Logan's Last Day

Logan Miller is a 16 year old Lakota Native American, drowning in abject poverty on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Seeking comfort in sex and beer, he pushes through each day, ignoring the pain inside. When he loses his uncle, and guardian, at age 31 to cirrhosis, Logan decides he wants a different way to live, but he doesn't know how to change. His answer comes when he awakes to find he's been given a second chance to live differently. A chance offered in a world called Enova.

Logan is a character in my first novel, "Tenderfoot". This novella is about his life before he arrives in Enova ,and extra scenes about his early days adjusting to life in a world across the universe.


1. Logan's Last Day

© 2016 Abby Drinen. All rights Reserved.

“Logan? Logan Miller?” There’s a female voice over my head.

“I think we need coffee over here, Ed,” she calls to the back of the cafe.

Thud! She must have taken the seat across from me. I rub my forehead on my sleeve. My head pounds too hard to raise it. Clunk! The sound of a cup placed on the table is like shards of glass in my eardrums.

“Thanks, babe. Logan, do you need us to call someone?” she asks.

“No,” I grunt.

“Do you want to go to the hospital?”

“No,” I grunt again. My throat is raw. Coffee sounds good. Water would be better.

“We’re sorry to hear about your uncle.” A warm hand is placed on my elbow.

I pry my crusty eyelids open and stare at my shoes. One of them is untied. With a monumental effort, I pick up my head and try to look at Ellie without crying. I’m not sure why I’m so torn up about my uncle’s death. I hardly knew him, even though we shared a tiny trailer for seven years.

“You ever heard of someone that young dying from cirrhosis?” I rasp.

She winces. “Wish I could say no. But, well, you know…. alcohol’s a demon to our people. It’s taken many Lakota in their thirties.” Ellie’s voice is as velvety as her skin. Despite her crooked nose and lopsided mouth, she’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known. I don’t care if she’s twenty years older than me. I’d go after her, if she wasn’t married to Ed.

I use the napkin Ed brought with the coffee to wipe the gunk from my eyes. I dig my knuckles into the sockets to clear away the film and erase the events of last night. Oh God, what did I do?

“Can I get you some clean clothes, at least?” Ellie asks.

I lower my hands and look at my shirt. It’s torn, but that’s not why she’s offering a new one. I’m covered in vomit. Fantastic.

Swimming in embarrassment, I nod. She summons Ed back over.

“You can change in the back room,” she says with a sad smile.

Once I’m standing, I discover I need Ed to help me walk. He helps me through the kitchen and out into the “back room” Ellie spoke of. It’s just a shed, constructed of corrugated metal and attached to the café. There’s a cot, wedged in the back corner between the boxes of paper cups and toilet paper. Ed and Ellie keep it here for drunks who need to sleep it off before going home to their families. It probably smells worse than I do right now, but I’m so tempted to lie down on it.

Ed presents me with a shirt and jeans from a black garbage bag at the end of the cot. I’m too disoriented to raise my arms over my head so I need assistance getting my shirt off. It’s humiliating to be undressed like a little kid. My soiled t-shirt wipes my nose and it reeks so bad I almost hurl. Ed must smell it too, but he doesn’t flinch. Must be used to the smell of vomit. I guess we all are. Sometimes I think our little piece of the Rez gets showered in it the way other towns get rain.

I hold up the jeans he gave me. No way these will fit. My pants aren’t in bad shape. Just a freshly torn knee and a thick coating of South Dakota dust, but no puke.

“I think I just need a new shirt. Thanks,” I tell him.

“I’ll put this in the wash.” He means my ratty t-shirt.

“Nah. It’s pretty wrecked. I’ll toss it.” I shrug.

“Okay. I’ll let you get cleaned up then. There’s a sink over there,” He points to a stainless steel box with a rusted faucet on the back wall. It was probably just an outdoor spigot before they built this shack up around it.

I’m relieved when Ed leaves. He isn’t judging me, but still I’m ashamed. The shirt from the garbage bag is a button up plaid that an old man would wear. But, it’s clean and it will do for now. It doesn’t really fit, too short in the sleeves and too tight in the shoulders. I have to leave it mostly unbuttoned, but it’s an improvement over what I had on. I hope The Higher Grounds Café doesn’t have a “no shirt” policy because I’m not sure this qualifies as being dressed and I don’t want Ed and Ellie to kick me out yet.

I wash up in the bathroom and avoid looking at myself in the mirror. I can’t believe what I did last night. I should have left the party when Oinker and Robert took off. As soon as White Jim showed up, they grabbed their jackets and begged me to go with them. Why didn’t I?

When I get back to my seat, there’s a glass of water and two orange pills next to my coffee mug. I toss the tablets into my mouth and wash them down with water. I sip the coffee. It’s cold, but good. Ed joins me.

“First time with the needle?” He asks. How’d he know?

“I smoked it,” I admit with my chin dug into my chest.

“Gonna do meth again, you think?” He’s not really busting on me, he wants to help.

I shake my head and stars explode in front of my eyes, causing excruciating pain. I hold my head to keep my brains from leaking out.

“Good.” There’s a long pause. Why is he still sitting there? “You sure we can’t take you up to the ER? Just to get checked out? I’d be happy to do it.”

“Thanks, Ed. I just want to go home,” I say.

But I don’t want to go home. I want to shower and sleep, but I don’t want to go to my trailer to do it. Maybe Oinker’s grandma will let me sleep there for a few nights. If she’s forgotten…or forgiven what I did to their family last August.

“You could rest here for a while if you want.” He means the cot in the back.

I don’t have the strength to consider another option. I agree with a single nod and shuffle to the back room. Leaving my full cup of coffee on the table.

When I wake up, it’s dark. The small window above the cot reveals a moonless sky full of stars. A nightlight shows the way to a card table with a lamp. I switch it on. There’s a note, two bottles of water and two more pain pills on the table.

“Logan, we didn’t want to wake you. We hope you’ll stay until morning. There’s some granola bars and fruit cups in the blue cupboard if you’re hungry. The door into the café is locked, but you can get out the back door if you need to. The cash register is empty. Sincerely, Ed and Ellie”

I’m pissed for half a second. Why would they just assume I’m a thief? But I cool off quick because I know why. I am a thief, among other horrible things. And most people around here know me. A drunk at sixteen, a thief, a liar, lazy, violent. The list goes on. I haven’t done squat with this life. Except score a few goals for my lacrosse team. Until Coach kicked me off last month for my grades so I don’t even have that anymore.

Not that this life has been gentle with me. I came from nothing. The by-product of two teenagers I’ve never met. They didn’t even care enough to give me up for adoption. Just let me float aimlessly through the South Dakota foster care system until Uncle Frank was old enough to take me.

Frank “Bird with Red Foot” Miller. A man who couldn’t take care of himself, much less a kid. He didn’t hit me or mess with me. He ignored me. From the day I moved in with him, Frank spent most hours of the day asleep. At least he had the good sense to spare the world of his uselessness. In the last six months of his life, the only times he walked out the front door were to drive into Whiteclay to pick up more beer.

Both of the people whose names are on my birth certificate are dead now. She was killed in a hunting accident before I was out of diapers. I don’t know how he died. Frank got a letter last year from the city coroner in Houston saying his brother passed away. We didn’t go claim the body. Didn’t have the money.

So I was dealt a poor hand but still, there are kids around here who come from the same kind of home as me. No parents, no money, starving most of the time and they don’t do what I do. Even in the worst of circumstances, there are people who choose to do what’s right. But not me. Never me.

I wrap a wool blanket over my shoulders and light a cigarette. I gaze out the window at the stars and consider walking through town, onto the highway and into the Badlands. I could keep walking until dehydration stops my heart and steals my breath. The coyotes could pick my bones clean and I’d be recycled to the earth. That’d be the honorable thing to do. I think my ancestors would welcome me if I cut my losses and just take myself out. Saving countless victims from the destruction I bring.

I finish my cigarette and stub the butt out on my boot. Only after I’ve ashed on the floor and put the Marlboro out on the heel of my shoe, do I see the sparkling clean ashtray on a shelf next to the cot. I attempt to gather the ashes with my hands to put them in the green glass, but all I manage to do is make a grey mess on the floor. I’m sorry Ellie! I’m a slob on top of everything else.

My tongue feels dry and my fingers tremble. When was my last beer? The party is the last thing I remember and that could’ve been a couple of days ago. I don’t recall leaving there or how I got to the café. I usually can’t go more than a couple days without a drink.

I drain one of the bottles of water they left and lay back down. I lock my knees and elbows, trying to stay as still as I can to quiet the shaking and muffle the screams starting in my toes. A rumble and a gurgle in my gut sits me up straight. My eyes dart around for a bucket or container I can empty my stomach into. A pristine, white trash can will work. I shove my head into it and throw up. Twice. It’s all water, but smells awful. I’ll sip the next bottle slowly.

I step out the back door and locate the dumpster for the café. I toss the whole can in there. I feel bad about throwing something away that doesn’t belong to me. I’ll buy them a new one.

The stars dazzle, seeming to blink with ferocity. The sky is too big and noisy for me to handle right now. I might sacrifice myself to the Badlands someday, but not tonight. I drag my boots back inside and collapse on the cot.

I light another cigarette and put the ashtray on my chest. I close my eyes and ride the waves of frustration inside me. I cross my ankles, my fingers, my toes. I grit my teeth. I almost shout. I almost cry. There has to be more than this. It can’t be too late for me. I don’t want to die young. I don’t want my life to end in a hospice bed at age thirty-one like Frank’s did. My face as yellow as an Easter Egg. Tubes running into my arms and up my nose. Nurses and orderlies clucking their tongues and whispering, “Isn’t it a shame? He has no one to mourn him.”

I sigh in defeat. If there is a way for me to change, to live differently, I don’t have it in me. Someone would have to lead me, tell me what to do. And I’m willing to go, willing to change. I just need someone to show the way.

© 2016 Abby Drinen. All rights Reserved.


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