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So Silent and Still

Story by Kathryn Kulpa (Read author interview) December 17, 2018

Art by Jordan Pulmano

Trapper Keeper lives in the mountains. Trapper Keeper lives in the woods. In a cabin made of wood, wood he chopped with his axe. Trapper Keeper is strong Trapper Keeper is brave Trapper Keeper is rugged in his flannel and buckskin, standing on the mountaintop, unafraid. It is 1828 it is 1868 it is 1888 it is 1978 and Trapper Keeper is played by Robert Redford in the movie version, edited for television, that you watch on Sunday nights on your local station.

Why Sunday nights, when there’s school the next day? But your mom lets you stay up because Trapper Keeper is strong Trapper Keeper is brave. He would not be afraid of kids at school or having to talk in class. Trapper Keeper doesn’t go to school. He lives alone. In the woods, in the mountains, by the banks of the raging river where the rainbow trout jump. Trapper Keeper lives in your folder on yellow lined paper stolen from the teacher’s desk. He is always by your side.

Trapper Keeper is kind to animals and animals are kind to him. Bears are his friends and the one-eyed raccoon and the broken-winged finch who sits on his shoulder and eats corn from his tin plate, in his snug little house like the inside of a tree. The ABCs of Trapper Keeper are axe, bear, cabin. He hunts and he fishes and he traps, because isn’t that what the name Trapper means, like your friend Cora said when you made the mistake of telling her about Trapper Keeper, so that means he hurts animals, but no, because Trapper Keeper is a friend to animals. He loves animals and animals love him.

There is a way these things can both be true.

Trapper Keeper lives alone. In every version. He has always lived alone. Ever since the Tragedy. Since the day his life broke. His lovely wife, his infant son. Somebody killed them. Who? Poachers, raiders, evil men. Bankers, ranchers, railroad men who wanted Trapper’s land, but he didn’t want to sell. Trapper Keeper, broken but resolute. He hunted those men down. He made them pay. Then Trapper Keeper walked away, walked into the woods, into the mountains, and was never seen again. He learned the ways of roots and trees, of bear and cougar. He would not walk in the ways of men. He would not speak their tongue.

Like the time you ran away, into the trees behind the school and nobody could find you, hiding in the crook of a rough-trunked pine.

In the woods, in the mountains, by the banks of the raging river where the rainbow trout jump.

Even though the woods behind the school were hardly woods at all and the brook was only ankle deep, even in springtime. You hid then and you hide again, watching through leaves while they call and call, call through every classroom, open the bulkhead and look in the basement, look under parked cars, inside the waiting school bus, look everywhere but where you are, safe in the woods, held close by your tree, and Trapper Keeper held close to you, tucked in his Velcro folder, not left in your desk like when you forgot and left him overnight and in the morning Cora was reading from your yellow lined paper, reading to the other kids, laughing at Trapper Keeper living in the woods, because where would he pee? And how would he take a bath or cut his hair? He would look like a homeless person.

But you know Trapper Keeper is strong Trapper Keeper is brave he is our castle and our keep he knows how to keep his trap shut and so do you, now.

You don’t say a word, not one word of human language. All the things you hold inside you, you just hold them closer, so silent and still.

And when you see police cars and police dogs you know you can’t just walk out. You’ve gone too far, like Trapper Keeper, who left the world of men, who spoke only the language of animals, who learned the ways of roots and trees, who chose the woods.

About the Author

Kathryn Kulpa was a winner of the Vella Chapbook Award for her flash collection Girls on Film (Paper Nautilus). She is a flash fiction editor at Cleaver magazine and has work published or forthcoming in Monkeybicycle, Longleaf Review, and Pidgeonholes.

About the Artist

Find more photography by Jordan Pulmano at Unsplash.

This story appeared in Issue Sixty-Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Two

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