Black Rock Woman Coming

This story won Third Place, Multicultural, at the Pacific Northwest Writers Contest in 1992, and was a finalist in the Andres Berger Awards in 1994. It was published in Side Show in 1994.


rock off the table!” My sister-in-law, Edna Burning Breast, was starting

early this prairie dawn. “No food until it’s gone!” she yelled in Lakota. Tensions always rose just before sundance.

We walked quickly from our log cabin in the buffalo pasture over to the big brown BIA house on the hill.

My husband Selo had been up late the night before listening to the bag lady’s story, so I was late to help Edna cook breakfast for the sundance work crew of young Sioux nephews.

Suddenly the kitchen door slammed. Splat! Old pancakes and scrap bones cooked up for the mangy camp dogs landed beneath the plyboard butchering table in the summer arbor outside.

We dodged past their snarls, but just before the door, Selo turned away. “I’m going down to pray.” Whenever his older sister got mad, he always retreated to the sacred sundance grounds. But I had to help cook.

“Out of my house!” she shouted, pointing with her chin at the innocent black rock sitting dead center on the big bare dining room table. Framed by a headscarf as purple as her berry-stained apron, her eyes snapped as she waved a pancake turner.

“Where’s Selo? He left it here last night after the sweat!” She looked accusingly at me, but turned to rescue coffee grounds boiling over, and flip strands of hissing bacon.

I scooted past her short solid back to the cupboard for a stack of melamine plates and cups, and the silverware sitting upright in a red coffee can.

 

“No breakfast until it’s gone!” she spit in Lakota, whacking at flies on the counter. The room was as empty as the table.

I peeked into the living room, where Melvin Sitting Bear and Joe Turning Hawk, tall in cowboy boots, jeans, rodeo belt buckles, and braids, were cowering out of sight — from the rock or their Auntie, or maybe the bag lady buried in blankets asleep on the worn sagging couch by the TV.

She, like the rock, had moved inside overnight.

“You scared of a tiny black rock?” I teased. Melvin, 6’2″ and 250 lbs., sidled silently toward the front door. Joe, the skinny one, slipped out behind him.

Click! Protected by the thick front door, they were safe from cousin-in-law teasing. No Lakota was going to touch any Apache black rock.

I sighed. Up to me again, the “Evil White Bitch” — by now I knew enough Lakota to recognize my names — the one who didn’t know any better.

I knew better, but I just didn’t believe an inert rock could hurt me. Besides, I liked this naive role — driving away drunks, grabbing the best giveaway items — it made me useful, needed, accepted.

Slowly I put down the plates and silverware and picked up the rock, smooth and heavy, in one hand. It was an Apache rock in Lakota territory on my sister-in-law’s dining room table, an intruder.

It gleamed and glowed, but it didn’t move as it had last night in Norma’s hands. Perhaps it was as powerful as the medicine rock Crazy Horse wore secretly in his armpit, but this one didn’t look evil to me.

As I walked it past Edna’s stiff back and out the kitchen door, I could smell sweet grass over the strong coffee and thick bacony air.

My cousin-in-law, Norma Looks Twice, emerged from the bedroom to purify the eating area before anyone set the table. As I left, Edna muttered to my back, “No Indian name!”

Back at our cabin, I put the rock by our wood stove. There it sat amidst all our other rock souvenirs, presents from previous sundances — petrified wood from the Badlands, lava rocks from Oregon, pumice from Mt. St. Helen’s brought by urban Indian relatives.

It looked quite ordinary and harmless. It no longer glowed, receding into anonymity. I could throw it away later, after the bag lady had gone.

*****

She appeared on the horizon yesterday during one of our work breaks. At first all we saw was a short stocky figure dragging an orange refrigerator dolly behind her, strapped not with a tipi or dry meat, but several layers of dark vinyl suitcases.

We women had been sitting on the front porch smoking and sipping hot black coffee in spite of the August heat — Selo’s sisters and cousins, descendants of Crazy Horse Band, hostiles and holdouts, and me.

We were resting from chokecherry pounding and grinding, making patties for the winter. Our hands and lips were stained purple from the juice.

Finally she had reached the high front gate. From tall cedars dangled two wagon wheels with wooden spokes, all painted white, and in between, a bleached-white buffalo skull. Soon the sundance flags of sacred colors would be tied there as well.

She disappeared down the steep slope to the circular sundance arbor hidden from the road, re-emerging through the muddy dip where a sudden summer rain had overflowed the lazy creek banks.

Her orange dolly had sunk into the mud, leaving gobs of South Dakota gumbo on the lowest bag. She kept pulling it inexorably up the hill towards the silent, still audience on the front porch.

She was older than we had thought. Panting, she entered the butchering arbor, where flies hovered over flakes of drymeat pounded into the plyboard table, dragged her cart around the corner to the front steps, and sank with a sigh, brushing back her short-cropped gray hair.

“Is this where Selo Black Crow lives?” She didn’t look Indian, with her light skin and either freckles or age spots on her fleshy, creased sweaty face.

“Maybe,” Norma teased.

“Yes, but he’s not here right now,” I replied. We weren’t supposed to tease strangers.

“I’ll wait. I’ve been sent by an Apache medicine man.” She settled into the shade on the dusty steps.

“Which Apache medicine man?” I asked, noticing the chill on Edna’s face. We had no Apaches sundancing here, only a few Navajo and one Zuni. Geronimo’s descendants were to be respected — and watched.

“Oh, I don’t know. I forgot his name.” She looked around blankly.

Now Norma stiffened. Not likely, I thought.

“But he told me to come here so Selo could interpret my dream and give me an Indian name.”

None of the Lakota women sitting on the porch had been given a sacred Indian name, a ceremony
that had been forbidden in the early ’20’s. And me, I’d been given too many Lakota nicknames.

“And he gave me this black rock to give to Selo.” From her middle bag she pried out a smooth black lump that barely fit into her palm. It had been polished shiny from years of touch. A hefty, rounded pyramid, just too big to be clasped completely by both hands.

She set it down carefully on the dusty front porch boards.

It gleamed and glittered, basking in the hot sunlight as if glad to get out of that stuffy plastic bag and onto its perch overlooking the sundance grounds.

No one had moved. Flies buzzed annoyingly in the heat. Then a wolfish camp dog came around the corner, sniffed it, and moved on.

“Is she Apache?” Edna asked in Lakota as she silently offered the bag lady a cup of coffee.
Reservation hospitality said that all visitors would be treated well.

“Do you have an extra cigarette? I haven’t had one in a long time.” Norma reluctantly handed one over.

“Doesn’t look like it,” Norma answered Edna in Lakota.

“Did you come for the sundance?” I asked. How could I tell her nicely that here we were traditional? White folks didn’t dance, they only helped cook, serve, and chop firewood.

“Oh, no. I came for Selo to explain my dream. They told me he was the only one who could do it right.”

Edna glanced at Norma. What had Selo been up to now, on his last trip South to help with the Big Mountain Relief Drive?

“Well, you’ll just have to wait. He’s at a Law & Order meeting all day.”

We stood up stiffly, stretching, before Edna returned to the hot kitchen to boil and mash more berries for canned juice.

I climbed up onto the gently-sloping roof to mold ground berries into patties to dry on plastic
sheets, turning those already done with a stick.

Norma was lucky, with the coolest job of washing freshly-picked berries in 5-gallon buckets with the outside pump hose, then grinding them up, seeds and all, in the hand meat grinder.

Our new visitor made herself at home, climbing up into the just-vacated armchair, dilapidated and tufted with loose padding.

She leaned back and dozed while we worked and gossiped, her gaze on the road and her orange dolly.

“Who is she?” hissed Norma softly to me on the roof.

Iteshni,” I replied in bad Lakota. “Wouldn’t give her name. Strange.”

“Well, maybe after she rests awhile, she’ll be some help. This sundance, we’re gonna maybe feed a thousand!”

********

That same evening just at twilight, almost a dozen women sundancers came out from town to take sweat. Norma Stops Bear, the women’s leader, was very curious.

In the village of Wounded Knee, word had gotten round that someone had brought Selo a “magic Apache rock,” and she wanted to see it.

Norma put her coffee cup down on the dusty porch boards and picked up the rock from where it had been surveying the sundance grounds all day.

She hefted it back and forth in both hands, as if it were nothing, while her cousin Edna watched uneasily from the butchering table where she was slicing thin drymeat to hang on poles in the rafters overhead.

“I’ll take it to the sweat and purify it,” Norma bragged, “and we’ll see what it can do then!”

Just get if off my porch,” Edna muttered, whipping her knife through tough gristle and deftly folding a chunk of meat into a long thin slice to dry. “I’m too busy to take a sweat.” She wasn’t going
anywhere near that black rock.

The bag lady, too, stayed on the front porch. “I don’t take sweats. I don’t like water. I’m just waiting for Selo to give me my Indian name.”

“Come on,” Norma said to me. I wasn’t going to miss this chance. Normally the women sundancers took sweat by themselves, but Norma, who was more modern, often invited me along.

She’d been my teacher ever since I’d married into the family. She knew I was working hard at learning Lakota ways. And her sweat was a true inipi, or “reborn-lodge,” powerful and hot, purifying both body and mind.

“Call her ‘Stinky’,” Norma said in Lakota as we strolled downhill to the sundance grounds. “Bet she doesn’t even wash.”

“Oh, she’s probably never been to a place with an outhouse and hand pump,” I replied, feeling sympathy for this stranger who didn’t even know that Selo was back, down below, avoiding her.

He must’ve eaten in town, because earlier we had seen his car pull in directly to the men’s sweat lodge.

“Oh, bring it back!” the bag lady cried, suddenly realizing Norma had taken the rock. “It’s not for you, it’s for Selo!”

“Don’t worry. We’re taking it to him. He’s down below,” Norma reassured her. “We’re just going to bless it first, so it’ll bring you luck.”

In the dusk we wrapped ourselves in sheets and blankets, slipping into the round-domed willow lodge covered with old canvas army tarps.

I was careful to hide my legs. When I had just come to the reservation, Edna had seen them and called me “Hairy Legs Woman” in Lakota, but that was a while ago and everyone seemed to have forgotten.

“Selo, come see your rock!” Norma called over to the men’s sweat area. “We need a doorman.” That was someone to hand in the hot rocks from the fire pit, open and close the door flap, and
generally keep watch outside by the earth altar.

Reluctantly Selo left the circle of men hovering in the dark twilight around their fire pit, picked up our pitchfork gingerly, and peeked in.

He’d heard already that an old gray-haired White lady had come to see him, and he wanted to make sure she wasn’t inside.

“Come right on in and see your rock!” Norma taunted. “We’ll make room.” The women laughed. Their cousin Selo had a reputation for taking sweats with women–young White women.

Norma knelt on the left-hand side of our circle by the door flap, so she could catch the glowing red lava rocks brought right from the fire pit.

We sat on the damp sage, hunched quietly in a ring of darkness and steam. The black rock sat by Norma’s knees, sucking in the dark fire-glow like a black velvet hole.

“Let me know what happens,” Selo said warily as he pitchforked in the last glowing lava rock.

By the third door opening, when even our eyelashes were dripping sweat, and steam and prayers had reached deep into our lungs, Norma said calmly to Selo, “This rock is nothing bad. But it is
moving in my hands.” He edged away.

“Haaaaah,” nodded the women. So it was alive! In the firelight shadows Norma held his rock clenched in both hands over the pile of sizzling steaming lava rocks in the center.

Giving it a sweat, too, I thought, a Lakota woman roasting an Apache man’s rock over hot steam.

Norma nodded to Selo to close the door flap for our last round. “Here, take it! Better go see her now.” She thrust his rock out into his reluctant hands. “Just concentrate and pray for a good
sundance this year.”

*******

For two whole weeks Edna had been polite to the Bag Lady, living her Lakota Code of Honor to feed, house, and give. But now she grew more and more uneasy. Not only the black rock in her brother’s living room, but his bag lady in her living room!

Relatives were coming in for the annual sundance, setting up camp, hauling pine boughs for the arbor, and taking sweats.

Young male cousins who came to join Melvin and Joe expected to bed down in the living room around the late night TV.

“Hey, who is she?” The new guy with a ponytail deposited his bedroll on the front porch in disgust.

“Dunno. Hey, Auntie, when’re we gonna get our TV beauty sleep?” Melvin asked Edna, who was frying up a huge skillet of potatoes.

“She just sits there and rocks, like a witkoko in a trance. Won’t even answer if you talk to her,” Edna shrugged. “Won’t even do the dishes.”

“She never helps out, just bums cigarettes,” complained Norma.

“Never washes,” Joe growled, “just like all stinky Wasichus.

“Worthless. Just a worthless bum,” Selo added.

“You mean the Bag Lady, or Joe?” Norma teased. Selo was known for talking long and laboring short.

“Why don’t you move her over to your living room?” Edna began on her brother. “You brought her here!”

“I did not! I wasn’t even here when she arrived!” Selo was indignant. He didn’t want her in our one-room cabin taking up space reserved for important foreign visitors coming in soon.

“Well, I want her gone before sundance. Tomorrow.” Edna’s hands rested on her berry-stained apron.

“But you can’t make anybody leave,” I interrupted. “It’s Un-Indian.”

“No Indian naming ceremony!” Edna’s face reddened. “Save yourself for your own niece’s naming!” She knew he was thinking about those foreign girls coming soon.

“OK, OK,” Selo cringed. “Don’t worry, she’s got no money, anyway.”

“We know!” She banged the big skillet down on the burner. Suddenly she turned on me and pointed with her pursed lips. “You!”

I sighed. Up to me again. “OK, I can get rid of her. I’ll just tell her to go, and I’ll take her off to the Bahais. They dumped somebody on us last year.”

“No Wasichu woman is going to be named on my land!” Edna honed in on Selo sitting on the dining room bench.

“Bad enough with all those German girls coming in!” Norma added, who had had to watch her husband every year, even while in the sacred arbor.

“And all those French ones!” Melvin grinned. “When do they get here?”

“Hmmmmmmph. I’ll leave!” Edna snapped. “She goes or I go!”

“No, no Auntie!’ Joe begged. “We need you here to cook. You’re the best cook we got!”

“Auntie, you promised to make my sundance skirt, remember?” Melvin wheedled. He was Edna’s favorite nephew.

“Did you tell her you’d give her an Indian name?” Norma accused Selo. He nodded. “Well, then, give her one and get her out of here!”

“Like ‘Never Washes’.” We all laughed.

*******

I felt sorry for the Bag Lady, but not too sorry. She really didn’t help, just sat and rocked, as if in a catatonic state.

I went into the living room, turned off the afternoon soap and knelt before her as she rocked and waited. “You can’t stay here any longer. Selo can’t help you,” I said patiently and calmly.

“What about my Indian name?”

We could name her “Rocking Woman,” I thought. It fit. “His sister won’t let him name you. So get your things packed, and tomorrow morning I’ll take you into town to the Bahais. You can stay there.”

She didn’t say anything, but her hands gripped the rocking chair.

“Don’t worry,” I added in a burst of sympathy. “He’ll give you an Indian name, and I’ll tell it to you as soon as we’re off his sister’s land.”

“Why can’t he take me and tell me?”

“He’s busy fasting before the sundance. He can’t leave the arbor now.” Another lie, but it worked.

“I just want my name.”

*******

After breakfast I got her orange dolly from behind the TV and loaded two of her bags on it. That woke her up. “Oh, no!” she cried. “You can’t do that!”

Edna was frying bacon and turning buffaloberry pancakes in a heaping pile for the last shift of the sundance work crew.

This was usually my job, making 50-l00 pancakes each morning to feed the hungry helpers, but today I could tell she didn’t mind, seeing her living room about to be cleared out.

“Well, you pack up the rest of your things while I load the dolly.”

She looked around wildly. “I have to say goodbye to Selo!”

I rolled the dolly past Edna and out the back door. The Bag Lady hovered anxiously behind me as I shoved it into the back of our pickup.

“Oh, don’t hurt anything. You’re hurting my bags!” But the orange dolly lay inert amid fence posts, wire stretcher, and hay.

I went back into the living room for her remaining two bags, zipped one closed and looped her old brown leather belt around it to keep it from bulging open. She tugged at the remaining satchel. “It’s not packed yet!”

“Well, get packed. It’s time to go. Remember what I promised?” I couldn’t say “Indian name” out loud with Edna listening.

“I’ll eat breakfast first, before I go.” She hadn’t eaten with the rest of us women at the early shift 5:30 this morning.

Edna banged her skillet full of bacon grease on the stove and hissed, “Get her out of here! The men don’t like to eat with her.” Men ate with men, women with women.

“Let her eat this one last time. Besides, I gotta get that rock.” I could see Edna relent for a moment. And it had just come to me — the Bag Lady was the Bringer of the Rock, but it had not been welcomed here, and so it must go on with her.

While she ate her pancakes with the men sitting stiffly on their benches, I ran over to our cabin and removed the innocent black rock from the pile around our wood stove. When I got back, I walked over to her.

“Here, Selo can’t accept this. You must take it with you and give it to the one who can truly interpret your dream. I’m sure you’ll meet him soon.” Everyone watched me put it in her handbag by her feet.

Finished at last, the Bag Lady grabbed the handbag, looked around one last time for Selo, and moved towards the door. Edna stood out of the way. The stiffness left the men as they shifted and continued eating.

“Come on, you’ll like the Bahais.”

She sat docilely in the front seat of the pickup as I drove across the creek bed, past the sundance arbor half-covered with pine boughs, up the steep hill and out the gate towards town nine miles away, where the Bahais were fixing up the American Legion Building.

“What’s my Indian name?”

“Let’s see,” I fumbled, but just for a moment. “Oh, yes. Inyan Sapa Win. Black Rock Woman.” Selo would be proud of me.

“Say it again.”

In-yan Sa-pa Wi-in.”

“How do you spell it?”

“I’ll write it down for you when we get there.” This seemed to satisfy her. I knew Tom, the bearded Bahai leader, well. I’d fed him many evenings when he came out to convert my husband — that is, to argue and talk about the Bible and Bahullah.

“I don’t like the Bahais. I’ve met them before.”

“You’ll like this group. They’re very lively.”

But when I pulled into the dirt parking lot, put the pickup in park, and wrote down her Indian name, she still wouldn’t get out. Tom came over to see what was new.

“Your sister-in-law got you working again, hah?”

“I’ve got a new recruit for you, Tom.”

“Good. We have a lotta work to do here. Cooking, cleaning, fixing up the grounds, digging new outhouses, raking…”

“I’m not a Bahai. How long would you let me stay here?”

“Four days.” Whites were direct, even when friendly. “We’re having a prayer meeting tonight after supper. You’re invited. Bahullah welcomes all.”

“Now I have an Indian name, I’m going to go to the sundances, so I can find someone to explain my dream to me. So I can’t stay here.”

Tom glanced at me in the driver’s seat, engine still running, and said, “Try Fools Crow’s Sundance.”

I nodded thanks. We’d been so busy preparing, I’d forgotten about the big official tribal sundance in Kyle, 35 miles away. “Yes, it’s just starting today. I’ll take you over there!” I said brightly. I had just enough gas.

Many tourists came to this sundance, including John Denver, “the one who gave Fools Crow a yellow jeep.”

It was just the place: lots of tribal buffalo meat, lots of Winnebagos parked over by the creek, lots of tipis, lots of crowd. Maybe one of Selo’s second cousins would interpret her dream.

I was out of town on the road to Kyle before she realized I’d made her choice for her.

Leaving her off was simple.

By the time we had passed the first security guards at the turnoff to Fools Crow’s land, she had caught the excitement of pickups and camper vans driving back and forth on the dusty road, people pulling in from reservations in North and South Dakota, Airstreams from California.

She leaned forward in her seat as we entered the second security check.

“Where’s the Wasichu camp?” I was directed left, and pulled into a grassy spot between two blue-domed Sierra tents surrounded by camper vans. She unloaded her orange dolly herself.

Clutching her slip of paper, she asked, “How do you say it again?”

Ee-yon Sah-pah Wee-yon. See, it rhymes. Easy.”

She waved goodbye as I pulled out for home, hoping never to see her again.

*******

Two weeks later, in the midst of our sundance, a tribal police car pulled up to our front gate. Security halted it there, since no guns were allowed on sacred grounds. Melvin sent word down that Charley, the local tribal cop, had a message for Selo.

I told Edna I’d handle it, and she was relieved, since this cop was one of her least favorite relatives. Selo was in the arbor dancing, leading the sundancers for four days in the Spirit World. No one could talk with them until it was over.

I walked up to the security gate to calm the gun-toting cop threatening to break sundance rules. He
leaned his elbow out the window of the air-conditioned car. It was Charley, a young recruit Selo’d tried to keep off the police force.

“Did you have a bag lady here a couple weeks ago?” He knew we did. Everybody knew about her.

“Yeah,” I said. “Why?”

“What’s her name? Where’d she come from?”

“I dunno. She came to get a name, she said. Wouldn’t give one.” I shifted in the hot sun. “We just called her the Bag Lady.”

“She leave anything behind?”

“Not hardly. She’s the kind would take things on.”

“We’re trying to identify her. Next of kin.” He squinted.

“Hey, what happened?” I sucked in my breath. “I dumped her off at Fools Crow’s two weeks ago. Last I saw her.”

“We found her two days ago. Dead in a ditch along the road to Scenic.”

Scenic was a place just off the res, a dip in the road where a bar and pawnshop sat, sucking the lifeblood of a people, where young bucks and rednecks came to fight it out again forever.

“Must’ve been trying to hitchhike to Rapid,” he added. Not a good place to be at night, not in the middle of desolate Badlands, miles from lights.

So that’s why she’d never shown up here. “Somebody try to rob her?” I asked incredulously.

Drunks couldn’t be that stupid, to hit up a bag lady with a dollyful of rummage clothes. Nothing to pawn there. But this was a stretch where they loved to run cars off the road, just for the hell of it. No grass, just miles of alkali flats.

“She was mutilated.” The words hung in the hot air. I moved away from the security shack to the other side of the cop car, out of Melvin’s earshot.

“What? Who would want to rape her?” Scenic was full of bar women, women with long shiny black hair.

Charley rolled down the window on the other side and leaned forward. “She wasn’t raped. We think it’s some kind of gang cult thing.”

I’d heard rumors of a Satanic cult on the res, young restless teenagers who painted upside-down crosses in blood on small remote wooden white mission churches, but they were looking for stray cats and dogs — and young children, it was rumored.

But not here — over there, on the next res, where things were worse.

“Gee, I got her out of here — you know how my sister-in-law is — but I thought she’d be all right at Fools Crow’s. Nothing happens with lots of security around.”

Now I knew why he’d come out today: just like him to try to spoil our sundance with rumors and gossip. I made sure I was the only one who had heard.

“She wasn’t raped, she wasn’t robbed, she had her throat slit.”

I drew my hand back from the metal fender of the police car. In the hot August sun it was suddenly cold. Edna had been right, Norma wrong. I shivered, my hand suspended.

This hand had picked up that Black Rock and had put it into her bag, to go with her on her doomed journey. Had averted death and disaster here, been guided unthinking, unreasoning. Had not known what it had been doing. Had not believed.

Nobody dies of slit throats here. Car wrecks, knife fights, concussions falling off a barstool, sometimes even childbirth. Rough, jagged, unpleasant messy deaths. Nothing as neat and precise as a slit throat

Charley slowly rolled up the car window. He knew about the Black Rock; he came from a medicine family. He was reminded us, warning us, even though there was no love lost between him and my husband on the Police
Review Board.

I wanted to ask if the Black Rock had been found among her things, but I didn’t dare.

Charley might say, “Yes, here! Thought you’d like it back!” and take it out of the front seat of the cop car, or keep it and threaten, “Watch out! Might show up at your sweat lodge door some
day.”

I couldn’t ask. I peered in the tinted window to see. I could almost feel it hovering there, smooth and shiny. I turned and fled. I had to keep all this quiet until the sundance was over. Two more days.

*******

I couldn’t sleep. The sundance drums’ heartbeat kept me awake thinking. Selo, Norma and I were the only ones who had held the Black Rock.

All my in-laws would be certain that the Black Rock had been hexed with bad Apache medicine and sent out — sent to Selo — with death by throat-slitting. So appropriate for a man with a golden voice, a hypnotic voice, a seductive voice, a sacred voice.

They would know that death had been averted by sending that Black Rock away with her, the innocent messenger, until the day its work was released — and fell back on her because it was still in her possession at the appointed time; had not reached its destination; had gone beyond it.

It would all make sense, pieces of a Spirit World they had lived in from birth.

And they would think no more of it in a month or so — episode closed. Sigh of relief, and gratitude for the naive Wasichu who had gotten that Black Rock out of here.

For several months afterwards, Edna was especially nice to me, introducing me to elders, saving me good cuts of deer meat, even making me a pair of beaded moccasins.

I enjoyed the change.My respect in the Indian community grew.

But I felt guilty. Should’ve left the Black Rock Woman at the Bahais. Should’ve told her about other sundances on the res. Should’ve warned her about the road to Scenic.

Should’ve let someone else haul her out of here. Should’ve minded my own business, like my in-laws.

Never again would I take a bag lady to her death. Never again would I avert black rocks from my husband.

I knew more would be coming. Not as black rocks, but transformed by Trickster medicine into even more harmless objects, alluring objects in the mail or on foot.

I shivered. Black Rock Woman had come this way, and I felt the beginning of the end: the relentlessness of spells, bad medicine, the evil that I didn’t believe in, the evil I denied existed.

I felt it all around me, even though the sacred sundance this year had been good.

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