Cal was staring into the tops of the trees when she found him standing among the fresh splints of pine scattered among the needles and wilting dandelions.
The axe stood tipped into the battered block next to him. She asked him why he was cutting wood and he reminded her that fall is the time to do it. She tried to explain again that the boy could do all this. She asked if he had packed his things. She asked if he had turned off the well. She asked him the whereabouts of the dog. He told her he had taken the dog up the hill and tied him to the Fairchilds’ porch. Her face went blank. He smiled at her, the deep wrinkles folded against his corners of his mouth with satisfaction. She shook her head and reminded him they had all discussed this and thought they had come to an agreement. He remembered the meeting but he didn’t remember discussing anything with anyone much less coming to an agreement. He remembered all his children—she included—coming to some consensus amongst themselves. And he told her that was fine for them but they really had no say in his matters, no more than he in theirs. He struggled with the small backpack until he finally got it over his shoulder. He told her he loved her and that she had raised two of the best children he had ever known. He told her to tell her brother and sisters that he left items for each of them in the cabin, in his bedroom. He smiled again at her distraught eyes and kissed her cheek, the softness of her face warmed him and he thought happily of his younger self who could never have hidden his blushing face, a face now petrified and crumbling beneath the decades, a face no longer vulnerable to the embarrassment his father had found so contemptible. Her confusion lived in the cold tear sliding down her nose. I’m going up the mountain, kiddo.
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Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.