Fishing For Eagles and Waiting For Liberty
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
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
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.