Time Like Masks by Oscar Hokeah

“Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul.” ― Dave Pelzer, A Child Called “It”

Time Like Masks - New Text 5Carl stopped in front of a mask on the far right wall, gawking. I dug bloodroot to dye the gourd for its face, singed horse hair for the curls on its head, carved its crooked nose from a knot in buckeye wood.  Booger masks lined the walls of my store primarily for the tourists.  I’ve sold cedar flutes, ribbon shirts, beaded moccasins, and the like, going on twenty years (at Chero-Hawk Indian Store for ten of those years).  In all that time, the locals, Cherokee or not, paid little attention to my traditional masks.  Mostly, it was the tourists.  But Carl had an eye on one booger mask as soon as he stepped foot through the door, and he gawked, tell you myself, gawked as though he seen a hundred people.

Come to find out, he was the grandson to my aunt Josie, who was the sister to my mother, Leanna. According to Cherokee clan customs, Carl was a nephew, a nephew through a first cousin I hardly knew.  Guess that was how relations grew as old got older—more years, more kin.  My aunt Josie went and married a Kiowa and spent most of her days living in southern Oklahoma; I never visited so I hardly seen my cousins, much less their kids.  Carl, on the other hand, made himself known to me in a peculiar way.  Unlike others, I listened to him, and you might say, at least how I figured, he baffled everyone.

His younger sister’s name was Yolanda, after an aunt on his father’s side—except he called her Sissy. She was two years younger than his ten.  His mother, my first cousin, was nicknamed Turtle, and, from what I’ve seen, Carl took after her like a reflection on the water.  Now he was named after his father.  Everyone called his father by his full name, Carlos Francisco Carrillo-Chavez, who took the name on a part of a rumor in his home village down in Mexico; supposedly, his father descended from a Spanish governor.


“Follow the traumatic experiences of a little boy who overcomes the worst of what he has become through an old traditional Cherokee custom.”

My short story, Time Like Masks, was originally published in South Dakota Review.  With purchase, you will receive a full digital. Thank you for supporting the arts! Click on the Amazon Kindle icon below to continue reading Time Like Masks.

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