A great bird sat motionless in the barren branches of an old Pĩnon tree, growing on the northern edge of the highest mesa in its domain. A cool morning breeze gently ruffled its feathers, briefly disturbing its rest. Blinking its eyes, the bird stretched out its mighty wings, causing a mild commotion in the branches of the old tree… than cocking its head from side to side, it searched for signs of danger and when satisfied that there was no cause for alarm, it folded back its wings and slowly closed its eyes again.

The morning sun was just beginning its climb on the eastern horizon, silently dispersing the darkness of the night. Colors returned to the rugged red cliffs while wildflowers grew on the floor of the canyon, gently opened to absorb the sun’s warmth. The great bird opened its eyes again and gave out a loud piercing shriek, which echoed down through the valleys. Hearing the call, small rodents sought refuge in their burrows while the larger animals began their search for food

The branch of the old Pĩnon tree suddenly sprung up as the great bird left its perch and slowly glided down toward the floor of the canyon… but then with a thrust of its mighty wings, it soared upwards into the clear morning skies until it reached a current of wind on which it could glide. On the ground below was a large flat rock, surrounded by a forest of small trees and shrubs. A single footpath wound down from the rock to a small adobe house on the southern foot of the hill.

Contented that all was in order, the great bird winged it’s way back to the old Pĩnon tree where it would rest until later in the day.

“What kind of bird is that?” Jason asked as he stepped down out of the grey Bureau of Indian Affairs van.

His older brothers stepped down behind him and looked up at where he was pointing. The government boarding school they attended was out for the summer and because no one had come for them, the school had provided the ride home.

“It’s just an old Crow,” Robert answered, as he picked up the paper sack containing all of his earthly possessions.

“I don’t think so,” Peter responded, as he shaded his eyes from the sun, to get a better look at the graceful silhouette floating high above them. “I think it is an Eagle! See, how it glides on the wind.”

“Do you think it lives around here?” Jason inquired.

“Most likely,” Peter responded, “maybe we can look for its nest this summer. It should be somewhere in the hills around here.”

“I hope so,” Robert blurted, “I’ll kill it and bring the feathers back to school next year.”

“If you do, could I have some of them?” Jason asked.

“No one is going to kill it!” Peter responded harshly, “And you better not let me catch you trying to, Robert.”

Robert turned and shrugged his shoulders as he started for the house. “Who’s going to stop me?” he mumbled defiantly under his breath. He hated it when Peter treated him like a child. After all… they were almost the same size, even though Peter was a year older. He had always been jealous of Peter and would challenge him at times… but usually came out the loser. As a result, he developed a rather quick temper, which often got him in trouble. He had earned the reputation of being a tough guy at school, which in itself was not all that bad, but it did limit his chances of forming any close relationships with his classmates. For a long time, he had competed with Peter for Jason’s friendship but was beginning to lose interest in that as well, because he found Jason’s inquisitiveness a bit irritating. As he walked up to the sagging wooden porch of the small adobe house, he noticed that the padlock was on the door. He searched under the worn-out doormat for the key but found nothing. “Shit! I knew this was going to happen,” he mumbled, as he threw his sack of belongings against the door.

Jason picked up his sack, which had hurriedly been stuffed with his clothes and a few of the treasures he had collected during the year. He waved goodbye to the driver, as the van sped off down the dusty trail that led back to the main road. He was seven years old but smaller than most of his classmates and for that reason grateful for having two big brothers. He admired both of them but for different reasons. Robert was a fighter and never got pushed around. Jason wanted to be tough like him… but Peter had many friends and was well-liked by his teachers. Jason also wanted to be well-liked and felt more comfortable following in the footsteps of Peter. “Is the door locked?” he asked of Robert as he approached the porch.

“God, you’re stupid! Would I be sitting here if it were open?” Robert responded sarcastically.

Jason did not respond but turned to look back at Peter, who was still standing in the driveway looking up at the Eagle.

“Hurry up!” Robert shouted impatiently. “Quit watching that stupid bird and find a way into the house. I’m hungry!”

Peter reluctantly picked up the two sacks that contained his neatly folded clothes and started walking toward the porch. He was puzzled by the fact that no one had come for them and fought off the thought that something serious may have happened to their parents. He was twelve years old but often passed for older because of his maturity. The responsibility of being the oldest had forced him to grow up sooner than most of his peers. It was not always easy for him and he did at times wonder how it would be if he were all alone. It was not that he didn’t love his brothers; he just felt cheated at times because his parents were seldom around and the responsibility of keeping his brothers out of trouble always seemed to land on his shoulders.

“So how in Hell are we going to get in?” Robert demanded as Peter approached.

“Did you check for the key?”

“Do you think I am stupid?” Robert responded. “I doubt they even knew we were coming home.”

“Where do you think they are?” Jason asked.

“In town getting drunk!” Robert answered, again with sarcasm.

“You don’t know that,” Peter responded harshly. “Maybe they went to get some groceries,” he added… hoping it to be true.

“Well, I’m not waiting all night for them. Let’s just break the stupid door down,” Robert continued, as he stood up and began pushing against it with his shoulder.

“Wait!” Peter shouted, “Let’s check out the windows first.” They walked around the house and in the back discovered that the small window, broken months before when Robert threw a shoe at Peter in an argument, had not yet been repaired. Broken glass still remained in the frame and Peter carefully removed it and placed it on the ground. “Okay Shrimp, let’s go,” he said, as he turned toward Jason. “You’re the only one small enough to get through here.”

Ordinarily, that comment would have irritated Jason but this time he did not mind. He was happy that there was something only he could do to help. They picked him up and carefully pushed him through the small opening, feet first. “Are you okay?”  Peter asked, as Jason disappeared through the hole and fell with a thud to the wooded floor below.

“Yeah, I’m okay.”

 “We’ll go around to the front then and wait for you to open the large window,” Peter responded.

Jason disappointedly looked around before starting for the front of the house. The bed had not been made for some time and dirty clothes littered the bedroom floor. Empty whiskey and beer bottles were mingled with wadded potato chip bags and candy bar wrappers on the kitchen table and floor. The old grey couch had been moved away from the wall and now sat on an awkward angle in the main room. The two wooden chairs still sat by the wall near the wood-burning stove but they were broken and covered with trash.

“Hurry up in there!” Robert shouted impatiently.

“I’m coming,” Jason responded as he ran for the window. He reached for the latch but could not get it opened.

“What a dumb ass!” Robert chided.

“I’m sorry, but it won’t open,” Jason answered disappointedly, with a quiver in his voice. Tears began forming in his eyes as he tried harder to move the latch.

“Jason, go over to the table and bring one of the chairs to stand on. You will be able to open it then,” Peter responded confidently.

Jason did as he had been instructed and soon the window was opened.

“It’s about time!” Robert kidded, as he climbed in through the window.

Peter handed the bags containing the clothes to Jason and then climbed in through the window as well, relieved that another problem had been solved.

“There’s nothing here to eat!” Robert shouted in disgust.

Peter sighed and walked over to the metal food cabinet where Robert was standing. “There must be something in there that we can make,” he said, hopefully. A thorough search of the kitchen yielded only sufficient ingredients for making fry bread… but for the boys, that was a treat. “Get a fire going in the stove and I will start making the dough,” he said to Robert.

“Can I help?” asked Jason.

“You can get the frying pan cleaned out,” Peter suggested, “that will be a big help.”

Within the hour, the bread was made and the boys had eaten their fill. The house was the next project and all of them did their share of the work cleaning it. The last rays of the Sun were just slipping out of the room as they put the couch cushions down for their bed. Peter took out the blankets and with nothing left to do but wait, they all decided to lie down, Jason crawling in between his brothers. A nearly full moon rose in the night sky, illuminating the small room. The howling of distant Coyotes and the occasional hoot of a nearby Owl were the only sounds to break the silence. After several minutes, Jason whispered, “Do you think they will come home tonight?”

“I don’t know,” Peter responded.

“Do you think they will like the way we cleaned the house?” Jason continued.

“Yes, I think they will,” Peter answered, with a yawn.

There was a short pause as Jason cleared his throat and then with some hesitation he asked, “Do you think they will be drunk?”

“Shut up Jason!” Robert barked. “You talk too much.”

“He wasn’t talking to you,” Peter responded in Jason’s defense. “Maybe not, but he’s keeping me awake,” Robert retorted.

Peter was about to respond but then decided it was not worth an argument. “Maybe we all should get some sleep; I don’t think they will be coming home tonight anyway.”

“But wher…ouch,” Jason started, then stopped as Robert’s arm jabbed into his side, convincing him that the question was not really all that important. He snuggled in closer to Peter and within a short time; all of them were sleeping soundly.

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