In the fall, the rain would melt the leaves off the trees and engorge the creek that ran through the surrounding towns. The sounds of hunting rifles would bounce around the amphitheater of foothills, echo off the narrow walls of the valley, and back toward the city centers where local schoolchildren couldn’t help but postulate which one of their neighbors was being murdered.
It was winter now; he watched the snow dissolve into the brown riverbank below until a second came through the leafless trees.
“See anything?” The second asked and sat next to the first
“There’s some smoke over there,” the first said and pointed to a far off mountain.
“It’s probably a controlled burn.”
“No, I think it’s a plane.”
“Oh. A plane?”
“Yea. They were flying too low this entire trip, scaring the birds off. It was bound to happen eventually.”
“They wouldn’t let anyone fly in this weather.”
“Probably, but it was dry until this morning. Then it started coming down,” the first said and stood, followed by the second.
They made a final loop around the now barren grounds; one kicked some slush onto the fire they had cooked their catch on while the other gathered the gear. Beside the recently submerged circle of stones was the wrinkled log where they had eaten, and behind that was where they had camped.
“Are you all right?”
“Yea, I’m ready to go now.”
They wrapped their bags around themselves and walked the path they had flattened on their way in. They walked a quiet distance, exited the woods, and emptied out onto the paved path leading to the rock overhang where they had parked.
As they reached the bottom of the trail leading to the top of the bluff, they looked back to the quickly blackening woods toward the ravine where they had stayed.
“It was a good year, Ernie.” The first hunter said.
“I’d say so, Mark. I was awfully surprised as to how many we managed to bag,” Ernie said.
“It sure was a nice landing, it really is a shame. Where’s your helmet?” Mark asked as the gray air-muddled slurry began to puddle on the tips of their shoes.
“Oh, I left it up with the bike,” Ernie said and started up the incline as Mark followed.
The men summited the peak and looked for where they had left their bike. They found it leaned against a tree next to a helmet and they looked down the cliff toward the distant mountain-smoke.
“Should we say something?” Ernie asked.
“I did when we were down there.”
“I didn’t hear you.”
“You were busy.”
“Oh,” Ernie said.
The men saddled their motorcycle and drove off.
© Copyright 2016 Liam Cooper. All rights reserved.
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