Mah-hi-vist brushed by his dad, who saw a small bottle of alcohol in his son’s hand, and walked outside.
Melissa ran to the garage, got into her small sport utility vehicle and drove a few hundred feet down the driveway to meet him. His knuckle was bleeding, as though he had rammed his fist against a tree. She persuaded him to get into the car, and they drove back to the garage.
Melissa got out of the car and walked into the kitchen.
“He wants to talk to you,” she told her husband.
Wilbur went to talk to Mah-hi-vist in the garage. His son was hysterical, crying and shaking and saying he didn’t want to live anymore. Wilbur tried to calm him down and urged him to go inside and take care of his hand, eventually persuading him inside and to the sink.
Melissa knew her son was walking a line, a stumble away from a full-blown episode. She saw it in his eyes, which returned a blank stare. During past episodes, her son hadn’t listened to reason, as if he couldn’t hear or see anyone, not really. In the kitchen, though, he calmed down. He was himself again.
“Ahk-ta-na-hi, I’m sorry for scaring you,” he said to his brother, giving him a huge bear hug. “I love you.”
“I love you,” he told his father, embracing him too.
As Mah-hi-vist hugged his mother and told her how much he loved her, Wilbur left to drive a little more than 4 miles to nearby Clinton for cigarettes.
Mah-hi-vist asked for Noami, who was in his bedroom. She walked into the kitchen. She didn’t run to him, and he possibly saw that as a sign of rejection. He became agitated, thrashing his arms and limbs — all 6 foot 8 of him — and walking inside and outside. He knocked over the Christmas tree and kicked a glass window out of a storm door leading to the garage. He shattered his big bedroom window.
Wilbur got a panicked call from his younger son.
“Dad, get home,” Ahk-ta-na-hi said. “I think he hurt himself this time.”
“What happened?” Wilbur thought. “He hurt himself this time?” He called Melissa and, crying, she begged him to come home. He drove as fast as he could on icy roads and dialed 911, worried his son was going to hurt himself.
Wilbur attempted to summarize what was happening and give directions to a dispatcher, but he put the phone by his side to keep his son from breaking another window. “No, no, stop!” he shouted to Mah-hi-vist. Noami remained in the home, as did Melissa’s mom, who has dementia and lives in the family’s basement, but she remained downstairs as events unfolded.
The pulsing lights of an ambulance broke the darkness. Melissa felt relieved that paramedics could evaluate her son. Behind the ambulance, a Custer County deputy’s squad car arrived.
Wilbur introduced himself to the sheriff’s deputy. “I’m the dad,” he said. “He went around the house.”
The deputy didn’t ask what was going on. Mah-hi-vist was outside too and peeked his head out from the opposite side of the house. He walked into the garage and into the house, closing the door behind him.
“He’s right here,” Wilbur called out to the deputy, gesturing toward the door in the open garage.
Melissa walked out the front door at almost the same time her son went inside. Mah-hi-vist closed the front door and locked it behind her. The deputy continued to investigate with his flashlight.
Ahk-ta-na-hi, who had been hiding in a front yard treehouse, crept down the steps. The deputy whipped around and pointed a weapon at the boy. “No, that’s our son!” Melissa cried out.
“Get down! Get down!” the deputy yelled, his weapon drawn and pointed.
As Ahk-ta-na-hi struggled to walk down treehouse steps with his arms up, the family’s German shepherd, Sissy, darted around a corner, barking and barreling toward the deputy. Wilbur intercepted it by the collar.
“You better put that dog away or I’ll shoot it,” the deputy told the family.
As Wilbur gathered Sissy and put her in the truck, a second deputy walked up. “Get back,” he yelled at them. “Get back!”
“Why is he screaming? Why is he yelling?” Melissa wondered, confused.
Wilbur asked him if the family members could get into the truck and out of the cold. “Yeah,” the deputy said. “That’d be all right.”