Story: Iron Sharpens

A perfect solunar period and the brisk and unexpected first snap of cold across a day, grey and windy. Out over the edges, he broke his head through the dense line. Above that sleek thick head, long knurled tines forked out, plastered in dark rotting bark. They swayed gently with caution in a rhythmic cadence matching wind and brambles just behind him. Cautious foot steps and then a hoof stamp. He descended into the deep bowl dividing the long flat soy field, crisp, ready and untouched by plow. For minutes he pondered and slowly lurked forward out of the canebrake in the hole across the brisk wind. An instinctual caution stepping to look ahead and back at his cousin honoring him from the edge. When he acted as if the animal that he was, he could not peel his eyes off of him. As the moonlight slowly replaced the shadows, he stepped forward. Long tumbling filaments of steam broke into a fog before his face and he head-whipped to the edge quartering away from it. The long freshly thick soy blanketed the earth bottom, a quarter mile rife unbroken on the ground and yellowing. When his instinct to look ahead and back broke, he would relinquish control momentarily to put his head to the ground to feed. And he came from the edge, his little horny self and the six points bobbing. The moist black back ten tine lifted his head at him halfway and rolled to the other edge to look, then to another bite. They slowly quartered into the long field, into the open vulnerable space, windward. Heads down always wondering, and heads up seeing and looking to each other and off to the other edge. The large one with ten tines moved closer to the edge, this time directly perpendicular to that long break of cedars with cars piling past, with little thought or suspicion of their presence there. The diminutive one, the six, stayed placed and passing he turned when the black and bold one gave space. Eventually he arrived in that deep row of broomsedge and cedar with a skeleton of barbed wire. He picked the line, looking down it into the draft and sneaking glances back and the other would move in inches and post his hoof in a stamp and he would moments later stomp back. Perhaps they made grunts at each other that they could hear, but no others would know over the wind. When the small one came close enough to encroach on the the integrity of his space, perhaps forty body lengths, the large one stamped forward at him and they strafed, quartering to field a bit closer to the back edge. Now in the increasing moonlight, they continued this dance. The cycle of the weaker one pressing the more dominant into the cedars and him charging out in chase. And she continued to work her way gingerly down the row of cedars tempting. And the cars kept charging by not knowing. A vast flush of chasing animals fled into the far reaches of the broken soy, on the end opposite that of which they were quartering. They gave little interest or notice and the small one looked intently at her and the large one again pushed him back. The wild frolicking and chasing mass fell back into the deep woods from which they came and the two continued cycling, stamping and looking back and forward. The younger one looking at her with her head folded back on her body and nose under her lifted tail. She slipped away. The cycle gone as the reason was and without her they made a more intentional charge at one another but did not engage their antlers. The gaining darkness supposed a sense of security on them and they had run out of field to quarter, now at that declining back edge. The large and dominant one had found an impassible corner where the cedar row came to a perpendicular cedar row, that back edge, and the passive one rested along this new border. The small one stood in more caution and put his nose up, then down, and looked out to the corner. The large one charged at him again and they kept forty bodies between them like some polarizing force moved them in a parallel tandem. The small one, lighter in color with his vertical horny head was back at the end of the deep woods and the wet and vulgar one alone stood at the middle of that new row of cedar. Then in a bang, his testosterone composed body lay there and the little wild one became the dominant one and thrashed off spitting never wondering because he did not have the capacity to do so.

* Iron Sharpens is the tenth chapter in Providence: A Story by William Kelly

An unedited, print on demand and eBook version of Providence is available at:

Copyright William Kelly 2013.

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