There There

by Tommy Orange

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Part II, Bill Davis–Jacquie Red Feather

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Bill Davis

Bill Davis prides himself on the hard work he accomplishes in maintenance at the Oakland Athletics stadium. While working, he spots a drone making its way toward home plate. He meets it there and tries to swat it down but doesn’t succeed. He is frustrated with his girlfriend, Karen, whom he feels babies her son Edwin. In fact, he feels that the entire younger generation are coddled babies with their faces lit by phone screens and their “gender-fluid fashion choices.”

Karen calls to ask Bill to pick up Edwin from his new job; Bill very reluctantly agrees. She reminds him that Edwin is making progress, at least going to work every day now. After they hang up, Bill recalls the incident that Edwin had experienced on the bus, the reason he now tries to avoid it. Edwin got into some altercation with a veteran, and both of them were kicked off. The man chased Edwin in his wheelchair all the way down the street and to work, so he arrived for his first day a sweaty mess.

Bill was dishonorably discharged after going AWOL in Vietnam in 1971. He was taking many drugs at the time and is incredulous that he can even remember any of it. But he does remember the Oakland A baseball games, because they were all he had then. The As won three World Series in a row, from 1972 to 1974, and it felt good to be from Oakland and winning.

Bill stabbed a man outside a biker bar a few years later and served five years at San Quentin. It wasn’t even his knife, but he had been so drunk that he couldn’t keep his story straight. During those five years, Bill read anything he could get his hands on, from Hunter S. Thompson to Fitzgerald to Faulkner and Hemingway—“all the drunks.” He let the years dissolve like a dream.

Calvin Johnson

Calvin Johnson is living with his sister Maggie and her daughter Sonny, trying to save money. Maggie has bipolar disorder, just like their mother did. As they share dinner, an unexpected visitor appears in Maggie’s living room: their brother Charles. He’s brought his friend Carlos, and the two make themselves comfortable with their feet up to drink their forties. Calvin owes Charles money, and the one stipulation Maggie had established for Calvin living with her was that he would stay away from Charles.

Charles gets down to business quickly. Calvin has a job and isn’t paying rent, yet he hasn’t paid the money he owes. Calvin accuses his brother of setting him up at the last powwow; someone jumped him and stole the pound he had on him. Charles stands, making fists, then tells Carlos they all need to go for a drive.

Charles fires up a blunt and passes it to Carlos, and then they pass it to Calvin. He only takes one hit and is later glad, as he determines it’s sprinkled with angel dust. 

They take Calvin to meet up with Octavio, who points an all-white magnum at Calvin’s face while talking to Charles. Calvin owes money for the drugs he’s lost, and Octavio wants him to pay. Octavio himself owes some money, and he has to come up with it fast.

Charles reminds his brother of a conversation they’d had earlier, when Calvin told him about the upcoming powwow at the Oakland Coliseum; Calvin is on the committee, and there will be around fifty thousand dollars in cash prizes. Calvin says that there is no way he’s stealing from the people he works with, and his...

(This entire section contains 1138 words.)

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brother suggests cutting him in on the profits. They all get back in the car and ride home in silence, and Calvin feels that they are all headed toward something they will never make it back from.

Jacquie Red Feather

Jacquie Red Feather is ten days sober and is at a conference for her job to help with substance abuse and mental health within the Native community. The first speaker at the conference says that his younger brother shot himself between the eyes when he was fourteen and that fifteen of his other relatives have commited suicide during his lifetime. He says that the Native community needs to change its approach and to “be about what we’re always saying we’re about.”

Jacquie runs from the room, going back to her own room and collapsing in sobs. She recalls the “big hole” between her daughter Jamie’s eyes and her daughter’s emaciated body as she had stood to identify Jamie’s body with the coroner. The tragedy happened over thirteen years ago, and she’d been sober for six months at the time—the longest since she’d started drinking.

Since then, her younger sister Opal has been raising Jamie’s sons, and she sends Jacquie photos of them via email periodically. Jacquie opens her Gmail account and looks at photos of her grandsons. She desperately wants a drink, so she knows she needs an AA meeting.

When she arrives, she texts Opal to tell her that Harvey from Alcatraz is in the meeting, too. Jacquie introduces herself to the group and tells them about her stay on Alcatraz and how a boy there started her off on her long journey with alcoholism. She tells them about becoming pregnant and placing that daughter up for adoption, then going on to have another daughter. She spent years drinking a fifth a night of anything cheap she could find and ended up quitting her job so that she could keep drinking. She tells them that her daughter left her sons behind, but Jacquie left them, too.

When the meeting is over, Jacquie stays, and Harvey tells her that he’s also just found out that he has a son; the son has contacted him through Facebook. He asks Jacquie if they can start over and whether they can find their daughter. She thinks it’s better for everyone if they don’t. Harvey has been sober since 1982 and wants to try to make amends for the pain he’s caused her. He asks Jacquie to come back with him to Oakland, and she finally decides to think about it. 

Back in her room, Jacquie takes the minifridge full of liquor bottles to the hall and calls to have housekeeping come collect it. She decides to go for a swim but then walks back by the fridge in order to collect her cigarettes. When she does, she takes six bottles and rolls them into a towel. While swimming, she keeps a close eye on the towel full of bottles, and finally she heaves the bundle into the pool. Jacquie texts her sister: If i come to oakland can i stay?


Part I, Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield–Edwin Black


Part II, Orvil Red Feather–Jacquie Red Feather