The Racist New Year’s Bang!

by River Rivers
(edited by Rachel Macklin)

Sometimes all it takes to drown out ignorance and hate is a loud bang–preferably the pyrotechnic kind. And this New Year’s Eve, I’d had a lot of that shit tossed my way thanks to social media. Some days it’s hard being Native, and this was one of them.

Moments ago, I’d muted my Twitter notifications and turned off my phone because earlier today, Elizabeth “I’m 1/1-billionth Native American” Warren decided to throw her hat in the ring for President. Naturally, it brought the trolls out of the woodwork, but these weren’t your run-of-the mill mudslingers. They used Native slurs and offensive jokes to attack her, without thinking of the damage it did to our community. In some twisted part of their hater brains, they thought ‘Injun’ and ‘Chief’ jokes were supporting us. I didn’t like her false claim of heritage, but the backlash from colonizers was a thousand times worse.

Fuck that, and fuck their Fauxahontas bullshit. I had to walk away and find peace or I’d explode.

I stared in silence at the darkened sky as fog rolled over the mountains’ silhouette beyond. A flashlight and lighter rested in my hands while the clock ticked toward midnight. In front of me sat a pyro’s dream of assorted fireworks–all illegal and therefore perfect for the task at hand. When the earth officially completed its lap around the sun, I’d light the fuckers up. Only a dazzling chemical combustion could cleanse me from life and the evening’s chaos.

I tried not to think about how much the trolls really got to me. They’re trolls: spewing hate is what they do and I shouldn’t pay any attention. But I’m Native, so I’m part of a long line of people who spent their lives putting up with ignorance. After centuries of this crap, your bullshit meter wears down until it’s impossible not to take things personally.

One troll showed his true colors with a burst of racist rants against Natives after I asked another colonizer not to say Injun. He tried to wriggle off the hook by white-splaining that his jokes were a jab at ignorant white people and stereotypes. “Of course I didn’t mean any offense to the Indigenous.” This from a guy whose bio read like bumper-sticker bingo for God and country. What a load of garbage. He was a man pretending to stand for something and was really sitting down for nothing. His hypocrisy stunk worse than the scent of sulfur coming from my fireworks display.

Other Natives tried to step in and educate him, but he didn’t care. He kept on white-splaining his excuses to us in the typical manner of someone doubling down on bad behavior. He even wrote a numbered list of Why He Was Right and We Were Wrong, which went something like this:

I don’t give a crap. (Obviously)
You don’t speak for all Native Americans. (No, but I am an actual Native telling you I’m offended)
Injun isn’t inherently offensive. (It’s an anglicized bastardization of Indian used to dehumanize Natives during colonization and enforce lazy white speak, so you tell me)
I didn’t tell anyone how to feel. (No, you threw out hate vomit and got pissed people called you on it)
I hope you feel stupid for posting a stupid comment. (…?)

I wanted to go off on him. I wanted to say he was promoting Pan-Indianism, ignoring tribal distinctions, and tokenizing the Natives who might agree with him. He was a classic example of the white Christian proverb: “How is that racist?”

But like many of my people who have come before me, I was too drained to keep up the fight. I didn’t choose to be the intolerance police and if I’m honest, there’s times when I resent the role. Let someone else educate the ignorant bastard.

So I stepped back and let other voices take the lead, and I wasn’t disappointed. They tore into his false claims with surgical precision, sharing personal experience and historical resources. Suddenly, the troll’s entitlement was on full display in a public forum, and time would make him irrelevant. In that moment, I saw hope. I saw the reflection of years to come and realized our voices would only grow louder, while those like his would fade into silence.

I also realized it was time to unplug and shift to positive things. I had a girl I liked coming over and a boatload of illegal fireworks that required my attention.

I flicked the lighter with my thumb and flame sparked in the night. I bent over and set fire to the first wick–a fine box of gunpowder aptly named Infinite Storm.

As I watched the wick burn, a sense of pride for my people rose inside me. The sky was the limit from here on out. We’re resilient and our souls know no boundary. In 2019, I would devote myself to writing my personal Indigenous experiences. That was my resolution.

With a massive crackle, the firework ignited in a cascade of glittering light and a shiver of excitement crept up my spine. My white friend’s family whooped and shouted as we rang in the new year, and I finally accepted I was exactly where I was meant to be.

When the initial white-hot lights disappeared, I lit another blast to keep them going, then another, until all twelve boxes were nothing but burned-out shells. And somewhere between the reverberating booms and radiant, color-soaked sky, I forgot about the trolls, the hate, and the constant white noise of intolerance. I focused on all the love I had to give the world.

This year was for me. Not for him.


River Rivers, is an emerging writer from Southern Oregon. He is a Modoc and Klamath American Indian. His most recent stories are currently featured in Literally Stories, TallTaleTv, Snow Leopard Publishing, the Drabble Dark Anthology, Paper Trains Literary Journal and Daedalus Magazine.

You can follow River Rivers on Twitter @Catch22Fiction and on instagram @riverrivers921.

Dinner Stains

by River Rivers

$7.25 an hour doesn’t pay the bills.

At least it couldn’t when Tully was a school Janitor. Years passed since those days. He had since moved up in the world, finding respectable work in his trade. His current employer, Immaculate Worship Church, hired him $15.00 at full time with all the included benefits. It was dirty, repetitive, thankless work, but it allowed him to support a large family and spend time with them too.

This morning Tully and his trainee Henry weren’t upkeeping the church grounds, they would be taking the company van out to the worship’s privately owned warehouse. Tully was surprised the boy was ever hired. Henry was a self-proclaimed Protestant, who believed Mary wasn’t an eternal virgin and had natural born children before Christ. Tully reminded Henry when he began to keep his beliefs private. The Immaculate Worship didn’t tolerate such hearsay among its affiliates. Tully learned fast to keep his thoughts to himself. He’d be fired if he told the Elders that the idea of virginity is sexist and promotes slut shaming.

“Be respectful when entering this place,” Tully warned Henry upon arrival. “It’s on these site grounds that the Vestal apprentices who failed to keep their hymens intact before they age to thirty are buried alive under stones to preserve the order’s sanctity.” The Vestals, also called the Roman Women, were virgin priestesses honored among the Immaculate Elders. They attended to the many properties and practices of the church.

The boy nodded his head as he listened, reassuring him with an, “I will, I will.”

They gathered their cleaning supplies into a cart. When allowed inside the warehouse the two Janitors were made welcome by several Vestals. Practicing nudists, the vestals saw the naked form as a non-sexual entity. They were permitted no clothing when performing duties. The common vestal was known for their white cotton masks and pearl jewelry. Their nakedness made Henry uncomfortable. Tully, a married man, took no issue with this and was used to their eerie presence. Only a Lead Mary was allowed to speak on the group’s behalf. Any other Vestals were wraiths that waited in silence, otherwise, they moved about their tasks almost unseen.

The Lead Mary, a tall woman who Tully recognized, greeted them with standard prayers and asked them to drink from the cups her apprentices offered. It was ‘Elders Brew’ a blisteringly hot and bitter tasting liquid which was custom for church hosts to offer their guests. Tully always had to pee minutes after drinking it and would need to use the restroom before getting to work. Henry didn’t feel the need and waited. Upon return he noticed the Lead Mary was carrying a strainer with water miraculously held within, not a single drop had fallen through the mesh holes. She said nothing of it and led them where they needed to be.

The main room was locked and it took an elder’s own key for the Lead Mary to open it. She blessed them with a bow and left. “Is it true that come Armageddon the Elders will sell the Vestals to powerful men in order to secure assets? Virgins go for a high bride price.” The Trainee asked him the moment she was out of earshot.

“What did I say about respect, boy? The Elders could be listening.”

They opened the door to a warm blast of stinking air. Enough to make any man vomit. A poor ventilation system and smoke coming from a recently abandoned fire pit worsened the smell. The scene was pure gore. They walked to the table over lily flowers that covered the floor from corner to corner. By the bust of Athena displayed in the center, he determined this warehouse room was set up to mimic the Parthenon Dining Hall of the main church building. He pictured the Elders in here during the twilight hours clinking their dinnerware and casting spells.

We are cleaning after a Conception Feast. Henry is not ready to see this, thought Tully.

The sins of the cult needed to be washed away. The dinner remains were left a bloody mess as if a giant had spilled a cup of deep red wine onto the room’s contents. Blood didn’t simply stain the symbolic marriage-bed-sheets hung up like tapestries. It stuck to the dinner plates, congealed together in pools on the tablecloth, splattered onto silverware, filled bowls to the brim, even the glasses contained foggy fingerprints. There were too many knives to count and a tattered white dress tossed aside to be forgotten. Strange symbols and words spread out and written in a language he could not read. The evidence of virginal sacrifice and spiritual consumption were obvious. Nothing Tully hadn’t seen or cleaned after before.

However, the boy wasn’t expecting this, he was in shock and trying to process the scene before him. Tully informed Henry they would need more than what was brought in the cart if the task was to be completed in time. Sending him to the van for supplies would save him from viewing the nearby body. Henry would have no idea that the girl’s sacrifice would allow a Vestal, most like the Lead Mary, to become pregnant with a future Master and Elder. That a Vestal was prophesied this century to give birth to the next Prophet, the next Saviour.

Tully then remembered that Conception Feasts came in pairs and a male virgin was more valuable than a female in the eyes of the Immaculate. This sin was forgiven, but soon another will be committed. Suddenly he feared for his trainee Henry. That was a stain he didn’t want to scrub out.


River Rivers is a writer lost in the Cascadian mountain lands of Oregon. He spends his time with his two adopted Pitbulls, Gemma and Murphy. Somehow in between their chaos, he finds a time for work and fiction.