Johnny Hawk had good cause to be proud of himself that night as he lay in the dome tent listening to the snores of his two brothers. He had successfully carried the ceremony to its conclusion, and each initiate had ridden on the wings of dream to a place where they realized a deep, personal truth.
Next morning, they bathed in the rock-pool before breakfast, one last nod in the direction of ceremony, before breaking camp. At least, Jay and Johnny did. Mike used the excuse of his condition not to join them. In reality, he didn't want to risk embarrassment; after all, they knew about him now.
Later, Johnny and Mike waved Jay off as he pointed his car down the track and as Jay's arm rose out to wave back, his unbuttoned shirt-sleeve flapped in the wind. It hooked into Mike's mind and teased out an unanswered question.
'Johnny. You have on jeans, and a shirt and that old leather jacket. And it's Indian stuff. Jay's over there in jeans and a shirt and a leather jacket, and you say it's white man's clothes. How come?'
Johnny shook his head. 'Jay's wearing Indian clothes too.'
'But yesterday, you said...'
'That was yesterday. Different man in them clothes yesterday.'
Mike was on the verge on saying he didn't understand, when suddenly, he did. After all, there was a different man in his own clothes on this fine, new day. Mike understood perfectly.
But at least they were his own clothes. As the sun approached its zenith, Billy Ray Williams was gathering together a set of clothes, some old, some new - but all very unidentifiable. He aimed to be dressing Mike Waters in these clothes within the next day or two.
Mike knelt, his knees pinning down one end of the folded tent while Johnny rolled it up tight from the other end. So, he thought, Jay's a different man today. Mike was too. He felt powerful. He felt optimistic. He felt just happy to be himself - with one or two nagging reservations. Johnny rolled up his end of the tent until it met Mike's, and Mike squeezed out the last pockets of air before Johnny tied the whole thing into a roll and slipped the nylon cover over it.
'Kinda like putting a condom on an elephant!' said Johnny.
'Elephant-shmeliphant! Check me out next time we're in the showers!' laughed Mike. His mood dropped a level almost immediately. ' 'cept now you know what I am, you'd rather go shower with a bucket of pit-vipers.' He grinned unconvincingly and turned his attention to stowing the tent poles; one huge dent already dealt to his feelings of only moments before.
Johnny grabbed the same pole Mike picked up and held it firm. Mike didn't want to meet Johnny's eyes, but Johnny forced the issue taking Mike's chin in his hand and turning his head with a gentle firmness of a caring father.
'You think the things you said last night makes me think less of you?
'You're wrong man. Here's what I think. I've had some good friends in my life, but until last night I never felt I had a brother.'
Without warning Mike threw his arms around Johnny, and Johnny returned the tight embrace.
'You okay brother?' Johnny felt Mike's head nod against his shoulder. 'That's good, man. But - er - stick your tongue in my ear and you're a dead brother!' Now Johnny felt the laughter rising in Mike, and he joined in.
They worked well together - a good team - and soon there was little trace of the camp or the sweathouse. Just a few ashes and a mysterious hole in the ground, already filling up with sand. As Johnny's sedan sailed out of camp, a jackrabbit raised on its haunches to see them off.