Remember the Buffalo

I hadn’t seen Charlie since the buffalo. Then tonight I’m smoking out on the curb in front of my dad’s place, where I’m staying, again, when Susan pulls up in her little four-banger. Charlie’s with her. “Get in,” he yells out the window. “We’re going to the silos.”

I’m down for anything, so I hop in and we take the two-lane north into the prairie outside of Cheyenne. It just goes and goes and I’m in the back seat like always, I don’t mind though, Susan painted stars on the ceiling with glow-in-the-dark paint. I like how it feels when I lean my head back, forget about earth and imagine I’m in a spaceship bouncing through the milky way.

And we keep flying up state highway 85 for another twenty miles. The wind blows unhinged across the flat landscape, snow ghosts whip across the road. It’s enough to push the car into the oncoming lane. Susan pulls it back. I have confidence in her, she’s a good driver. People in Wyoming have been conditioned to fight the wind, the weather, the nothingness, the boredom, each other. Wyoming kids get drunk and pregnant, we hate our parents and we kill ourselves before we make it to twenty-five.

Susan lights a cigarette then cracks the window. Her black hair falls over the back of her seat, swirls and lifts, snaps me in the face. It smells like a flower, one I’ve smelled before. I can’t think of the name, but I like it. I want to grab her hair, tickle my cheeks with it, put it in my mouth, taste it, taste any part of her. Her aesthetic is black, but underneath it all I’m sure there is an unironic soft core, a pink core, a giddy, girly core. Her eyes, sunk back in mascara, meet mine in the rear-view. She can sense my lust for her, I just know it. I feel dumb. I look back up, reach out and touch a star.

“I think this is it, up here, on the left,” Charlie says. He’s been unusually quiet most of the ride. Usually Charlie’d be standing up through the sunroof, absorbing the moonlight, cat-calling the Great Mystery, as he likes to call it.

Susan takes a left down a long road. About a mile in, the pavement ends and turns to dirt. Extreme weather has wash-boarded the hell out of the road and it feels like the Honda is going to break into pieces. Loose plastic rattles as we bump along. “We must be half-way across Wyoming by now,” I yell from the backseat.

“Keep your pants on,” Charlie says.

And it isn’t long before we arrive at a sliding gate and to the side of the gate is the remnants of an old guard shack. The gate’s still standing but the fence around it is knocked down. Susan pulls around it and drives across sagebrush and frozen prairie grass for another quarter-mile. In the headlights we can see a plain looking building. She parks next to it, shuts the ignition off. The three of us get out, Charlie with his back pack and flashlight, Susan and I only have our coats. Charlie leads us to the stairs at the back of the building. Over time tumbleweeds have filled up the stairwell. Charlie and I clear them out while Susan stands above us smoking a cigarette. At the bottom of the stairs is a steel door. It’s jammed. Charlie kicks it in with his big-ass feet. There must be a hundred wings flapping in the darkness—fifty birds stirring from their roosts in unlit corners, pigeons mostly, maybe some bats, swifts, could been anything really. I’m startled by the sudden burst of activity and my first inclination is to reach for Charlie, I grab the wall instead. Susan does grab him though, his bicep, with both hands. “Don’t let them get me Charlie,” she says.

Charlie replies, “What man abandons, nature takes back.”

“I like that,” I say. “You come up with some deep shit sometimes Charlie.”

He nods. “Hey Susy, let me get a smoke.”

She lights it for him and passes it over.

There’s a manhole and Charlie goes first, climbing down the steel ladder. We follow and at the bottom it opens up into a bigger room. Concrete walls rise three stories up into an open sky. Charlie says that’s where the blast door would’ve been. Out here, far enough away from the lights of Cheyenne, the sky flickers like static on an old television. I look up and imagine a time not so long ago, when a live Minuteman missile laid horizontally on this launching pad. With a push of a button it would raise up until it was pointing up into the immense Wyoming sky, boosters burning out the back end and millions of lives hanging in the balance, something so important hidden deep under the buffalo grass of southeastern Wyoming.

Charlie is guiding us through the dark. With the flashlight he points to a large pentagram spray-painted on the floor. The concrete in the center is burned black from bon-fires. Pieces of some old palettes are scattered about. We gather the scrap wood and get a fire going in the middle of the pentagram. It’s not long before the room is glowing orange and our voices are echoing off the walls, like there’s a second set of us a half-second behind.

We settle around the fire and Charlie pulls a fifth of Old Crow from his back pack. “My uncle,” he says, pointing to the bottle. “Three shots of this and he’s fucking out. He gets so fucked up he’ll never remember if he drank this shit or not. Lakota livers ain’t built to process this hillbilly shit.” He passes the whiskey to me.

I twist off the cap, tilt my head back, hold my breath, swallow, and try my damnedest not to puke. Then I pass it to Susan. I hate the taste of alcohol. I drink because it’s what we are expected to do. I’ll be twenty-one in a couple of years, I’ve got to get used to it, get used to going out to the bars. It’s 1993, might as well be 1883 though, there’s still nothing else to do but go to the bars.

We go around shooting the shit and passing the bottle for a while. The fire pops like there’s a heart beating in there somewhere. The wind can’t reach us and I’m with my two best friends. It could be the liquor but tonight feels right.

Charlie passes me the bottle, then he pauses, turns his hand over, and holds it out as if he is trying to show me something. And I do notice something—a large purple gash on his palm—half scabbed over and half an open wound that glistens in the fire light. He’s always hurting himself, but this looks nastier than normal. “So, what’d you do to your hand? Jerking off that skinny-ass dick of yours?” I joke.

“Killed a guy,” he says. Plain as day he says it, just like that. “Killed a guy.” I find it hilarious, the dead pan way he says it. I can’t stop laughing.

“Aww my poor little killer,” Susan says, grabbing and holding his hand in her own gentle way, her hand looks like a child’s compared to his. “Wait, you aren’t cutting yourself again are you Charlie? Be honest. We promised each other.”

“No, I’m not cutting myself again. Are you?”

“You know I’m not Charlie.” Susan lifts up the arm of her sweatshirt. “See.”

I try not to look but I can’t help it. In the low light her scars are glossed over. I’m proud of her for healing. Charlie doesn’t bother to look.

“And why would I cut my palm of all places if I was cutting again?” Charlie asks.

“Well I don’t know. I don’t know why you do half the stuff you do. I just know you aren’t very kind to yourself.”

“Why should I be?”

There’s no answer. None of us are very kind to ourselves. I’m insecure, lack confidence. I’m a follower, I want everybody to like me. Charlie is the opposite, he takes charge. He doesn’t second guess himself and I wonder if lacking self-awareness might not be such a bad trait to have. You think Charlie gives a shit what some piss ant thinks of him? Please. He runs on some natural instinct deep inside of him the same way animals do. He does what feels right in that moment, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else. I met him junior year in study hall, just two years ago. He told off the teacher and instantly I gravitated towards him. He has what I wish I had and I guess part of me thinks it might rub off on me if I spend enough time with him.

Charlie points towards the pentagram on the floor. “Indians, we don’t believe in hell. It’s just something white men made up to keep everybody else in line.”

“Religion was started in the middle-east. Those guys weren’t white,” I say.

“No, but you motherfuckers paint them white anyway. That’s what I mean. You’ve got to think bigger man. Jesus, Noah, Moses, all those dudes, why are they always white when you see em’ in pictures?”

He doesn’t give me a chance to answer and I don’t think I could anyway.

“It’s because white people make them that way. They take what they want, make their own rules, erase history and then write their own god damn history books, but it’s fiction. It’s all a lie,” Charlie says.

“I do believe in hell, Cheyenne is hell. Here we are gentlemen, deep underground in hell,” Susan says, poking at the fire with a stick.

Charlie takes a long swig of whiskey, “I’ll tell you the real history, my real history, before it gets white washed by Channel Five news. That dude attacked me first. I just wanted to leave.”

Susan pulls her sweat shirt over her knees, rests her cheek on them and hugs herself. “Why do you keep talking in innuendos? First the cut on your hand and now this? Not to mention, you didn’t say one word on the way up here. What’s wrong with you?”

“Who? Who attacked you?” I ask him. “What are you talking about?”

“The old guy they found up at Safeway.”

“The guy they found stabbed to death? I saw it in the paper,” I say. “It was on the front page of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.”

“That was me bro. I did it. Straight up. Let the white washing begin.”

I laugh. “Yeah right. I’m pretty sure that happened last Saturday.”

“So?” Charlie says.

“So, you were with us last Saturday night.”

“Yeah, remember the buffalo Charlie?” Susan reminds him.

The buffalo. Last Saturday the three of us drank a bunch of Robitussin and decided to skinny dip in the little lake at Lions Park. It was kind of foggy and we were undressing in our own little corners of the beach when I heard chain-link jangle and I remember thinking, oh no, Charlie is doing his Indian stuff again. When he’s thoroughly blitzed, he believes he’s a shape-shifter—gnashing his teeth like a wolf, howling, maybe eating dirt or disappearing up a tree.

Susan and I ran towards the commotion, her just in her bra and panties and I was in my boxers and by the time we got over there, Charlie was totally naked. We watched him hop off the fence into the enclosure on the other side. He creeped to the middle, plopped down, crossed his legs and sat there. There was one streetlight in there and it shined down on him.

When I was a kid there were a couple elk, a deer, an antelope and three or four bison in this enclosure. I guess they all died over the years, because the only things left were the bison. A sign on the fence read, GREAT PLAINS HABITAT. I didn’t see anything great about it though, it was basically a mud hole and a few trees.

Charlie loves to go on and on about tatanka, that’s what he calls buffalo. The very same ground this silo is in was thick with tatanka before the railroad came through, I like to imagine it that way. Charlie said his great, great, grandpa Kicking Bird walked all the way from Chugwater to Cheyenne on the backs of tatanka without touching the ground. A roving mass so great that it kicked up enough dust to block out the sun. Darkness fell across the plains for twenty days and twenty nights. When the railroad became transcontinental it brought with it wealthy white men from the east, and these guys had .50 caliber rifles and other high-power weapons. From train windows they fired, blowing buffalo brains clean out of their skulls, leaving the carcass to bloat and rot into the short grass and yucca while the Plains Indians starved.

Now Charlie was in a cage with tatanka, a homecoming of sorts.

A deep chuff came from the trees.

“Stop doing that,” Susan said.

“I don’t think that was him,” I said. “Was that you Charlie?”

I tried to stay in the shadows so Susan couldn’t see my birdy chest.

Charlie sat there like Buddha. He didn’t say a word.

Then an object lumbered out of the darkness into the circle of light, and it was followed by a smaller object. “Charlie, it’s coming! And she has a baby! She’s going to protect it! Don’t hurt it Charlie!” Susan begged, she shivered, mascara ran down her cheeks.

“You proved your point, you crazy bastard. We get it,” I screamed. It wasn’t funny anymore. My friend was about to be gored to death right before my own eyes.

Susan ran over to me, buried her face in my shoulder. Her bare skin stuck to mine and I could feel her hot breath in my armpit. I wanted to put my arm around her, pull her in tight, but I just stood there, my stupid heart thumping away like a clipped bird.

The momma buffalo stopped ten feet in front of Charlie, lowered its massive head and snorted, then it kicked up dirt with its front hoof and charged. It happened so fast. Charlie jumped to his feet, and like a matador he turned his body right before the buffalo made contact and smacked the thing between the eyes with his palm. The beast stopped in its tracks, confused. Charlie took a running jump back up onto the fence. He was laughing maniacally and for some reason he had an erection. “What a fucking rush! Fucking tatanka man. I told you.”

The idea of his dick getting hard was so ridiculous to me that I couldn’t help but crack up. It was right there in my face and honestly, it was smaller than I expected, smaller than mine at least. If my confidence was a pair of shoes, my feet grew an extra size right then. I uncrossed my arms, felt my chest puff itself out, I wanted so badly to tell Susan. "Why do you have a boner? You’re going to poke tatanka’s eye out with that little thing.”

He climbed over and hopped down.

Susan handed him his clothes. “You asshole. Why do you always try to hurt yourself?”

“It’s only a body. The spirit is what keeps going forever.”

“That’s a good one Charlie. You should write that down,” I said.

“I hate you,” Susan pouted. “But I guess it was kind of sexy. You’re like my Tarzan.” She tried to kiss him.

He turned away from her and towards me instead. “I’ll show you little. You and your god-damned antelope legs. Look at those things. How do they support any weight?” he chuckled.

My small burst of confidence fizzled away. I hurried to put my clothes on and got in the car. Susan cranked the stereo, which meant she wasn’t in the mood for talking. She dropped Charlie at his uncle’s place first. He leaned over the console, tried kissing her goodbye. She turned her head like he had done to her earlier. He slammed the door. Then she dropped me off without a word, just a half-assed smile goodbye. It was close to 2:30 in the morning. That was our Saturday night.

Charlie looks up at the stars through the open ceiling of the silo. “Yeah, yeah I know what happened last Saturday. I was there, remember?”

“Sometimes you don’t remember though,” Susan reminds him.

“Jesus Christ just shut-up! Listen, what I’m going to tell you can’t leave this circle. Promise?”

“Dude, loyalty,” I say. “We promise.”

“After you guys dropped me off I did try to go to sleep, but I just laid there thinking about what a loser I was. And, why am I always doing dumb shit? I don’t know, maybe I’m looking for approval.”

“That’s very self-aware Charlie, I’m impressed,” Susan says.

“You’re not a loser though,” I say.

“I don’t like when I get into my feelings like that. It was stressing me out. It feels weird.”

“That’s why they’re called feelings,” Susan says.

“Anyway, I got real antsy and I needed a cigarette so fucking bad but I didn’t have any, no money either, not a pot to piss in. Of course I knew Safeway was closed, but I remembered that ash tray out front, there’s usually some killer butts in there. So I got dressed and hoofed it the three blocks over there. And of course, the can was empty. Someone dumped it I guess. But I noticed that nobody drove by the whole time I was there. It felt all peaceful and quiet like that part of the city was abandoned or something.”

“Or maybe it was the Robitussin that made it feel like that,” I say.

Charlie goes on. “You know that big antennae next to the store?”

“Yeah, the one they keep Christmas lights on all year,” Susan says.

“I started thinking, man I could climb that thing, get on the roof, go in through a skylight, grab some cigs and get the fuck out. It seemed like a no-brainer.”

“Yeah, just climb in through the roof of a grocery store in the middle of the night to rob it. No big deal, totally normal. You’ve got some balls man,” I say.

He smiles and goes on, “When I was a kid I’d be at the store, stealing those little gums and Bit O’ Honeys and Jolly Ranchers. I thought I was slick. Then one time I was with my aunt Gina and she caught me slipping some gum into my pocket. She pointed to the skylights. She said that God was watching through that skylight. This was back when I still believed in Jesus and all that bullshit, before I learned of the Great Spirit. I believed her, every word of it. I stopped stealing, at least at stores with skylights. To this day, when I enter a store the first thing I do is look up. It’s a weird fucking habit.

“I ran back to my uncle’s, grabbed my backpack and a crowbar. Then I went back, climbed up the antennae, jumped onto the roof. The skylight popped right off with that crowbar.”

“Wait, how’d you get down though? Isn’t it like a fifteen foot drop?” Susan asks.

“Dude, C’mon, we’ve seen him do crazier shit than that. It’s Charlie,” I say.

“I’m not a dude, Dude,” she replies.

I feel stupid. “Sorry,” I say.

“I’m Lakota, that’s how I got down. I grabbed onto the girders like cross bars, just swung across the whole store like that. There were some electrical boxes on the other wall and I was able to shimmy my way down. No big deal. Then I headed straight for the cigs like I planned. Got over there ripped open a pack, sat there and puffed. Two in a row actually. I was so chill I forgot what I was breaking the law. Then I started grabbing—whoosh, whoosh, man I was quick—ganked as many cartons as I could fit into my pack, that’s when I heard what sounded like keys jangling. Then, pop, pop, pop, a row of lights came on. I was like, oh fuck, I never planned on this—someone was in the store. At four in the morning! What the fuck? I wouldn’t of went there in the first place if I knew somebody would be there. There were no cars or nothing when I was on the roof. My adrenaline got going and it kicked the cough syrup through my blood again, things got all blurry—weird red and green squiggles, tracers everywhere. I panicked. I didn’t know what else to do so I dropped down to all-fours and crawled.”

The fire reflects off the curves of Charlie’s eyes as he tells his story. Charred wood pops and lands outside the circle of light, falls in with the darkness behind us and it seems everything and nothing is behind us at the same time, all that dark prairie out there, might as well be an ocean, an ocean of dirt. I look over at Susan, flames lick at the slow contour of her face. I can’t imagine her falling for this story. She knows, better than me, how Charlie is. He has a gift for tall tales. He says it’s because of his Sioux blood. But this one is turning out to be one of his best, so I sit here, excited to see what happens next.

“Now I’m a wolf, tip-toeing on the pads of my paws towards the front doors,” he says.

“Now you’re a wolf?”

“I’m always a wolf. It just comes out at certain times.

So I’m down on the ground when this guy comes walking up, a white dude, late fifties, grey hair, bald on top, glasses. He didn’t see me at first, he was busy looking through keys on his key chain. Then he kind of looked over, we made eye-contact. God, he had this look on his face, part confusion and part fear, like I was evil or something. Because I’m Lakota? Because I’m a big guy? People see me and expect me to be violent, but I’m not that way.”

“You’ve never been violent towards me,” I say. “But he probably looked like he was scared because you scared the shit out of him by being another person in a place where he thought he was alone. Not to mention, you were crawling on the floor. That’s kind of creepy if you aren’t expecting it.”

“This next part is such a blur. It happened so fast. I remember him saying—he must’ve saw the knife, I forgot I was holding it—he said, ‘Please! I have a family.’ Then he took off running. Why didn’t he just tell me to leave? He could’ve unlocked the door and let me out.”

“Hold up a second, where did you get a knife?” Susan asks. “Why the hell would you bring a knife to steal cigarettes?”

“I didn’t bring it. When I first heard the dude, I crawled over to the kitchenware aisle, pulled a butcher knife off the shelf, just to scare him with though, in case something went down I guess.”

“That doesn’t make sense. You’re saying you had time to go find a knife? You knew exactly where the butcher knife aisle was?” Susan says.

“Yeah, so? God dammit, I just wanted to leave. That’s it. I ran for the automatic doors in the front. They weren’t on or something. I tried pulling them apart, they wouldn’t budge. The old man took off running towards the back of the store, through the stock room doors. He was going to call the cops, I just knew it. I had to go after him. There was a little office back there that he ran into, he slammed the door in my face. I was like, ‘ Dude, I’m not going to hurt you. Just let me out of the store.’ We battled over the door for a while, finally, I forced my way in. And when I did, he had the pepper spray ready to go. He got me good. Next thing I knew he tackled me to the ground, boom! It took a minute before I could see anything again. We wrestled on the floor, he was trying to get the knife. That’s when I went into survival mode. I just remember swinging. It was more like the knife was an extension of my arm, than a weapon. I was punching him in the head with it. I felt the heat of his blood when it splattered on me and a switch just flipped, and from then on it was about inflicting as much pain as possible. Somehow we got back to our feet. I pinned him against the wall. I howled, hoka hey! and I swung, haymaker, jab, jab. I blamed this stranger for every fucking bad thing in life. And he was screaming, this high pitched shriek like a jack rabbit dying. And I remember he said, ‘Please! Please stop! Take what you want. I have children, I’m a grandpa.’ He kept putting his hands up to protect himself. They were cut up bad enough that I could see the bones in one of them and his ear was dangling against the side of his face by a thin piece of skin. I could’ve peeled his face right off of his skull. One more time, I hit him so hard that the knife handle broke off. I think that’s how I got this cut. Then he stopped screaming and just kinda’ crumpled over. One last breath whistled through a hole in his throat, sounded just like one of those tiny yellow birds that land on tall sunflowers, a finch, I think. I took the keys from his pocket and let myself out.”

We wait for Charlie to say, “Got you!” or “Just playing!” He doesn’t though, he just passes the bottle to Susan. Susan glances over at me silently and starts tearing off the whiskey label. She wipes the mouth of the bottle with her shirt, then takes a drink.

Charlie sees this. “Why are you wiping the bottle? You think I’m gross now? Miss Holier Than Thou. And you know what? I don’t even feel bad for killing that man. It was either him or me. And how many Indians have white people killed?”

“C’mon man, calm down. You don’t need to make it about race. We aren’t the enemy,” I say. “I thought it was an awesome story.”

“That story was disgusting Charlie,” Susan says quietly. “How does your mind even come up with stuff like that?”

Charlie mocks her in a dumb high voice. “How do you come up with shit like that Charlie? Look at me, I’m perfect-ass Susan. I’ve never had it hard but I pretend I’m the most depressed girl ever. I’m so deep and dark. I wear black eye-liner and cut myself.”

From the light of the fire I can see tears welling-up in her eyes. She stands, buries her face in her jacket. “I’ll be in the car,” she says and walks off.

I should stick up for her, I would, if it were against anybody besides Charlie. This is just another dumb drunken argument that won’t even matter tomorrow. “Hold on, you can’t get out of here by yourself in the dark. You’ll fall into a hole or something,” I say.

Susan holds up.

On the way back to the car Charlie starts in again. “It would be nice to have someone in my corner. ‘Never count on the white man.’ You don’t know how many times I’ve heard that in my life. I guess they were right. I trusted you guys, I haven’t told anyone but you,” he says.

“We are in your corner Charlie,” I say.

Susan is disturbed, whether it really happened or not. I think she saw a side of Charlie that frightened her. For him to come up with something so vivid, so specific, off the top of his head like that?

In the days that pass it seems like everywhere I go someone is talking about that guy getting killed. They heard this person did it for this reason or that person did it for a totally different reason, but I never hear Charlie’s name mentioned. According to the Tribune Eagle there are still no suspects, no leads. I stop answering Charlie’s phone calls, don’t answer the door when he shows up at dad’s. He knocks and I peak through the blinds, watch him stand there, then he sulks down the street and I want to run after him but something won’t let me. It’s not like I made a decision to stop hanging out with Charlie, it just happened. And the more I avoid him, the more I’m afraid to see him. I’ll have to hear how the whole world is so unfair to Charlie. I’m a coward. Whatever crazy shit going on in Charlie’s world, I’m sure he needs a friend, but something won’t let me be that friend.

Sleep is hard to come by. I lie awake and stare at the ceiling and replay Charlie’s crazy story in my head. And it’s always like I’m in the story, an innocent bystander who witnesses it all—all the blood, Charlie running around on his hands and knees, all of it. I study the history of Charlie by my memories of him. I search for the kind and selfless things Charlie has done in the years I have known him. There aren’t many. Most of the things I remember are him being self-serving. I also realize I don’t know much about the years before I met him, his history, his life. He said he was born on the Pineridge Reservation up in South Dakota, that he lived there until he was thirteen. Said he never knew his father. Said his mom was white, an alcoholic, and couldn’t take care of him so his aunt and uncle here in in Cheyenne agreed to take him in. I look for any clue that would indicate he could murder a man one day. What would that even look like?

I was missing Susan. The only reason I was able to spend time with her was because of Charlie. He brought her around. Then the other night I was out on the porch smoking cigarettes and I was thinking of how good her hair smelled and she must’ve felt it because the phone rang right then and when I picked it up I heard her voice. She must’ve missed me too. Since then we’ve spent almost every day together. We get along better without Charlie around. It’s like this pressure to be cool or tough is gone. And I notice that Susan talks a lot more, giggles, even smiles once in a while.

The clouds are orange because the sun is going down. Susan and I are walking around the lake in the park when she tells me how she used to talk to Charlie’s aunt sometimes. His aunt told Susan that Charlie came from Rock Springs. His mom sent him to Cheyenne to live with his aunt and uncle because he was getting into too much trouble over there. His mom wasn’t an alcoholic, she was deeply religious and strict. Charlie never lived on a reservation, never even visited one. It’s hard to hear, but this doesn’t surprise me. Charlie lies, or embellishes, I know this, it’s just that I thought we were too good of friends to lie to each other.

The afternoon sky is pale and like most days I walk down to the Kum and Go to buy cigarettes. There’s a stack of Wyoming Tribune Eagles on the counter. I can see that right in the front page is an article about the murder investigation so I buy one. I go outside, sit on the curb to read and smoke. It’s been a month and the detectives still have no suspects, but they released some new information—Investigators discovered an empty bottle of Robitussin DM on the scene. When I read the word Robitussin my stomach eats itself, my hands go numb and the words get blurry. I read it again. Charlie never mentioned drinking another bottle of cough syrup at the store and we aren’t the only kids in town who drink cough syrup to get fucked-up. This is what I tell myself anyway.

I flip to the next page. There is a photo of the man who was killed, Bill Hinkley is his name. He’s smiling with a little girl in his arms. The little girl is smiling too.

All kinds of people come in and out of the Kum and Go as I sit there and read. I don’t see their faces, just their shoes. There’s a number for Crime Stoppers at the bottom of the article. I fish coins out of my pocket. My hands are trembling and I’m trying to count out fifty cents but I keep losing my train of thought and all of these stupid feet keep coming and going and I can hear the door of the store ding, ding every time they do.

I find two quarters, get up, and walk across the parking lot to the pay phone. My heart keeps buzzing around in my chest. I turn my head to make sure nobody is behind me, then I turn back to the phone. My blue eyes are staring back at me in the chrome of the keypad. Shame must be the color blue. I think of Charlie in the buffalo pen. He was the one who was risking his life but somehow I was the one who experienced a full-range of emotions—excitement, sadness, anger, lust, resentment. I had never felt more alive and I’m terrified to ever feel that way again.   

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