Juniper

There was a man on the side of a mountain, clinging to a tree in the midst of a blizzard. He wore leathers from the animals he’d killed in the reaches of the land beneath his gaze. In  meadows, forests, plains and valleys that raced on underneath him until there was only horizon. But, for now he was here. Clinging to a tree with half rotten berries in the fury of the blinding blizzard. He was not jogging merrily behind a band of gazelles waiting to loose his arrow and eat. He wasn’t sitting on a rock by a slight stream waiting to plunge his hand down and grasp up some amphibious flesh to eat. He wasn’t crouching on a high bough silently waiting to throw his spear at a shadow padding thru the underbrush beneath. He wasn’t crushing soft dewy shrubs silently under his heels as he trailed a hare back to it’s hole to plant a trap.

He pulled up his hood, tugging a bit to make the brim reach down to the top of his nose. He waddled around to the other side of the tree to lean his weight against it, the tree, stubbornly growing out of a soft fertile mineral deposit in the midst of a large unyielding and infertile mountainside. He drew his bow up from his shoulders and set to unstringing it. He decided he’d best lash the bow to himself first, as he set to lashing himself against the tree in the midst of the roaring white swirl. He thought, the strength of the yew stick that had been a bow might help him bear the weight, for his wait until the end of storm, and he fashioned it from the top of his right knee to the tip of his left shoulder and lashed the string about himself thrice encircling the bow at key points he thought were smart to choose finally encircling the line about tree. He drew up a hand brandishing a mitten from an antlered mammal he’d slain last spring and fished around in his breast pocket for the line he normally used to set a trap, usually for not weary enough: foxes, rabbits, and hares. He smiled, cracking his parchment white face caked in snowflakes when he saw, the line in the mitten as he drew his hand out from the breast pocket he couldn’t see into; nor could he feel anything through the mitt so he really was quite excellent at knowing where he kept his things, he thought to himself, lashed to the tree with rotten berries on the side of the unyielding mountain in the powder white storm tying a rock that he’d spent a summer tricking a hole into the center of, he tied one end of the line and he whirled it around, once, twice and let it out beyond his sight to the furthest branches or where he thought they might be and when he felt the weight of the line settle he pulled. The supple branches coated in soft flakes flexed back and their points drew toward the man whose face was white because it was caked in ice and packed in snow, and he smiled as he grabbed at the many branches with one hand, erstwhile anchored to an unremarkable tree, growing on the side of a mountain in the middle of a proper storm.

He guffawed and groaned, hemmmed and hawwwed as he clutched the numerous branches in that one hand and with the other repeated the process again. It was hard work, but the yewy supple bow pressed into his flesh from the top of his knee to the tip of his shoulder made the load of the tree straining against him a possible yoke to bear and so he yanked and pulled onward. He thought of how he would feel when he told her what he’d done; then he had the other branches in hand. He set the tips of these new branches into the crux of his elbow and with this free hand began fishing the line from these new limbs that were encircled by the rock on the string that had taken a whole summer to put a hole into. His face grimaced from the strain of the boughs of the trees that he held at his left and his right as he spun the line in his left hand that ran thru the hole in the middle of the rock and threw it to the other side.

Now, he held both sides with just one hand and arm. His freed right hand and arm repeated the process, spinning the rock tied to the line through the hole and threw it back to the other side where he still clutched to the last length of line with a mittened left hand, and a swarm of tree boughs in the crux of his left elbow fighting against him. He loosed the whirring rock on a string and it landed just so, wrapping up and around this group of boughs he lashed the free end of the trap line that was in the mitten that he couldn’t feel through, in the hole in the rock that had taken him all summer to bore. Both groups of boughs now tied together and around in a sort of a cross or almost like wings. He uneasily let go of the load to test his work. The boughs surged, making terrible sounds, a groan emitted from the tree and the tensions it carried out and along each limb.

But they didn’t budge. Shielding and enwrapped around that man, on the mountain, that was lashed to a tree with half rotten berries, protected by a hole in his rock that had taken all summer to bore and a trap line made of sinew that ran thru the middle of that rock deforming the boughs in the midst a storm who thought,

I can’t wait to see my girl back home.

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