We re in the home stretch! my mother called as we swooshed through the

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1 GRACE Christian School Elle Robinson 6th Grade Short Story The Hunters We re in the home stretch! my mother called as we swooshed through the azure sky, almost touching the clouds. Whooshing past my brother, I turned and twisted through the air, my feathers whistling as they cut through the heavens like a knife. Soaring onto a nice branch in our tree, I looked back at my kin and stuck out my small tongue. I beat you, again! I said circling him with a sneer on my face. I just let you win, you little dirt eater. he squawked back. I just managed to yell out a You eat dirt, too! before our parents landed and we quieted our quarrel. I hope you two were being respectful to each other. My dad stated, looking down at us from his perch in the tree. We were. we kids echoed. We walked into the kitchen, starving after a long flight. Go get us some sap, and I ll get the salad ready, Mom ordered, shooing us off with cups. We positioned our cups under the tap, and sap oozed out of the hole. After we had filled all the cups, I followed my brother into the kitchen and set the drinks down. That s when I heard a sound I never want to hear again. A gunshot rang in my ears, and I m sure every animal around was scared out of their pelt.

2 My parents rushed us to the top of the dense foliage before you could say Holy squirrel food!. I tried to get a peek of the commotion through the leaves, but failed as my mom s wings were covering every hole in the canopy she could possibly cover. Now you two be quiet and stay down, my dad ordered sternly. I had never seen my father this urgent and mother so worried. My father and mother were always calm. I huddled up next to my brother and hid my face in his feathers. He held my head close to his warm body. He shuddered. He was scared. He was never scared. Ever. With my body heaving with the weight of my silent sobs, I tried to sit still, but couldn t. My brother tried his best to comfort me, but the tears would not stop coming. The gunshots kept ringing. Up and down and up and down my parents went, stealthily bringing up our most precious possessions and food. I heard one last gunshot, and the earth went silent. Even the wind didn t make a sound as it blew silently through the calloused leaves. I kept my head low in my brother s wings until I knew that the hunters were gone. I looked up for the first time in what seemed like forever. I nearly passed out. Blood covered the leaves and drooled down the branches. It looked like the tree had eaten a squirrel. Except I knew this was not squirrel blood, it was our own. I slowly followed the trail of blood with my eyes and saw something I want permanently wiped from my mind. Our father, my father, was laying on top of the tree. It was like I was watching from another room. My mom weeping, my brother yelling at me to help get some water. It all sounded like I was in a bubble. The only thing that sounded clear was my own breath and tears. Could this really have happened? I slowly lifted my body. All of a sudden, it was as heavy as a brick. I dreamily walked to my father. Then reality came rushing back. The weeping of my mother and the screaming of my brother, it all

3 came back in a flash. The tears streaming down my face. The slick blood on my hands. My father's blood. It was all too much. My father weakly lifted up his wing and rested it on my cheek. My sobbing quieted as I held his wing on my face and mouthed, I love you. His reply was a week attempt to form the words, I love you, too, but I still got the message. Slowly, the life left his eyes, and I sat there with the husk of my father in my wings. I got up trembling and searched for my mother s warm embrace. I found her hanging her head and cried into her wings. At some point, my brother joined us, and we cried together. The rest of the day passed foggily, like I was another person watching my life collapse in an afternoon. We buried my father the next morning. The forest was still, paying its respects to the dad who had been there every step of my life, the dad who had never given up on me and never stopped believing in me. Now, he was returning to the dirt, silent and still. Mother told us something that night. It changed our lives even more. It would change where we lived, how we lived, and what we could do. We were the last of our kind. No other bird like us lived on this planet. We would have to move because the hunters knew that we lived here. We would have to be more careful no matter what, and we could not leave our new house, wherever it would be, unless we had permission. We also had to stop seeing our friends. I couldn t hang out with Bambi or Bumper. Nor could we learn from the wise old Slappy the Squirrel. We would be secluded and all ties to the outside world would have to be cut. Of course, we kids were pretty harsh on Mother. Why wouldn t we be? She had just told us we couldn t do almost everything that we loved to do.

4 I couldn t sleep that night. When I got up for a drink of water, I heard my Mom crying. Small quiet sobs. I went into her room and sat beside her. Wrapping my wing around her, I rested my head on her shoulder. Carefully, she picked me up and rested me halfway in her wings, and halfway in her lap. We sat there, mother and daughter, and cried ourselves to sleep. The next morning, everyone woke up early. At least everyone in this house. The forest was still sleeping as we packed up our most valued possessions and left our house, never to return again. The search was long. We had to find a secluded tree, while still being able to reach sunlight and flowing water. Throughout the flight, I kept thinking over the series of events that lead to my father s death. Was it my fault? Could it be my fault? At the end of our trip, I had made up my mind. It wasn t my fault. Not now, but soon I would find a clue that would explain my part in the accident. Half of me didn t want to find a clue as we started to examine a tree. It was just the right size. The foliage was thick and green, and there were numerous branches. Days and nights passed, and soon we became used to this new life. Everything was o.k. until one month had passed from the accident. I woke up to someone or something shaking me. At first, I thought it was an earthquake, but it turned out to be my brother. What are you doing? I m awake! I yelled, exasperated. Gunshots. Be quiet and follow me, he said, already turning around and starting to flap onto the other branch. What? I whisper-squawked. Shut up already and get over here, my brother s voice came from a branch out of sight. I got up and flapped as hard as I could, following the direction of his voice. Once I got to the sprig, I found Mom weeping and sobbing as my brother rushed around getting things and bringing it to the branch, while trying to get

5 Mother out of her depression. I went over to Mom, hugged her gently, and then started helping my brother. Inspired by us, my mother got up and started helping, too. We carefully stacked our belongings on the branch and then sat down to wait. Footsteps. That s all we heard for the next hour. The silence and the tension were so thick, you couldn t cut it with a chainsaw. Talking about chainsaws, that was the noise we heard next. The roaring of the mechanical blade. The tree started to sway. This was it. My mother started to prepare us for takeoff, and I don t know what came over me. One second I was standing with my family - or what was left of it - the next I was falling down, squawking my head off at the humans who were tearing our world apart. I came down, feathers flying, and started pecking at the one holding the chainsaw. He scraggled around, swinging his chainsaw every-which-way. Then, I heard feathers whistling. My brother had joined in the fight! He started attacking the other human. The men started backing up, slowly at first, but getting faster each step. I would avenge my father. No hunters would ever be here again. Thoughts flew throughout my mind, telling me to be faster, to make sure these hunters knew who they were dealing with. Then, they were gone. My mother flew down and pulled us into a giant hug. Thank you, thank you, and thank you! she yelled, kissing us on the cheeks. It was all over, I told myself. My mother and brother kept hugging and kissing me. I had found the clue. I knew what my job was in this story. I was the hero.

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