Circles in the Dust

Circles in the Dust by Matthew Harrop Read Free Book Online

Book: Circles in the Dust by Matthew Harrop Read Free Book Online
Authors: Matthew Harrop
smiled. That noise beat the silence of the dead world outside the ring of light cast by the fire. It was comforting. David couldn’t tell how long it had been since he’d found the old man, though it could not have been too long after he left the city himself. Wandering from camp to camp, he had kept alive, but eventually everyone had chased him away or tried to harm him. He ran from all of them until he’d stumbled into this camp, too tired to go any further and too lost to know where to go even if he had the energy. If he had to guess, it had been years ago. A few fuzzy hairs dotted his chin now and he had grown tall enough to see the bald crown of the old man’s head.
                  “What are we eating tonight?”
                  David looked up to see a pair of bright eyes staring at him from a face crinkled with age. He looked down at the cans on the ground next to his feet and shrugged.
                  “Your guess is as good as mine,” he said.
                  The old man chortled and produced a can opener from his pocket. Spots of rust lined the steel point that pierced the cans.
                  “Green beans,” Ernest said. They had eaten almost nothing else for days, but no trace of disappointment entered his voice.
                  “Oh, boy,” David grumbled. He could feel the scolding stare of the old man but ignored it, focusing on opening some of the cans himself.
                  “Be glad you have that, David.”
                  The words were not harsh but they stung.
                  David retrieved a pot from the tent that sat just far enough from the fire to escape any drifting sparks and they boiled their meal with melted snow. Whatever he might say, David was grateful for the meal. The heat from the beans was enough
    to make him wolf down all his stomach would hold. When he finished he stood up and reached for the old man’s bowl. The old man let him have it. David took a step from the fire and looked down to see that the food had hardly been touched. He tried to give it back but Ernest would not take it.
                  “Not too hungry tonight,” was all the old man would say, pushing the bowl back at David. The boy sighed impatiently but said nothing. No amount of reasoning would get the old man to eat when he didn’t want to, and lately he had been eating less and less. David kept his concerns to himself, scouring the bowls with snow at the edge of the camp.
                  He ducked once more into the tent before returning to the fire. He sat next to the old man with his bow and a rag, cleaning the already spotless frame.
                  “Have you caught anything recently?” The old man was smiling at him with that contagiously pleasant shine in his eyes.
                  “You’d know if I had,” David said. He forced a smile in return.
                  “Seen anything?”
                  “Not for a while.”
                  “You haven’t gone hunting for a while though. Maybe you should go out tomorrow.”
                  David grunted in response.
                  “We have plenty of firewood.”
                  “Never too much,” David said. He looked up to see that the smile had faded from the old man’s face. David couldn’t tell exactly what his gaze held. A certain sadness, maybe.
                  “Go out tomorrow. I want some fresh meat.” Ernest’s voice grew stern. “I’ll be fine here. You know how to find rabbits. You don’t need me to show you the tracks anymore.”
                  “I know,” David said. “I just... I feel a storm coming, and I-”
                  “Oh, shut up,” the old man interrupted. “I’ll be fine, Andrew. You go on.”
                  David was

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