Bo had been listening, waiting for the mutts to retrieve the duck, like they always did. It’d been shot in the wing—Bo knew from the way it spiraled from the sky: a rapid, defeated descent, right wing cocked, down to the flat, meadowed earth like a spinning leaf. An early mist had settled in the nook of the field like a vaporous forest, and from the bird’s sudden, down- ward trajectory, a line of its path briefly held shape in the air. He pumped two cartridges into his rifle’s magazine, looking skyward. A fresh flock bisected a cloud.
He could hear the distant race of the mutts against the leaves. They exuded a near-silent excitement, the sort which Bo had witnessed two days earlier, when his mother had passed in her sleep. She’d been living on the couch in Bo’s cabin. The dogs didn’t seem to mind; knew how shit felt, he often thought.
He knew they’d found something out there in the forest, even before he’d paced from where he knew the duck had landed, before he arrived at the sight of the hole. It was wide, caved in, sort of, around the perimeter. But he couldn’t see its bottommost layer, couldn’t see anything but concentric rings of blackness, like a throat to the center of the earth. The dogs pawed at its edges, rubbed their wet noses against Bo’s shins.
Days later, in his sleep, Bo would imagine his mother sitting at the edge of the hole, somehow attributing its existence to her own. Through the week, he would throw coins and bullet shells into the center of the gap: but nothing. No noise would greet him. By the end of the month, a foot of snow would yield no further explanation, and Bo would plan to venture inside: two steps down, a pause, then one more.