The bear hunt was over, but no one—not even Salina—paid any attention to Sal. He watched Brother David walking toward the marksman who made the final shot, a lone soldier with a rifle.
The hunt did not end the way Sal had hoped. No one celebrated him as the hero. He called out to Brother David, “Did you see? Paciano helped me.” Why would such a man let Sal take the lead?
“Yes, I saw,” Brother David said. They both looked toward Paciano, who regaled his sons with his account of the face-off with the bear. “I saw a man focused on the needs of the tribe. Yes, he helped you, and God helped all of us.”
Instead of victory cheers, the tribe gathered in silence around the dead bear. It reminded Sal of a funeral. One man used a reed flute to play a slow, sad tune. The others sang in honor of the slain animal. The women swept the space around the bear’s fallen body and sprinkled a few leaves near his massive head. Sal remembered Blas’s body lying still on the earth in San Diego. Blas deserved this type of gentle send-off to the next world.
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