I'm on the Ojibwe reservation, drinking bourbon in a smoky bar when a Native American raises his glass to me then makes his way over. “I’m Leroy.”
“Anna.” My fingers drum the frosted glass and I’m lost in his dark eyes.
Mom said Natives are dangerous. She didn’t know I came here to escape my ex-boyfriend, Jason, because this is the last place he’d look for me. She always thought he was so perfect.
Leroy sets his drink on the bar, using all of his trim body to animate the tale of Nana’b’oozoo, a resourceful hero, who was raised by his grandma. I can’t help but lean in close when he gets to the story’s denouncement, though I wonder if he’s safe, if his hands are gentle. He says how he loves Nana’b’oozoo, because he was also raised by his grandma. I relate, not to Leroy’s absent parents, but because I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without my Nan, knitting and baking with me on cold winter nights. She’s been gone a few years now, and I miss her terribly.
I tell Leroy about how she and I made lefse, sprinkled with sugar, how it took forever but was so worth it when the butter and sugar and thin bread hit my tongue. He says, Nah, frybread is where it’s at: puffy, fried, and amazing.
Leroy tells me about pow-wows and jingle dresses that sound like rain. How the dancers spin and the drums thrum. I tell him that my hometown stinks like lutefisk during the Heritage Festival, but how it never smells as bad as Angus, the cows Jason wrangles. How I wish I had been to a pow-wow.
“You’re cute. Gramma Jones doesn’t like white people, but I imagine she’d like you.”
I raise an eyebrow. “My mom probably wouldn’t trust you. You’re like an eagle. I’m more of a dala horse.”
He laughs, resting his hand on my arm. His touch is like a butterfly’s. I don’t pull away, but my heart races.
“Give me a chance.” He reaches toward my straw-colored hair, hesitating by the bruise on my cheekbone. He leans in, his breath warm against my cheek. “I would never hurt you.”
A shiver spirals down my spine, but I realize, I’m not afraid. Not of him. Cigarette smoke wafts between us, but my vision is clear. I kiss him, entwining his fingers with mine. His hands are warm and his lips are gentle and move slowly.
About the author
Lauren Voeltz reads, writes, and drinks coffee; all of these (maybe) too much. You can find her work at trampset, reflex fiction, TL;DR, Lumiere Review, flash flood 2022 & Brilliant Flash Fiction. She was longlisted for the wigleaf top 50. Follow her @mattnwife
Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)