“My face hurts.”

Too loud for hunting. Petulant. Whining.

Jesus, is that my son? My seventeen-year-old, almost-a-man if he didn’t sound like a child? Look at him! Red-faced from the cold and hot-breath billowing out in white puffs. From what? From a fast walk in the woods. Jesus. Jesus. Seventeen and forty-five, he should be leaving me gasping. And, now he’s looking at me, looking at him, those damned, boy eyes. Grow up! Grow up! Grow the fuck up!

Whispering, “Your fine. It’s just cold. It’ll warm up as the day goes on. At the stand, we can share a heat pack. Just a mile or so.”

“A mile!”

Jesus, son! Jesus, what have I done? We walk in silence, boots crunching through the ice. Silence is better than talking if talking is that!

What is he thinking? Blank face, rifle held awkwardly. There’s no Nintendo here, no computer, no music. Just ice, trees, more ice. Two .30-06 rifles. A father and his son. A deer with a little luck.

At the stand, we climb the ladder awkwardly, rifles strapped over our shoulders, and brush the snow off the flat wooden platform, and sit, and wait. Oh, I give him the heat pack. He didn’t ask for it. That’s something. Just silence, a quiet snap, gratitude for heat. It’s an improvement. Maybe it’s all okay? He’s a boy. Hell, maybe I was still a boy then too… No. Bullshit. Dad gone. Mom alone. Brother in the Marines. Somebody had to be the man. Still, he’s stopped whining. Maybe, hope’s not lost.

And I look back at him, and it all froze. There was my son, asleep on his feet, clutching a heat pad in his hands, rifle awkwardly tucked into his elbow and sliding, faster, faster, towards the wooden platform at his…


Down he went, ten feet down to the icy ground, curled, clutching at his head, and time was not moving and I was moving, off the platform, a guttural moan from him? from me? from both of us? in the same voice? My blood in him and his in me and no blood at all on the ice and him clutching the side of his face and there is no blood thank God thank God thank God and scared eyes, boy’s eyes, looking at his father but alive thank God.

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03 October 2019