Page 68 - WCM 2019 Winter
P. 68

How did his boots come off? They were heavy with water, he remembers, so heavy that they pulled him down in the river. But he had laced them tightly, and they were strong boots.
Andy feels a hard lump in his throat. Who cares if I cry? he thinks. He closes his eyes and drifts back, trying to remember what happened. The crack, the coldness, the black shape swimming. And now this.
Splash! An animal, alive and wet, suddenly bursts into the room, through the wet hole in the floor, nose first, dripping, holding something in its mouth. Whiskers, a shiny black nose, sleek brownish-red fur, little cupped ears. As it pulls its rump onto the floor, Andy sees dark webbed feet. Then a brown tail, the size and shape of a ping pong paddle.
Andy sits up quickly. He scoots backwards on his butt and clonks his head on the ceiling. The beaver stops, drops a green stick onto the dirt floor, and opens its jaws slightly to display a pair of huge white teeth. The beaver fills the room with his dark shape and silly grin. Andy smiles back. He’s glad not to be alone.
The beaver waddles to the far edge of the room. It circles a few times, like Max before his naps, and then drops with a thump. He stares at Andy. Andy stares back. After about three minutes, Andy lets himself sink back onto the floor. His head is heavy and his eyes close. It is completely silent in the small room except for the beaver breathing. Or maybe it’s Andy himself breathing. Or maybe it’s his mother, bending over him, telling him that it’s just a dream. As Andy drifts off, it is impossible to tell.
Andy wakes to the sound of crunching, scraping, and chewing. It seems far away but then gets closer as he wakes up. His head still hurts, but he remembers where he is before he opens his eyes. As he opens his eyes, he looks in the direction of the sound—and the beaver.
Now there are two beavers, about the same height, exactly the same color, but one is much fatter than the other. It’s also the one that seems to be chewing faster. They both look at him with beady black eyes, ears twitching as Andy lifts himself onto one elbow. Their little hands clutch the twigs they munch. One of the twigs still has leaves on it.
Beside Andy, inches from his head, is a pile of twigs, a dozen or so, laid out in a rough crisscross pattern. Like the council fires his dad had taught him to build.
“Are these for me?” Andy hears his own voice ask. In here, it sounds muffled and loud. The beavers stop
chewing at the strange sound. They look at the twigs, and back at him, back at the twigs, and back at him, as if they are trying to tell him something.
“Thank you,” he says, more softly this time. They look calmer and continue to chew. The beaver on the left tears some bark from a fat twig. It curls out of his mouth like one of those birthday party blow toys.
Andy looks down at the twigs. His stomach is empty, but he can’t imagine eating sticks. He isn’t that hungry. Besides, he’d better start thinking about how to get out of here.
“How did you guys get me in here?” His answer is a few seconds of silence before the chewing begins again.
Andy looks around. The place is orderly, the floor so clean it looks like someone sweeps it with a broom. Andy slides over to the hole. The beavers do not take their eyes off him.
He peers down and sees the cold blackness of the river, lapping below, about a foot away. The tunnel is straight and perfect through the dirt and twigs. Andy wonders if he could fit through the hole. He must have, he realizes. No way in or out, except for the two holes.
Andy starts crying. He’s scared and dirty and his feet are getting cold. He wants the beavers to take him out of there just as they had brought him in—but how? And how could he possibly go back into that icy water? He remembers his thoughts about dying. He shudders through his tears.
His wet eyes drift to the pile of twigs. He won- ders what twigs taste like. Like a rice cake—dry and crunchy? Or like celery—stringy and wet? Or maybe like beef jerky—tough and meaty, hard to chew? The beavers sit on their hind feet with their front paws in front of them.
Andy picks up a twig. It’s wet and cool, about a foot long and very thin. He could bite through it easily.
As if to cheer him on, his stomach growls. Andy wipes the tears off of his face and looks at the beavers. They look like sports fans, waiting patiently for the next move. If he doesn’t like it, he can always spit it out.
He bites into the stick. It snaps between his teeth. A long piece of bark tears off. He chews. It tastes bit- ter but good. He used to chew grass in his backyard in the city. He shifts the soft wood to the other side of his mouth. It doesn’t taste like rice cakes or celery or beef jerky. It tastes like grass, like clover, like summer.
He chews and chews and chews but nothing much happens to the twig in his mouth. Sure, it gets
Arts, Entertainment, Adventure and More in Western Maine

   66   67   68   69   70