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Winter 1997
Monopoly
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"What is it, anyway?" she asked. "What's a Indian?"

Even then I knew where the word had come from, who at school uttered it first: Mary Beth's brother. Who else knew what I was? Mary Beth didn't talk to anyone. Patrick, her brother, made it his business to know and spread everyone else's. I watched him the way a mouse watches a snake.

"You're a Indian," Allison pushed.

It was after school. I was walking to the parking lot, Mary Beth trailing with her armful of books. Earlier, during noon recess, I'd spiked the winning point against Allison's team. I thought she was mad at me. Two other girls joined her, the three of them surrounding me as I walked. I looked up, beyond them, and there was Mother, a red gingham scarf tied around her head, her thick brown arm hanging out the car window. Her eyes were peeled.

I don't know what possessed me. "My mother," I said and pointed. I don't know if I meant to scare them. Perhaps I simply wanted to deflect their attention so I could run. Maybe both. Regardless, they ran. Mother did scare them. With her hard, sun-blackened face and fat arms, she was ugly. She was everything they weren't. The girls didn't mention "Indian" again not out loud and I was careful not to cross Allison on the volleyball court.

I was lighter-skinned than Mother. At night, while taking a bath, I'd hold our enamel-backed mirror over my stomach and on my thighs where the sun hadn't touched my skin, and imagine my entire body the fair color reflected in the round of the glass. I would almost be the color of my classmates. And my hair wasn't too thick or black, and didn't grow low on my forehead the way Mother's did. I didn't think I was ugly, not just to look at me. And my clothes were acceptable dresses clean and what everyone else was wearing. But my house! I hadn't given it a second thought until I saw Mary Beth at the door, wide-eyed.

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