Lesson Six A Good Chance
When I got to Crow Creek， Magpie was not home. I talked to his wife Amelia.
“I need to find Magpie，” I said. “I've really got some good news for him.” I pointed to the briefcase I was carrying. “I have his poems and a letter of acceptance from a University in California where they want him to come and participate in the Fine Arts Program they have started for Indians.”
“Do you know that he was on parole？”
“Well， no， not exactly，” I said hesitantly， “I haven't kept in touch with him but I heard that he was in some kind of trouble.
She smiled to me and said， “He's gone a lot. It's not safe around here for him， you know. His parole officer really watches him all the time and so sometimes it is just better for him not to come here. Besides， we haven't been together for a while. I hear he's in town somewhere.”
“Do you mean in Chamberlain？”
“Yes， I live here with his sister and she said that she saw him there， quite a while ago. But Magpie would not go to California. He would never leave here now even if you saw him and talked to him about it.”
“But he did before，” I said， “He went to the University of Seattle.”
“Yeah， but…well， that was before，” she said， as though to finish the matter.
“Don't you want him to go？” I asked.
Quickly， she responded， “Oh， it's not up to me to say. He is gone from me now. I'm just telling you that you are in for a disappointment. He no longer needs the things that people like you want him to need，” she said positively.
When she saw that I didn't like her reference to “people like you”， she stopped for a moment and then put her hand on my arm. “Listen，” she said， “Magpie is happy now， finally. He is in good spirits， handsome and free and strong. He sits at the drum and sings with his brothers： he's okay now. When he was saying all those things against the government and against the council， he became more and more ugly and embittered and I used to be afraid for him. But I'm not now.
I was sitting at the café with Salina.
Abruptly she said， “I don't know where Mapie is. I haven't seen him in four days.”
“I've got his poems here with me，” I said. “He has a good change of going to a Fine Arts school in California， but I have to talk with him and get him to fill out some papers. I know that he is interested.”
“No， he isn't，” she broke in. “He doesn't have those worthless， shitty dreams anymore.”
“Don't say that， Salina. This is a good chance for him.”
“Well， you can think what you want， but have you talked to him lately？ Do you know him as he is now？”
“I know he is good. I know he has such talent.”
“He is Indian， and he's back here to stay this time.”
“Would you drive into Chamberlain with me？” I asked.
She said nothing.
“If he is Indian as you say， whatever that means， and if he is back here to stay this time and if he tells me that himself， I'll let it go. But Salina，” I urged， “I must talk to him and ask him what he wants to do. You see that， don't you？”
“是的， 我知道了，” 她 终于说道， “他有权知道这一切， 但你会明白。”
“Yes，” she said finally. “He has a right to know about this， but you'll see…”
Her heels clicked on the sidewalk in front of the café as we left， and she became agitated as she talked.
“After all that trouble he got into during that protest at Custer when the courthouse was burned， he was in jail for a year. He's still on parole and he will be on parole for another five years – and they didn't even prove anything against him！ Five years！ Can you believe that？ People these days can commit murder and not get that kind of a sentence.”
Elgie was standing on the corner near the Bank as we drove down the main street of Chamberlain， and both Salina and I knew without speaking that this man， this good friend of Magpie's， would know of his whereabouts.
We parked the car， Elgie came over and settled himself in the back seat of the car.
A police car moved slowly to the corner where we were parked and the patrolmen looked at the three of us intently and we pretended not to notice.
The patrol car inched down the empty street and I turned cautiously toward Elgie.
Before I could speak， Salina said， “She is got some papers for Magpie. He has a chance to go to a writer's school in California.”
Always tentative about letting you know what he was really thinking， Elgie said， “Yeah？” But Salina wouldn't let him get away so noncommittally， “Elgie，” she scoffed. “You know he wouldn't go！”
“Well， you know，” Elgie began， “one time when Magpie and me were hiding out after that Custer thing， we ended up on to Augustana College Campus. We got some friends there. And he started talking about freedom and I never forget that， and then after he went wants to be free and you can't be that， man， when they're watching you all the time. Man， that freak that's his parole officer is some mean watch-dog.”
“You think he might go for the scholarship？” I asked， hopefully.
“I don't know. Maybe.”
“Where is he？” I asked.
There was a long silence. Then Elgie said at last， “I think it's good that you've come， because Magpie needs some relief from this constant surveillance， constant checking up. In fact， that's what he always talks about. 'If I have to associate with the whites， then I'm not free： there is no liberty in that for Indians.' You should talk to him now. He's changed. He's for complete separation， segregation， total isolation from the whites.”
“Isn't that a bit too radical？ Too unrealistic？” I asked.
“I don't know. Damn if I know.”
“Yeah，” said Salina， “Just what do you think it would be like for him at that university in California？” “But it's a chance for him to study， to write. He can find a kind of satisfying isolation in that， I think.”
After a few moments， Elgie said， “Yeah， I think you are right.”
“ Soon he got out of the back seat and said， ”I'm going to walk over the bridge . It's about three blocks down there. There is an old， whit two-story house on the left side just before you cross the bridge. Magpie's brother just got out of the Nebraska State Reformatory and he is staying there with his old lady， and that's where Magpie is.“
At last！ Now I could really talk to him and let him make this decision for himself.
“There are things about this though，” Elgie said. “Magpie shouldn't have been there， see， because it's a part of the condition of his parole that he stays away from friends and relatives and ex-convicts and just about everybody. But Jesus， this is his brother. Wait until just before sundown and then come over. Park your car at the service station just around the block from there and walk to the back entrance of the house and then you can talk to Magpie about all this.”
Salina was talking， telling me about Magpie's return to Crow Creek after months in exile and how his relatives went to his sister's house and welcomed him home. “They came to hear him sing with his brothers， and they sat in chairs around the room and laughed and sang wit him.”
Several cars were parked in the yard of the old house as we approached， and Salina， keeping her voice low， said， “Maybe they are having a party.”
But the silence which hung about the place filled me with apprehension， and when we walked in the back door which hung open， we saw people standing in the kitchen. I asked carefully， “What's wrong？”
Nobody spoke but Elgie came over， his bloodshot eyes filled with sorrow and misery.
He stood in front of us for a moment and then gestured us to go into the living room.
The room was filled with people sitting in silence， and finally Elgie said， quietly， “They shot him.”
“They picked him up for breaking the conditions of his parole and they put him in jail and … they shot him.”
“But why？” I cried. “How could this have happened？”
“They said they thought he was resisting and that they were afraid of him.”
“Afraid？” I asked， incredulously. “But…but…was he armed？”
“No，” Elgie said， seated now， his arm on his knees， his head down. “No， he wasn't armed.”
I held the poems tightly in my hands pressing my thumbs，first one and then the other，against the smoothness of the cardboard folder.