‘Indians’ — It’s our game, and she wins
The world settled and the day slipped to a new reality. Sunlight faded to dusk and the busy sounds of life stilled. The first stars appeared. Then darkness claimed the hour and tree frogs screeched their songs to a rising moon. First one, then two, three, four, then hundreds of the night creatures pumped out their chorus. Now, moonlight sifted down through the live oak trees creating shadows where the sun had made shade. A soft southern breeze flirted through the Spanish moss, and at the creek a mama coon chattered at her kittens. The night has its own soul.
Within the house, the small boy lay quiet in his bed. But he was not asleep. He listened and tried to count the seconds and minutes until his mission would begin. The parents were only shortly retired and he must wait. The house had its own sounds. Floors creaked and a rolling door rumbled almost imperceptibly inside a wall. The boy wondered, “Had someone moved that door, or was it the swirl of the universe that caused the sound?” And he waited, listening.
Then he heard the first faint snarly intake of air. It was expelled in a whooshing gust, and the next intake was more dramatic. And they continued to grow in intensity until the intakes ripped and bellowed with the ferocity of a mad beast – ruining the decorum of pleasant silence. The boy smiled and decided to wait a little longer.
Then finally, he eased one leg from the bed and sidled from beneath the covers. His bare feet padded across the floor, feeling for the boards that squeaked, distributing his weight from one side of his foot to another, sliding forward like a spirit. His posture was straight, his eyes and ears were alert. Then he took hold of the sliding door. He knew that any tremble would betray him. Slowly he slid it back into the wall until he could squeeze through.
At the end of the hall was his parent’s room. The floor here was solid and he tip-toed faster but then slowed when nearing their door. Then again, he grasped the next rolling door and eased it open. But only so far as to stick in his head and peek.
Only now did he realize that the snoring had ceased. During his concentration on stealth he’d stopped listening for all sounds but his own. And as he peered into the chamber his Mom’s voice said, “What are you doing up!?”
His nerves flinched and his hair stood straight.
It was their game and he was busted!
The snow was fresh and deep. It made our walking difficult but uniquely quiet. It was the sort of day where a whisper could be heard for a mile. My hunter knew this and our conversation was with glances and hand signals. We’d cut a giant set of elk tracks but the wind had glazed them over; making their age an unsure guess. Nevertheless, we stalked forward climbing up the ridge. Gaining the crest the ground to our left rose to a peak and to our right it ran flat. The trail turned and traveled behind the peak and out of the wind. Here the tracks were unblemished by time or weather. My radar clicked on, my eyes and ears were alert. And again we started ahead.
Maybe the movement was too quick. The elk blew from its bed snapping branches and galloping off. We’d seen nothing but only heard the critter’s getaway. But then too abruptly the running stopped.
A familiar voice in my head said, “It didn’t see us, or smell us. It heard something and spooked. Now it’s watching its backtrail.” And I pointed in a direction that paralleled the escape.
With painful care we eased our weight into each step. Our progress crept with the shadows and my ears strained to hear the trophy that was so near – but yet so far. Like predators we crouched and surveyed everything in sight before winning another stride, and inspecting the next view.
Then the bull elk was there. Watching where it figured we should have been and not where we were. My hunter raised the rifle and then looked at me. I made one more step and bent over. The rifle rested across my shoulders, I set my teeth, closed my eyes, and the report reverberated down the valley.
The monitor held my rapt attention. My fingers pounded at the keyboard plucking words to script memories gifted to me by God. The events were honest and true. The lessons were hard learned and appreciated.
Occasionally, the dictionary and thesaurus were confronted. But mostly my head stayed buried near the computer’s screen while scenes and feelings spilled from inside me onto the page. My complete devotion focused on how it was, where it was, the emotions… And then I reached for my coffee and peered with an editor’s eye when suddenly my gut seized and my nerves jumped. There was a person beside me, and I slopped hot coffee into my lap.
Mom was standing there, behind me at my shoulder. She had left her house, walked across the road and up the hill. Entered my house and snuck up close enough to touch me – and she did.
It’s our game. She wins again.