Dane leaned his forehead carefully against the window of the passenger back seat, the dry summer plains passing before his tired eyes in a yellow-brown blur. His face throbbed with pain, and his mind ached with regret. Why hadn’t he just kept his mouth shut and walked out of that bar? Great Falls hicks’, he thought. That town sucks.
His father smoked cigarette after cigarette in the front seat as he drove. Every once in awhile, the car threatened to die, lagging or jumping a little. Each time it did, Dane just prayed that he and his father wouldn’t find themselves on the side of the road. Dane had already suffered almost 48 hours of mind-numbing pain. If the car died, he figured he might just try to join it. At this point, he resented his dad for insisting on driving to the Indian hospital in Bozeman almost as much as he resented the hicks who jumped him outside the bar and shattered his lower jaw. The people at the Indian hospital had refused to accept him, and for whatever administrative reason that his pain-addled brain could not comprehend, they had sent him back to Great Falls without any treatment.
He sighed, leaned back and pretended that he wasn’t where he was. He pretended that his brown skin and long hair hadn’t contributed to the situation at all. He pretended that he was the one smoking cigarettes and driving, not the one broken and out of control. As the miles passed, his mind grew calm. The smell of cigarette smoke began to smell more like burning sage. He kept his eyes closed and fell into a dream of days when buffalo crossed these plains. Behind his worn eyelids, he watched the sun drop out of sight as he sat atop his horse, 150 years in the past. In his dream, he was whole and strong. He felt the lack of nothing.