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On Reservations,

Celeste Jackson

trauma looks like this:

“No.” Her voice was coarse. Sweat collected around her temples and rolled down to soak the pillow beneath her head. “No,” she repeated. 

“Aimee.” Her aunt’s voice was hard. 

Aimee moved her head to stare at her aunt, who stood at the foot of the bed. She glanced down and noticed the book

clasped between two brown speckled hands. Leather, she thought, her hands are like leather. 

“No,” she rasped. Each breath produced a sharp pain in her chest. 

Her aunt’s lips thinned. 

“Perhaps another time would be best?” The pastor had silver hair, and he wore a white shirt. He blended in with the 

walls. 

“She’s sick. You wan’ to leave her like this?” Her aunt face’s was set. 
The pastor moved closer and bent down to whisper in the aunt’s ear. “I don’t want to scare her anymore,” he said softly.

“I don’t think she understands.” His eyes flickered to the door. 

“You read the book. She’ll be better.” Her aunt was brusque. 

“I – “ the pastor faltered. “It’s not that simple.” 

“Nick, she’ll be fine.” Sarah was the pastor’s wife. “Hurry. Michael’s practice ends soon.” 

Aimee’s hand twitched. 

“I’m sure Michael can wait.”

“I told him we’d be there at 6:30.”

“So call him and tell him we’ll be late.”

The room was silent until Sarah walked into the hall. Her heels clicked against the wood floor.

The pastor released a breath. He’d known Aimee and her aunt for some time now. He thinks they’re kind. His was family

was treated to a pumpkin pie each harvest. I grew them, the aunt would say. He would return the favor with chicken eggs regardless of Sarah’s complaints that those eggs were for the Farmer’s Market on Northern Avenue. Sarah. He can save them. He knows this. He needed patience, not brass. No, he needed brass, but not the violent kind. 

He’ll understand, the pastor assured himself. Michael likes Aimee too. 

“Nick,” Sarah hissed. Aimee wondered when the wife came back. 

“Here,” the pastor addressed her aunt, “We’ll be quick. You sit down. Sarah and I will stand on either side of the bed.”

The pastor gestured with a wave of his hand for Sarah to come closer. 

It’s 6:23, thought the wife, but she took her position. He doesn’t need this. 

“No,” Aimee tried again. 

“Azee’. Díí eí azee’, shi awéé’.” He aunt grasped her hand. “You’ll be better, Aimee. He’ll save you.” Aimee wondered

whether her aunt knew what the word save meant. That word shouldn’t exist for them. 

Suddenly, she could smell perfume; the lilac nauseated her. Aimee tried to turn her head but the wife placed one palm

on her brow and another on her stomach. The pastor’s hands quickly followed. Their hands were cold. Aimee wondered where her blankets were. She was cold. 

The pastor and Sarah started to murmur. Her aunt hummed. 

A white noise started in her ear that urged on her heartbeat. A simmer was on her back; it slowly crawled up and circled

around her neck; made progress back down her body and nestled deep.  Her breath was shallow. Her frame shook. Her vision tunneled.

Outside, the sun was coming up over the hills; the sky was empty. The wind drew dirt from the ground and twirled weeds

onto the road. Each one would inevitably be picked up by a small pickup truck. Four crows flew overhead in circles around a red-roofed house and another settled atop the chimney escape. Wings stretched, the crow fussed the air, its beak cracked opened. His body settled, and the crow turned his attention the ground, where a man and a woman lead a hunched figure toward a white van.  

“I’m sorry to hear about your niece.” 

The aunt hummed. 

“These things just happen sometimes.” 

She nodded. 

Yes, they do. 

Celeste Jackson (Diné) is from the Navajo Nation. She studies Indigenous Literature and holds a Certificate in Women and Gender Studies. Her academic work is featured in the quarterly journal The Explicator.