Fishing For Eagles and Waiting For Liberty
D.S. Richardson

raptor Guillermo and his two brothers and their wives and Guillermo's mother, the abuela, took some old meat and some mattocks and shovels and sacks and blankets and walked out a long way, past the cornfields and up the dry stream bed towards the mountains. They leaned forward walking steadily against the heat, which is possible, as it is possible to work against pain or speak against silence. The air was as dry as chalk, and bright. Insects, grasshoppers and cicadas, sang at them from under the white stones.

Guillermo's mother was old. She was like a prune on legs, so wrinkled she was. She staggered up the slope. Her hair stuck out from underneath her black hat in a ragged fringe and her eyes were bright with childlike impulse and power. Guillermo was afraid for her heart in the sun. In the middle of the morning she had to sit down for a while in the shade of a large bush to rest. They dug out a few boulders and down into the sand. There was no water there but it made a cool place for her to put her feet.

They came to a scrubby plateau where only a few thistles and cactus grew. Very far up there were eagles who watched every move they made. The eagles stood up on the air currents without having to flap their wings. All they had to do was tilt every now and then.

By the time the pit was dug it was nearly dark. The abuela had made a cover for the hole out of branches of oak and manzanita from the canyon. Some of the pieces of meat were tied to it and they pulled it over the top. The eagles watched, the way you watch a trick with cards, if you hadn't seen it before. When it was completely dark, Guillermo and his youngest brother lifted up the grill and climbed down into the hole and rolled themselves up inside their blankets. The others slept on the ground around the pit. In the morning they gathered their things together and went away. We're going now, the abuela said in a loud voice.

Guillermo and his brother sat uncomfortably in the hole, back to back. The meat smelled horrible. The flies came to visit, eating and drinking, and looking at everything. They came down into the hole and crawled on the earth, buzzing, where there wasn't anything for them to eat, and tried to crawl over the two men, just because they were there. The meat scraps were black with them all on top of each other.

The men sat all day. We are going to wait, Guillermo said, until it is so boring even the eagles don't believe it.

In the night there was a little moon, and foxes came. The men stayed awake and poked at the foxes with sticks to keep them away from the meat.

Guillermo looked at the eagles in the morning, no closer. Look, he whispered, here are these big pieces of filthy meat, just what you like.

It got hot again. Their eyes and backs ached and their hands and feet were puffy and stiff, full of blood.

In the afternoon some of the eagles came lower. With their wings open they looked as big as flying beds. They were like little old men with huge black coats on. One of them skimmed down and tried to snatch up a piece of meat in its claws. Immediately another one landed on the grill with a crash and there was a thump on the ground, and a smell of hot granite, and hot feathers, and another one came stiff legged walking over to get its share.

Guillermo looked up through the branches of the manzanita. There was the wrinkled foot of one of them with the hooked claws grasping the wood. He reached up and took the eagle's leg in his hand. It felt cool and dry and flakey. His brother fumbled and then circled a noose around the bird's foot. The eagle screamed and flapped its wings, but they had it.

The other eagles looked. There was no telling what they thought. However, they didn't seem very interested in the meat any more. They paddled off, flapped and skimmed away. The caught eagle screamed and flapped. Then he had some meat. He was probably starving.

Some hours later Guillermo's mother came out of the canyon with a big blanket over her arm. Two of the younger women followed her.

Are you well down there? she called to the men.

Yes, they said, we are just fine.

She threw the blanket over the eagle. It sat down. They put it in a sack and tied it up with just the feet sticking out.