This piece originally appeared at Glossolalia Flash in September of 2010.
Asha had been living on Pine Ridge Reservation for one month, and most of the Lakota still weren’t able to pronounce her name. The variations of Asher, Aisha, Alisha, Ashley, left her on alert and answering to all of them. When her mum would phone on Sundays it was a drink of spring water to hear her name with its “aaaa” sound coming from across the ocean.
The only person who said her name properly was one of the bag boys at the Sioux Nation grocery store. Jake Moon Shadow repeated it over and over, Asha Asha Asha, until he got it right, and intervened on her behalf when said wrong.
Jake looked at Asha with one part fascination and three parts lust, not because Asha was anything special but because there were hardly ever new girls on the rez. The fact that she had no children or any history on their land made her as appealing as a customized 1960 Dodge Challenger.
Since Asha didn’t know how to drive, her life as a globe-trotting city girl never prepared her for life in America’s outback, Jake offered to teach her. She was a quick study. While she concentrated on the road, Jake would study her features, trying to understand how someone with a Caucasian and Asian background could look so Lakota. He decided she belonged here. But he didn’t know what to say to her.
“My mom killed herself,” Jake stated. “I found her body behind our house. The shotgun she used is in the back of the truck.”
Asha’s heart began to pound, her hands shake. She kept her eyes on the road, afraid to look at his face, uncertain if what she would see there would inspire sympathy or revulsion. Was his matter-of-fact tone the mask of deep-as-a-well sadness? Now was not the time to find out.
“Jake, there’s something in the road.”
Growing larger, the staggering figure of a dog loomed, its muzzle white with foam and blood, eyes red with madness. “Rabid dog. Stop the car.”
Don’t leave me, Asha thought, but said nothing as she pushed down on the brakes. The shackles on the dog rose. The rumble in his throat replaced that of the engine. “Wait here. Be quiet.” Asha moved to protest, Jake silenced her as he pulled the shotgun from the back.
Jake moved slowly, quietly and rolled down the window, clicked open the door. The sounds infuriated the dog, who began lunging towards the car. Tears streamed down Asha’s face. Jake put the gun to his shoulder, waited and then pulled the trigger. Asha screamed. The truck bed filled with gunsmoke, the dog flew back in a spatter of innards and fur.
“Can I have your cell? I need to call the Sheriff.”
Asha wept. More than anything Jake wanted to kiss her, but instead he studied the remains of the rabid dog and thought about his mother.
©2010 Sezin Koehler, Image via shadowolf13