I know I’m smart. And a great filmmaker. Just because I haven’t filmed anything doesn’t mean anything. I know what I would film would be ten, no one-hundred times better than what those other Indians, who’ve gotten so much attention that they don’t even deserve have done. I mean, I’m going to be working with Harry Brownhorse, and though he acts like he can barely stand me, I know he thinks I’m a genius.
If I could just get rid of Laura. She’s always on me, and it’s really annoying. I never should have hooked up with her in the first place. That was a total mistake. And I know I keep having sex with her, but it’s just because I’m so used to her by now. She’s so young, it makes it easy. That one time I hooked up with that crazy bitch Fawna and Laura started screaming and crying outside the door cause she’d followed us home from the bar was just awful. It’s just that I hate confrontation and besides, every time I start something with a new girl she ends up being one of those Indians who get everything and it just really bothers me.
I went to the Anondyne a few weeks ago to get a drink and just you know, relax, see if I might run into anyone I know and there’s Harry and Harlen Kurjo playing pool, looking deep in discussion. I figure that they won’t mind if I join. So I walk up to Harlen, and like, kind of stand behind him and Harry but they don’t see me and keep on talking. That’s the thing with these guys, they’re so self-important. It’s amazing how big and important they think they are, like the whole stupid world is listening. The hilarious part about it is that no one outside of the Indian world even cares. The only Native filmmaker they give a fuck about is Alex Smith, and he’s really a writer anyway. And he’s someone who’s gotten more than he deserves too.
Anyway, finally I just start tapping Harry’s shoulder and he like, sighs like I’m fucking five years old or something and then turns around and smiles at me from below. Because you know, he’s like, barely over five feet tall. I tell him hey and ask if I could I buy him and Harlen a round and they look at each other and shrug. I smile and go up to the bar to get drinks all the time thinking about how I’m going to go back there after I get their drinks, slam the drinks down on the table and tell them that I think they’re overrated nobodies.
I stand at the long, wooden bar fuming, trying not to face punch the drunk white guy next to me who keeps elbowing my ribs when the bartender finally pays attention to me. I get myself a beer and order shots of Patrón cause that’s the only thing Harry will drink. He thinks he’s some kind of Navajo G I guess. I walk back over to them, my heart pounding in my chest the whole way, and hand them their tequila. They don’t even thank me and continue playing. I stand near them, my arms crossed over my chest, wondering if I should just retreat to one of the sticky, red, duct taped booths and drink a few beers on my own. I feel like I’m being turned inside out listening to them talk on and on about Harry’s latest. It’s something about Boarding Schools, which I’m so tired of I could puke. I mean, Jesus, what about talking about how we are now? That’s what I was always thinking about when I was thinking about writing a short story collection though I never had time to write it. I mean, I work in a library and that takes up a lot of my time. Plus the writing world is completely stupid. I’m totally done with it. At least film has an audience. Plus, the writers I always meet are always total jerks.
Finally I tap Harry on the shoulder and he sighs again like I’m stopping him from building the Mayan pyramids and turns around and looks at me, not even opening his mouth to speak. I feel like taking that pool stick that’s in his short, stubby brown hand and cracking it over his head. Mind if I play? I ask and he looks over his shoulder at Harlen, with his with his stupid wannabe Johnny Depp stubble and hipster glasses. Harlen shrugs, says, Sure. We were just talking about you, Snap, and hands me his pool cue. I start to sweat because what the fuck did he mean by talking about me but I take the pool cue and Harry sets up the balls and takes a shot without even asking me if I’d like to take a crack at them, which I’m actually really good at. I ask him about his new film and though at first he barely acknowledges my presence, after a while, after I buy him and Harlen, who’s hitting on some new Indian chick I’ve never seen before more shots, he starts to loosen up. He goes on and on about how everyone loves his film, not that he cares. He talks about all of the old Native chicks who cry introducing it and laughs and asks me for another shot after he wins the game, which I go and get for him, nervous the whole time wondering if he’s going to replace me while I’m up at the bar. I keep looking back but he’s just joined Harlen and they seem to be competing over the new girl, who’s tossing her long dark hair behind her ears and laughing, never talking. I frown. It’s bullshit how they get all of the women and leave nothing for the rest of us. I mean, when’s it my turn?
I get the shots finally and walk back over to them, having to nearly push people out of my way it’s so crowded and hand them their drinks, which they take. The girl squeals, what about me? And she laughs flirtatiously but not really at me. Yeah, Snap, what about Gillian? I want to tell them to buy drinks for pussy themselves but I laugh and go and get her a drink. When I get back and hand it to her, assuming that she wanted Patrón, she looks at it and asks, what’s this? I look over at Harry, who says, Patrón baby, you’ll love it. She squenches her nose like a five year old who’s just smelled a dog fart and demands a long island ice tea. Snap to it, Snap, Harry says and Harlen laughs. I feel like killing them both and take the shot myself, and walk back up to the bar. This will all pay off, I know it.
I come back with the Long Island and the stupid girl practically jerks it from my hand and starts sucking at it, not even looking at me. I sit down next to Harry and try to strike up a conversation again about doing a project together. That’s the thing about Harry, he’s always got his hands in some kind of money, he’s always hustling. That’s not me. I’m an idea man. Last time we talked, he seemed interested in what I was saying, about doing something about Oklahoma. I mean, Harry does stuff about the Navajo Rez but he’s always saying that he doesn’t want to do that anymore, that he just wants to make money. So I figure I can kind of use him as he’s on his way up. He’s got a lot of connections, and I’ve got a lot of great ideas, so I think we’d make a great team. I mean, I emailed one of the writers that are getting so much attention who is at least writing about what Indians are like now in Oklahoma and he said that he’d work with me but I just need… you know… the connections and money first. That’s why I didn’t email him back. I’m sure I would write better stories anyway. And I’ll get something together as soon as I can get Harry to help me. I mean, really I’d be helping him. His films aren’t really that good but he just keeps getting everything, so I’ve just got to take advantage of that.
I kept eyeballing Harry and trying to interject, but eventually Harry and Harlen just went off with the chick, mumbling something about getting high in Harry’s hotel room. They didn’t say anything about me coming, but I wouldn’t have wanted to anyway. I’m really not into parties and I like to go to bed early. I mean, I have a job. A real job that I had to go to school for.
I walked home feeling pissed off and angry and then telling myself that I was paranoid and that Harry would text me for sure the next day to talk about our project. When I got home I pulled my phone out of my pocket. I could see that Laura had called or texted like, fifty times. I sighed heavily. She was so annoying. I texted her to come over.
About a week or two after that though, I got shit figured out. All of the great ones just crashed into shit, knew they were entitled to it, right? That’s what Harry and Harlen do. I had had this whole thing wrong the whole time. What an idiot. I mean, not like I’m really an idiot, just like, I’m an idiot for not getting it sooner. All I had to do was get my ticket to the Red Stick festival. Now, I’m about to get everything I deserve. Nobody’s going to believe how famous I am in a few years. All I have to do now is wait for it to come to me.
Honestly, I was pretty baller. The first day of Red Stick I texted Harry and Harlen. But this time, I didn’t care if they texted back at all. And since they’re spoiled shits, they didn’t. Normally this would have really pissed me off. I would have sat in Evangelo’s all day and drank cheap beer after cheap beer, watching all of the stupid pseudo-famous Skins walk through the door, yell stupid Indian jokes at each other, and leave to have stupid, pseudo-famous Indian sex. But I didn’t. I went to a screening of a film all on my own and sat through the whole thing. It was a documentary about basketball on reservations. It was all about how it’s actually really traditional to play basketball, and empowering and stuff. About these two teenage girls that everyone’s wild about because they’ve won a couple of games. I fucking hate basketball.
After the film I saw this girl I kind of knew. I’d taken a summer class with her at the Institute of American Indian Arts and I could see her talking to the director of the film. I walked up and said hi and even though she looked like she didn’t recognize me at all, I started talking to her a mile a minute so she couldn’t get out of talking to me. See how I’m really starting to figure it all out? The director was this obnoxious looking guy with ridiculously long hair and a huge, insanely expensive turquoise necklace that looked like he’d bought it yesterday somewhere in downtown Santa Fe on the plaza. I walked right up to him and introduced myself. He looked kind of annoyed because he’d been talking to some people, but then when I said I was a director he looked like maybe I might be someone important and paid attention to me. He asked me what film of mine was screening and I mumbled something so that he couldn’t really understand me and then I asked him where the after party was. See, you have to be a go-getter. And I was tired of waiting my turn. That’s not what Harlen and Harry do. No way. They take what they need. He looked at me funny and then said that he was going to probably have dinner with friends and then go to bed. I elbowed him and said, sure, But what about the VIPs? He looked at me for a moment and then said, I’ll tell you what, you give me your number and I’ll text you if anything is happening later. I promise. I felt a surge of excitement and whipped my phone out and told him that I’d call his number so he’d have it, but he said, that’s OK, why don’t I just put your number in my phone? So I gave it to him and we talked for a bit more and then I walked over to the girl I knew, whose name I couldn’t remember. She had a funny expression on her face and I was sure it was because she was impressed. I asked her if she was going to dinner but she just sighed and turned away from me.
I walked over to Evangelo’s to celebrate. I had a green chili cheeseburger and fries and then sat at the bar, staring at my phone. I talked with a couple of guys at the bar, told them I was there for Red Stick. A lot of them were there for it too, mainly minor actors. Man, those guys kill me. There was this one dude I met, skinny as hell, hair dyed jet black, Native guy from Vancouver. Drank nothing but gin and tonics, one after another. But he never seemed to get drunk. He was living in Los Angeles off of this broad. She hot? I asked. He shrugged. He was dressed completely in black, black tank, jeans, all black like some kind of throwback heavy metal rock star from the 80’s. The only thing on him that wasn’t black was his belt buckle, which was in the shape of a gun, and made of diamonds. Your woman give that to you? He shrugged. Told me that he did a bunch of buckskin parts where he was always killed off. Said it was work, at least he was playing Indians. He left. I looked at my phone. Had another beer. Talked to another buckskin actor. By the time the bar closed, all I’d gotten was a text from Laura asking What’s up? Of course I ignored it. I wasn’t gonna let her get in my way.
On the way home, I thought about the girl from IA and the director and how maybe they and like, Robert Redford were all at the Cowgirl eating and drinking and having a big laugh at my expense. Then I realized how ridiculous that thought was. I mean, being a director is exhausting, that’s what Harry says. He’s always talking about how that’s why he needs to wind down at the end of the day with some drinks and drugs and chicks. That makes sense. Though I don’t know if I could handle all that drinking and drugs. Maybe just the chicks.
Anyway, I crawled into bed that night feeling pretty good, pretty proud of myself. I looked at my phone and there was another text from Laura. It said lol, u better b careful or ill go home w someone else. I rolled my eyes and turned off my phone and pulled the covers up. I was in a Motel 6 on the edge of town. I had gotten a hotel because I’d known that I’d needed to be in Santa Fe for Red Stick. I was sure that the next day was going to be even better. I was going to go to the best screening I could find and tell Harlen and Harry so that they could see how I wasn’t taking shit anymore.
The next day I was sitting in the theatre, watching a stupid film about Innuits. I remembered seeing the director’s name in the paper a few months back. The film went on forever, and I could barely understand it but I decided that I was definitely going to make something happen this time. After the film I went up and started talking to the director. He was definitely impressed. I mean, I’ve read just about every book by every Native or Innuit writer ever. So I know what I’m talking about. He told me that a group of them were going to have dinner that night and that I should join them. I told him that I’d have to check my schedule but that I thought I could manage. This festival is madness I said suavely and he laughed and nodded. The hangers-on are what drive me the craziest, he said and I laughed nervously and pushed for his phone number.
I went to town for some lunch, and sat down and immediately started texting Harlen and Harry to gloat. Good for you, Snap, Harlen texted back about thirty minutes later. I laughed and ate my burger. I knew he was jealous. It was obvious. They were gonna wish they’d treated me better. They would be begging to work with me someday. I wish that Harlen would work with me. His film did really well at Sundance, unlike Harry’s. Plus, we’re both from Oklahoma and Harlen is always talking about how important Oklahoma is to him. Me too. It’s so important to me. I mean, I don’t want to go back there but it’s still the most important thing in my life.
That night, at the Blue Corn Café I told the chick at the front that I was meeting a group. I’m a director, I said, leaning in. She just looked at me and then said I was free to look around, but that as far as she knew, no one was looking for a Mason Snap. I looked all around the restaurant but that director whose name I couldn’t remember wasn’t there. I walked up to the bar and sat down on one of the tall, wooden chairs and ordered a Corona. I traced the metallic countertop with my finger. I walked back over to the chick at the front and told her that I was happy to start the table. She looked at me for a few seconds, her buggy green eyes practically popping out of her head and then asked how many people were in my party. I said I didn’t know. She sighed and told me that since they were really busy, that she couldn’t seat me and an invisible party of people, especially if I didn’t even know how many were coming. I felt a surge of rage and told her that I was a director and that there were other directors coming, really important guys, and that she should watch out because they could have her job. I’ll get my manager, she said.
I leaned against the wall and waited, looking at my phone to see if the director had texted. After a couple of minutes, she came back with the manager, who asked if we could sit at the bar together and talk. I explained the situation and he nodded and said, I tell you what. You have another drink on the house and the minute your party comes in, I’ll personally see to it that you get a table. I told him that would be satisfactory. He nodded, shook my hand and signaled for the bartender. I ordered another Corona. I looked at my phone. It was 6:30, a half hour after he said he’d come. But he was a director, he was important. And plus, he was an Indian director or at least you know, an Innuit one, so he was sure to be late as hell. Not me. I had never been one of those on Indian time guys. I’m always early.
A half an hour later I was sure I’d been ditched and was ready to shove a burrito into my face and then go to Evangelo’s and drink. This was bullshit. I mean, I had really done something. And I deserved for it to be my turn. I was thinking that as soon as I remembered that director’s name I was gonna go tell everyone about what a douche he was and he’d never work again. But in the middle of my working myself up into a frenzy, in comes the director, a group of Hollywood Indians right behind. I got up real cool and slow and walked over to him. Hey, I said. He narrowed his eyes thoughtfully and didn’t answer and I could tell he didn’t know who I was, at all. I felt sick. Then he broke into a smile. It’s that guy I was telling you about! He said, clapping me on the arm. I just about shit I felt so good. I walked over to the stupid chick up at the front and she sighed and got us menus and led us to a table. I impressed everyone with my knowledge. I really do read a ton. And there was one girl at the table, this blue-eyed Innuit chick who was just gorgeous and she was eyeing me in this really obvious way and I was so glad that soon I could just ditch Laura, that my life would be filled with women like this.
After dinner everyone was pretty drunk and in a really good mood and no one wanted to end the party so I suggested we go to this bar that I went to all the time with Harlen and Harry. Well, at least, I usually saw them there and then hung out with them, which is pretty much the same thing. I was sure they’d be there, which would be awesome because then I could rub it in their stupid faces that I was with really important people, like I’d been texting.
Walking down the street we were loud, and the streets were loud with directors and it seemed like everyone was drunk, and everyone was important. I was even sure at one point that I saw Winona Rider. Supposedly, she loves Indians. I wondered for a moment if I would become so famous that Winona Rider would want to have sex with me. I shook my head and laughed at myself, but in the back of my mind I knew that if this day was any indication of the future, that could definitely happen.
We walked down the steep steps into The Underground. It was wild with music, the deep, damp, smell of beer rising up to meet us as we descended. I waded through an ocean of dark hair, Harlen and Harry appearing nearly the minute I started to make my way to the bar. I nodded at them and though they acted like they barely noticed me, I was sure they were jealous. I figured I’d be big about it all and buy them some drinks. Hell, why not, they were soon going to be begging me for attention. And they were always poor.
After telling the crew that I had some people I had to talk with, I walked up to the bar and bought a round of Patrón and started to bring the drinks over to Harlen and Harry and stopped. There was that goddamn Indian ballet dancer I’d almost hooked up with a while back. She was having some sort of argument with another girl and Harlen and Harry were just standing there looking stupid. I could hear Harry say something like, Cool it girls and the ballet dancer walked off. I went over to them and said, Glad she didn’t see me and nodded towards the dancer. Why’s that, Snap? Harry said, sounding testy. He was watching her go. She’s crazy. I’m sure if she’d have seen me I wouldn’t have been able to get away from her, I said. And Harry just took both shots of Patrón from my hands and gulped them down, one after another. But that other one is for… I said, and Harlen clapped me on the back, a silver bracelet around his wrist making it sting. It’s OK Snap, he said, pulling me away from Harry, which made me feel anxious. I looked at the dancer. She was at the bar with that crazy Pueblo bitch Fawna, who was talking at the dancer like her mouth was some kind of machine gun, the dancer nodding and obviously looking around for a chance to escape. I hoped she would stay over there. I could see the girl who’d been arguing with the dancer yelling at Harry, who was nodding and sipping at a drink that had seemed to appear in his hands spontaneously after Harlen had pulled me away. The girl was really young. And she looked totally fucked up. But she was hot. She looked sort of like my Laura. Navajo for sure. Then she was gesturing wildly at Harry who was staring blankly at her, and then over at the dancer. She started pulling Harry towards the exit and he had to violently push her hands off of him. I thought this would make her mad and she’d storm off but instead she starting stroking his chubby brown arm. Then she laughed and walked off towards the bar presumably to get another drink. Harlen sighed and followed her.
Why are the hot ones always crazy? I said, walking back over to Harry and standing next to him. That seemed to be the right thing to say, because Harry laughed and then said, You’re alright Snap. He asked me what I was doing there and I told him about all of the great stuff and Harry nodded and looked at me like I was important. I looked back, my heart beating hard. I knew this was it. I took a deep breath. We should do something together, I said. You know I’ve got great ideas. Harry looked at me, his little brown eyes full of some kind of emotion I just couldn’t get at and then he said, Sure, let’s talk about that. It was then that I knew all of my hard work was going to pay off. That I was going to be famous. That there would be a point where I’d go home and my family wouldn’t laugh at me for being a piddling librarian. No one would ever laugh at me again. I was about to ask Harry about when we should get together when the crazy Nav chick came back. I thought she was going to hand him yet another drink, but she started pulling on him again and this time, he let her drag him out, smiling at me as he went, a couple of chicks on the stairs yelling, Come on! I turned around to look for Harlen, but he was over by the dancer, who was nodding as he talked. She was looking over at the exit and running her hands through her long, dark brown hair. They talked for a little bit longer and then left together. But that was OK. I looked around for the crew I came in with, but they were nowhere to be seen. Even Fawna was gone. The only person I recognized was this crazy actress who’d gotten fat and was always hanging all over Harry. She was staring at the crowd, her eyes like the inside of an abandoned truck’s. I walked over to the bar and leaned in, working to get the bartender’s attention. I waived at her and she looked annoyed. I smiled. She put her back to me, reaching for a bottle of something violently green. I began to tear up, my throat constricting. A few minutes later, the bartender came over and I started to order a beer and stopped. I smiled again at the bartender who didn’t smile back, and said I’ll have a shot of Patrón. I watched her go, her short shorts riding up, the hot, wooden smell of the bar so familiar and cruel.
Erika T. Wurth’s novel, Crazyhorse’s Girlfriend, has been accepted for publication by Curbside Splendor. Her work has appeared in numerous journals. She teaches creative writing at Western Illinois University and she’s been a guest writer at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She’s Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee and was raised outside of Denver.
–Art by Denis Olivier