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Autumn 1990. The sun drops behind the Big Horn Mountains. An orange 1980 Mustang turns onto the highway and bears north across the reservation, toward Billings. There is no caravan behind him. Takes Enemy goes alone.
His face is clean-shaven, his clothes are neat, his cheekbones have bloomed again. He is 25, but he looks like that boy in those high school pictures once more. All summer he has jumped rope, slipping into his backyard to do it at midnight when no one on the reservation could see.
He presses the accelerator. Just a short visit home today; he cannot dally. He needs to get off the reservation by nightfall and back to his apartment in Billings, to Trudi and little Jonathan and Tashina, back to his new life as a student and a basketball player at Rocky Mountain College. Because when the darkness comes and his friends come.... "To do this," he says, "I can't be near them. I miss them. But I have to be alone." He hasn't had a drink in months. He hears that Old Bull has made a change too, moving to Bozeman with hopes of fulfilling his high school requirements and getting a shot at college ball.
"It's my decision to go to college this time," Jonathan says. "I finally realized that I was running out of time. It's not that the reservation is a bad place. There are many good people there. But it's just not a place where you can become what you want to become. It's not a place where you can achieve your dreams."
Last spring he convinced Luke Gerber, the coach at Hardin High, that he was serious. Gerber called Jeff Malby, the coach at Rocky Mountain College, and Malby remembered how the clean water had once flowed across the rocks. Pie offered Takes Enemy a scholarship to the liberal arts college in Billings, with 810 students. So far, it fits Jonathan just right.
He passes the reservation border, glances into his rearview mirror. He knows that some people back there are now calling him an "apple"—red on the outside, white on the inside. He knows what he is leaving behind, what he is losing. Knows it in the morning when he passes his new neighbors in Billings and they just barely nod. Knows it when it's midnight and he and Trudi are buried in textbooks, and the apartment is silent. "It's just too quiet here," he'll say. "We're so isolated." And when he lies in bed at night and thinks of his sick mother, he knows it then, too.
His eyes move back to the windshield. Ahead of him, over the rolling hills, across the sage and buffalo grass, he can just make out the soft electric glow of Billings. He's starting to get an idea of what lies this way. He's passing all four of his classes. He's averaging 19.8 points and 4.6 assists for his new team. He's just getting his bearings, but his coaches say that he'll soon establish himself as the best player in Montana and that he's destined to be an NAIA All-America before he's done.
Everything's still so new to him. Paying his own rent each month from the grant money allotted to him by the tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, paying electric bills, buying his own food. Studying until 1 a.m., making sure that Trudi gets off to Eastern Montana College in the morning that his kids get off to day care and preschool, living in the white man's world, in a hurry, on a schedule.
He wants to go back to the reservation someday and help kids to take the risk, to see both the beauty and the danger of the circle. But he may never live there again. He rolls down his car window. He listens to the air. There is no singing in the land. There is only a quiet, sad-happy song inside a young man's heart.