Deer Dance


Evelina Zuni Lucero

Trini had been told not to come because nothing good ever happened at the bar. Grandma, Old Auntie Lena, all the aunts, and her mother stretched thin lips when the bar's name, the Watering Hole, was mentioned.

Now here she was at the Watering Hole in reckless disregard, dancing with Reynard with his cool, distant air, and the half-moon curve of his smile. Drop-dead handsome, she thought.

With that, she almost stopped in her tracks as she remembered the Deer Man.

Trini smiled when she caught herself looking at Reynard's feet. His gleaming leather boots were as fancy as the rest of him. Cross-stitched thunderbirds stretched their wings across the front yokes of his shirt, a crisp, black and white checkered print neatly tucked into his blue jeans. A large silver buckle sat atop his firm belly, threading a leather tooled belt which blazed REYNARD on the back. Like a buck, he was sleek and full, well muscled, sure-footed, his neck smooth and graceful, his skin an even bronze tone. He possessed an easy smile that flashed like a lightning bolt, illuminating his face and sparking movement behind his photogreys.

Yes, he was good-looking enough to fit the story that Auntie Rosalee liked to spook them with as children:

The tall, handsome stranger strode into a wedding dance, commanding attention with his silent entrance, looking neither to the left or right. No one knew who he was though he looked vaguely familiar, like someone's cousin's cousin. The bride's family thought he must be the guest of the groom's family, and the groom's family assumed he was known by the bride's side. He carried himself with grace and sureness, head erect, meeting all questioning eyes and answering them with careful indifference. Large tu rquoise stones, conspicuously old and heavy, dangled from his earlobes. His long hair was pulled back in an oldtime style. He leaned against the wall, smoking a cigarette, a glint of amusement in his dark, slanted eyes.

All the young, single women and even the restless married ones watched, ready to catch his eye, hoping to be the one he'd ask to dance. After a long time, when the dance was almost over, he asked the prettiest girl to dance. The other women sighed, tossed their heads and pretended they didn't care, but they watched enviously, seeing how he tenderly gazed into the depths of her eyes, and how he smoothly spun her across the room. He was light on his feet and she moved easily with him. Other women crossed their arms and shook their heads in disapproval at her reckless laughter.

The girl forgot who she came with, forgot that her sweetheart might have meant something to her, that he stood in the corner sulking. A woman letting her hair down, she danced on with the stranger, yielding to him. The songs became soft sighs, each dance a yearning. The stranger held her tighter and tighter till her boyfriend rushed forward, his eyes narrow slits. Before he could reach her, as the song was ending, screams and shouts filled the air. The band stopped. The crowd parted. The young girl lay lifeless on the floor.

In the confusion of the moment, the stranger almost slipped away, but he was stopped at the door by belligerent, red-eyed young men. Something about his movement as he stepped back from them caused one young man to look down at his feet. The young man paled, his eyes widened, causing others to follow his gaze. Once again, terrified screams broke loose, paralyzing the crowd. In the sudden hush that came upon the room, someone cried out, "Look! Look at his feet! He has the feet of a deer!" The stranger smiled, brazen and fearless. He pushed his way to the door unchallenged and walked out.

Later, his deer tracks were found beneath all the windows of the hall.

Auntie Rosalee heard the story from the Indian matrons at the Indian School who insisted that it was true, that two-legged deer tracks were still to be found in the snow on winter mornings. During the deer hunting season, Rosalee and other women would joke, saying, "Now that the men are gone, let's go on a hunt of our own for a two-legged dear." It took years before Trini caught the pun. She used to wonder why they'd want to look for the Deer Man and risk being danced to death.

Only in a place like this could that happen.

Reynard smiled at her.

She looked away.

From An excerpt from a novel in progress, Fancy Dancer
© 2004 Evelina Zuni Lucero

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