Living with the Hawk explores the traumatic events in the life of Blair Russell, a high school football player who struggles to do what’s right in tough circumstances. Key characters are his brother, Blake, the team’s quarterback; Jordan Phelps, the star receiver, a kid with a need to control others; Paul Russell, his father, an Anglican priest; and Barb Russell, his mother. Blair is the subject of taunting and hazing, including physical intimidation on the football field by Jordan. His brother Blake used to stick up for him, but seems ambivalent about helping him now, a concern that Blair both resents and yet understands. At a football party where beer flows freely, Blair spots Jordan and a group of his laughing, drunken buddies, including his brother; he is shocked when he sees that they are urinating on a girl who has passed out. From that moment conflict grows between the brothers. In the backdrop to the event Blair begins to suspect that his brother is not who he thought he was. Like the sparrow hawk that survives on the kills it makes at the birdfeeder outside their home, in Blair’s mind, Blake has become a wicked predator of the helpless.
The next time Blair sees the abused girl from the party, Jordan Phelps is relentlessly harassing her in the school corridor. The trapped girl, Amber, is helpless and must suffer the humiliation of Jordon’s taunts. Suddenly a native girl intervenes, calls Jordan asshole, and knees him in the groin. Buoyed by her actions Blair can no longer stay neutral and confronts Jordon himself. For his efforts, Jordan slams him into a locker, but a teacher breaks up the fight before it can continue. At home Blair learns the native girl is Anna Big Sky, and she’s in his brother’s class; he begins to suspect that his brother Blake likes her and suddenly he feels jealous. Not long after his newly developed interest in Anna, Blair begins hearing racist slurs in the locker room they are directed at her and generated by Jordon Phelps and his buddies, Vaughn Foster, and Todd Branton. Frustrated by his inability to confront them, Blair’s anger causes him to argue with his brother about Anna. They both lose their tempers and then fight at football practice. Some days later Blair hears talk of a body found in a field north of town and when he learns it’s that of Anna Big Sky; he is devastated. Certain that his brother played a part in her violent death, Blair wonders what to do. He finally phones Crime Stoppers, naming those involved in Anna’s death, including that of his brother, an action that divides the Russell family and leads to a tragedy that changes their lives forever.
Robert Currie is a poet and fiction writer who is a founding board member of the Saskatchewan Festival of Words and a former chairman of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, Currie was honoured in the fall of 2009 when he received the Saskatchewan Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts. Currie has taught creative writing for four summers at the Saskatchewan School of the Arts in Fort San and for three summers at the Sage Hill Writing Experience in Lumsden. He is the author of ten books, including the short story collections, Night Games and Things You Don’t Forget, and the novel, Teaching Mr. Cutler. He lives in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan where he taught for thirty years at Central Collegiate, winning the Joseph Duffy Memorial Award for excellence in teaching language arts.
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