Short prose by Lee Maracle
This happened on a Thursday.
The dogs, all thirteen of them unclothed rattled along quarrelling on their way to Highway 409 Barrie bound, were stopped by a security guard riding his bicycle. He bellowed at the dogs, which stopped nipping, biting and yelping at each other. He grabbed the lead dog, and asked to see his dog tag and the dog submitted, leaning his head to show his tag. He asked what all the fuss was about and they said, “Family”.
He blinked, curious at the veracity of the answer. He thought about his family and determining the answer honest, asked if they thought his family could live in harmony.
A short time before, the guard, who called himself Archer, returned home after a bout of swilling beer with a friend whom he had not seen since high school. He needed to borrow time before dying, Archer had loaned him all night, and went home drunk and walked into his family room to see them waiting for him. They all stood still looking, boring holes in him, the refuse bags of chips, pop and cookies that graced every end and coffee table pushed up guilt and shame in him. He was late, it was his mother’s birthday, his mind, heart, even his skin, felt so out of whack, his family, quiet, unassuming, looked at him, eyes soft, inviting.
He didn’t want to see them like that, unforgiving, while he had been a cad. The guilt seeped into his clothes; he did not want to carry it with him, but could not see a way to apologize. Instead he decided to remove the guilt covered in guilt clothes and stood naked before them.
He climbed up on the coffee table pointed at the guilt racked clothes and said “No more”. The entire family looked away, each of them gasping or grunting and his mother even screamed. They saw him as some sort of pervert and as they came out of shock, they drifted from the room in disgust. Ten minutes it took to dress himself, but the damage had been thorough. For the life of him he could not explain even to himself, why he wanted them to accept his body, naked and guilt free. They forgave him, but he remained skeptical as each member sidestepped and skirted around him, not daring to look right at him.
So Archer thought maybe the dogs might have some insight into family quarrelling, as they were on King street and now packing before him as though all hard feelings had passed, they said no, not until humans see themselves as animals and had let go of their humanity. Then you will understand that the desire for nakedness has nothing to do with guilt or shame, just forgiveness.
Lee Maracle BIO:
Lee Maracle is the author of a number of critically acclaimed winning literary works including:Sojourner’s and Sundogs, Ravensong, Bobbi Lee, Daughters Are Forever, Will’s Garden, Bent Box, I Am Woman, and First Wives’ Club: Salish Style, and is co-editor of a number of anthologies including the award winning My Home As I Remember, Telling It: Women and Language Across Culture. She is a member of the Sto:Loh Nation and has served as the Distinguished Visiting Professor at both University of Toronto and Western Washington University. In 2009, Ms. Maracle received an Honorary Doctor of Letters from the St. Thomas University. Her upcoming work, Memory Serves: and other words will be published by Coromont Book sin 2013.