Looking out on the desert terrain toward the mountains, Becca understood why the Maricopa Indians loved this land. With the Gila River cutting a path through the various shades of brown, she admired the beauty of the landscape.
Becca and four friends had chosen to spend their summer helping in the Gila River Indian Community. Their missionary idealism gave way to the reality that they were Caucasian teenagers from the suburbs with little understanding of the struggles faced by the Indian teenagers.
Walking back toward the orphanage compound where they were staying, Becca began to pray. "Lord, why are we here? We thought You sent us to make a difference, but Lord, there's a wall we can't penetrate. Show us how to become friends. And Lord, help us to reach Sue. She needs to know your love."
Sue was a leader among the Maricopa teenagers. She was physically and emotionally strong, but she was also distrustful and angry. She had been living at an orphanage since she was six years old. Her mother had committed suicide and her father disappeared soon afterwards.
Everyone was awake by the time Becca returned from her walk. It was going to be a busy day. They had invited the Indian youth to a bonfire, cookout and sing-along for the evening. No one had any hopes that more than just a couple teenagers would show.
Right after lunch Sue and some of her friends organized an impromptu basketball game. When Becca walked by the basketball court with chairs for the evening's activities, Sue called out a challenge to Becca, "Hey, white girl, wanna play?"
"I would but I have a lot of stuff to do before tonight," Becca said.
"Come on, one game. That's all I ask," Sue said while bouncing the ball.
"All right," Becca replied, laying the chairs in the dirt next to the court, "One game."
"First, you gotta eat some of this stuff," Sue challenged, handing Becca some meat.
Becca turned the meat over in her hands. "Uhm, what is it?"
"Rattlesnake," Sue answered.
"How bad could rattlesnake taste?" Becca said with a shrug. "Okay, but if I eat the rattlesnake, you have to come to the bonfire tonight."
"We'll see," Sue said without committing herself to the evening's events.
After taking a bite Becca began to cough while tears rolled down her face. "What's in this?" she sputtered, leaning over with her hands on her knees. "It's like the hottest thing I've ever tasted."
When the game began, it became apparent Sue was out to get Becca. The others stopped playing and watched the battle between the two girls. The crowd watching the game began to grow and soon there were two groups of folks rooting for their girl to win. Once the game reached 26-24 with Becca leading, Jared, an adult sponsor, pulled her aside for a brief talk.
"Careful, Becca," he said while handing her a towel to wipe her forehead. "You don't want to embarrass Sue on her home turf. Winning the game may hurt her pride and do more harm than good. She seems really agitated with you right now."
Becca shook her head back and forth, "I don't know about that. She's intense for sure, but I think she expects nothing but the best from me."
Back in the game, Sue and Becca continued their fierce rivalry. Eventually, Becca began to drag her feet. The ball felt like lead in her hands and she could no longer control her dribbling. Staggering, Becca fell. A second later Sue fell hard on the cement. Breathing heavily the girls lay still in their own sweat. Becca was declared the winner with the final score 48-44.
Getting on her knees, Becca crawled over to where Sue lay gasping. The girls looked at each other. A giggle escaped Becca, then both girls began laughing hysterically rolling on the ground.
"Hey, Becca," Sue finally wheezed out. "See you tonight at that thing you're having."
"Uh, sure," Becca said. "If I can get up from here, I'll see you there.
"You know, I'm not going because you won the game," Sue smiled.
"Oh?" Becca said with raised eyebrows.
"Yeah, it was eating the rattlesnake. Man, you saved me. My friends were daring me to eat it when you came along. That stuff tastes bad. No way I would've eaten it. You must really be desperate for us to go."
"Oh," Becca responded, another giggle ready to explode from deep within her throat.
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