“Really?” Surprised, Rebecca Spotted Elk turns to Tommy Amiotte, then walks with him along a pasture just beyond Crazy Horse School where she teaches, in Wambli, on the Oglala Lakota Indian Reservation in South Dakota. She’s not sure what this is leading up to. It’s not good. Sunset, the distant badlands glow pink, a fantasy landscape. Two paint mares drift toward the fence line.
“I told the yuwipi man I feel like I’m losing something,” Tommy says.
Sometimes in night ceremonies the yuwipi man can find what is lost. Sometimes he heals the sick. It’s stone medicine. Twenty-four year old Rebecca does not go to yuwipi, doesn’t believe, is not a traditionalist. Tommy does. Rebecca thinks maybe she shouldn’t be seeing him. They‘re so different. They have been together off and on all summer. Although sunlight stains the sky, clouds spread out of the west from the unseen Black Hills, a fan of purple darkness starting to cover the intense rose gold.
“You think I’m crazy going to a night doing,” he says, looking down, shifting his feet.
“No.” But maybe she does. She teaches kindergarten. Does she want to live like he does? Live in the past? He puts his hand on hers, electric shock. Desire. They stand close, not speaking, not looking at one another, but close as a breath. She wants him. “What did he say?” she asks. She doesn‘t like the yuwipi man, Charlie Lip, doesn‘t know why. “Is something wrong?” She doesn’t believe, but everyone believes in trouble, bad news. “Is everything okay?”
“I went to Lip’s place. We put out all the lights. Covered the windows with blankets, like you’re supposed to, you know. They wrapped him in the star blanket, tied it with ropes. Sometimes people see lights, then, in the dark. Little ones.” He hesitates.
“Did you see lights?” She’s always wondered about this.
“I saw something.” He walks a pace closer to the barbed wire fence, and a swirl of dust rises on the far ridge. “He got out of the ropes, somehow. Nobody untied him. When we lit the kerosene lamp, he was untied.”
The fan of cloud is a storm reaching out of the west, off the Black Hills, reaching out from Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Allen, taking the sky. The badlands go still, ominous. Ugly light, stormlight, spreads over the rangeland, stains the grass ochre. Without knowing how, like seeing the distance from a rise in the land and knowing what’s out there, Rebecca Spotted Elk suddenly knows what will happen. Time twists. She knows.
“What did you say you lost?” Tommy doesn’t answer. She knows and doesn’t know how she knows. “Me?”
Interested in poetry and flash fiction, Janet Shell Anderson has been published in All My Grandmothers Could Sing and had flash fiction recently published in Vestal Review, Pindeldyboz and Scruffy Dog Review. She is an attorney.