That summer, I turned 18 and was a blur of bells, buckskin, beads, and neon feathers. Yeah, I was lean and brown as a mid-winter deer. I was a beautiful Indian boy fancydancer who usually collected third-place money, sometimes second, and could have slept with the hottest Indian woman at any powwow. But I chose to stay faithful to Jana Snake Church, a regal traditional dancer 10 years older than me.
She danced in slow motion, and I danced in fast-forward. I should have known our rhythms were fatally different.
During the last powwow of summer, the good one up in Wellpinit, I caught her making out with this middle-aged Indian dude, a ground-pounding forest firefighter with keloid burn scars on both arms. Hell, Jana was sucking on those scars when I opened the RV door.
"Ah, shit," I said because I knew I'd have to fight the guy.
"All right, kid," he said. He knew the rules.
He stepped out of the RV, pulled my T-shirt over my head like it was a hockey fight, and cracked a rib with one big punch.
Twenty years later, that rib still aches in the cold. I've gotten chubby, and so has Jana. She still dances—a fat woman can remain regal—but my bad knees dropped me into retirement.
As for that firefighter, he died in that Colorado mountain inferno a few years back. And that makes me mad. Yeah, I'd always hated the guy for taking my woman, but an Indian warrior like that should have lived forever.