THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

Nonfiction by Ky J. Dio

The top 100 pop country hits radio station blasts from the built-in 1990’s stereo system still somehow screwed into the ceiling after all these years. It plays the National Anthem as it does every day at Noon.

In fourth grade, my Father died and I was out of school for two months. My teacher didn’t make me recite the Pledge of Allegiance anymore. He told me I didn’t have to say the pledge ever again for the rest of my life if I didn’t want to. I stopped saying the “under god” part a long time ago because my Grandfather used to say to never trust anyone that believes god lives in a building.

*

When the winter months come and everything gets hard and cold again, the money runs out. When bills come and the babies need something, people come to me.

There is a high cheek-boned Woman, a long, thick braid piled atop her head, a little one stumbling behind, a Grandma on her arm. I call her to my counter. She is picking up Grandma’s jewelry that serves as a back-up when the paychecks are short.

The Mama is beautiful, only about ten years on me, and a thousand years older. She is still in her hotel uniform. She is polite to me, mangling two other humans, a very large purse, and an enormous set of car keys. She hoists the baby onto her hip, still holding Grandma up with one arm (who tells me with a smile she wouldn’t like a chair). When I ask her in English she responds in Navajo. Mama translates the Dine, and Grandma can barely write her name on the pickup slip. I tell Grandma her daughter can sign it or just give me a fingerprint if it is easier.

Grandma’s cataract eyes smile as she dips her finger into the ink pad, presses arthritis-ridden and crooked long, bony fingers firmly onto the paper. I smile too.

She is wearing a hand-sewn velveteen skirt with a long-sleeved bodice, the deep maroon of it glowing against the bright blue of Turquoise stones set in thick gauge silver around her neck and on her ears. Her hair is shock white with seams of silver still poking through. It is thin and brittle but carefully combed into place.

I take her ticket, her money. I check her ID and I retrieve her bracelets. The tag slip reads: Silver: 2 large cuff bracelets, 8 round Turquoise nugget stones each. 255.3 grams/255.9 grams. Estimated resale: $350 each/ loan amount $400. I carefully open the plastic bag and hand them to Grandma, who puts them gingerly on her wrists.

Baby peeps out from out from her pink fluffy hoodie. She has a deep cut on her forehead and long, angry red scratches all down her cheeks. She sweetly says, “Hello,” smiles, and reaches for me. “What happened to you? Were you fighting monsters all day?” I ask. Her mother pushes Baby’s hair from her eyes. “Daycare.” Grandma says. It is the only English word I hear Grandma speak. Mama wipes her eyes. “I know. I just picked her up from there. It isn’t the first time this has happened there. It’s the only place that we can afford.” I give her my apologies, I tell her to write her name and number down. I tell her that I will try to help, that I used to work with kids in social services in the state of Arizona. She smiles, thanks me. Grandma’s voice carefully says a sentence in a language that sounds like a love potion ingredients list and nods her head to me.

Mama tells me she will see me again soon. Baby blows me a kiss as they leave. Mama’s taking care of business, still in work uniform, holding Baby, leading Grandma in her traditional outfit, matching her slow, careful steps.

*

Every day at Noon, Kaff Country radio plays a song that no one in here recites the words, stands at attention to, holds their hand over their heart for.

This is the only Pawn Shop between the city and the Reservation.

Here though, everyone is forced to stand.


Ky J. Dio is a host and Administrator for Juniper House Readings, a Slam Poet, a facilitator of creative writing workshops, and the author of five chapbooks. She makes recycled acrylic and spray paint art, and works as a Jewelry Specialist at a pawn shop. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.