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A Sharp Morning
The sky was a clear blue with glittering beams of brilliant sun slowly falling to rest on the boughs of trees and the soft, leaf covered ground. The forest was filled with the sounds of the Maine wilderness. I stepped out of our cabin and inhaled the early morning pine-scented air and was filled with the joy of being outdoors with the wild all around me. I glanced at the heavens. What a day this was. What a day.
The leaves crunched softly underfoot as I walked away from the cabin and towards my father, who was sitting astride a recently cut log, with a very long draw knife trying to peel the away the bark. His short black hair stuck straight up from his night’s rest. His face was creased and wrinkled with seriousness and unerring focus. The muscles of his arms flowed underneath his shirt; those arms that had comforted me many times before.
The question was on my lips even before I had thought it, and instantly I regretted it as the words flowed out.
“Can I help, Dad?” I silently chided myself on my impulsiveness.
“Sure you can, come here.” I settled down on the ground and waited. Immediately, my father launched into a complicated lecture on how to peel the bark off a log with a draw knife. As he drawled on, my focus shifted to the woods surrounding us, taking in every small detail, every dew drop, every leaf. Everything seemed to glint and flash, amplified by the peacefulness and sheer beauty of the woods.
“You got that?” My dad’s questioning voice jerked me back into reality.
“Yup,” I automatically responded. I lifted the knife and sat on the log. The knife felt so foreign and unnatural in my grasp.
“I’ll be down the Orange Trail if you need me.” With that he trudged off into the woods following an almost invisible path. I sighed with relief.
Slowly and awkwardly, I tilted my body forward, holding the knife out in front of me. With caution and careful precision, I lowered the knife until it touched the bark and pulled. The knife dug in deeper and then failed to budge. I pulled again, harder this time, and still the knife held fast. As I worked to free the knife, I wondered what I had done wrong. Why wasn’t it working? I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this without help from Dad, that I could figure out how to peel away the bark by myself. I wanted to make Dad proud.
So I flipped the blade around to hold it a different way. I went against everything that my father had just lectured me not to do. I was going to suffer the consequences. And once again I leaned forward, steadying myself with the balls of my feet. Just before I pulled, a flicker of doubt passed across my mind, making me hesitate for a split second before resuming my effort.
I felt my muscles tense and tendons stretch as I pulled with all the force I could muster into that one moment. The bark gave way. The knife cut an easy path through the bark, like butter, and then severed a long sheet of bark. But the knife kept moving. Everything seemed to slow down as the knife moved closer and abruptly stopped when it hit my knee. There was no pain.
The rest of my movements were in a haze as I rolled up my pant leg, hoping, wishing, fearing. The pant leg rolled over my knee. A clean bloodless gash, about an inch deep was carved into my knee. As I gazed on in mute horror, blood welled up inside the cut, bubbling and frothing like a drowning man clawing towards air. I screamed.
Lexington Twp., Maine
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"Every time I make a plan, God laughs at me." - Jason Issacs