by Chris Deal

That first day I woke at dawn, put the pot for the coffee over the fire and rolled a cigarette in a cornhusk while I waited for it to boil away the water’s impurities.  My world was still cold, despite the proximity to the flame. With the Springfield in my arms and the furs over my back, I went to the forest and looked for sign.  When the sun neared the top of its arc, I came into the clearing, ground stained red and black, a man motionless in the center.  Saul, I said. What have you done? The man’s chest was open to the world, his meat, heart taken. Soot fell from the heavens, mixing with the snow. The trail went to the town and I followed.  Saul was going north, they said, pointing towards the wastes. I tracked him from Iqaluit, northwest to Arctic Bay. Found his scent in Grise Ford. You notice strangers there, and they told me he passed through early one morning three days earlier.  Saul had the lead on me, heading northeast.  I found a caribou exposed to the stars. I said a prayer and asked permission to take one of my own.  I thanked the animal for its sacrifice and I promised payment in kind.  A week later I was under the Cordilleras. My breath came out damn near solid. There was a hint of smoke two days to toward the water, and coming down onto the ice, I saw him there, waiting.  He didn’t fight the blade, but asked forgiveness for what he had done. The only warmth in the world came from his blood. David, he said, his lips frothing red.  I laid a hand to his heart, and the flames came over him, melting through the ice.  I asked forgiveness as the sea took him as its own.  I walked south and waited for vengeance to come, to overtake me as it had for Saul.
© 2010 Chris Deal.  All rights reserved.


Chris Deal writes from Huntersville, North Carolina.  He has published over 50 poems and short stories.  His debut collection, Cienfuegos, will be published in early 2010, and a story of his will be in the forthcoming anthology Eternal Night, published by Living Dead Press, and he writes many pieces for Troubadour 21.