Cash pulled herself up and out of her window. Her heart beat in her ears and she shivered uncontrollably. Her eyes were wide and darted left and right as she took off running barefoot across the damp ground, She ran toward the plowed field ahead, in the direction that led to town. Her foot sank into the cold, damp dirt of the furrowed field. When she tried to pull her foot up, her front leg sank farther into the dirt. She threw herself forward, clawing at the dirt with bare hands, hearing the heavy, labored breathing of the person chasing her. Fear forced her from her body so that she was soon flying above herself. She looked down and could see herself stretched out in the mud below, buried to her knees, arms flailing. Some of her long brown hair was tangled in her hands in the mud. Cash circled in the air above. She looked back to see who was chasing her, but all she could see was a body, the face obscured in the darkness. Below her in the field, the body changed from herself, struggling, to a paler, longer-legged, long-haired blond. The young woman looked up at Cash and screamed, "Help me!" On that happy note, Cash crawled out of bed, got dressed and headed across the Red River bridge from Fargo, N.D., to the Moorhead State College campus on the other side of the river. She nursed a tepid cup of coffee, intended to get her through both her English and Biology classes, while she tried to shake the dream from her head. With a one-hour break between her Biology and psychology classes, Cash made a beeline for her Ranchero and retrieved her cue stick from behind the front seat, then took off across campus to the Student Union. Inside the spacious building, which also housed the cafeteria and several student study lounges, Cash headed to the billiard room where she threw her jean jacket over a tall stool that stood against the wall. She removed her new cue stick from the fringe leather case she had made a few years ago. The stick, with a purple ivory embossed handle was the right weight for her, a #21, and a little heavy in the handle to compensate for her short stature. She screwed the two lengths of stick together and rolled it across the green of the 9-foot table. The rec hall allowed students 24-hour access to the larger tables and no fee to play with your student ID. Her game had improved considerably since starting college. Barroom pool tables tended to be shorter so as not to take up too much drinking space. But here at the rec hall, the full-size tables were always open. Apparently, Midwest farmer-type college students weren't pool sharks. They spent more time writing term papers and reading textbooks. Cash was learning a lot at Moorhead State College. She had already found out that most girls her age considered shooting pool a sin, against their church upbringing. While Cash drank the occasional Budweiser and wore straight-legged blue jeans and a clean t-shirt under a Levi jean jacket each day, a good handful of the students preferred smoking weed to drinking. They dressed in bellbottom jeans and sheer peasant blouses - hippie attire. They talked about making love, not war. They flashed peace signs at each other as they crossed the green campus lawn. And then there were the college jocks, the students from small-town, conference-winning sports teams who were big-shot scholarship jocks now. Still the jocks were too undersized for any professional team they might hope to be scouted for. And who knew to look for them in the Red River Valley of the North anyway? There were also the studious students - the students who in their small towns had been picked on, teased or ostracized because they got A's in algebra without cheating, who read Macbeth and enjoyed it. The ones who willingly stayed after school to create potions in the under-financed science labs of the high schools ruled by the captain of the football team and his cheerleader homecoming queen. Where Cash had always shot 8-ball for money, here at college, she had learned how to play 9-ball against fraternity jocks who considered it the only pool game worthy of their time. It kept her in shape for the money-making games at her home bar, the Casbah, over on the Fargo, North Dakota side of the Red River. It was beet-hauling season in the Valley and Cash was driving beet truck afternoons and evenings when her class schedule allowed. She had stopped at the rec hall to practice bank shots before she headed to the Wang farm around 8 in the evening to start hauling on an overnight shift. She chalked the tip of her cue and broke the rack, sending the balls spewing across the green. Her break hadn't been forceful enough because nothing dropped in the pockets. Cash started with the one ball, and successively went after each ball in numerical order, attempting a bank shot of each ball into an opposite corner. She frustrated herself with her failures. Damn and shhh...t were frequent utterances. She stretched her 5-foot, 2-inch frame over the pool table, her cue stick rested easily on the arch made between her thumb and curled pointer finger, aiming at the 11 ball to bank it into the far-right corner pocket. She had just pulled her right arm back in a smooth pendulous swing when, "Cash, there you are!" rang out. Cash's zone was broken and she nicked the edge of the cue ball sending it toward the 11 but about 3 inches off. Cash slid back off the table and turned to see hippie Sharon hopping down the three rec hall steps, her flared bell-bottoms swirling around her platform shoes. "Hey, I was looking all over for you after science class. I'm in love. Do you think he's married? Do you think he fools around if he is? Don't you just love his hair, the way he kinda swoops it back over his forehead? And his bod, man." Cash leaned over the pool table and aimed at the 11 ball again. "Who are we talking about?" "Mr. Danielson." Sharon hopped up on the tall stool, crossed her legs and opened her long sweater jacket, her braless chest visible through the sheer gauze of her Indian style shirt. "From now on I'm sitting in the front seat, just like this." She said tossing her long blond hair over her shoulder. "You can sit in the back row close to the door all by yourself. I want to be right up front where he can see all of me." "You're crazy." Cash watched the 11 ball drop smoothly into the far-left pocket. She scanned the table looking for the 12 ball and calculated the best angle for a bank shot. "He's an old man." "He's only 30." "That's half dead." "Mary Beth said she heard from someone that some of the teachers give A's for head." "What the heck are you talking about?" Cash had to stand on tiptoe to reach across the table to line up on the 12. Cash was also learning that college hippie chicks wanted to talk about free love, weed and ending the war in Viet Nam more than anything else. "You know, head, a blow job, go down on him. "There are easier ways to get an A." "Maybe for you. Do you ever study? He is so groovy." Sharon exaggerated the flip of her hair over her other shoulder. "Thought you had a boyfriend?" "Haven't you heard? Make Love, Not War." Sharon giggled. "Come on, grab a cue and play against me." "Sure, Miss Shark. That's not a game, that's just me moving the balls around the table for you." But Sharon hopped off the chair and grabbed a cue from the rack on the wall as Cash racked the balls and got a house cue to break. Once again, she didn't hit the balls hard enough for any of them to drop. She was going to have to spend a few sessions just practicing her shot, she could see. "Open table," she said to Sharon. Sharon walked around the table. "What should I shoot?" "Try that solid that's right in front of the side pocket. Just nick the edge right here," Cash said pointing her finger at a spot on the purple ball. "Nick it soft and it'll drop right in." Sharon slammed the cue ball into the purple ball and both dropped into the side pocket. "Argghhh," she griped. "This is why you ran out of class? To shoot pool?" "Yeah, I drive shift tonight, beets, and wanted to get a few practice games in first." Cash ran five stripes before miscuing. "You have solids." Sharon aimed at the 7 ball. "Did you hear about some chick that disappeared from Dahl Hall last weekend? Kids are saying maybe she got pregnant and went home. Others are saying she hitchhiked down to the cities, but she hasn't come back. Her parents were at the dean's office this morning." Cash watched Sharon get a lucky break, accidently getting the 7 in. She lined up on the 3 as she chatted. "No." "That's right, you got special exemption to not live in the dorm. I hate it. Curfew and 'No Boys Allowed'." Sharon missed the shot. "She was in Mr. Danielson's class. The sexy blonde that wore a mini-skirt and sat in the front row every class. He was always calling on her; she'd tilt her head like this and cross her legs before answering the question. His eyes were never on her face. Bet she was getting A's. Your turn." Cash leaned over the table and took aim at the striped 10. "Where's she from?" "Who?" "The girl who is missing, dingbat." "Oh, Shelly?" Sharon answered as if asking Cash. "Shelly. The town of Shelly?" "Yeah." "That's just north of Halstad. Norman County." "Yeah, why?" "Nothin. Just curious." Cash had a three-ball run and lined up to bank the fourth. She missed the shot. Still leaning over the table, contemplating at what angle she should have sent the cue ball, her eyes on the ball, without looking up she pointed her cue at Sharon, indicating it was her turn to shoot. Sharon said quietly, "Um, do you have any enemies?" Cash stood up and looked around, "Not that I know of, why?" Sharon, making as if to line her cue stick up with the cue ball, pointed her stick at three students standing on the steps leading into the pool table area. They all looked like they could be college students, although instead of hippie clothes they wore straight-legged jeans, t-shirts and jean jackets. Dressed just like Cash. One of the girls had her hair in two braids that hung down the front of her jacket, the other had hers pulled back in a ponytail. The guy had messy braids, like maybe he had braided them a couple days ago and hadn't redone them yet. None of them were smiling. They were clearly looking at Cash and Sharon. Sharon missed a straight-in shot. Cash lit a Marlboro. She took a long drag before putting the cigarette in a black plastic ashtray on the edge of the table before lining up her cue stick on the cue ball for her next shot. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the three of them come down the steps, toward the table. She shot and made the 14 and lined up on the 8 ball. The three students stood by the pool table, watching. Cash made the 8 ball. The guy said, "Play partners? Me and her" pointing at the girl with two braids, "against you and her." Before Sharon got the "No" fully out of her mouth, Cash said, "Sure. Rack "em up." It was a silent game, clearly between Cash and the guy, their partners missing shots each turn. Sharon was so clearly nervous her cue stick shook whenever she attempted a shot. Cash played cat and mouse; not playing her best but not letting him win easily either. Playing just well enough to keep him convinced he was better than her but that maybe she was OK. With one ball left and the 8 ball, he asked, "Straight 8 or last pocket?" "Straight 8 is fine," Cash said. "Where you from?" his partner finally spoke. "Family's from White Earth. I live over in Fargo," Cash answered. "How come we haven't seen you at any of the Indian student meetings?" asked the girl with the ponytail. "I didn't know there were any," answered Cash. "Every Friday night. At Mrs. Kills Horses." "Potluck," said the girl with braids, missing her shot at the 8. "Where's that?" asked Cash, with no intention of going. "3810 10th Ave.," answered the guy. "She always makes Sloppy Joes so even if no one brings anything there's always something." "And beer," said ponytail. "If you got an ID, bring some beer." Cash rethought going. "3810 10th Ave?" "Yep," said the guy, making the 8 ball and laying the cue across the table. "We're going to talk about bringing AIM up from Minneapolis." "AIM?" It was the first time Sharon spoke since the trio had arrived. "The American Indian Movement," answered the girl with braids, looking the blonde hippie chick up and down with a frown and one eyebrow raised. Sharon stared back at her, peace and love gone from her blue eyes. The girl with the braids looked at Cash and said, "See you Friday." The three turned and left the rec hall. Cash re-racked the balls. "One more game then I gotta go." "My boyfriend attended an AIM meeting down in the Cities when he was down there last year for the Miigwetch Mahnomen pow-wow. They're pretty radical. Red Power and all." Cash wondered to herself how Sharon knew how to pronounce miigwetch and Mahnomen so perfectly, but didn't ask. Instead she said, "You said he goes to school over at NDSU?" "Yeah, that's where most of the North Dakota Indians go. Something about the BIA money coming out of the Aberdeen office and NDSU being cheaper than sending them to school out of the Dakotas." Another thing Cash hadn't known before starting college. Her BIA money came out of Minneapolis, because she was enrolled at the White Earth Reservation, which was just about 45 miles east from where they were standing in Moorhead, Minnesota. When Cash registered for school she learned that she would be attending on a BIA scholarship. Her friend, Wheaton, the sheriff in Norman County, had told her how the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe had signed a treaty with the United States government that guaranteed higher education to tribal members who wanted it. "Why don't you guys come to that meeting on Friday night? And I can meet Mr. Free Love," said Cash, breaking the rack with force. This time the 1 ball dropped in a pocket. "I've got solids." "Sloppy Joes and beer? I'll see what he says. Can't imagine he'd turn that down. Only thing sweeter would be some good smoke," said Sharon. "He liked what those AIM folks were talking about." "Like what?" "Guess they started a street patrol down in the Cities. The cops were picking up folks from Franklin Ave. at closing time, just putting them in the trunks of their car and then dumping them down by the Mississippi or beating them up. So AIM started a patrol to get folks home safely. They talk about Indians standing up for their rights. My boyfriend says they're like the Black Panthers, but Indians." Cash had no idea what Franklin Ave. was, but from Sharon's tone assumed it was like NP Avenue over in Fargo where all the cheap 3.2 bars were and chronics like Ol' Man Willie started and ended the day in their favorite booth. 'Cept up here in the F-M area, it was old white men who were chronics, not Indians. NP avenue was also where she called home, at the Casbah bar each night, or each night when it wasn't beet-hauling season, putting in about an hour at the pool table, playing for free drinks and the occasional dollar or five dollar bet before heading to her apartment down the street. The only thing she knew about AIM was a couple one-night stands she had had with a guy she called Long Braids who had been on his way down to Minneapolis to meet up with AIM for some protest out east. "Thought those three were coming to beat you up." Sharon interrupted her thoughts, making a straight-in shot, but missing her next one. "Don't know why you all look so mean all the time." "Hmphh," breathed out Cash. She had a four-ball run before sinking the 8. She started to unscrew her cue and put it away in its fringed leather case. "I gotta get to work." "Are you going by your apartment? Can you drop me off in Fargo?" "Sure." Cash and Sharon left the Student Union and walked to Cash's Ranchero which was parked a few blocks off-campus. On their way, they passed groups of students sitting on the campus lawn, some studying, some flirting, others holding up "Get Out of Viet Nam" signs. Sharon chattered all the way to the Ranchero about Mr. Danielson, her boyfriend's little sister who didn't like her because she was white, how she thought the three Indians were coming to beat her or Cash up. Cash half listened and with the rest of her attention drove and listened to Pasty Cline sing about ' someone's kisses leaving her cold '. "Can we find some rock and roll?" Sharon reached for the radio dial. "Here we go, the Rolling Stones." By the end of the song, Cash pulled into a parking spot on the street in front of her apartment where she lived above a Maytag appliance store. Both she and Sharon got out of the truck. Sharon said, "Bye" and waved as she walked west. Cash watched her go and supposed that after a bit Sharon would tire of walking and stick out her thumb to hitchhike the remaining mile or so to the NDSU campus to meet up with her boyfriend. Cash ran up the stairs to her apartment, threw her schoolbooks and notebooks on the white enamel kitchen table that served as her desk and dining table. She lit a match and turned the gas burner on low under the tin coffee pot that was still filled with coffee from the morning. She went into the next room and pulled off the clothes she had worn to school and threw them over the overstuffed chair that held her "almost" clean clothes. She grabbed a different pair of jeans off the floor and jerked them on. It was the same pair she had been wearing all week while driving beet truck. She shook out a T-shirt and flannel shirt from the floor and put those on also. Driving beet truck wasn't as dirty as driving during combine season when chaff and wheat bits got into all the creases of your clothes and the dust coated your hair like baby powder, but the smell of the beet plant clung to your clothes. Cash figured it would be Christmas before the smell washed out completely. She wore a flannel shirt because the heater didn't always work in Milt Wang's trucks. Excerpted from Girl Gone Missing by Marcie R. Rendon All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.