Page 69 - WCM 2019 Winter
P. 69

softer and squishier, but he never feels the need to swallow. The beavers watch him curiously as if waiting for his opinion. He tries to smile but his mouth feels a little numb around the edges. He wants to spit out the wood pulp, but the place is so clean, so orderly, and the beavers, well . . . they saved his life.
And so, Andy tries to swallow the wood, only it will not go down. It gets stuck in his throat and he can’t breathe. He starts to cough and feels his throat tighten around the woody glob. The beavers huddle against each other. The boy keeps coughing and coughing and coughing . . .
. . . and coughing. “Andy! Andy! Can you hear me?” It is his mother’s voice. Andy takes a deep gulp
of air and his lungs open up like spring. He opens
his eyes and there she is, holding him, and repeating, “You’re okay, honey. You’re okay. But we’ve got to get you home. Get you dry. Get you warm.” He reaches up, puts his arms around her and lets himself cry again.
As he holds close to his mother’s green coat, Andy sees something move in the scrubby grasses. It looks like a walking rock, shadowy and clumsy. Nose down, it moves quietly and quickly toward the river, its flat
tail dragging behind, its sleek red fur glistening in the waning sunlight.
Suddenly, Max is upon him, licking his face, his hair, his ears. Andy smells Max’s breath, an earthy, fa- miliar smell. The smell of home. His mother takes off her Bean boots and slips them onto his feet. She helps him stand and take a few clumsy steps toward home.
Andy glances up. The moon has risen like a pale ghost, all faint and white and out of place. He won- ders if he’ll ever know what happened. That dark shape he saw in the woods just now was his imagina- tion, of course, a trick his mind played because he’s cold and scared. Of course, that’s the explanation. It was a dream.
Oh no, Andy suddenly thinks, his heart rac-
ing. Maybe this is the dream. This walking home in his mother’s boots, smelling Max, seeing the moon, and feeling safe. Maybe he’s still asleep in the beaver lodge—or even more likely—maybe he’s still sinking in the icy cold river—and the beaver, the stick, the lodge, and this moment of perfect understanding
is his last moment of life.
 Drew Sanborn

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