by Joey Esposito
He sat in the tire swing that overlooked the River. Jesse had strung it up for him two summers back, so he’d be able to sit and gaze out at the landscape beyond the water. Two summers ago he was only eight, but he’d grown so much since then. At ten, he’d already gained an extra four inches and even hunted his first meal without Jesse’s help. Looking back on it now, after what he’d accomplished since, it wasn’t much. But it was more than the other boys his age had done, and for that he was proud.
He recalled the hunt; he had been on patrol with Jesse months ago when the promise of a buck was so alluring that it caused his guardian a lapse in judgment. Leaving the boy alone, Jesse had dashed off into the deep woods after a meal that could feed the village for the better part of a month, if portioned reasonably. It was his first time alone in the woods. Though he had lived there all his life, few ventured into the woods beyond the road by themselves until they were of a certain age. Despite the dangers that the adults assured him lurked within, the woods felt peaceful and secure.
As Jesse’s footsteps padded off into the distance, he stood still until the crunching of dry leaves and crackling of twigs was no longer audible. Only then did he take his first step forward, a first step toward an all new life. He was on his own now, he had thought, and he’d never take a step back. There was a certain wave of adrenaline that filled his bones with each additional step, and he could feel the blade that swung from his belt grow in size. It was heavier now. Though he had used it many times before, he was hunting on his own, as a man, creeping through the woods with only his wits and a weapon.