By Janet Shell Anderson.
“No one needs to find his bones.”
“Yeah, right. Don’t be crazy. Come on baby, you know where they are.”
The Mako Sica’s not a good place. Bitter, bare, dry, twisted, eroded into strange walls and cliffs, shapes of things that never existed or should not, the badlands are full of vile memories, evil histories, private murders, unknown deaths, hunts gone wrong. Just beyond the famous valley, Wounded Knee, here at the edge of this eroded ravine, this deep wall of mudstone, siltstone, banded cinnamon, chocolate, ash, is Tashunkewitko, Crazy Horse, really here? Was he hidden here after he died so long ago? He’s never been found.
“They sold the land.” That’s Tommy, who she knows now thinks only of money. Sex and money. Maria Chips walks along the edge, looks over the rim. How could she have been so stupid?
She’s eighteen, Lakota, from Wambli, a little village. What did she know? He’s an actor who came up here for some kind of documentary. He was nights red as fire, nights like nothing she ever knew, nights that turned days into nothing until it was night again. What does an eighteen-year old from a village of two hundred know about a man like him?
He is as if there is no death. Gorgeous. Certain.
But here, death owns the world. The Mako Sica is all death. It’s promises shot and murdered, things left to the wind. There’s no time at all; shadows stretch into the gullies where past, present, future jumble like old bones.
Wounded Knee. Close close. Crazy Horse, maybe.
Tommy wants to steal the great chief’s bones.
Murdered, Crazy Horse was hidden, left in the badlands so long ago, left for the birds and the winds and time itself. Left for what walks the ravines.
Tommy Bozman, a White actor, her Wasichu lover, is eager to find the remains. She knows now why he wanted her. He’s convinced she knows the location.
“Hey, Cyzenskowitz, or whatever his name is, he’ll be out here and he’ll find them. He didn’t buy this place for nothing. He’ll sell them to some university. What’s the point of that? Just tell me where they are. You know.”
He’s heard rumors her family knows where Crazy Horse is hidden.
Something walks along the rim behind them. She hears it; he does not. Footfalls in earth soft as ash, earth that once was ash from volcanoes millions of years ago.
The wind blows in her face. She’s sweating. Everything’s slightly askew. Her hair’s coming down. One of her shoes does not fit right, tries to slide off.
“Look down there,” he shouts. It’s a huge vertical drop. The grass on the top of the hill looks like a rough buffalo robe, dark brown, wooly, matted, as if the hill itself were a living animal and could breathe. The cliff looks like business.
Her copper bracelet slides off, vanishes in the dead grass. Something is visible there, a piece of skull, a finger bone, small as an infant’s. A mile away, Wounded Knee, the graveyard, famous, its gate, its graves, its history, its deaths. Whose death was here? What child?
“I’m just saying we’ll make a lot of money. Stop screwing around. You know you know where it is.”
“Don’t walk so close to the rim,” she says. The earth is soft, mudstone, siltstone, ancient ash. Something moves in the tall grass. A coyote? A dog? A lost child? He doesn’t hear it. Is it real?
Tommy’s backlighted against the sunset that flares like revenge over half the horizon. If he falls the thousand feet, what will she do? Her mouth is dry.
“Come on. Don’t be a damned idiot. Tell me where it is. We could make a lot of money,” he shouts, and all the world tilts as if for a falling man.
The Mako Sica’s not a good place.
JANET SHELL ANDERSON was listed in Wigleaf’s long list of fifty best short fiction works for 2015, nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and have been published by Long Story Short, Cease Cows, The Citron Review, Vestal Review, decomP, FRIGG and others. I am an attorney.