did the logo.)

William J. Hughes is a freelance writer living in Sacramento, CA. He has written five novels to date, including the novella Bottom of the Ninth. He is currently working on a story about American volunteers in the Spanish Civil War.

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