The Reunion

by Christopher Merrill September 15, 2006
story art

The reunion was in full swing, and no one had taken sides yet on the contentious issue of migration—a first in the annals of the pack, which had traveled from the four corners of the world to feast on veal and lamb; trade tips on avoiding the marksmen in the planes; howl all night at the sickle moon. Whenever the subject of staking new claims was raised, an elder would say that winter was coming early. Indeed the earth around the hot springs was rumbling; the rising steam froze to the branches of the pines in loops and strands—in bands of intricate designs, the meaning of which escaped even the most clairvoyant of the elders; the enemy’s flight plans had been revised; peace reigned everywhere.

Which gave the pack leisure to discuss the trees marked for felling, the slash gathered in a clearing to be torched, the gleaming signs posted in an area they had designated as their own. Unaccountably they failed to discern a pattern in the enemy’s mysterious behavior, a change of tactics; hence the sharpshooters approaching downwind from the river caught them by surprise; only the pup ridiculed for believing that he had picked up the scent of something new escaped the bloodshed, hiding in the underbrush until the hunters left, each with a string of pelts draped over his shoulder.

The air was as still as on the first day of Creation, when from deep in the pile of corpses came a moan. The pup dragged off one carcass after another until he discovered an elder, shot through the flank, who rolled onto his back to gaze at the sky.

Maybe you’re my father, said the pup.

Maybe you’re mine, said the bloodied beast.

for Russell Edson

About the Author:

Christopher Merrill’s books include four collections of poetry, Brilliant Water, Workbook, Fevers & Tides, and Watch Fire, for which he received the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; translations of Ales Debeljak’s Anxious Moments and The City and the Child; several edited volumes, among them, The Forgotten Language: Contemporary Poets and Nature and From the Faraway Nearby: Georgia O’Keeffe as Icon; and four books of nonfiction, Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain, The Grass of Another Country: A Journey Through the World of Soccer, The Old Bridge: The Third Balkan War and the Age of the Refugee, and Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars. His work has been translated into sixteen languages. He has held the William H. Jenks Chair in Contemporary Letters at the College of the Holy Cross, and now directs the International Writing Program at The University of Iowa.