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When the light curled from those dusty hills, I took it upon myself to run toward it as if I was throwing myself into the face of God. I remember it all too perfectly. Father, behind me, is carrying his axe. Summer time, wet air is sticking to my cheeks and shoulders. A sound like the breaking of used firewood under heavy hiking boots crackled from the forest beyond. I remember that forest.
Papa took me to a cabin once by a withering oak tree. I’d play on its branches until nightfall, and he would make tea from the leaves of strange trees I never saw. Their leaves had sharp, mesmerizing tastes and textures. They gave the feeling of floating on a falling petal, then hanging tentative on the side of a hollow stump. I would taste that tea for the first time on our second trip.
He took himself out on his nightly walkabout, from which he would stumble back from in the early morning. Shiny, silver-lined, and dangling from a hook in the wall, hung that magic bottle. That flask which made Papa happy in a way I never could. In a way Momma never wanted to.
I took a single swig from that burgundy flask which hung before my questioning, tree bark-brown eyes.
I took to the sink seconds later.
Like hot water, or a sort fire bird singeing the sides of my gullet, the liquid cascades into speedy chunks across the bathroom mirror. I cry, I sing, I dance. I drop the flask. I pick it up, and I keep it. I sleep.
Near daybreak the next day, I’m awake, and the door is wide open. Papa’s bed was cold. I hold the flask in my sweaty palm, tickling the cork with my pointer finger. I took to the kitchen window. Papa’s galloping. From that dew stained window, he falls across the fresh grass with the weight and look of a white-tailed deer whose hamstring had been cut, right through the center of the muscle. Faster men, with lighter faces and gnashing teeth catch him by the throat. Their knives and shot guns shine like their faces in a pocket of sunlight peaking from behind my oak tree. I hold the flask, stroking. Smoothly… crack. Across the heavy wall, from the rusted window pane, was shot a curtain of blood and scattered metal.
They laugh, they hunt, they steal, they lie.
Papa’s bed was cold, so is Papa.
10 years, and here I stand. Now I’m a man, plowing my fields. My father’s field, my field, living in a house my children built.
That forest of trees I would play and climb is not mine. It was, but now we draw lines of distinction. Lines of life and liberty.
For the men with shining faces.