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Trudging through the melting snow, Lucas kept his eyes focused on the large mud-wet prints of his father, fitting his entire booted foot within one of his father’s feet. No one said anything.
John was behind them jumping from rock to rock, avoiding snow as best he could. Their father didn’t look back like Lucas did, full of unrealized scorn. The hares in Lucas’s grasp bounced against his leg as he tried to match his father’s steps, but his legs couldn’t reach the spread.
And then John fell. Loud enough to turn them both around, staring in the direction of where John used to be. They ran over. John was stuck between a few trees on the steep banking slope of the frosted hill, their house below barely visible through the foliage. He was holding tight to the trunks around him, nearly sliding down the sharp incline. The two hares he’d been given charge of disappeared into the landscape below.
His father fell to his knees, stretching out his hand to John. Lucas watched, snow falling on them when his father brushed against the branches or John squirmed from the trunks.
They marched back, John beside their father, loose snow melting into mush inside their coats.
Lucas smiled. He still had his hares and was warm and dry.
When they undressed from their wintry-hunting gear, brushing off the snow, gutting the hares and preparing the fire, Lucas saw his father examining John.
Here it comes, Lucas thought devilishly.
Lucas eyed John as he sniffled. Their father patted John on his bare back and whispered something to him, sending him off and down the hall.
When his father looked up, Lucas saw an expression he had not seen since Charlotte had passed. Something put a glaze over his eyes, his brows almost pushed upwards, inwards. They remained in that moment of vulnerability, looking at each other.
“You should get to bed, too,” his father said, finally.
John was lying in his bed, the covers pulled up, their ends scrunched in his clenched fists. Lucas quietly shuffled over to his bed and closed his eyes, his back to John, thinking about what had happened.
Daniel Newman is a literature lover and film aficionado. Doing his best to love his neighbor as himself, he goes through most days enjoying the process.