Search, Rescue

Beaver’s Pick
Andrew H. Minnick


Two hours after the walk began the dog was lost. The master had set off in the mild cool of a warm February day with light gloves and a pocket full of old steak. A gentle motion and a quiet word, a “go,” or “off,” or “run,” released the beast from obsequence to instinct and the master watched the dog run through the cluster of aspens into the pine forest beyond.

It had been so warm that day, the odd cloudless sky offering the land to the sun. Now it grew cold. The treacherous flame of life leaving open the door to darkness and the chill it spoke. No movement in the pine, no sight of the dog. The master slid his hands into his coat pockets and kept on.

He had found the dog on a breeder’s farm, a beautiful fawn with two white boots and a streak along his spine. He had wanted to save the dog from all the others, from the cages and the concrete. The first night home the dog licked barbeque sauce from the master’s fingers, it fell asleep in the bend of his knees.

A friend of his once made an augurous prediction. With the wolf gone, the friend said, the elk will feel imbalance and it and will leave. The deer will follow, and the jackrabbit and the fox. The coyote will remain alone, to scavenge on itself.

The wolf was gone and had been. An elk the master may have seen as he released the dog, a long and languid distant movement. It was gone before he could be sure. The dog had not returned. Now it was too cold, the distance getting on too far. He called twice and whistled, expecting nothing, an aural mark, may the dog hear it.

Toward home mid-day slush had turned to ice. It had taken an hour to get this far. The sun was gone and he could see his porch lights. He remembered the old Polaris sled in the garage. He considered it, but the sled was for search and rescue and it had only half a tank of gas. He called the dog twice.

His nose was bloodless now, pale. The master felt the frostbite start. Hurrying inside on the front walkway he slipped. A jag of ice from an earlier footprint ripped warm blood from his cheek. It melted the snow. It froze and turned to pink. He went in through the garage.

The snowmobile was near the bandages. He turned away.

Fumbling the door key in his frozen hands, the master stepped into the heat. On a table by the door was a glass jar of biscuits. He had made the dog lie down and gave him one before they left. They were green and brown and smelled like bacon.
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“I am a 2007 graduate of Washington University in St. Louis where I studied film and media. I currently reside in Summit County, CO, where I read, write, snowboard, and look for work.” E-mail: aminnick85[at]gmail.com

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