Monday, September 7, 2015

Dead Things

Dead Things SM

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Book Description:

Can a half-Ute boy survive abusive white men?

Sixteen-year-old Jimmy Hunter loves dead things. Decaying fossils and buried men no longer have the power to bite or abuse. Jimmy’s problems exist with the living. The half-Ute-Indian boy must survive the angry white men his mother insists on dating without killing them. Because like it or not, he has killed. The list he keeps has over 500 names on it. He doesn’t want to add any more. Can Jimmy escape to the reservation for the life he’s dreamed of? Or will he die trying?

“I understand that cultures can be very different, but people at their heart are the same.”

~ LT Kodzo (Author Q & A)

LT Kodzo

Award-winning Author of Locker 572 releases her second book Dead Things.


Q: What does the word dinosaur mean?

A: Terrible lizard.

“I love dead things.”

The noise in the classroom stopped.

The PowerPoint presentation behind Jimmy illuminated the dim room in a creepy blue.

His tenth-grade English teacher frowned at him. She probably thought he was going to talk about zombies or ghosts or something dumb. But he wasn’t. Jimmy actually did love dead things.

The real dead.

The decayed and silent and harmless dead.

He cleared his throat to continue, but Mrs. Harris stopped him before he could say another word.

“Tell us your name,” the teacher said.

Jimmy rolled his eyes. He hated the introduction ritual, not just because it was stupid, but because he didn’t like his full name. James Hunter was his father’s name, and Jimmy wanted nothing to do with that dead, white man. But he currently had a bigger problem facing him. In order to get out of the F-zone in English, he had to finish his two-hundred-word, oral essay.

He bit the inside of his lip. Not a single student smiled at him. A couple kids refused to even make eye contact. He tossed his long, black braid over his shoulder and asked, “Do I get all of my points if I start over?”

Mrs. Harris squinted at him before addressing the entire class. “I will make this one exception, but you all know better. I’ve told you all year how important it is to introduce yourself during public speaking events. I will dock anyone else five points if I have to remind you again.”

To emphasize her point, she jabbed her index finger toward a couple of boys in the back. One of them whispered, “great,” while the other flipped Jimmy off from under his desk.

Whatever. Making his bullies angry didn’t matter. He didn’t prepare his “I Love Blank” assignment for them anyway. He did it for his grade. Parent-teacher conferences were in two days and Pyen wouldn’t like that he was failing English. Not that his mother would do anything harsh. She left that task up to whatever white boyfriend she had at the time. She always blabbed to them about him.

“We’re waiting.” Mrs. Harris tapped her pencil on the clipboard.

The class laughed. That didn’t bother Jimmy either. When you weigh over two-hundred-fifty pounds at sixteen years old, you get used to laughs. Instead, Jimmy stood up tall and cleared his throat.

“My name is James Hunter.” He barfed out the hideous title, then added the facts everyone already knew. “I’m a sophomore at Fife High in Puyallup, Washington, and I’d like to present my oral essay titled ‘I Love Dead Things’.”

He glanced at the teacher and she nodded. A girl in the front row leaned forward and pulled long sleeves over bruised wrists. Jimmy didn’t know her, but he recognized the reason for winter flannel while the rest of the school embraced spring in summer shorts. He advanced the presentation. “According to Merriam-Webster, the word ‘dead’ means something is no longer alive.

“It can no longer feel. It can no longer move. Therefore, it can no longer hurt you.”

He exhaled. Thirty-two words done, one-hundred-sixty-eight to go. While he was used to being fat, he still didn’t like standing exposed to the critical eyes of his classmates.

He clicked to the next slide where an animated, screaming T. rex appeared to climb into the room. “The Tyrannosaurus rex has historically been labeled one of the most ferocious animals to ever walk on land, yet since extinction, his reputation has changed.”

The next page showed images of Barney, plus the horse-like T. rex from the Age of Zombies and the quirky smiles of monsters turned friendly in the old TV show Dinosaurs. Jimmy talked about how most people didn’t even know that the word dinosaur meant terrible lizard. “Their ability to entertain has replaced the true facts related to them.

“While some modern re-creators of this savage beast captured its real desire to kill and destroy”—Jimmy clicked through images from the movie Jurassic Park, and the game Minecraft and a screenshot of Grimlock from Transformers—“the real question is, why would anyone choose to change the idea of something so vicious and present it as tamable?”

He looked around the classroom. Kids that sometimes snickered at him were paying attention. Cool. He exhaled again and shifted his weight from one sore foot to the other. This was actually working out for him. After spending a life studying death, he found a place where his childhood experience proved useful. He swallowed and said, “Dead things are safe things.” He looked directly at the front-row girl. “The dead no longer have the ability to hurt the living.”

He clicked to a pic of a museum with the skeletal remains of frozen beasts.

“They are quiet.”

He clicked on an image of an old lady putting flowers into the mouth of a T. rex vase.

“They are tamed.”

He clicked on his favorite picture and smiled. The green-painted monster that monitored downtown Vernal, Utah. The statue, two states away, was dressed in a cowboy hat eating a gigantic watermelon. He loved this corny image for two reasons. It validated that the dead were honestly tamed and because it stood only twenty-five miles down the highway from the Uintah and Ouray Reservation where his mother was born.

“In our world today, dinosaurs are fun. You can’t say that about most living animals until long after they are dead.” He hadn’t written the report for the girl in the front row or anyone else like her, but he desperately wanted her to hear and understand. Her situation had a solution. He cleared his throat. “So, next time you visit a cemetery or a museum, consider how quiet and calm it is and remember, the dead always rest in peace.”

The End appeared on the screen only to be eaten by an animated clip-art T. rex.

Mrs. Harris prompted the other tenth graders to clap. Jimmy felt his brown cheeks warm as he squeezed his way back to his desk. It was over and nothing bad happened. Until, of course, he sat down.

Plastic crunched beneath his butt.


Girl-like giggles came from the boys behind him.

He smelled the applesauce before he felt the broken snack-pack seep through his stretch pants. He placed his hand on the desk and stared forward. The only way these boys would win with this prank was if he acknowledged that it happened. He didn’t move. He sat there without shifting through six other presentations until the bell rang. He’d kept a spare pair of sweats in his locker since freshman year. He refused to let a couple glee-geeks steal this moment from him.

Besides, now that the worst part of his day was over, he started to think about the worst part of his night.

Anxiety crawled around in his gut as the rest of the students filed from the class. In less than an hour, he’d be just another young Indian trying to survive in the white man’s world.


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