Muskogee, Oklahoma

Our mother rouses us at midnight to get dressed, load up twenty pounds of dog food into the back of the station wagon, and drive three blocks to the house we abandoned two months ago, where seventeen hungry dogs are waiting. My older brother sits in the front seat. He will watch for anyone driving by who may stop and ask what we are doing. My mother backs into the driveway with the headlights turned off. I am the leader, of sorts. I give orders and make sure everyone gets in and out of the house all right. I carry a backpack with flashlights, my sister has the plastic water jugs, and my brother has slung the bag of dog food over his shoulder. The moon is out tonight so we can see the rocky path along the house. We move quickly to the back windows.

This has become our nightly ritual.

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