Roxanne, a Native woman known to the Peace House Community, fell on some train tracks last weekend and had both legs severed. I'd heard about it on Tuesday and checked during the week for a news story with more information.
Searching, I found plenty of contemporary stories about a boy who lost a leg playing on tracks near Webber Park in April, and more about a Minneapolis lifeguard who had his lower legs taken in 2014. But nothing about Roxanne, even when I searched by her name.
Back at Peace House on Friday, I asked Ellie what she knew.
Roxanne was drinking with a guy on a hill above the tracks, she said. The guy shoved her when the train came by.
Did they catch the guy?
Roxanne says she doesn't remember who it was. Maybe she doesn't. Maybe she doesn't want to say. A guy tried to run over her in the park last year. His car hit the bench she was sitting on. If people hadn't seen him and pulled her out of the way, she could've been killed then.
What happened to that guy?
Oh, they caught him. He was driving on his rims by the time he left the park. But they were all drinking, and the cops didn't talk to all the witnesses. They let him go.
I told her I couldn't find out anything in the news about Roxanne being hurt.
They never report what happens to Natives, she said. Six people died of overdoses last month in the Cedar projects. It's getting real bad and nobody cares. Nobody says nuthin.
While the floors were being mopped, I went to the porch where the smokers can hang out. One of the men, who had a cigarette roller, made a cigarette for Ellie. He has a job on the cleanup crew at the new Vikings stadium and was waiting until three o'clock when he could pick up his first paycheck. He'd walked the seven miles from Richfield and would be walking back.
There was some stadium discussion up and down the porch about upcoming events. It eventually got sorted out as terms were defined: football vs. futbol, American football versus soccer.
A man came from the alley and joined us, sitting down and setting a small shopping bag at his feet. He pulled out a piss-colored liter bottle of Listerine and quickly upended it, glugging down a significant amount.
Hey, my friend, I said. You can't do that here. People come here to get away from that stuff. The others joined in, saying they wanted no part of it.
Oh, he said, this is my first time here. I thought you were just hanging out. He stood up, sheepish, not belligerent, and moved to the edge of the group. Maybe I'll come back some other day.
Come when you're not drinking, I said. You'll be welcome then.
The Listerine is 26.9 percent alcohol. Dollar store brands have less alcohol but are substantially cheaper. (Dollar General advertises a 1.5 liter bottle for $3.00.)
Someone said the drug stores in the vicinity wouldn't sell mouthwash to Natives because they knew it would be misused. I suspect a couple of the men looking down on the mouthwash drinker were nursing hangovers themselves. Drinking itself doesn't seem to be responsible for the caste lines that sometimes emerge.
Rather, it's knowing when to stop. How to avoid a fight. How to keep a room and a job.
How not to push a woman down a hill when the train's coming.
Come back next week, friend, and listen to some different people.