Social Progress at the Bus Stop

by Victor D Sandiego | Published: Jul 25, 2023

Every morning, Indians. As I wait for the bus, a coffee in my hand, Indians. They come from the alley next to the pawn shop. Chief wears newspapers and duct tape. I’m unclear what we’ve done. Or if I’m guilty.

“Good morning Chief,” I say. “What’s the plan?” Same thing I say every morning.

“No plan,” says Chief. His tribesmen nod. Everyone has mud on their shoes.

“Then what?”

“It’s time you called me God,” he says.

I laugh, spill a little coffee. The bus is almost here.

Chief touches my shoulder. “One more time and I’ll kill you,” he says.

“One more time what?”

“One more time you forget our history.”


At the office, I ask Claire. “Claire, have you ever known a redskin?”

“We don’t say that any more,” she says.

“What do you mean?”

“We don’t say what our eyes see.”

But that’s not what I wondered. I wondered if we have become our own fear, our own failure.

“Go back to work,” says Claire.

Back at work, I ask an immigrant. His papers shine.

“Have you ever been beaten for your birthplace?”

But he just stares at me, like a bellboy without a tip.


I go home. “Wife,” I ask. “What is the square root of decency?”

Wife laughs. “I could give you a calculation,” she says, “but I’d rather give you an example.” She pulls out the last census.

“I see there are more people than animals,” I say.

“There are more animals than decency,” Wife says.

“What does that mean?”

Wife puts a napkin on our cat. “Stay,” she says, then:

“Let me explain. We crossed the sea, buried eagles in trash, chopped trees into houses, fed rivers to pipes. Now lakes are packed with asphalt. Fishes drink dirt.”

“What’s that got to do with me?” I ask. “I can count birds.”

“Indians,” she says.

Suddenly I’m lost in a dense forest of tall questions. All I thought true is covered in decay. My wife has betrayed me. My face is old.

“Let’s eat a corn,” I say. “That should help.” My world is garbled.

“Your logic,” my very own wife says, “is not welcome here.”

Now I’m further dulled. I believed I was always welcome. I arrived with a thousand ships in my throat, coughed them across a continent. They skidded over mountains and prairies, discharging cities and sewage in their wake. Our culture took root and made the grass wither.

We always promised a better life. More secure, wealthier. Fewer slaves. Some explosions to shape the land, sure, a small price for large ambitions. We would reach the other sea, tame the savage hills, and fill the valleys with hot dogs and banjo music.

Wife pulls a knife from her robes. “Would you have me slice?”

Depends on what she wants to cut, I think, but I play along. “Why not?” I reply.

The knife loosens old dirt we had hidden. A landslide falls upon our relationship. A century goes by. She digs herself out. “Look who I found,” she says. Chief stands by her side covered in welts and scars.

“Welcome,” he says. “I have tried so long to reach you.”

“You missed me by a hundred years,” I say. “All my words flew to the burial grounds. I’m no longer the same.”

“None of us are,” says Chief.

Wife jumps up. “Give him a chance,” she says.

Yes. I may have opposed justice while I slept.


Reporters knock the door, barge in. “What do you think of crimes against humanity?” they ask.

“They belong punished,” I say.

“What about genocide? Forced relocation?”

“That must never happen again.”

But the lips on TV that night aren’t my own. They’re lips exhumed from graves of ancestors who harvested riches with death marches and massacres.

“He agrees with us,” reporters crackle. “Oppression is necessary. Plus, people love life in the ghetto. It’s quite edgy.”

“Turn it off,” Wife says. “Deceit makes my stomach burn.”

She’s right. A slop trough of lies.

The screen fades and I hobble to the bedroom. Time to rest and in the morning take out the trash.


“Good morning Chief,” I say. “What’s the plan?”

“New plan,” says Chief. He has clean on his shoes.

“What is it?”

“It’s time you called me human,” he says.

Agreed. It’s overdue. And everybody else we’ve paved over.

“Yes,” I say. “Let’s do it right this time.”

The bus pulls up to the curb. Before I board, I glance around. Towers that house the workers stretch into the smoggy bosom of the sky. Boulevards that spread our spawn form crisscrossed festered wounds filled with red lights and strip malls.

The driver holds the wheel with one hand and beckons me to enter with the other.

Last chance, his simple sign language says. Let’s go. This is our very last chance.

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