I woke to a cold and dark room
the morning after, when the sun would have
been rising had it not been for the snowstorm.
School was cancelled. My older brother Billy
always hated school. Our parents in the next
room slept unaffected by the cold, armed
with each other and a down blanket, their
wispy snores fleeting in the empty corridors
of our house. Outside the window, along the
Front Range, a white emotionless void began
I shivered to the closet in my long john underwear, slid on snow pants and a sweater, zipped up my bright
yellow jacket, and with red-gloved hands pulled the matching cap snug over my ears. The suit I had worn
the day before hung firm on its hanger in the corner. I was along time staring into the starched black wool.
Red rubber boots crunched beneath me on my way out to the shed. Bleached plains extended east. The shrilling
wind filled cracks, knocked me down in the snow.
It was impossible to enter that shed without thinking of hunting season. I had helped in the killing. Father
made sure of it. "Gotta be strong in these parts." Father shot the buck clean in a field. The body staggered
back and dropped limp in the dry grass. We found the brute letting out everything he had inside him in warm
and moist sighs of autumn that drifted and vanished before us. His chest deflated and contracted. Father
waited a long while before disemboweling the carcass, careful not to rupture anything. There was a sanctity
to the kill. "Gotta keep the meat clean." His hands inside the chest cavity, removing the dripping heart. The
heart cupped in his hands, thrust toward the sky. The carcass on its side. "Let it bleed out."
In the shed, we hung him by the hind legs, legs that we had to break off at the joint and cut just below the
tendon for the metal hook to hold true. We disrobed him. The white underbelly of skin bubbled like saliva
when we peeled it from the muscle. The brute’s eyes, his glossed eyes, fixed upon me the whole time. The
black roped carcass hung slack jawed from the rafters. I was sullen with warm, blood soaked boots. Father
scoffed at my weakness.
I walked past the stained ground in the shed to the corner where Billy’s red turbo sled hung beside his
rifle and camouflaged jacket similar to the ones he wore when he left. Beneath them, his war chest filled
with metals he had won for his bravery.
Slinging the rope over my shoulder, I began to chomp at the snowfields ahead, my face blank and constricted
in the cold. I dragged the dead weight of the sled along the rickety fence that still runs along the Bashore
property, threatening to collapse. The fence lasts for a mile or so before dumping into the meadow. In the
white silence of the meadow, I fell to my knees tired, perhaps from not eating that morning. Large inhales
of air stung my lungs raw. When the cold gathered in the joints of my knees, I pressed on, up the hill, the
hill that in my youth seemed like a mountain.
From the top of that hill I could see the whole valley, our house over on the side in the distance, the
Bashore farm on the left with its tall grain stack not nearly as high, and town on the right near the
horizon, dead in the morning. I stared below transfixed, maybe by the totality of it all, and it left
me to wonder if this is what it looks like when we are left to ascend. I wonder if this was the last
image Billy saw, a warm burst of air escaping our chimney.
I stood motionless for a while, ravaged by the thought of having to brave the hill myself. I could
have used Billy’s weight. Eventually, I pulled the red stocking cap over my face, leaving only the
two eyeholes to look out, everything tinted red. I let out a deep breath and pushed off, wondering if
I would ever make it down.