From Day 117: Conner’s Son’s Father
Conner’s Son thought his father was foolish for leading them to this dilapidated oasis on the open prairie. Surely the beast that tracked them would turn it’s attention here–even if he didn’t think they were that stupid. A flock of crows startled at their unstealthy approach, rose like a flare, then dove back to their perches and cawed loudly. Nothing Conner’s son could imagine would announce their location more plainly. He hoped that in his death book they wrote, “Not the crows nor the beast that killed Conner’s Son but Conner’s Son’s Father.”
Conner’s Son’s Father, Conner, smiled at the crows. “There’s been just enough rain that this should work. Follow the trail along the stream like you are hiding. Make sure you cross through the water several times. Come back when you hear my call. Come back through the stream only. Not on the path.”
Conner’s Son nodded.
As soon as Conner’s Son was away Conner began meticulously uncovering the entrance to a cave. Stone by stone he exposed the slim hole. Each stone within arms reach of the entrance and neatly laid to avoid disturbing the secret over much.
“Son! Come back quickly.”
Conner made a hasty and obvious trail opposite his son’s that ended in an expanse of rock and hard scrabble earth to obscure his path. He removed his boots and turned back to the hidden escape walking swiftly but with as much craft as he could to conceal his trail.
The beast would arrive soon [but]. Conner’s Son had not returned.
Conner was bad at farming; his son good at reminding him. Since the first delicate sign of the beast Conner ceased farming and became a warrior again. It filled him with joy to be hunted. He didn’t regret thinking that the boy would need to fend for himself for not returning quickly enough–that was a warrior’s instinct–he regretted that it took him so long to resist the urge to leave him behind.
“Protection; not punishment.” He repeated his wife’s dying words. He’d spoken them out loud so often as a reminder in these past three years his son taunted him with them when they’d get into a fight. “The things I fucking do for you.”
Conner sprinted down the ravine in the direction of his son.
Rounding two bends of the stream he came upon his son hobbled by a twisted ankle. Tears streamed down Conner’s Son’s face as he stumbled over the wet stones. He sobbed as quietly as any fallen compatriot Conner had ever heard. Pride calmed his panting heart, but did not inspire his tongue: “Shit, Son. Now you’ve fucked us.”
Immediately he wanted to apologize. Immediately he wanted to rend the beast by hand and eat it whole to show his love. Instead simply knelt in the running water in front of his son and said, “Get on. Grab my neck.”
Pile some more on them; but not tonight.
Word count: 235