In the weeks that followed, the old man and Peter became very close friends. Often in the afternoons, when things were slow, they would sit down with a cup of hot coffee and play checkers. Their conversations usually dealt with matters of life and one day the old man asked Peter what his dreams were. Peter told him about wanting to add a room to the house and eventually getting a car so that his brothers could live at home. A gleam came into the old man’s eyes as he sat there listening and when Peter was finished sharing, the old man motioned for Peter to follow him. He walked out to an old building behind the store and turned the key in the padlock. The rusted hinges creaked loudly as the door came open, revealing piles of junk that had been collected over the years. “Move some of those boxes out here.” the old man said as he took a chair in the shade.

Peter did as he said, but wondered why the old man was having him start a cleaning job in the afternoon, that would require hours of labor. As he worked his way into the building he came across a car bumper and then realized that it was attached to an old Ford pick-up truck. His excitement grew as the truck came into view. “Wow! This is really neat,” Peter exclaimed, as he examined the truck more closely.

“Use to make a lot of deliveries ‘round here,” the old man started, “but then everyone got their own cars and things changed. It needs a little work but if you would like to have it…”

“Wow! You really mean it?” Peter responded enthusiastically.

“Well, you will have to use it to get rid of all this junk and I’ll expect you to do some errands as well,” the old man added. “I ain’t given it to you for nothing, boy.”

Peter opened the door and got into the driver’s seat. The interior was still in great condition and he could see that the car was well cared for. “This is fantastic!” he shouted, unable to believe his great fortune.

Whenever he had a spare moment, he would work on the truck, and in a couple of weeks, he had it running well. After spending a whole morning waxing it he drove it around to the front of the store for the old man to see.

“Golly boy! Now that’s a good-looking truck. Maybe I’ll change my mind and see if I can sell it for a good price.”

Peter smiled timidly, hoping the old man was joking.

“You do have a license to drive it, don‘t you?”

“Yes sir, I took driver’s training last year in school,” Peter responded, hoping the old man would give him an opportunity to try it out.

“Well, there ain’t much going on around here, so how about we take a drive into town and pick up a few supplies?”

“You mean, right now?”

“Don’t know of a better time,” the old man answered, “unless, of course, you have something better to do.”

“No sir, I was hoping you would say that.”

“Well… what are you doing just standing around here, boy? Get the store closed down and let’s get out of here.”

Peter locked up the store and soon they were on their way. He couldn’t remember a day in his life when he was happier and he couldn’t wait for his brothers to get back so that they could be a part of this unfolding dream come true.“

You know this old garage ain’t going to be of much use to me anymore,” the old man said, as they returned to the store in the late afternoon and parked the truck inside of it, “guess I will have to find someone who can tear it down and haul away the wood.”

“You’re going give the wood away for nothing?” Peter asked hopefully, as he got out of the car and carefully closed the door.

“Well I certainly ain’t going to pay someone to do it, boy,” the old man answered, as he got out and leaned up against the side of the truck to catch his balance.

Peter could not contain his joy and ran over to the old man and threw his arms around him. “Thank you… thank you for everything,” he said, emotionally.

The old man wiped a tear from his eye and then pushed Peter away. “Okay boy, that’s enough. I told you before that I don’t pay you to sit around doing nothing. Get back to work or I might have to fire you.”

Peter worked very hard for the next couple of weeks. Every night he brought home a load of wood and when he wasn’t working at the store, he was working on remodeling the house. His mother was a great help with painting and cleaning during the day. He had found three beds for the new bedroom at a surplus store in town and his mother worked hard on making quilts for them. He was exhausted by the time the project was finished but very happy that it was done before Christmas vacation and the return of his brothers from boarding school. He had already made arrangements for them to be transferred to the local school and couldn’t wait to have them all together as a family.

The boys were excited to see Peter and very happy when he told them that they would not be returning to boarding school after the vacation. Jason had a lot of questions about the house on the ride back home but Peter just told him he would have to wait until he got there. It was nearly dark by the time they turned onto the trail and the new-fallen snow made a cracking sound beneath the tires as they drove up to the front porch. Their mother was waiting for them at the front door, proudly wearing the new dress Peter had given her. She hugged both of the boys affectionately as they came in, which was alright with Jason but a bit uncomfortable for Robert.

Peter followed his brothers into the house, carrying the fried chicken he had purchased in town. He smiled with satisfaction as he watched their reactions and thought to himself how wonderful things were going to be from then on.

Peter woke up on Christmas morning and saw that several more inches of snow had fallen on the ground. He put a few more logs into the wood burner and in a short time the house was cozy. He and his mother made breakfast and after all of them had eaten, Peter took down a box containing the Christmas presents he had been able to buy. Most of it was new clothes but for Jason, he had also found a small portable radio that he knew he wanted badly, and for Robert, a Bowie knife that he was hesitant about getting but knew would make him happy. They spent much of the day playing outside and after the evening meal, Jason got out a puzzle that one of his teachers had given him. They all sat around the kitchen table piecing it together until it was nearly finished. Their mother retired first and then Robert. Jason pulled out two pieces of the puzzle that he had been sitting on and snapped one into place. Peter reciprocated by pulling out some of the pieces he was holding on to and in a few minutes, the puzzle was finished.“

What happens when we die, Peter?” Jason inquired seriously.“

That’s a strange question, what made you think of that?”

“The preacher man said Dad was in a better place. I have been thinking about it for a long time but I still don’t know what that means.”

“That’s a difficult question and I don’t really know the answer,” Peter responded, realizing that this was not coming from a child’s mind.

“But what do you think, Peter?”

“Well… I do believe in the Great Spirit or GOD, as some would say, and I do believe that we have a Spirit inside of us that leaves our bodies and goes into another world when we die. Sometimes when I am watching the Eagle, my Spirit leaves me and I can glide along with it in the sky. It is a very good feeling and I suppose dying must feel about the same way.”

“Are you afraid to die?”

“No…” Peter responded thoughtfully, “Well maybe a little, but we don’t have to worry about that tonight do we.”

“I guess not,” Jason said while yawning, “but can we talk about it again sometime?”

“Of course, we can,” Peter responded assuredly, “now, how about I give you a piggyback ride to bed… or are you getting too old for that?”

“I’m not that old!” Jason replied as he jumped onto Peter’s back.

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