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By Larry Watson

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Then I heard it again. And this time Johnny did, too. It sounded like something scuffing slowly through the dry leaves, and we both turned around in the direction from which it came. Why had that antlered buck not been frightened into flight? Had he sensed all along that we were no threat, clumping through the forest unarmed? Had he seen us for what we were, boys pretending that they knew his territory as well as he did, boys who thought they had powers greater than men? The buck stared at us and we stared at him for one more long moment, and then he moved on, pausing every few paces to scrape at the leaves in search of food, a being with a real purpose in the woods.

Hello! ” After the sound of Johnny’s voice died away, the forest’s silence seemed amplified, a snowy day’s version of an echo. “That’s just what someone who’s after her would say,” I offered with a smile. ’” “What should I say—‘Ollie, Ollie, in-free? ’” Once we stood there motionless for a couple minutes, the cold was able to wrap itself around us. I clapped my gloved hands together and stamped my feet. “Jesus. ” Johnny pinched snot from his nostrils with his mitten. “Freeze or bleed to death.

You never touch, Matthew. Not without the patient’s permission. I invited you in here because it’s a unique learning situation. ” He stared sternly at me for a long moment. ” To make clear that the question was meant for both of us, he shifted his gaze to Johnny and then back to me. “No sir,” I said, intending to answer for both of us. ” I nodded eagerly. ” Once he was assured that he had our attention again, Dr. Dunbar proceeded to lecture us on primary and secondary wounds, temporary and permanent cavities, and the stretching and displacement of tissue.

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