art by Billy Sagulo
by Jarod K. Anderson
Our tribe didn't have a word for the huge, winged race of reptiles who shared the cliff faces with us. They were just "The Clasp." Same as us. One tribe. One name. One shared livelihood as old as the great butte.
When I was a young boy, before I knew better, I asked my grandmother if we were pretending to be like the big, scaly tribesmen or if they were pretending to be like us. After all, we didn't look anything alike. When I finally made her understand my question, I hated the way she looked at me, like she'd tasted something bitter.
"There's no 'they' or 'us,'" she said. "We eat the same plants and insects, don't we? We drink the same water, don't we? All The Clasp warms our blood on the southern face and shelters from storms in the red caverns, eh?"
As we spoke, I remembered a big male, in the gray raggedness of his shed, ambling along the ceiling of the cave where we sat. A curled sheet of semi-translucent skin fell between us, but I knew better than to mention the difference. I had learned. We would all be the same through sheer will and stubbornness.
"The Clasp" was fine for most, but not for me. I needed a new word for the things. I needed to name them so that I could hate them properly. Our language was on the side of unity, but language can change. So, I called them "the swoops" and I wove the new name into a tapestry of curses under my breath.