Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield Me and my sister, Jacquie, were doing our homework in the living room with the TV on when our mom came home withthe news that we'd be moving to Alcatraz. "Pack your things. We're going over there. Today," our mom said. And we knew what she meant. We'd been over there to celebrate not celebrating Thanksgiving. Back then we lived in East Oakland, in a yellow house. It was the brightest but smallest house on the block. A two-bedroom with a tiny kitchen that couldn't even fit a table. I didn't love it there, the carpets were too thin and smelled like dirt and smoke. We didn't have a couch or TV at first, but it was definitely better than where we were before. One morning our mom woke us up in a hurry, her face was beat up. She had a brown leather jacket way too big for her draped over her shoulders. Both her top and bottom lips were swollen. Seeing those big lips messed me up. She couldn't talk right. She told us to pack our things then too. Jacquie's last name is Red Feather, and mine is Bear Shield. Both our dads had left our mom. That morning our mom came home beat up, we took the bus to a new house, the yellow house. I don't know how she got us a house. On the bus I moved closer to my mom and put a hand into her jacket pocket. "Why do we got names like we do?" I said. "They come from old Indian names. We had our own way of naming before white people came over and spread all those dad names around in order to keep the power with the dads." I didn't understand this explanation about dads. And I didn't know if Bear Shield meant shields that bears used to protect themselves, or shields people used to protect themselves against bears, or were the shields themselves made out of bears? Either way it was all pretty hard to explain in school, how I was a Bear Shield, and that wasn't even the worst part. The worst part was my first name, which was two: Opal Viola. That makes me Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield. Victoria was our mom's name, even though she went by Vicky, and Opal Viola came from our grandma who we never met. Our mom told us she was a medicine woman and renowned singer of spiritual songs, so I was supposed to carry that big old name around with honor. The good thing was, the kids didn't have to do anything to my name to make fun of me, no rhymes or variations. They just said the whole thing and it was funny. We got on a bus on a cold gray morning in late January 1970. Me and Jacquie had matching beat-up old red duffel bags that didn't hold much, but we didn't have much. I packed two outfits and tucked my teddy bear, Two Shoes, under my arm. The name Two Shoes came from my sister, because her childhood teddy bear only had one shoe the way they got it. Her bear wasn't named One Shoe, but maybe I should have considered myself lucky to have a bear with two shoes and not just one. But then bears don't wear shoes, so maybe I wasn't lucky either but something else. Out on the sidewalk, our mom turned to face the house. "Say goodbye to it, girls." I'd gotten used to keeping an eye on the front door. I'd seen more than a few eviction notices. And sure enough, one was right there. Our mom always kept them up so she could claim she never saw them, in order to buy time. Me and Jacquie looked up at the house. It'd been okay, the yellow house. For what it was. The first one we'd been in without either of the dads, so it'd been quiet, and even sweet, like the banana cream pie our mom made the first night we spent there, when the gas worked but the electricity hadn't been turned on yet, and we ate standing up in the kitchen, in candlelight. We were still thinking of what to say when our mom yelled "Bus!" and we had to scamper after her, dragging our matching red duffel bags behind us. It was the middle of the day, so hardly anyone was on the bus. Jacquie sat a few seats back like she didn't know us, like she was riding alone. I wanted to ask my mom more about the island, but I knew she didn't like to talk on the bus. She turned like Jacquie. Like we all didn't know each other. "Why should we speak our business around people we don't even know?" she'd say. After a while, I couldn't take it anymore. "Mom," I said."What are we doing?" "We're going to be with our relatives. Indians of All Tribes. We're going over to where they built that prison. Gonna start from the inside of the cell, which is where we are now, Indian people, that's where they got us, even though they don't make it seem like they got us there. We're gonna work our way out from the inside with a spoon. Here, look at this." She handed me a laminated card from her purse the size of a playing card. It was that picture you see everywhere, the sad-Indian-on-a-horse silhouette, and on the other side it said Crazy Horse's Prophecy . I read it: Upon suffering beyond suffering; the Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world. A world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations. A world longing for light again. I see a time of seven generations, when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again. I didn't know what she was trying to tell me with that card, or about the spoon. But our mom was like that. Speaking in her own private language. I asked her if there would be monkeys. I thought for some reason that all islands had monkeys. She didn't answer my question, she just smiled and watched the long gray Oakland streets stream by the bus window like it was an old movie she liked but had seen too many times to notice anymore. Excerpted from There There: A Novel by Tommy Orange All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. 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