The small squirrel was just ready to scold — its little
mouth partially opened as it clutched the acorn close to
its chest. In the right light, one could almost believe
the tail had just twitched.
Franklin Blue Cat called it The Sassy One. It was one of
his latest carvings and in three months would be featured,
along with thirty other pieces of his work, in a
prestigious art gallery in Santa Fe. He hoped he lived
long enough to see it.
Franklin often thought how strange the turns his life had
taken. Had anyone told him that one day he would become
known the world over for his simple carvings, he would
have called them crazy. He would also have called them
crazy for telling him that, at the age of sixty, he would
be alone and dying of cancer. He'd always imagined himself
going into old age surrounded by children and
grandchildren with a loving wife at his side.
He set aside the squirrel. As he did, the pain he'd been
living with for some months took a sharp upward spike,
making Franklin reel where he stood. He waited until the
worst of it passed, then stumbled to his bedroom and
collapsed on his bed.
He considered giving Adam Two Eagles a call. Adam's father
had been the clan healer. Everyone had assumed that Adam
would follow in his father's footsteps. Only Adam had
rebelled. Instead, he had taken the white man's way and
left the Kiamichi Mountains to go to college, graduated
from Oklahoma State University with an MBA, and from
there, gone straight into the army to eventually become
one of their elite — an Army Ranger.
Then, during the ensuing years, something had happened to
Adam that caused him to quit the military, and brought him
home. He'd come back to eastern Oklahoma, to his Kiowa
roots, and stepped into his father's footsteps as if he'd
never been away.
Adam never talked about what had changed him, but Franklin
knew it had been bad. He saw the shadows in Adam's eyes
when he thought no one was looking. However, Franklin knew
something that Adam did not. Franklin knew it would pass.
He'd lived long enough to know life was in a constant
state of flux.
As Franklin drifted to sleep, he dreamed, all the way back
to his younger days and the woman who'd stolen his heart.
Leila of the laughing eyes and long dark hair. He couldn't
remember when he hadn't loved her. They'd made love every
chance they could get — with passion, but without caution.
Sleep took him to the day he had learned that Leila's
family was moving. She'd been twenty-two to his thirty —
old enough to stay behind. He'd begged her to stay but
there had been a look on her face he'd never seen before,
and instead of accepting his offer of marriage, she'd been
unable to meet his gaze.
His heartbeat accelerated as he relived the panic. In his
mind, he could see her face through the back window of the
car as her father drove away.
She was crying — his Leila of the laughing eyes was
sobbing as she waved goodbye. He could see her mouth
Franklin shifted on the bed. This was new. He didn't
remember her calling out. In real life, she'd done nothing
but cry as they drove away. It was the way he'd remembered
it for all these years. So why had the dream been
different? What was it she was trying to say?
He swung his legs to the side of the bed and then stood,
giving himself time to decide if he had the strength to
move. Finally, he walked out of his bedroom, then through
the kitchen to the back porch. The night air was sultry
He stood for a few moments, absorbing the impact of the
dream, waiting for understanding. At first, he felt
nothing. His mind was blank, but he knew what to do. It
was the same thing he always did as he began a new piece
of work. All he had to do was look at the block of wood
until he saw whatever it was that was waiting to come out.
Only then did he begin carving.
Following his instincts, he closed his eyes, took a slow
breath, then waited for the words Leila had been trying to
It was quiet on the mountain. Almost too quiet. Even the
night birds were silent and the coyotes seemed to have
gone to ground. There was nothing to distract Franklin
from watching his dream, letting it replay in his head. He
stood motionless for so long that dew settled on his bare
feet, while an owl, feeling no threat, passed silently
behind him on its way out to hunt.
And then understanding came, and with it, shock. Franklin
turned abruptly and looked back at his house, almost
expecting Leila to be on the porch, but there was no one
He turned again, this time looking to the trees beyond his
home. He'd been born on this land. His parents had died in
this house, and soon, so would he. But there was something
he knew now that he had not known yesterday.
Leila had taken something of his when she'd left him. His
Right in the middle of his revelation, exhaustion hit.
Damn this cancer. His legs began to shake and his hands
began to tremble. He walked back to the house, stumbling
slightly as he stepped up on the porch, then dragged
himself into the house.
What if he could find his Leila — even if she was no
longer his? He wanted to see their child — no — he needed
to know that a part of him would live on, even after he
was gone. Tomorrow, he would call Adam Two Eagles. Adam
would know what to do.
Adam Two Eagles rarely had to stretch to reach anything.
At three inches over six feet tall, he usually towered
over others. His features were Native American, but less
defined than his father's had been. His mother had been
Navajo and the mix of Kiowa and Navajo had blended well,
making Adam a very handsome man. His dark hair was thick
and long, falling far below his shoulders — a far cry from
the buzz cut he'd worn in the military. But that seemed so
long ago that it might as well have been from another life.
This morning, he was readying himself for a trip up the
Kiamichis. There were some plants he wanted for healing
that grew only in the higher elevation. It would mean at
least a half-day's hike up and back — nothing he hadn't
done countless times before — only today, he felt
unsettled. He kept going from room to room, thinking there
was something else he was supposed to do, but nothing
occurred to him. Finally, he'd given up and prepared to
If he hadn't forgotten the bag he liked to carry his herbs
and plants in, he would have already been gone when the
phone rang. But he was digging through a closet, and
ignoring the ring would have been like a doctor ignoring a
call for help.