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Fiction by Jane (Cohen) Stinson
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A single white gull soaring over her head called raucously into the wind. Becky couldn't imagine that it was marking its territory in the sky. There was plenty of room for thousands of gulls in the sky above her. It was only when the gulls landed on the shores of the lake that they fought over space. She packed up her sketching equipment and headed back for town. She put the Jeep in low gear and roared up out of the small dusty pocket where she had parked and onto the dirt road leading to the main highway and town. A tall cloud of dust swirled up behind her as she lurched down the road. She and the Jeep belonged to each other on this road where the ruts and rocks were part of the reality. The Jeep had been Joe's present to her last Christmas and for a moment she had loved him for it. The jolting motion of the ride disappeared on the black pavement of the state highway with its neat yellow and white lines. She didn't want to go home and wait for Joe. By four o'clock she would be in a panic because she had done no painting since he left three days ago. By five she would be in front of her easel slashing at the canvas in the fury that accompanied her work now. By six she would begin to fix the fish and rice dinner she had promised him. By seven she would have spent herself. By eight Joe would be home. The counter at George's cafe was full at three. It was full most of the time. George's was about the last place left on the reservation where Becky still felt as though she belonged. It was mostly a male hangout and the males at George's appreciated Becky. They just liked the chance to enjoy her lithe body and pretty face, whether through wide-open, half-closed, and even through closed eyes when they could imagine what she looked like without her jeans and sweater. Becky hopped up onto a stool next to ever-present Tommy and punched him playfully on the arm. He was a good- looking kid, probably not more than 20 or 21, and unemployed, like most of the men on the reservation. He was tall, well-built, and not stupid. She wondered if he had ever tried a different cafe or the bar over at the big motel, maybe gone up to Thunder Bay just for the hell of it or down to Duluth for a big weekend on the town. "How's it goin'?" she asked Tommy and then slapped the counter with the flat of her hand. "Right here!" she demanded of old George. He obligingly put a mug of hot coffee in front of her. “Hey, Babe,” Tommy said, returning her little punch. He looked her up and down and up again with the utmost appreciation. “You know,” he observed casually, switching his attention from her to himself by staring straight ahead into the mirror behind the counter, “you got the best ass in town – maybe the whole reservation.” “Yeah, and it belongs to Joe,” she replied. “Someday when he's out of town gettin' rich you'll be ripe. You can call me then. Ain't nobody better'n me, girl.” He adjusted his hair to a more flattering configuration. “Joe's better'n you,” she replied. She waved to Peggy Gordon at the other end of the counter. Peggy was a nice kid. She thought Joe was terrific. She was one of the few people around who thought so.

The Witch Tree - page 8