Here is a new installment to a story I started blogging here back in June. If you’re interested, you can scroll back and find the other five or six posts.
The boy hoped and knew that his father would go with him into the woods again. He sensed in a vague, distant way that his father had his own purposes in this and that they were perhaps didactic, but he did not bristle at the thought of being schooled in such a way and every day he went again into the woods and followed the pathways he now had memorized and worked down the backside of the mountain to look once more into the pasture where he had seen the girl. Each time he came into the woods he thought of where he and his father might turn from the path and go a new way and explore and he looked for likely places and looked forward to the next day that his father would accompany him.
On Thursday afternoon he went again into the forest and when he came home for supper he was tired and raw from the sun. He went to his room to shuck his dirty and bur-laden clothes before going to the table and saw there before his bed the new pair of boots. They were red leather with brass eyelets and laced to the calf, like no other boots he had ever worn. Beside them there was a shallow tin of Neatsfoot wax and a rag over the boottops.
He forgot all else and opened the tin and rubbed the wax onto the rag and started to work the stiff, new leather. When he had oiled the boots once and again took one and then the other in his hands and bent the boots every way he could grip them and when his hands were aching and raw he finally felt the leather start to loosen. There, he said.
His father came to the door.
Were you planning to join the rest of us for dinner this evening, anytime?
I was just working these boots up. Thank you.
That’s alright. You don’t need to say anything about them at dinner.
Look at your hands. Get that stuff off of them and get down to the table.
It was still dark when his father rousted him from sleep.
Your eggs are on the table. Eggs and sausage. Roll out.
When they left the house his father closed the door slowly, so as not to wake his mother or sister. The sky was still grey and above them at the far edge of the pasture a mist clung to the treeline. He could see his breath. When they were halfway through the first field they saw crows fly away from some new carcass. The birds rose as silently as smoke and flew away downwind. He felt the weight and grip of the new boots as he stepped and in them he felt sturdy and invincible.
His father led the way into the woods this time and they traveled very fast over the ridge and down the back of the mountain and across the bottom meadow and up the next hillside and when they reached the next ridge they came into a clearing where they could see across to the next mountain and the yellow, sandstone cliffs that jutted out from the otherwise green mountainside like a broad grin.
That’s where we’re headed. His father said.
When they reached the bottom of the outcrop the boy was certain that his father did not mean to climb the cliff, as steep and as tall as it was. He could not imagine his father taking such a risk and it was unthinkable to him that his father would involve him in such a danger.
But his father went straight up to the bottom of the outcrop and found a seam and felt above him for grips and lifted himself off of the forest floor and onto the cliff face. The first few pulls were almost vertical, but then there was a narrow ledge and he stood and called down to the boy.
Come on up. Just follow the line I took there.
When he reached the terrace he did not look back down and his father hugged the rock face as he stepped along the ledge till he found breaks above him and pulled himself up again, this time to a bigger flat where he laid down and looked down at his son and stretched his arm down his way.
Put your foot there, he pointed, And push straight up and I’ll get you here.
The boy stepped as his father had said. Until that moment he thought he knew the extent of his father’s considerable strength but when he took his father’s hand there fifty feet above the ground his father lifted him with a speed and strength that he had never before imagined.