Don't want Litquake to end? Join San Francisco's associate editor, Jenna Scatena, and other local writers at Book Passage Corte Madera 4 p.m. this Sunday for the launch of Best Women's Travel Writing Vol. 9 (Travelers' Tales). Scatena, Natalie Baszile, Kimberly Lovato, Abbie Kozolchyk, and series editor Lavinia Spalding will be reading their stories from the book and signing copies. This adventurous anthology includes 30 true tales from around the globe.
Here's an exclusive excerpt from Scatena's story, "The Road to Wounded Knee."
On our way into town we passed billboards offering $6.99 breakfast platters and genuine leather wrangling gloves. Our sixteen-seat puddle jumper had landed not even an hour before, but my mother was already well into her stories of childhood on the prairie. Growing up not far from here, she said, in a single gas station town named Murdo, she and my grandparents had dreamt of thunderheads: black clouds that divined themselves out of indigo and tore across the sky feeding thirsty crops, then disappearing only slightly slower than they’d materialized. Like the work of an angry but loving God.
I saw the eyes before the body: two reflective dots in the dark, one on top of the other. Bump. My mother didn’t see it in time either. A deer.
"It was already dead,” she said. She was sure of it.
We had arrived in Rapid City just as the wide sky faded from purple to black and the tall blonde grass disappeared into the night. After the soothing golden lights of San Francisco, South Dakota felt isolated and cold. I had never been here, but I knew it—if only from the stories passed down from my mother, and its residue in my blood.
Our plan was to sleep in an original homestead in a prairie outside of town; we’d booked it through the owner, a corn farmer, thinking it would give us a sense of local history. But when we creaked the weighty door open, we took the unwelcoming stench of kerosene and dank wood, and the presence of a terrified mouse and a half-dead beetle twitching on the dirt floor, as omens. We checked into the nearest motel, where we sought refuge in stiff hotel sheets that smelled of chlorine while trains whistled in the distance throughout the night.
In the morning while we dressed, I drank weak coffee with powdered creamer—poor fuel for the day ahead. My mother slipped on a pair of dangly turquoise earrings she had bought from a Lakota man at a jewelry show in California, then twisted her long hair into a ponytail.
“South Dakotans don’t wear dresses,” she said, wagging her finger at me. She handed me a pair of jeans and a white shirt, and looked satisfied when I put them on. “Now you look like a local.”
Then we loaded our rented nickel-colored Impala with the bulky suitcases we had hauled from San Francisco and headed into the prairie, unsure of exactly what to expect on our journey to Wounded Knee.
Jenna Scatena will be reading from her story on Sunday October 20th, 4 p.m. Book Passage Corte Madera 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. For more info click here.