"Hurry up, if you're coming on this hike."
When my foster dad spoke, you'd better listen. I call them "Mom" and "Dad," because I'm hoping they'll adopt me.
"He's only a "kid," Peter. Give him a break."
Mom helped me find my lined boots and denim jeans. When I get upset I can't do a thing right.
"Mary, he's almost ten years old. He has to get organized sometime. "Come on, Kid."
So I went. My backpack came along for the ride. Peter said it was our last chance to be in the woods together. At least before hunting season started in a few days. He didn't want me in the woods with all those guns shooting.
Peter is a great guy. I just wish he wouldn't make me feel like a wimp. "Wait up!" I yell. And he does.
"What's up, Kid? Can't take it? Look how beautiful it is out here."
"Well, what is it?"
"It's just...my new boots are muddied. And my pants are sopping wet from stomping on this old bush road."
"Do you think I'm too tough on you, Kid?"
Good thing he can't read my thoughts.
"What is it?" His broad shoulders make him look scary.
I stare at a large maple tree trying to forget my squishy socks. Should I tell him my feet are freezing?
"Try and catch up, if you can!" Peter shouts back. Then like magic, he disappeared down the trail.
Now I'm alone and my fists clench and unclench. Too upset to even yell, I lean against a tree. I feel like a fallen hazelnut. Maybe a squirrel will hide me in one of his favorite spots.
My eyes grow large when my imagination sees things that aren't there. And my blond head is sweaty under my tight cap. I feel like screaming. With Peter beside me, it's okay. By myself it's terror-time.
I have to get going. If Peter's playing a game, it's not funny. "Peter!" No answer. "PEETERRRR!" doesn't help.
Now I come to a fork in the trail, with no tracks, only sloppy water. Something or someone passed this way. Take the right one? Come on Kid, Peter is waiting somewhere.
I try left. The trail takes me further through the woods, on and on. Only fresh, rested feet could surely make it to the end. Mine are tired. My stomach rumbles. "Time to eat."
Fingers fumble with my backpack. Egg sandwiches help me feel better. Peter said a walk in the woods gives you an appetite. Why did he always want to drag me along when he needed exercise? I should be home hanging out with my friends. So where is Peter?
"PETERRR!" No answer. My words must be lost in the trees. After hiking for a while, I look for a place to rest. Peter should be back soon. At least my stomach is full from a neat snack.
After coming to a clearing beside the worn trail I sit on a fallen log. A large willow branch is just right for carving. As I pick at the bark with the blade of my Swiss Knife, I can sense a pair of eyes watching me.
It's a doe still as a statue beside a Birch tree. Then she moves gracefully into fuller view, somehow knowing a kid won't harm her.
Her ears stretch wide and alert, ready to run. I bite my lip; my fingers scrunch. A few minutes ago my legs were dead-meat tired, now energy, like bolts of lightning race through them.
"Beautiful," is a word that crosses my lips. "Be quiet. Don't scare her," my thoughts say. The deer stares at me. I gulp in the view.
Suddenly I spot the orange jacket of a hunter standing about a hundred feet behind the deer. He's aiming a rifle in my direction. I hope he won't shoot while I stay right here.
Am I brave enough to remain? Will the hunter give up and go away? .
Peter might think this was a stupid idea. Imagine, the Kid placing himself in danger to save a deer? Maybe I won't tell about what I had done. This could be my special secret.
For some reason the deer doesn't seem to be afraid. Maybe it's because he trusts a kid to keep him from harm. As long as I remain in the line of fire the hunter won't shoot.
Yelling finally breaks the silence. And the stranger finally lowers his rifle.
"Kid! Kid!" Peter calls as he steps into the clearing. The deer turned and leaps into the deep forest and safety.
The hunter began hollering. "Hey kid why didn't you just sit down or something? Bloody brat!"
There's confusion on Peter's face. How to explain what I did? I wasn't trying to be brave. It's more than that. The deer needed me. It felt good knowing someone needed the "wimp." Just like I hope Peter and Mary need a son in their home.
My foster dad and the hunter go off to the side. Peter's voice is loud through the trees, "You're nothing but a crooked poacher. Besides, you scared my son!"
A shock wave slams into my chest. What did he say? "My son?" I could barely breathe.
"I'm contacting the Game Warden," I heard Peter say.
Now I wait for my own scolding, as Peter came towards me, I know he'll fire questions, like sharp arrows.
"Why didn't you let the hunter shoot the deer?" And, "How come you did something so stupid and dangerous?" he will probably ask.
Tears trickle down my cheeks. I'm ready to burst, like an overblown balloon. Why doesn't Peter just come and give me a hug? I feel alone and helpless. And he just stands there, shaking his head.
I try to read his thoughts. But he doesn't look upset. If only I had the courage to tell him I love him, even though he can be a grouch. But I can't. Something holds me back.
Peter keeps staring.
I close my eyes and imagine what I look like. Tears dribbling down my face like a baby, knee bloodied. How much will it cost for a new pair of jeans? There's even mud caked all over my chest. And my winter jacket is covered in thistles.
All Peter does is keep shaking his head. And he's smiling. Smiling? I'm confused. Then Peter opens up his arms, and comes toward me. Magic words make my heart race wildly. "I love ya, son."
Tears pour down my face, but I don't care. "Dad" needs me right now.
* * *
Richard & Esther Provencher
Richard enjoys writing and has many poetry e-books listed on he and his wife's Author Page: www.amazon.com/Esther-and-Richard-Provencher/e/B00O8K9UKE. PTL.
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