Woodcutter’s Son

He didn’t think about it, worked actively to not think about it, kept it vague and unknown in his mind even as he loaded the car with everything they’d need. On some level he was cool and calculating, plans working themselves out with the inevitable mathematical precision that said put your hand here if you want to catch that ball. So much food for three days, so much propane, sleeping bags, tent, coffee and hot chocolate, nothing missing, nothing left out that would say that it was anything but an accident, a horrible, horrible accident. In a way it was, or anyway would be sincerely and completely unexpected by every part of him except that computer that measured weight, distance, speed, trajectory.

“Come on,” he said, and helped Michael into the car, fastening the seatbelt for him. He brushed his cheek with a finger. “Getting shaggy there, kiddo. Gonna have to buy you a razor soon, huh?” Michael laughed and shook his head, kept his eyes down to where his fingers were tangled together. “Don’t want to scare the pretty girls.”

Up in the hills they worked together quietly, Michael gathering wood for the fire while he set up the tent. Michael stacked the wood in tidy, even rows, each pile as close to the same size as possible. He made baked beans and hamburgers and they roasted marshmallows while the night curved in close around them. “Sure is something,” he said. Michael turned his face away from the fire and stared into the darkness under the trees. “Gotta remember to hang our food up before we turn in, hey. Don’t want any bears coming around after it, hey?”

When the fire had flickered down to coals and they were wrapped in their sleeping bags, he said, “Wanna go for a hike tomorrow, kiddo?” Michael turned over. He could feel his eyes watching him breathe. “Maybe try to find that waterfall, yeah? Whaddaya think?” And that part of him that calculated made its plans and waited for the ball to drop just… there… right where his hand would be, open and waiting and ready.