Monday, April 13, 2015

A long time ago

By the time we found the shallow fire pit, the coals were cold, completely cold, and the only
ashes left between the small circle of stones were the black and heavy sort that don’t fly off
with a wind. Ken un-shouldered his rifle and set the barrel against a tree while the rest of us
stood staring at the ashes. The fire had been made on a small hump of earth stacked up against
the exposed roots of a sapling so as to make use of the drier ground amid the still thick circles
of snow between the taller trees. They were mostly Douglas Fir and red cedar. Ken had not
walked far when he knelt and scooped up the rifle on the ground. He held it on his two
extended forearms like a sleeping child or a small corpse, looking quizzically at the stock and
hand grip and barrel as if he had never seen anything quite like it. He turned then, not toward
us, but away, and took two more steps toward a thicket of fruitless huckleberry bushes and
vines. The earth had been torn around the bushes and there were tatters of clothing as well.
Ken pointed to the ground. lood, he said. And we all knew what had happened to our friend.  

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