He wandered around the edge of the barn looking for someplace dry. It’d rained eight days without any let and the damp earth had begun to swell and crawl up the base of the building’s walls. His wrist throbbed and stiffened in the cold and his brace did nothing. The pour was endless. Lead falling from heavy clouds, pummeling the earthen trails. He lay on the rising soil under the roof’s edge and sank deep into the world. Boots weighing more than his legs, he let them rest while keeping his head sheltered underneath the roof. Sleep took him and he dreamt of hacking an outmoded axe at the base of the tallest pine tree. Skeletal. An unrelenting well drained from beyond the clouds and drenched him as he swung the axe deep, splintering the leaning pine. The grain bit down hard on the beard of his axe with each dig and the boy dreamt that he swung and hacked for many years, never going through. His bones creaked and calcified. Both humerus became barren for the marrow had worked into dust. His muscles were starved and they squirmed like rubber as he worked the tree. He thrust the beard into the pine then looked up at the crown. His eyes bruised under the rain.
The boy woke. He needed to keep moving. He’d become hypothermic if he lay there and dreamt again. He pushed himself up with his bad wrist and cried out, falling back against the barn. Move. He struggled towards the tree line until he couldn’t see the building anymore.
In town they saw Henry through his father. Taunts and chatter rang in his ears until they stung from an endless vibration. He wished his father worked like a man. Men worked in the factory where they sweat black circles into the armpits and the backs of their shirts. Their hands blistered and their skin broiled underneath the heat of steel walls. A man cursed until his laughter churned the black coffee and warm milk in his gut. A man didn’t sleep through the days in a drunken stupor: a man didn’t live without a woman.
Three older boys circled Henry in the foliage behind the creek, smiling. Dirty and sweaty with boots hiding under the fine powder of the dusty trails, each boy had his own twenty-two caliber rifle and each barrel was still hot from shooting frogs and stumps and empty cans, and one boy had killed a rabbit.
“You can count on that, he’ll be pukin’ in any girl’s lap.” The words fell past teeth yellow beyond their years. Henry had heard them before. Different words, in a different order, but he was being told the same thing. Henry pulled a piece of twine tight around his finger, cutting off the circulation. The oldest one’s laughter carried a mouthful of spit, causing a wet, sucking sound as he inhaled. A bead of saliva stuck to his chin. The other two kept smiling and laughing. “Yeah, you can count on your old man puking at the sight of a woman, but what we don’t know is if it’ll be on account of the liquor or an account of the pussy. You’re like your old man, Henry. No pussy will do. We’d have to hold you down to take any.”
Yellow mouth grabbed the rabbit off the other boys shoulder and held it by its rope up towards the sun. It spiraled in half circles, indecisive about which way it should spin. Yellow mouth examined it and said, “This isn’t the type most boys would go for but I think you need to prove you don’t have any aversions. It’s gonna have to do.” The other boys held Henry down onto the trail. Yellow mouth took the rear of the rabbit and pressed it hard into Henry’s mouth. Henry screamed into the wet carcass, his sound muffled and indistinct.
Palmer born and Alaskan grown for a little over twenty-one years now,
Forest Wilson is currently enrolled at U.A.A.
as an English Major. He hopes to minor in creative writing, and he fully plans
on writing creatively for a long time. His favorite book is To Kill A
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