a few yards into the trees and stopped again, its form just visible within
the shade of the forest. Waldreve felt his heart thump inside him. He
slung the rifle over his shoulder and moved into the trees, parting the
low-hanging branches as if they were a soft curtain, and a cool smell of
earth rose up from the ground as he stepped into the mossy dark. The
coyote trotted ahead, its smoky dun coat dappled with weak light and
shadow, so that it seemed to be fading into some bleary realm of the
Waldreve followed it up a rise. His breath began to shorten. He stumbled and fell, picked himself up and fell again, dropping the rifle. He felt
woozy, light-headed. He could no longer see the coyote, but he knew it
was there, just ahead of him, somewhere in the trees.
At the top of the ridge, he stopped and sat to rest, his back propped
against a windfallen oak. In the holler below, he thought he saw the silver gleam of a river just beneath the canopy of trees, but he knew of no
river nearby. He shook his head and daubed the sweat from his eyes. Off
in the forest, something hurried away, its footsteps fading to silence. He
looked for the rifle, but it wasn’t there, and he didn’t know where it had
The footsteps returned and then faded again, rushing off through
the undergrowth. Waldreve tried to stand and follow, but his legs had
gone to jelly. He leaned his head back on the log and closed his eyes.
Somewhere he heard the gasp of waters, a sound as feeble and full of
peace as his own struggling and stilling breath.
Alex Taylor lives in Rosine, Kentucky. His work has appeared
in Black Warrior Review, American Short Fiction, the Oxford
American and elsewhere. He is the author of the story collection
The Name of the Nearest River, published by Sarabande Books.