Published on Friday, June 15, 2012
By Janett L. Grady
Sergeant Decker, an old soldier with the face of a man who had suffered much without knowing why, clawed at the noose drawn tightly around his neck. He hung from the ceiling, feet inches from the floor, eyes bulging hideously. The other end of the rope had been passed through a hook embedded in the ceiling and Singing Bird pulled down on it, keeping the sergeant in the air.
Decker had finished most of the whiskey, had dozed off after using Singing Bird to satisfy his lust and would now pay for it all with his miserable life. Pain and a lack of air had turned Decker's face blood red and ugly. He rasped through his open mouth, in a total panic to breathe again, and Singing Bird, sensing his agony, pulled harder.
The two were in one of the saloon's shabby rooms, an upstairs room whose only comforts were a wobbly table, a pile of straw for a bed and a tin bucket of burning charcoal for light and heat.
Decker kicked the air as the noose dug deeper into his neck. Singing Bird eased her grip on the rope, letting Decker's feet barely touch the floor. Decker, standing on the tip of his toes, greedily gasped for air.
"Gold," he rasped. "I'll pay gold."
"I look white," she said, "but I don't want your gold. I'm Lakota Sioux, the squaw you mauled and murdered when I was only twelve years old." She yanked on the rope.
"I hunt you down," she said, "and now you die."
"When...what?" Decker choked out.
"Shannon's Gap," she told him. "My village...thirty years ago...you whites came in...and you, you pig, dragged me into the forest."
Decker sucked in air, and Singing Bird laughed, jerked hard on the rope, again lifting Decker off the floor. "I live," she said. "You die. All whites die." When Decker stopped kicking, Singing Bird released the rope, letting the body fall hard to the floor.
Dropping to her knees, she tore away the obstructing collar. She dragged the corpse to the window overlooking the alley. In one quick move, the Lakota warrior pushed open the window. She leaned over, struggled the lifeless form into her arms, and then heaved it into the air. Smiling, she watched as it fell three floors down and bounced.
By the flickering light from the bucket of burning charcoal, Singing Bird pulled on her dusty trail clothes, white man's shirt and trousers. She then hurried out of the room, down the staircase and out onto the wooden sidewalk.
She untied her spotted mare and swung into the saddle. Reining her mount to the right, she glanced down the alley. Three pigs nosed about, and two big dogs were tearing into something dead.
Singing Bird turned her mount, kicked hard and galloped out of Shannon's Cliff, a white man's town where once was a village of women and children being murdered and butchered, the blue-coats showing no mercy for the young and the old.
Beyond the edge of town, she reined the mare into a stand of pine, pines at the top of a cliff, the river running swiftly far below. She wondered what she'd do, stay white, return to her people, or leap into the river and back into the world of brave but dead warriors.
She recalled the attack, envisioned the swarm of soldiers led by the army sergeant, saw the sergeant dragging her into the forest, saw him stripping her naked, using her, and then tossing her over the edge, through the frigid air and into the freezing river.
She laughed at the thought of how easy it had been to dress white, mosey into the saloon, and seduce Decker into sharing his bottle of whiskey.
Singing Bird once a murdered 12-year-old squaw, had begged the Almighty Spirit to give her a second chance, and eighteen years ago she had been given her new life as a Lakota warrior, a warrior who had soon learned how best to raid small towns and kill whites. Her tribe had taught her well.
As she now guided her mare down a hill and into the forest, she realized her second life was for more than killing Decker. She was well versed when it came to killing whites, and making things right was not yet done, wouldn't be until all whites were sent to their Happy Hunting Ground.
She kicked her mount, and the mare reared back, lunged forward and galloped hard.
Janett L. Grady is a senior citizen who lives and writes with her husband in Palmer, Alaska.