The right kind of game

 The mothers run the whetstones along the knives and not the other way around. They and the children sit close to the fire to blot out the chill until the men come back from the hunt.   The eldest boy returns from the snares, agrip a brace of rabbits, one in each hand. Lank and limp and dead, their heads sideways and staring atop their flimsy broken necks.

A far-off snap of undergrowth draws the women to their feet. Their faces underlit by the orange flames they move to the camp periphery and squat and wait until their eyes grow used to the dark. A cluster of shadows appear in transit. 

 Whoever it is must be theirs for they had set off none of the tripwires that laced their routes through the snowbanks. Soon one of the distant shapes strikes a torch and they loom obscure in its red glow each adorned with animal carcasses and pelts. All waiting at camp can see that they have a boy strung on a yoke. An arrow protrudes from his gut. Whether he is one of theirs or the Others cannot be seen yet, though all mouths are ajar about if they shall mourn, or have more meat to hang above the fire.

  “We should ready the rabbits before they arrive,” the mothers agree.

A handful of almonds

 Did you know they contain cyanide? I couldn’t bring myself to eat even one.

This sad treat was my wife’s solution to hunger after she burned the basket I kept in the top rafters of the barn. I had filled it with chocolates and secreted it up there in the days after she banned all joy in our household. 

 Balancing the whole thing on the end of a broom was the only way to move it up and down. I dismissed the notion of a pulley for how obvious it would have been. I kept it there for years, until she found it when hunting owls for ritual components. It became a transgression too many.

 I kept each handful she gave me. They went straight into my pestle and I poured the dust into a paint can in private. I distilled all my problems into a glass of water. I think she regretted not being more interested in my science experiments.