TWO WHITETAIL DOES DANCING

They were like two whitetail does, who went everywhere together, in step, ears moving (actually only their long earrings swinging), tails switching. They didn’t dress exactly alike, but — typical junior high girl friends — very similar. In fact, they loaned their clothes and ornaments back and forth. Seeing them from the back, it was impossible to tell which one was which. You had to say one of their names and then, when the face turned, it was clear that one face was a little broader and one was a little sweeter. But they both had the pliant dimorphic grace of girls almost boneless, some tall flower swaying in the wind, but only buds — not yet sexual. They were especially fascinating at pow-wows where they wore white buckskin dresses to dance side-by-side, synchronized with each other as well as the music. They pinned eagle down in their long black hair as though it were blossoms and ermine skins hung from their shoulders as though they were tassels.

Though they weren’t twins nor sisters, they shared a great-grandmother who had raised them on a quiet back country Dawes Act allotment ranch. Their mothers and grandmothers had disappeared into cities — no one knew where and no one was particularly interested in finding them, particularly the girls. They felt self-sufficient, safe, and confident. The old lady taught them to be guarded in the old way. Never to go anywhere alone, always to distrust men, never to show off or attract attention. But they were hard to ignore.

In school they did very well, in their quiet way. Their work was never surprising, but always done carefully. Teachers tried to draw them out with no success. The girls would just giggle, duck their heads, and cover their mouths with their hands. “Aaaaiii,” they said. They didn’t go out for sports. On the bus they sat right behind the driver and pay no attention to the ruckus that sometimes broke out behind them.

If anyone went to their house, they were not likely see the girls unless their ancient great-grandmother called them for some reason. Then they came in from outside. They had never gone to the Indian Hospital. They weren’t even born there and slipped past all well-baby and healthy child programs until they had to have vaccination for school. Yet they were perfectly well. There was a kind of mystical aura around them.

A certain kind of man stalks such vulnerability, not because he admires it but because he knows how easy it will be to seize, break, maim and sully. Seeing a bed of lilies, he would not resist the urge to trample them. One of these men spotted the girls and with the help of a henchman, pulled them into a car, drove them out into a solitary spot, raped and murdered them. He did not need Viagra. The girls were not found for a long time. The murderer was a white man. The henchman was not. The henchman finally confessed and was sent to jail. The tribe could not prosecute the white man. The FBI was very slow to act and the man disappeared. The great-grandmother died, wailing.

That fall people began to report two white deer were in the forest, their silvery moon color showing up well against the dark conifers. No one tried to shoot them. They walked side-by-side with exceptional grace.

That white man, that killer, showed up in a bar, talking big, drinking hard, bragging how he was going to go hunting with his powerful gun. His face was greasy and sweaty, his belly hung over his belt, he slurred his words. Everyone pulled away from him except the bar girl, who was afraid of no one and had a bat under the bar. She told him about the white deer and where they were. She knew he would never make it there. They were not in danger. At some point the white man clutched his chest and fell off his stool, writhing on the floor.

“Guess he’s having a heart attack.”

“Couldn’t be. He has no heart.”

“Think he’s in pain?”

“Sure hope so.”

No one called an ambulance.

 

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