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36 - The Squirrel Wood

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WHEN THE boy was seven, Turner took Rudy’s old nylon-stocked Winchester and they hiked together along the old road, back up into the clearing.

The clearing was already a special place, because his mother had taken him there the year before and shown him a plane, a real plane, back in the trees. It was settling slowly into the loam there, but you could sit in the cockpit and pretend to fly it. It was secret, his mother said, and he could only tell his father about it and nobody else. If you put your hand on the plane’s plastic skin, the skin would eventually change color, leaving a handprint there, just the color of your palm. But his mother had gotten all funny then, and cried, and wanted to talk about his uncle Rudy, who he didn’t remember. Uncle Rudy was one of the things he didn’t understand, like some of his father’s jokes. Once he’d asked his father why he had red hair, where he’d gotten it, and his father had just laughed and said he’d gotten it from the Dutchman. Then his mother threw a pillow at his father, and he never did find out who the Dutchman was.

In the clearing, his father taught him to shoot, setting up lengths of pine against the trunk of a tree When the boy tired of it, they lay on their backs, watching the squirrels. “I promised Sally we wouldn’t kill anything,” he said, and then explained the basic principles of squirrel hunting. The boy listened, but part of him was daydreaming about the plane. It was hot, and you could hear bees buzzing somewhere close, and water over rocks. When his mother had cried, she’d said that Rudy had been a good man, that he’d saved her saved her once from being young and stupid, and once from a real bad man…

“Is that true?” he asked his father when his was father through explaining about the squirrels. “They’re just so dumb they’ll come back over and over and get shot?”

“Yes,” Turner said, “it is.” Then he smiled. “Well, almost always…”


Radical Militant Library 0.5.5
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