Another year had passed and summer vacation had started. The boys were again waiting for their parents to return from town. They had made popcorn and were piecing together a puzzle by candlelight, on a stormy Saturday night, when suddenly the room was filled with a bright light and a loud crack of thunder shook the house. Jason sprang from his chair and stood close to Peter.

“What, you scared or something?” Robert mocked, as he cleared the popcorn from his own throat.

Jason smiled timidly as he returned to his seat. “Do you think they are okay?”

“Yeah, but they most likely won’t be coming home in this storm, so we might as well go to bed,” Peter responded, trying to cover up the eerie feeling that had just taken hold of him.

They readied the cushions and jumped into bed. “Hey, who’s going to blow out the candle?” Jason asked.

“You said it, you do it,” Robert responded.

“Peter?” Jason asked, hopefully.

“Not me,” he answered jokingly.

Jason climbed out from between them and walked cautiously over to the table. He took a deep breath and blew out the candle just as another bolt of lightning struck. In his panic, he made a leap for the cushions but misjudged the distance and slammed his head into the wall. Laughter broke out on both sides of him as he hid his face in the blanket. The storm continued for a while longer and then gradually subsided, allowing them a peaceful night’s sleep.

The sound of a car coming up the trail awoke Peter the following morning and he quickly sat up. “Hey you guys, they’re here; wake up.”

“So what?” Robert answered, as he rolled over and faced the wall.

Jason sat up and rubbed the remainder of the sleep from his eyes as Peter walked over to the window. “Hey guys, it’s not them,” he informed them. “Looks like a government car. I wonder what they want.”  He opened the door and stepped onto the porch where his brothers soon joined him.

A well-dressed woman stepped out of the Land Cruiser and opened the back door. “Could you boys come down and give me a hand please?” she asked politely. They jumped down off the porch and then stood in amazement as they recognized their mother in the back seat. She had a bandage wrapped around her head and others on her arms. Her eyes were barely visible from the swelling and her dress was covered in blood.        

They helped her carefully from the car and walked her to the house. Jason held the door open as they passed through and then fluffed the pillow as they put her gently on the bed. Peter covered her with a blanket as the Social worker came into the room.

“Where’s daddy?” Jason asked, sensing something was very wrong.

“Your parents were involved in a serious accident last night around ten,” the woman stated, “I am sorry to have to tell you that your father died instantly in the crash.”

Peter sat down on the end of the bed and took Jason to his side; both were in tears. Robert stayed standing at the foot of the bed staring blankly at the wall.

They did not see their father’s body until the funeral service a few days later. A local pastor had heard the story and decided to assist the family. The body had been brought out to the house and a hole was dug near their grandmother’s grave. The pastor preached a short sermon to the few people who attended. At one point he said their father was in a better place and Jason wondered how that could be when it was obvious that he was right there in the box. When the service was over the casket was lowered into the hole and the boys were asked to throw a shovel of dirt on top of it. They walked their mother back to the house and helped her back into bed… then quietly slipped out and walked up to the rock.

A cool afternoon breeze whispered through the branches of the trees while songbirds fluttered merrily from branch to branch, unaware of the emptiness the boys were feeling as they sat down on the rock. “Now what?” Robert asked, breaking the silence.“I don’t know,” Peter answered softly, as he laid back on the rock. “I don’t know.”

Robert and Jason also laid back and stared up into the sky… and then, as if aware of their circumstances, the Eagle appeared high above them, gliding hypnotically on the wind, gently lifting their sorrow from them.

In the weeks that followed their father’s death, Peter assumed full responsibility for the family. At first, it was difficult, but with all of them working together, things started improving. Even their mother found a part of herself she had lost so many years before and for the first time in anyone’s memory, there was harmony and peace in their family.

The end of summer vacation came quickly and it was time to make plans for the school year. Peter decided it would be best if he did not go back to boarding school, even though he was really looking forward to it. He knew his mother would not survive alone and even though Robert was not doing well and had volunteered to drop out, it would not be a good idea to allow him to take care of her. They had made considerable progress toward his dream and he did not want to lose any ground. He arranged a ride for his brothers’ return to school and as soon as they were gone, he walked over to the Trading Post to ask the old man for a job. He had practiced several times what he was going to say to the old man but as he entered the store and saw him sitting behind the counter, he lost his nerve and so he picked up a jar of peanut butter and began reading the label.

“What are you looking for, boy!” the old man demanded.

“Nothing sir,” Peter responded sheepishly.

“Well if you’re not looking for anything, what are you doing with that jar of peanut butter in your hand?”

“Actually, I was looking for, um…, looking for something to do, sir.”

“You were going to do something with peanut butter?” the old man asked.“No, sir, I… I meant I want to work.”

“Are you asking me for a job, boy? Is that what you are saying?”

“Yes, I guess so… but if you don’t have any that’s okay,” Peter answered timidly, as he put the jar back on the shelf and started for the door.

“You’re one of the boys, from down the road a piece, aren’t you?” the old man continued gruffly.

Peter remembered the incident with the tire patches and started feeling sick to his stomach. “Yes, sir… I am.

”The old man could see that Peter was quite uncomfortable and felt a bit guilty for coming off so stern. He really didn’t mean to be such an old coot but since his wife’s death he had run the Trading Post on his own and he really had no interest in it anymore. He was too old to find other work however and not really interested in relocating. “What’s your name, boy?”

“It’s Peter, sir,” he answered hesitantly.

“Well Mr. Peter, let’s give it a try… but don’t be expecting me to pay you any more than you are worth to me.”

“Wow! You mean a job?” Peter shouted enthusiastically.“I said we would try it, boy. If it doesn’t work out, the deal is off.”

“I understand, sir. I’ll do whatever you want me to,” Peter responded.

“Well… there are four boxes in the back that need to be brought upfront here and stacked on that shelf.” the old man said, pointing to the shelf behind Peter. “They’re too damn heavy for an old man to carry.”

“Do you want me to get them now?”

“Did you have something better to do?”

“Yes sir! I mean no, sir… I mean…”

“Just get the boxes, boy,” the old man said, smiling for the first time in more time than he could remember.

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