We werent getting a ride. Standing dirty in front of the mcdonalds, reeking of campfire and sweat, we sure as hell werent getting a ride. Meanwhile two boys observed us from behind their dashboard, big mac wrappers in hand. Finally, pityingly, one rolled the window down.
Where yall headed?
Into the woods, bout 10 miles that way if you could spare it.
Shit, why yall goin there?
Aint got anything better to do, not really.
They put the seat down and we slid in the back with our packs, knees pressed against the cracked vinyl. The car wheezed to life.
Hi. we’re Indian. Said the one driving, handed me his tribal ID card. A wave of bass flooded the speakers. His companion looked back at us, didn’t say nothing nor offer his blood quantum, didn’t need to. He asked what we thought of his tribe, this rez today. All the white folks claiming Cherokee somewhere on their grandma’s side. My reply was drowned in hip-hop and pocahontases mounted on wolves, staring vacantly from billboards all around us. We passed an older native dude in full regalia, playing flute for a doughy clutch of tourists.
Now you see that yall? that is just wrong, our guide muttered, his eyes downcast.
As we rose into the hills he hit the gas and his mood turned bitter. They fastened their seatbelts.
Man fuck these mountains, I hate these fucking mountains, being trapped in this shithole, and he raised his long middle finger out the window of the sedan. And what the hell are yall doing. Ive never seen two girls hitchhiking before. Yall are crazy.
Told you, just disaffected, jobless, aint got shit else to do.
Us neither. But I dont know about this hiking or whatever. Yall are hobos. Never met two lady hobos before. Yall are crazy. And he laughed. His friend laughed too, coughed a little on the brickweed joint, and peered back through the haze at us with our stinking packs clutched like children to our breasts.
I mean, yall dont need to go out into the woods now, it being almost dark and all. Yall can stay down in the trailer tonight. Lucky youre with us, I wouldnt fuckin walk around here at night, not on this land, even if yall think youre crazy or whatever. They are worse here, I swear to god, they do terrible things to each other down here, their own families.
The speedometer crept up higher and their prison-mountains rolled blue into red clouds gathering at the foot of the sinking sun. Lil Wayne giggled on the stereo.
After it got dark, we waited outside somewhere for a long time, sipping warm beer beside a double-wide. All around us lost boys were flitting like moths under a bare bulb out back, them looking at us in the yellowed light like we weren’t real till someone’s ma put on her night robe at this indecent hour and shoo’d us along to go make a racket and smoke someplace else.
Headlights cut the darkness into slices of dirt track and fecund weeds, then we were at his trailer. We dragged our packs over the folded passenger seat. All around us, the barely-contained forest issued a throaty beat of crickets and frogs.
We filed across the cool grass into the smell of hot linoleum and stale beer.
Make yourselves at home.
He offered his last clean towels. No kitchen on account of a fire last year. We sat up a while longer till they got too deep into the pills and we couldn’t watch them do it anymore. So we put our boots outside to dry a little and cleared a space in the corner and laid our bedrolls out and collapsed.
I woke sometime later and the quiet one was kneeling over me with eyes like a mineshaft full of water on a moonless night.
We should do something, he was whispering over and over again. He’d recently just been a boy, now half-grown skinny but fleshing out to heartbreaker. He was shaking in his nikes, out of his mind on whatever was in those lines laid out on the table. I sat up and in my best mama voice soothed him to hush now and get on to bed. My thumb ran down the knife in my palm. I whispered hush now, calm down.
The driver called him back to the table, saying that’s no way to do things, apologizing, promising us tomorrow he’d take us on down to the truckstop to catch a ride. It was late. I should’ve stayed awake but drifted, instead, back into dreamless sleep with the rest of the darkness.