Page 66 - WCM 2019 Winter
P. 66

 Margaret Lindsey
 “Should be,” she answers, “but they’ll be too hot to eat.”
Andy lets the door slam behind him and calls for Max who bounds out of the woods, his snout covered in snow.
Andy heads down the forest path and glances behind to see his mother peek out the window, wiping her hands on a towel. She waves, and he waves back. Max woofs at him to catch up.
The Crooked River takes a big bend between the Big Pine Tree and the Fallen Down Birch, the two markers that define their property. Just downstream, a beaver lodge sticks out of the snow like the top of a giant’s head. Yesterday, Andy was able to skim pretty big rocks across the surface without breaking the ice. He even heaved a massive log as hard as he could. Not a crack. Today, he was going to try to walk a few feet out to see if it was safe.
At the river’s edge, Max stops, sniffs the cold air, then turns his nose to the ground to explore the roots of the sumac bushes. They are fingers of glass. Max pees a yellow hole in the snow.
“Max, come!” calls Andy, hoping Max will go out on the ice before him. Max probably weighs about
sixty pounds. Andy weighs twice that. If Max ven- tures out, then Andy will follow.
Max looks across the river to the other side, wisps of steam rising from his black nose. His ears perk as something crackles in the woods. Probably a squirrel or a pheasant. Too quiet for a moose.
Andy and his father saw a moose last Halloween. It appeared as a dark shape lumbering on the side
of the road, then as a loud snapping in the woods. Andy’s father stopped the car. They rolled down their windows and heard the moose’s heavy footfalls as it disappeared into the dusk. Andy wonders if the frozen river would hold a moose.
Max stands like a tree, swaying a little as his tail wags, planted firm. At the river’s edge, layers of ice are like sheets of milky white glass. Andy steps on the top one. It breaks under his boot, but underneath is another layer that appears solid and strong.
“Come on, boy,” Andy coaxes. Max takes a step forward, but not onto the ice.
Andy takes another step and another. The ice holds firm.
He turns back and calls Max again and the dog ventures onto the ice. “Good boy!” Andy encourages. “Come!” Max stops to sniff again and woofs.
Andy looks out at the river, now a flat sheet of gray. Where he stands, he guesses, it’s only about four feet deep. A gust of wind blows hard enough to make the pine trees bend and fill the air with powder. The sky is clear blue. Puffy clouds mirror the snow. A few chickadees chirp.
Andy likes it that his mom and dad let him hike in the woods alone. He likes climbing and sliding without hearing his mother say, “Be careful. Don’t get hurt.” He likes being alone with Max. He feels like that guy in “To Build a Fire,” a story they’d read in school. Except that guy froze to death.
A crow caws somewhere and Andy takes another step. Nothing moves. He walks faster, surer, the only sound, the crunch, crunch of his boots. Even Max is silent. Where is Max? Andy stops, turns around, and is surprised at how far he’s come. He’s almost to the middle of the river, the deepest part.
A new sound reaches him, and at first, he thinks it’s the hum of a faraway plane. The sound is just beginning to take shape in his mind when the river opens its mouth and swallows him. He tries to scream, but nothing comes out. Something goes in, instead. It’s water.
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