The remainder of the school year passed quickly and other than some minor adjustments, things were running smoothly. Robert’s attitude had become more positive and his grades had improved with Peter’s tutoring in the evenings. Jason too had done well and found the new school much more challenging. His growing curiosity about life was encouraging to Peter and they spent many long hours in discussions. It was a Saturday evening and they were two weeks into their summer vacation when an approaching storm from the west prematurely filled the room with darkness. Peter lit the lantern so that they could finish their evening meal. Robert pushed his chair away from the table and began whittling on the figure of a horse he had started earlier in the day. He had become quite handy with the knife and was seldom without it.

Suddenly the room filled with a bright light and, as had happened nearly a year before, the house shook with the sound of the thunder. An eerie silence followed as each of them remembered the night of their father’s death. “Excuse me,” Emma said, as she fought to hold back the tears in her eyes. She pushed her chair away from the table and walked into her bedroom.

Robert left next and then Jason went to the bedroom, leaving Peter sitting at the table alone. He fought back his own tears, as he tried to convince himself that there was nothing to the heaviness that had descended upon them. He followed his brothers into the bedroom, assuring himself that things would be better in the morning.

The following morning Peter awoke to the sound of his mother moving about in her room. He dressed quietly and found her sitting at the kitchen table with her new dress on. Her eyes were red and it appeared she had not slept too well. “Are you okay, Mom?” he asked, as he sat down in the chair across from her.

“I’m okay,” she answered quietly, “but can you take me into town today? I want to buy some flowers for your father’s grave.

Peter was a bit confused by her request but decided it might be a good idea for all of them to get out of the house for a while. “Sure, I’ll get the guys up,” he responded.

The drive to town was, for the most part, silent but Peter didn’t mind; the rains had washed away most of the dust and the air and scenery were refreshing. “Let me out here!” their mother said as Peter stopped for a red light. “There’s a flower shop just around the corner,” she continued as she opened the door and jumped out of the car. “I’ll be waiting for you there.”

“Go with her Robert,” Peter said, suspicious of his mother’s behavior, “we’ll be back as soon as we can.”

Robert jumped down from the back of the truck and followed his mother to the curb, just as the light turned green. Peter and Jason continued on to the supermarket. The store was busy and it was nearly an hour later that they returned to the flower shop. There was no sight of Robert or their mother on the street. Peter parked the truck and instructed Jason to stay with it while he went in to check for them. He described them to the sales lady but she said she was not aware of anyone like them coming in.

“Damn it!” Peter swore as he climbed back into the truck. “I had a feeling this was going to happen.”

Jason was concerned because he was not used to seeing Peter upset. “Do you think they are okay?” he asked cautiously.

How in hell should I know?” Peter responded coldly. They drove around the streets of town but did not see any signs of them. Peter decided there was only one thing left to do. He drove to the outskirts of town and pulled into the Police station.

“Yeah, we got them here,” the officer said from behind the window, after hearing Peter’s description. “Looks like your old lady was hitting the bottle again and the boy was also drunk… got kind of rough with the Police officer too.”

“Can I take them out?” Peter inquired

“Well, they are supposed to appear in court tomorrow morning but Hell… we got a cell full of drunks and more on the way. Give me $25.00 and I can give them to you now.”

Peter knew that if they went to court the fines could be even higher; plus it would mean he would have to take time off from work and would lose even more money. He decided it would be better to pay the money then and get them home. They were released a few minutes later, still a bit drunk. Robert had vomited all over himself and refused to even look at his brothers. Both he and his mother climbed into the back of the truck and laid down.

Upon arriving at the house their mother went straight to her room and closed the door. Robert attempted to clean himself up but was still wobbly. “So… did you learn anything from this?” Peter asked, sounding to Robert a bit sarcastic.

“Are you mad at me?” Robert asked, defensively. “You think it was fun being in jail?”

“I don’t know, Robert, and I don’t ever plan on finding out.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Robert responded, “you think you are better than us now, don’t you?”

“No Robert, that is not what I meant, I just… just forget it. We’ll talk about it later,” Peter said, as he walked out on the porch for some fresh air.

Jason looked at Robert and saw tears in his eyes; when Robert realized he was watching he brushed them away and went into the bedroom. Jason walked out to the porch and sat down next to Peter. “They’ll get over it,” Peter said, knowing what was on Jason’s mind. “The old man at the trading post always tells me that in time everything works out. We just have to stay strong.”

“I hope so,” Jason responded, “because I sure don’t like things like this.”

“Hey… how about coming into work with me in the morning,” Peter said, changing the subject, “we have a delivery coming in and you can help me unload the truck.”

“Wow… that sounds like fun!” Jason answered.

“Fun? I work hard over there.”

“No you don’t,” Jason teased, “all you do is play checkers with the old man. That’s what you told me.”

“Well, that too,” Peter smiled.

The following morning Peter and Jason slipped out of the house before their mother or Robert awoke, leaving a note on the kitchen table explaining Jason’s absence. The delivery truck was parked in front of the store when they drove up, its driver smoking a cigarette under the large old tree that grew in front of the Trading Post.

Peter greeted the driver and wondered why he had not gone into the store to wait, but then saw that the padlock was still on the door. “That’s strange,” he thought, “guess the old man overslept,” he added, as he looked inside the windows. “Come with me, Jason.”

They walked behind the store to the old Stone house where the old man lived. The front door was locked and there was no sign of the old man when Peter looked into the window. “He didn’t say anything about going away,” Peter said, scratching his head in puzzlement.

“Do you think he is still sleeping?” Jason asked.

“Don’t know… guess we can go round back to find out,” Peter answered, as he stepped down from the porch. They walked around to the window of the room where the old man slept. Peter looked in and then shouted, “Oh God!” as he saw the old man lying face down on the floor.

“What’s wrong?” Jason asked as he saw panic in Peter’s face.

“Something is wrong with the old man! Quick, find me a rock.

Jason looked down and found a large rock to hand him. “What are you going to do?”

“I have to get in there,” Peter answered, as he began breaking the glass out of the window. “Go tell the driver to use the payphone outside the store to call an ambulance,” he added, as he crawled through the opening he had made.

“God please don’t let him die!” Peter pleaded as he rolled the old man over to his back. The old man’s eyes were half opened and his face was a bluish color. Peter put his ear down on the old man’s chest but could not hear a heartbeat. Tears came to Peter’s eyes as he realized the old man was gone.

Jason slipped in through the window and opened the front door for the driver. The police and an ambulance were there a short time later and as they took the body out of the house, the police began asking questions. The interrogation took over an hour but finally, the officers accepted their story. “You have a way home?” one of the older officers asked, as they left the old man’s house.

“Yes,” Peter answered, pointing to the truck.

“Go home then and get some rest,” he suggested, “and thanks for your help.”

Robert was sitting on the porch when they drove up to the house, “Coming to check up on the drunks?” he asked, as Peter stepped onto the porch.

“Shut up, Robert!” Peter retaliated, as he walked past him and went straight to his bedroom.

“Screw you!” Robert responded.

“Robert!” Jason said tearfully, “The old man just died, leave it alone.” He explained briefly what had happened and then also went to his bedroom. A short time later he and Peter found refuge in a deep sleep.

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