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Snagging Blanket

Sundance Lee draped his old snagging blanket around his shoulders. It hadn’t snagged anyone for many years. His legs were too skinny, and there was too much silver in his thin braids. Still, it was powwow season. He had plenty of opportunities. During the Grand Entry the day before, he caught a white woman whispering “aho” in quiet fascination to herself, trying to mimic the emcee’s cadence. Her eyes flitted nervously in Lee’s direction; he was standing so close, and he almost snagged her with a smile. It would have been that easy.

Except there was something churchy about her, like she’d become frightened by him once they were alone and naked in his camper. The equal parts of fear and desire in the so-called ‘exotic’ reminded him of his first wife. So, he left the woman alone to her muttering.

That morning, he leaned a foot on the trailer’s metal step, testing the weather. He could skip the rest of the powwow and avoid the boggy heat, but he’d promised Abel Keel he’d be on the main drum. Abel Keel had a pretty jingle-dress sister, and she’d be dancing. Lee sang pretty good and figured she’d be impressed by him, maybe not as impressed as a white woman, but…

Lee splashed the first pour of coffee against the gravel, catching a mean anole with a wide neck. It also reminded him of his first wife. He marveled over how she suddenly occupied his thoughts after twenty years.

They weren’t a good fit, but when they were sixteen, he’d slid her cotton panties off at the church social. He remembered the little pink rose stitched into the white front, like a frosted candy on top of a slice of wedding cake. She made him promise her it meant more than it had.

She got pregnant, and they married before anyone could see the rising bump. A foreign mass. An alien. A vow that neither one of them wanted or prepared for.

The wedding was held at her parents’ fancy two-story house. Lee stood awkwardly in the foyer. He’d cleaned the mud off his work boots, but her parents asked him to stay on the newspaper trail laid out to keep the carpet clean if he walked anywhere.

They married in the living room. His parents. Her parents. A balding traveling preacher with tiny hands and large glasses. No one smiled, but Lee didn’t feel ashamed either. He thought he knew what love meant. It meant her and the little intruder. Love was an education in how to be a man. That’s what his father said, anyway.

Extended family was allowed in the backyard for the reception. Her kin came first and then his. She was in the bathroom making final adjustments to her white dress but came out shrieking. “Oh, Lee! Lee! There’s a bunch of red Indians on our lawn!”

Lee gaped at her. The cigar her father had just cut for him was halfway to his mouth.

Her father laughed. “Law alive! Who’d you think you were marrying?”

Lee’s father stared into the middle distance.

Lee tried to keep the marriage working but eventually realized she wasn’t a good woman. It was in her small cutting jabs that built up over time, that sense of being othered in his own home. Once, she found out that his mother drove across town so that she could fill up her plastic jugs with the garden hose before the sun rose and the neighbors could see. They had clean, well water. Lee’s wife told him it was trash behavior and laughed in his face.

She cured him of love, but he got children out of it. All the suffering counted for something.

Around midday, he got a call from his youngest daughter. She sounded frustrated that she spoke to his voicemail, but he’d been on the main drums for the Grand Entry and hadn’t heard the phone ring.

“Mama’s died. Aneurysm, they said. Thought you should know.”

Lee stared at the black screen. The afternoon had grown so hot sweat crusted the shape of his ear against the glass. He slipped the phone into his pocket and wandered around the grounds. He saw the little white woman from the day before. She stood in line for bannock, and her naked shoulders were red. He wanted to say to her, “You’re redskin like us now.”

He wanted to say, “I’ll treat you right and put you on my tongue like honey.”

He watched her hand dip into the purse for money to shoo the bees that hovered around the sticky, sweet remains of Pepsi cans piled around trash bins. Lee watched how she covered her mouth as she whispered little words she heard, like she was visiting somewhere exotic and not South Texas, where his kin had been since before God separated the light from the dark. She asked Abel Keel’s sister what her costume was called and if she could take a picture.

Lee could snag her, and later, she’d say to her church friends, “I had me a real Indian!” She wouldn’t tell them that he’d taken her to his camper and they bounced the old tires flat or that he cried into her breasts and talked about his dead wife. She’d smile and say all coy-like, “He had big brown eyes.”

The woman turned, sensing his stare, and smiled. Bashful. Uncertain.

Lee crumbled. He whispered, “Let me bother you. Can I hold your hand? Just for a minute.”

She didn’t hear and turned away to speak to somebody new.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

That night, Lee poured the last dregs of coffee out on the gravel and tucked himself under the old snagging blanket, his arms curved around a pillow. He needed to call his daughter in the morning and figure out funeral arrangements. He wondered if there would be a spray of roses on his wife’s coffin.

Abigail F. Taylor is an award-winning Own Voices author from Texas. Her novella, THE NIGHT BEGINS, debuted with Luna Press Publishing February 2023. Her short stories and poems can be found in Writer’s Digest, Globe Soup, Fractured Lit, Sixfold Magazine, and Illya’s Honey, among others. She once spent a year working on the film set for The Dinosaur Experiment, and had a stint in religious studies. Her next book, MARYNEAL, 1962, will arrive with Wild Ink Publishing in 2025. When she’s not writing, Abigail spends her time out in nature, practicing aikido, and cross stitching. She lives with four cats, a small dog, and one sassy rooster. You can follow her on her website

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