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At the Edges

Lonnie scowled. Thanksgiving week – the white man’s holiday, not one for the Indians. Deer hunting week in Wisconsin, he’d miss out on that this year, and fishing season for the muskellunge.

He was heading out. He’d had enough.

He’d thought about just taking a car in Alma. Those people were so wide open, they almost deserved it. No one locked their doors. They left cars sitting in their driveways with the keys in them, so whoever wanted to use the car next could just get in and go. Instead he found a beater dumped on the reservation, repaired it, hiked up the front wheels, and souped up the engine. He covered the bumper sticker which read “If you don't like demolition derby, you can kiss my taillight” with one from his grandmother which said “Menominee Power.”

Last week he’d stopped to help a stranded driver, then sped away, feeling good about having his own wheels, until that cop pulled him over and took his driver’s license. But it had been easy to make another license in the copy shop in Harris. He forged and copied a state license in full view of the lazy clerk who was supposed to trouble spot customers.

He’d gone out drinking with some dudes from the reservation last night. It’d been fine until that white guy in the bar started mocking him, insulting his people, insulting the Menominee. The guy pushed and pushed, with his sly, mean words, until Lonnie finally had to jump him. And then, because the smart-ass was a big guy, he’d beaten the hell out of Lonnie, including giving him the blue-black shiner sprouting around his eye.

He glanced at himself in the car mirror: the black eye, dark hair slicked back into a ponytail, around his neck the bronze feather engraved with symbols that had belonged to his father. Damn! He hoped the border police wouldn’t make a big deal out of the eye – they’d already be targeting him because he was an Indian.

He felt like hell. He’d ended the evening screwing the girl who stayed in the shack on the edge of the reservation. The shack stank of poverty, but the girl was all right, better than nothing. He could still taste the cheap wine and cigarettes.

A deer suddenly stood in the road just ahead of him. He jumped, then swerved the car to avoid hitting the fawn who walked behind its mother.

Animals! His grandmother’s dog, now he was something. Tried to go Romeo on any bitch that moved, which ought to have been hard, him having only two legs and all. Lonnie grinned. He usually had to kick that old dog out of the way climbing into the trailer. He didn’t know what come over him, but he’d gone and made the miserable mutt a cart to get around on. The cart was rough, but it was a good one. He surprised himself when he done it.

His grandmother’d be okay. She was too sick to help him anyway. He took a drag on his cigarette. He’d never known his mother. She’d been a boozer, they said, had taken off for the city when he was just a baby. If there ain’t nobody in your corner standing up for you, what’re you gonna do?

Time to move on.

He was tired of living in a rundown, seedy motel, no job, nothing to do in Harass or on the reservation. Tired of having time on his hands. Did other people ever have time on their hands? At least now he was doing something. Heading for Canada. He’d heard there were Indians there who bowed to no white man. Maybe he could fix cars or televisions, he was good at that, or win some money gambling and parlay it into something big. Those pasty-faced high rollers didn’t have to be the only ones making a killing.

He was done with white men. Their lies, their constant talk about money, the dead look in their eyes. White women were not so bad – he could see it in their eyes, the confusion, the beseeching, the knowing of the lies.

In Minnesota he stopped for a beer - on television, women were leaning against cars and cleaning toilets as usual. On the road again, a car ahead of him speeded up on the yellow, almost hit someone walking across the road. He rolled down the car window, and threw out his most raggedy t-shirt. A girl wearing a baseball cap, breasts spilling out of her skimpy pink top, stood and stared. He touched his middle finger where it bent the wrong way, from the time his grandfather crushed it to the ground with a rifle butt. No. He fingered his amulet. Sometimes it was like all that shone in him was under muddy water.

A lot of the time it still felt like things floated away from him, but his life had taken a turn, could be he’d gotten his mojo.

He was making time now. Clouds banked overhead, gunmetal grey, sunshine glinting around their edges. He lit his last cigarette. He liked to use up the last of something. Even Beulah. When he saw her dark eyes for the first time, he felt pure, like looking into a curving river you could see clean to the bottom of, but never know where it would end. He wanted the wildness and beauty inside those eyes.

A small truck with antlers jammed under the front grill taunted him by tapping the back of his beater a couple times. In the rear view mirror he recognized the asshole wearing the NRA belt buckle from the bar last night.

It got colder. He stopped hearing the sound of the car tires turning on the road.

Cars around him slowed down - what for? The road looked clear. He put his foot on the accelerator. Thing is, you gotta keep on going, and go fast. It’s like a game. You gotta roll your dice big.

On the bridge the small truck passed him, sliding on the road. Lonnie braked suddenly to avoid hitting him. The beater skidded and spun towards the embankment.

He thought about his birch bark canoe, the proud Menominee, the woods and streams. Just before he went over the edge, a fierce and beautiful light swam before his eyes, a light he had never seen before but that he knew. He thought he heard a bell, then a faint high sound like music, only better, like the sound of the wind in the trees at home.

The car soared for a long moment before it catapulted down the embankment. Lonnie felt himself soar too, aloft in the cold clear air, high above, looking down on all the mess below. He held onto his life: all that it meant, or could have meant, then he let go.

The old jalopy bumped and flew, end over end, down the steep embankment. He was