…The thirst did not subside after three days the way the hunger had. The cold of the second night was worse than the first. But the cold came with salvation- – frost formed on the fallen leaves. He’d mostly sucked the leaves on morning one, but a few had cupped a spoonful of melt. Upturning dozens had paid with enough water to make the shivering worthwhile.
…When he’d tried to expand his circle of cups the pain stopped him. Broken hip or broken pelvis, maybe both, and the opposite ankle. There’d been a drag to the tree when he was still in shock, now his injuries had set to the point where simply leaning to extend his reach was nearly too much. A jolt that he could not endure with his eyes open. He’d taken to closing them before he reached.
…From the tree he could see the ledge, and judged that he had fallen about twelve feet, landing on roots with one leg under him. A one touch fall, abetted by his friends the wet leaves; his own fault. All caught up in the argument, the arguments. The words and resentments and regrets and immortal memories had blinded him. In a fog on a dangerous trail. Jesus.
…“Go fuck yourself”, she’d said finally.
….Real Romeo and Juliet stuff, he thought. Dire Straits.
…And what the hell might Lulu be doing right now? Worrying? Surely she had reported him missing. The phone was on the counter for Christ’s sake. His phone. Could she possibly still think he was playing games?
…No phone, and there had been no note. He hadn’t even been pissed off, just wanted away. Drove a half hour, then wheeled onto a tractor path and parked tight between a row of maples and a field of eight foot high corn. In a rusted brown truck. A hundred yards off the road. Away off the road, as his Gram would say.
…He’d heard a few planes, tried to imagine the sound of a helicopter. Wondered about the corn, the farmer. The corn was bleached and dry, past due for cutting, but what would be thought of his truck if the combine did come along? He was just another hunter. Still there on the second day? They might think it odd.
…A real hunter? He’d been one once. Fifteen years old, traipsing through the woods back of Gram’s house.
…“You be careful Charlie.”
…Out for two or three hours alone, miles from the house, with a gun. No need to worry. He’d had his little bit of shit together at fifteen. Wouldn’t have fallen. Warm in the sun on afternoons just like this. Full of pancakes, looking for squirrels, sitting up against trees. Killing.
…Lulu was five then, a neighbor he scarcely noticed. At Gram’s he studied the lingerie section of the Montgomery-Ward’s catalog. Dad and Mom both worked. Gramp and Gram both worked. What had they hoped for, giving him all that freedom?
….A .22 cracked, very close.
.…Charles closed his eyes, tried to be loud but clear: