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The legthening shadow (tentatively titled)

He slept and woke in a room with unpainted walls,
chinks invited light in the morning,
wind in the winter, and insects at night.
He was seven and his brown eyes reflected
the gold flecks in his father’s eyes.
His father, a man skilled with stone,
built mausoleums, was often away.
The boy inherited his father’s best qualities.
His obedience promised to blossom into determination.
His curiosity would bloom as intelligence.
Each day he removed the household trash,
made his bed, and did chores appropriate for a seven year old child.
Before lunch his mother schooled him
in reading and mathematics.
On hot afternoons, he could be found at the pond.
Baiting croppie with twisted bits of grass.
Chasing frogs or skipping rocks.
When the leaves fell, he picked apples and pears.
When the snow fell, he built and armed snow forts.
Almost every Saturday that Autumn,
before the dawn light began to sift through the chinks,
the boy would watch his father walk from the house toward the wood
wearing an orange vest, pockets stuffed with bullets, Buck knife at his belt.
Browning in hand,
the man would tramp into the dark woods.
The boy was forbidden to follow.
It was the only thing his father had ever denied him.
He began to feel something, an apprehension,
a longing, he wanted to know what his father knew.
Occasionally, a report would be heard.
The boy’s head might be bent
over a beetle he was worrying with a straw
or he might be engaged in crafting yet another unsuccessful kite
from his mother’s stash of grocery sacks.
Perhaps he would simply be running the fallow field
for the joy of hearing his dog bark.  
Hearing the shot he would become instantly still,
and facing the palpable sound,
he would envision it leaving the rifle
and speeding through the forest
caught in the mitts of his ears,
catalogued by his memory.
He would listen to his heart mimicking the sound over and over and over.
Most times his father emerged from the forest
there would be rabbit, or squirrel, or venison.
The boy cried one night in his room
when he recognized the tom turkey
on his father’s back as one he had chased in the meadow all summer.
Always, there was a gift for him. Often it was only a buckeye.
Two times the boy received an owl pellet which, when broken open
would reveal the tiny bones of mice and rabbits.  
There would also be empty cartridges
and once there were antlers with bits of hair and skin
                                                                                  and blood.
These fetishes were added to the shelf above the boy’s bed.  
Three more years passed.
Summers were flush with berries, tomatoes, corn,
fish and frogs.
Winter dinners were nourishing,
soups of venison, fried rabbit, and squirrel.
He watched his mother cut and season the meat.
He watched her watch pots.
He went to his bed satisfied
and wondered what it was like to kill.
October of the boy’s eleventh year came.
His father rose early for the first day of the deer season.
The boy’s mother rose early to peel apples for a long day of canning.
Awakened by the murmuring, the sleepy, night-shirted boy
peeked around the kitchen door.  
There were five items on the kitchen table,
the familiar Browning rifle, a box of bullets, a buck knife.
A box of shells and a four-ten gauge shotgun.  
Seeing the boy, the man rose, picked up the Browning
and nodded at the shotgun.
The father said, “Wear something warm. It’s cold.”
The boy stepped into the doorway.
The mother noticed that the light behind him
cast his shadow long across the floor to the man’s feet..
he said, “I will.”


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