Just Because I Was Sleeping Does Not Mean I Dreamed It

I have impossible memories. Creation. My brother cleaving a snake in the bedroom. I remember both, though I slept.

The bedroom is on the second floor of the A-Frame by the sea. The second floor is a half-floor, pinched by the peak of the A. I sleep in this pinched space, on the floor beside my parents’ bed. It is hot. The windows are flung wide to the ocean air. Insects swarm. The windows are screened.

The insects tap the mesh of the screens, searching for a rift. They tap with their mouths and with their feet. Our screens are flawless. The insects tap and tap but do not get in.

A snake gets in. Through the back door. A brown snake slithering among thousands of other brown snakes, overtaking the island, devouring flight- less birds. The U.S. Navy brought them. A small gift.

When our island was created, I was a sleeping bird, not yet flightless, watching from above. Our island was created by a brother and a sister.

The snake seeks the pinched room and my pinchable cheek.

Watchfulness is the primary characteristic of heroism. My brother is watchful above all else. He knows the snake seeks my brown cheek. If I am to be saved from the snake’s poison, it must be my brother who saves me. My parents are drunk or weeping. They possess nothing but sorrow. My brother possesses watchfulness, plus a machete.

He chooses cleaving over decapitation.

This is called panache in the moment of heroism. Now the snake possesses a forked head and a forked tongue. Panache is a French term, though we are not French. We are barely Americans. We are islanders possessed by America, living among snakes. Among watchful brothers.

Lehua M. Taitano is a native Chamoru, born in Yigo, Guam. Winner of the 2010 Merriam-Frontier Award at The University of Montana, she has published in Versal, Fiction at Work, dislocate, and TinFish Journal. She has short stories forthcoming in The Anthology of Indigenous Writers of Micronesia, and The Fiction at Work Bi-Annual Report. Her chapbook of short fiction, appalachiapacific, is forthcoming from the University of Montana.