Sara Lippmann



Last Night in Big Sur

Tonight Walter treats Eben for dinner at McDonald’s. So much for canned beans and spongy buns, hot dogs fighting a cold sweat, Walter’s had it with the woods. Eben’s cheeks glow like briquettes when his father tells him, and the flint of joy on his son’s face – when was the last time he’s seen it? – makes the mission worthwhile. It’s not far, mileage-wise, from their Big Sur campsite to the McDonald’s in Monterey but it’s no cakewalk getting there on Highway 1, whose narrow banks are swamped with construction signs and rubber cones; scenic overlooks packed with East Coast tourists piling out of their rented luxury sedans to engulf the ocean air and immortalize the postcard moment on camera.  Eben asks if they can stop too, but Walter floors it, “Maybe on the way back, Eb,” which is a lie because it’ll be too dark to see anything after dinner. Families will have packed up and left. Walter spits into an empty soda can, wipes his lip, rounds a curve. Last night he stared into his dying campfire while Eben cooked up s’mores with the young couple next door, New England newlyweds , watched them laugh and trill their sugary fingers all over his son as if he belonged to them.  

Eben asks for a Happy Meal and a vanilla shake. Mary always told Walter to get the fish, something about his arteries. Even though local news had long since exposed the nutritional content of fast food, proving the fish patty a pointless punishment, battered, fried, and slathered in tartar sauce, Walter orders it. Like so much else, the filet has become a habit.

“Got anything good, Eb?” Walter nods at the box his son is working on with painstaking care, tears into the steam of his own sandwich.

“Later can I go to Tom and Kim’s?” Eben speaks into the waxy mouth of his Happy Meal as he first removes and then arranges its contents – fries, nuggets, three different dipping sauces – and fishes out the plastic toy. His face sinks. “I have ‘Parachute Man’ already,” he says, dismissing it with a flick across the table.

“Tom and Kim?”  Walter blocks the action figure as he would an air hockey puck, shooting it back at his son, who has no interest in his game. Holding the plaything firm between thumb and forefinger, Walter tries his best superhero impersonation – Have no fear, little man, I will rescue you from darkness and evil – but his voice lacks vigor and comes off thin. Eben does not look up. Instead, he politely spreads a napkin onto his lap and tucks another into the collar of his Padres T-shirt.

“From next door,” Eben says. “The ones who pitched their tent so fast remember you said there was no way they were city fork.”

“We’ll see.” Walter doesn’t correct him. That was Mary’s department. He pumps his hands, inspecting the grit under his thumbnails; pictures Mary with her flashcards and math workbooks, pencils tapping: Snap to it, Eb, as if it was never too early to turn Eben into everything Walter wasn’t. He shifts in his seat. The crude sound of his thighs against the booth sends vanilla shake bubbles chortling through Eben’s nose.

“WHO’S YOUR FUNNY MAN? WHO’S YOUR NUMBER ONE PAL?” Walter booms and the whole restaurant hears him.

Customers press their fingers into seeded buns.  

Eben lowers doe eyes, deep and round like his mother’s.

“You, Daddy,” he whispers, burying into his Happy Meal.

They’d been camping for weeks. Although it had been a last minute decision, the trip made sense at the time: venture out into the woods like badge-touting Boy Scouts, master trick knots and fire-starting tactics, keep the whole thing between father and son. If it hadn’t been  crazy hot and there hadn’t been the matter of his marriage’s imminent demise looming like a buzzard over Walter’s sun-beaten head, the trip never would’ve turned out how it did: a weekend excursion gone wrong, with any hope of adventure now defunct. Walter knows he’s stalling and feels like chicken-shit, as if he had kidnapped his own son, even though Mary had been explicit: Please. Just. Go.

He tries again. “What’ll it be then, Eb? Want to see giant sequoias tomorrow or hit the beach?”

“I don’t mind.” Eben counts his fries as he eats them, lips working like elves.

Walter steals a fistful.  

“Dad, you messed me up.”

“C’mon, pal. We can hunt for lizards if you’d like, lasso them up by their tails and hold them hostage in Dixie cups just like at home, with cheesecloth and everything. What do you say?”

“Tom and Kim said they’d hold on to my s’mores stick.”

“I’ll give them something to hold,” Walter grumbles, immediately feeling like an ass for grabbing himself, even if the gesture had been hidden under the table. What kind of father was he? He fingers his hairline. All night that couple belted sentimental Harry Chapin tunes.  He rubs at his neck, hot with scrutiny from surfer-types and senior citizens, both in sun visors, workers hunched over Big Macs. Who were they to judge?

Eben is conducting a face-off between two plump nuggets.

“We can stop at Safeway on the way back and pick up our own marshmallows.”

“That’s okay,” Eben says as the gunned-down chicken piece plunges backward into a pool of barbecue sauce. “Tom and Kim have everything we need.”

Maybe all hadn’t gone as planned, but backing down was not an option. Instead, he made do with those brutal highs at Joshua Tree, treating Eben’s sluggishness with splashes of piss-hot canteen water, his swollen tongue and fear of scorpion bites as ingredients of adventure, and lumbered on to Death Valley, where they weathered the heat and an abundance of turkey vultures and kept going, airing their sour underwear out the car window on the drive north to Kings Canyon and into the fulsome heart of bear country.

Perhaps a good father would have turned around, if not under scorching skies, then when the desert wildlife went MIA, but not Walter. After failing to deliver the rattlesnakes, tarantulas, and bats as promised, he brushed Eben’s slick brow with his tawny hand and boasted about the black bears at Yosemite, figuring that news would perk up the kid. So what if Eben’d seen them all at the zoo. In Nature, animals roamed free. Eben pointed out that Nature lacked taco stands, bags of peanuts, and signs of Mommy.

Try as he did, he couldn’t produce a single bruin in the lush expanse of Yosemite Valley. Despite the rampant warnings, reports and rolling videotapes of black bears breaking into cars and feasting on convenient store cupcakes, soiling their paws in lush coats of icing, they had spotted nothing but a few woodpeckers and a handful of measly squirrels, busloads of tourists. Nightly games of flashlight tag didn’t help any, nor did shout-outs for Smokey and Yogi.  Walter even violated park rules one night, leaving out a jug of juice from the mandated bear locker with the hope of luring a hungry cub to their campsite. All he got were ants. Legions of them, red, black, gnats, mosquitoes. Storming their tent, invading their stuff, giving him no choice but to break down camp and move on. Not even Nature cut him any slack, sucking Yosemite’s falls all but dry by late summer and leaving glacial run-off about as worthy of show as faucet trickle.

“Buddy, I’m trying my best,” Walter says. Six days ago he'd driven west from Yosemite with Eben conked out in the cab of his pickup, through flatlands, cattle ranches and crackling field fires, leaving a wake of blonde dust in his path, past the synchronized ranks of wind turbines and the occasional Wal-Mart, before realizing he’d hit the coast and was taking the bends along the cliffs as if nothing in ten years had changed, bound for Mary’s and his old spot in Big Sur. He was on a mission, fuck if he knew what for, anything to carry him through the upcoming nights on his brother’s pull-out, which he'd likely call home until he found his own place. So far all he had was an infected thumb, sliced clean on the jagged teeth of a can of baked beans, and a rash of insect bites on his back.

“Maybe your best isn’t good enough.” Eben says, but it is in Mary’s voice, inflections and all.  

“What do you want from me?” Walter charges and regrets it. This was his child in front of him, his apple-cheeked son, a mere five-year-eight-month-old boy, as Eben never fails to correct him in front of the supermarket checkout girls when Walter rounds up to six. This was not Mary, with her commandments and goal charts stickered to the fridge. Still, despite her rule that battles be waged behind closed doors, muted with tightly rolled towels (a trick leftover from their stoner days), Eben had gotten an ear-full.

“I want to be the Letter Man. At Tom and Kim’s,” Eben says, names gliding off his son’s tongue like the refrain of a love song.

Walter works his hand over his eyes. Today alone he lost Eben’s Frisbee in the surf and burned their Rocky Mountain toast, which had been nothing more than slices of white bread with their stale hearts torn out to begin with, as he had left the carton of eggs to rot in his flat bed. Every morning he awoke to the claustrophobic stench of cereal sitting for too long in old milk. His son’s bed-wetting was one thing he had not anticipated. And now, Scrabble. At this rate, his child would soon become a stranger.

“Fine.”

“And I want you to play too,” which makes Walter feel good for the first time all night, so he stands up and brushes the front of his shirt and tells Eben, “You got yourself a deal, buddy,” and then, “Wait here while I go wash up.” Before he goes, leaving Eben alone and all but asking for abduction (the realization of which freezes up his stream at the urinal), he drops the napkin he’d been crumpling; it unfolds like a flower among his crusts of fish.

Walter emerges from the john to Eben flapping red arms, his face and curls a high gloss finish. Empty squeeze packets litter the floor. Walter lunges. Eben hops from booth to the table, “I’ve been shot! I'm bleeding to death!"

Customers look on. Walter whacks his son lightly on the bottom, “Very funny, Eb. Now get down.”

Eben slumps in his seat, streaky hair swooped over his brow like a punk rocker.

Mary would throw a fit if she saw this: Eben treating his forearm like a painter’s palette, dipping into the goop and smearing it all over the countertop. She'd have him out of his clothes and into the bath so quick, rubbing him raw with a washcloth before the ketchup could stain. Walt considers the mess a minor victory, as if winning over Eben was that easy.

Eben slides a remaining fry from the grease-marked carton and splits it across the middle like he does earthworms after it rains, places half of it in his mouth and offers the other half to his father.

“Here,” Eben beams, wagging the end. There is ketchup on his front baby tooth.

At Julia Pfeiffer State Park the couple next door has laid out the scene. Their camp resembles a neighborhood Italian spot: checkered cloth draping the picnic table, anchored by a box of wine, citronella candles; Coleman lantern fixed to a bough. Walter steadies his headlights on their tangled movements for a moment before shutting them. Released from his car seat, Eben leaps out of the truck and scurries toward them, toes turned in, rustling through the fallen brush of bark and pine needles.

“I’m back!” Eben squeals.

“Well if it isn’t our pal, Evan,” Walter overhears and it doesn’t surprise him, though it annoys him, that they’ve butchered his son’s name.

He slams his cab door. Not that it’s their fault. What kind of parents named their kid Ebenezer? At the time, Mary and he thought it’d be a riot to name their son after Scrooge, a real hoot, considering the little rascal squashed their Christmas six years ago by sending Mary red-faced into the hospital a month early. But practically everything sent them in stitches back then, especially against the hospital's backdrop of sterility, a setting that once irked them both as much as things like the screech of his steak knife against their good dinner plate now did his wife.  

Soon to be ex-wife.

When Eben did arrive, doling out gassy smiles like alms, Mary and he'd agreed with the nurses that their meatball was the greatest Christmas gift anyone could wish for, so they puffed on pretend cigars and named him Ebenezer anyway – who knows why? – because it worked then, even if soon nothing else would.

Walt overhears Eben. “We went to McDonald’s. Did you?”

“Actually, we stayed here and grilled fish.”

“Dad had the fish.”

Christ, Walter thinks from the drab shadows of his campsite, screwing up his eyes to make out the couple. He feels somewhat responsible for his son's trespassing but not really; really he couldn’t give a rat’s ass about their privacy. Sitting smart on folding nylon chairs he’d seen for $6.99 in the camping aisle at K-Mart where he picked up his tent, a roomy dome with a skylight that unzipped. Probably paid double for them.

“Did you have French fries?”

“Arugula, asparagus, and couscous.”

“I see.” Eben scratches his temple; arugula could be an island in the Caribbean for all he knew. The girl brushes hair off Eben’s face, tucks a crusted curl behind his ear.

“Good god, is your ear bleeding?”

“Don’t you like French fries?”

“Where is your father?”

“Tom, bring me the first-aid,” Kim orders, smothering Eben’s head in her chest. “Don’t worry, pumpkin. We’ll take care of this.”

“Hey, Evan’s dad,” Tom shouts, cocking his head in Walter’s direction, which makes Walter feels like a chump for standing behind the girth of a redwood observing his son’s face mashed in some girl’s breasts; busted, he coughs on the citrus smell of their candles, remembers the time Mary came home from book club to him passed out on their bed, pants slouched at his ankles, cable porn picking up steam on TV, the long suck of her cheeks as she witnessed the sight.

“Dad, come on over.”

“Like, now.” The girl’s voice firm like the rest of her, Walter bets, which was just the kind of adolescent thinking of which Mary had accused him, of which she’d tired, so what, Walter countered, grow up, she said, sidling over to the rear of his truck and lifting the lid. He knocks around his bottle of washer fluid and jumper cables, a few empty cans of beer, taking his time before booming into the hollow, “I’m on my way” as he imagined other fathers would.

 “I wire houses.” Walter squints at the young couple whose heads are pressed together, the beams of their headlamps fused into a single spotlight.

“Like an electrician?”

Kim nudges Tom, who responds loudly, “But that is what he is.”

Walter reaches into the deep of his shorts pocket for his can of dip, heaves his right ankle over his left knee.

“First time to Big Sur?” Walter is trying the small talk for Eben’s sake. This couple looks like they’d stepped out of an L.L. Bean catalogue. He packs tobacco with a snap of his wrist. 

Eben covets the Scrabble sack as if it held jellybeans.

“First time to the Golden State,” Tom says, reaching for his pullover. Walter pinches a mossy wad between his fingers.
 
“I live here,” Eben says.

“Heavens, our geek gear,” Kim giggles, yanking off her headlamp. She rubs the mark left on her forehead. In her hand the elastic goes limp as a jock strap.

“We only wear them to eat,” Tom says.

“And to wash up and play Scrabble in the dark with,” she says, smoothing her hair. “Do you play?”

Walter pictures them naked with high beams on.

“Can I tell you something? You know what, guess what, I’ve lived in the same exact house my whole life,” Eben says, aping the ankle over knee position of his father.

“Well,” Walter says.

“Aren’t you a lucky little man,” Kim says.

“4200 Del Ray Drive, San Diego, California, 92130.”

“You must have nice weather,” Kim says.

“Famous California weather,” Tom says.

“That’s my address,” Eben says.

“Shall we do it?” Walter asks.

“That way I can never get lost in a department store."

“You’re a smart kid, Evan. Isn't he a smart one, Tom?”

“I'd say.”

Eben nods in agreement. “My mom has me listening to Mozart.”

“Let’s play,” Walter says, shoving his fragrant pat along the deep trench of his gum, pressing it in firm with his tongue.

The board comes out along with more wine. Eben deals the bone tiles.

“And your wife, what does she do?” Kim says, sliding her pieces onto the stand.

Walter lifts a plastic cup off the table and spits.

“Mom cleans teeth,” Eben says, shaking the sack.

Kim drinks. Tom drinks. They put their arms around each other as they drink. Tom’s hand creeps down the front cut of Kim's shirt. She catches him mid-squeeze and laughs, her eyes shrinking; she becomes all mouth. Walter could disappear in that month.

“Ah, a dentist,” Tom says.

“Hygienist,” Walter spits. Ever since Mary received that stupid certificate and even stupider mock-up of teeth, the woman’s become obsessed. If it isn’t his socks, it is his spray on the toilet seat, his toenail bits on the bureau, beard bristle polluting the sacred basin in which she bleaches, biweekly, her teeth.

“Take,” Eben says, “take take take,” jangling the felt pouch for Walter, who palms his son's head. "Thanks, pal." He dips in.

“You gave me such a scare tonight, kiddo,” Kim says.

“I was just playing around.” Eben blinks. “Don’t be mad. Are you mad?”

“Course not, silly.” Kim sweeps her hair off her neck, “But I did think we had a bloody mess on our hands.”

Walter notices her biceps, small and taut like the meat on a buffalo wing. He grins. It is some neck. She meets his gaze, lifting her hands overhead. Her curls spill down her back.  Walter’s thumb is throbbing. He winces.

“What is it?” Kim asks. 

“Nothing,” he says, shaking his thumb. “Sliced it clean last week.”

“Let me see,” Kim says, tipping her chair practically into Walter’s lap.

“Careful,” Tom says.

“It’s nothing,” Walter insists, but she takes his hand anyway, flips it over and traces a few lines on his palm with the soft tip of her finger before dismissing it with a kiss that gives him a shiver.

“There you go.”

Walter downs his drink. “Thank you.”

“All better.” Her teeth practically glow in the dark.

“A regular Florence Nightingale,” Tom says.

They start spelling: queen, berry, brewery. Wife becomes alewife. No one keeps score.  Walter hoists Eben onto his lap so he can see the board better, rescues a bug from his cup, and keeps drinking. Eben asks what flambé means as it snags a double-word score. The lighting is poor. But they are having a night of it, Eben and he; they are doing just fine. Walter plants a sloppy kiss on Eben’s grubby cheek.

“Yuck,” Eben says, rubbing.

“Disgusting,” Walter winks, pours another. Tom and Kim do the same.

“Are you married?” Eben asks.

Kim claps her hands. “Who wants dessert?”

“Me!” Eben says.

“I thought you’d never ask,” Walter says.

Kim retrieves their s’mores sticks, which had been stacked like Lincoln Logs beneath a tree.

Tom says, tearing a marshmallow, that when Lehman’s went kaput they took off, traveling to  New Zealand, Laos, Mauritius, but with no sign of a turnaround, they thought it’d be sensible to pinch pennies for a bit, which is how they wound up stateside. Europe is overrated in my book, he says, and besides, who knew all the beauty to soak up right here in our own backyard. 

“Why go anyplace else,” Walter says, loose on the tongue, “when there’s so much in front of you.” Kim and Tom exchange looks. “Shame, that’s always what’s taken for granted, isn’t it.” 

He plucks a chalky nob from the bag.

“Best if you cook it,” Eben says, dangling his marshmallow like bait. The white fluff catches flame and billows out, sizzling. Walter extinguishes the bubble. Kim takes Eben’s stick and slides the marshmallow off, squishing the sooty blob between chocolate squares and graham crackers. She hands over the sandwich with a napkin.

“A sweet for the sweet,” she says, licking taffy from her fingers. Mary would go ballistic if she saw their son with dessert, much less past his bedtime. Walter dribbles wine on his chin. He is drunk. Eben eats one and then two more, after which Walter says, “Enough,” shooing him off to burn up his sugar-high chasing fireflies.

“Aren’t you the cutest, most darling things,” Kim says.

“You’re pretty cute, yourself.”

“The whole father-son camping trip.”

“Your wife must be proud,” Tom says.

“I can almost feel the love. Honey, can’t you almost feel it?”

Tom bites her lip.

“We are inspired. Honestly. I said to Thomas when we pulled in yesterday, didn’t I, that one day, when we raise a family, he just has to, you’ve just got to take the future buccaneers on a male-bonding trip.”  And with that Kim drops her head onto Tom’s jeans. Walter feels life stir beneath his own. Lifting Kim’s face toward his, Tom plants a sly, now hungry kiss on that mouth, drawing her lean legs around him. It is their private moment and yet, rather than turn away from it all, her arching back, that first moon of skin, the shiny fall of her hair, he feels definitively that the show is being put on just for him. He does his part, as they continue all sloppy and wet like Mary and he used to heat up the parking lot behind the 7-11, when they were young and charged and nothing else mattered, wrapping their sex around him until Walter spills himself into the darkness.  

“Tell me a story,” Eben says.

Walter stares through the mesh skylight of their tent. He’s got a nice case of the spins, now, his body spent. He feels ashamed but his son is waiting, his son wants a story so Walter starts in with the classic his own father told him, the same one he’s recited every night on the trip.

“Once upon a time there was a man with an arm of pure gold.”

“Is Mom mad at me too?” Eben lisps through his thumb-sucking, forefinger stroking the bridge of his nose.

“No, Eb,” he manages, his throat constricting. “What makes you say that?”

“Because she’s so mad at you we can’t ever go home.”

“That’s the thing, Eb,” Walter says, wrestling his nylon cocoon; he props up on an elbow to look at his son, who stares back at him with those bottomless eyes, expectant. It reeks like chlorine and vinegar and piss. Every morning, after rinsing out Eben’s sleeping bag and turning it out to dry, he’d cursed Mary. What other secrets did she keep from him?
On the road Eben had sensed things, sat nervously sniffing his sock monkey through long spells of silence while Walter worked over his speech. He even thought up a nice little angle to go along with the theme of their trip, how it’s a natural thing, these changes. That just as plants and animals change (and here he’d talk about caterpillars morphing into butterflies, leaves falling off trees) people do too, and sometimes they change in the same way which is fine and good but sometimes they change in such different ways that they no longer fit together – imagine throwing bears in with rattlesnakes – which is what happened with your mother and me. Finally, he’d wrap things up with it’s no one’s fault, and of course we love you, and it’s really for the best, but of course to say it out loud would be to make it permanent.

“We can go home whenever you’d like,” he offers instead, fidgeting with his sleeping bag cord.

“Tomorrow, then?”

 “Jesus, it’s an oven in here.”

“We can’t tomorrow?”

“That’s not it.”

“So we can tomorrow.”

“Yes.” Walter’s mouth is dry. “I’ll take you home, tomorrow.”

“Promise?”

“Scout’s honor.”

Walter listens to the gurgle of thumb sucking.

After a while he hears: “We forgot to brush.”

 “I’m sorry, pal.” There is no answer. Eben is already sleeping.

Walter rises early. In the morning sunlight, everything is clear and excruciatingly beautiful. It feels almost artificial: the sky stretched wide and blue, canopy of trees, the dew on their limbs like diamonds. Even the birds are chirping; was nature always like this and he simply failed to notice? Barefoot, Walter trots through the woods to a stream and strips without ceremony,before plunging in. The water is bracingly cold; he had forgotten just how cold and lets out a howl. His voice cuts the quiet. He feels high, the world still and bright as crystal, high as Mary and he’d  get when they’d come down to Big Sur from their first apartment in San Francisco for long weekends and sometimes mid-week for the hell of it, to hike and smoke and loll around half-dressed on boulders, listening to bootlegs and building campfires and making love upon love; back then, it’s all anyone did.

Here he is. Stone cold sober. Standing where he’d proposed ten years ago, knee in the dirt, offering Mary a ridiculous crown of black-eyed Susans and a song: “Lay across my big brass bed.” What had gone wrong? His throat burns as if water had been caught down the wrong pipe. She’d changed, fair enough, chopped off her hair and pinned up what was left and marched around in white squeaky shoes, spewing words of self-improvement, and no longer indulged his dopey serenades. Did that make him a loser? Staring at his reflection, Walter does not hate what he sees: shoulders good as grapefruits, nipples alert, a faint scar above his brow and a chipped front tooth, both leftover from getting his ass whooped by street bullies as a kid. He was not a bad guy. Save for some fur on his chest, flesh pockets slung at his sides, his wife was right, he was exactly the same as he’d always been.

The tent stinks like bug spray and sleep but not urine. Walter tickles the tail of Eben’s sleeping bag and slides him out, carrying him through forest shadows like a football.  “One little monkey jumping on the bed!” Walter hollers; Eben squeals as his father hurls him into the current, going in after him to scrub him clean of caked ketchup, good behind the ears, turning the celery-colored water to rust. A water fight breaks out. Walter cups his hands and sprays his son through a crack in his grip. Eben splashes back. By the time they return, swathed in mildewed towels and shivering, their next-door neighbors are slowly bumbling out of their tent.

“Morning,” Walter sings.

“Morning,” echo a groggy Tom and Kim.

Walter is getting it together. As the fire cooks up, he breaks down camp and straightens up, stuffing sleeping bags into satchels, rolling up mattress pads and weeding spikes from the ground. He hits up Tom for a few eggs.

 “Will you get the trash, Eb?” 

Back turned, Walter is delegating. There are chores. Already it smells like Sunday. When there is no answer he assumes Eben’s run off to pee, good kid, and calls again.

“Chow time,” he says.

Eben is crouched by a bush, motionless, like he has to take a dump.

“What the hell.” Walter starts but Eben shushes him.

Down the patchy hill, there she is. At first Walter only sees the cotton of her tail and twiggy legs as she laps at the edge of the bank.  But then she lifts her head with perfect grace and turns and it’s a deer alright. Their first glimpse of wildlife! Choked by the sight, Walter prays this graceful creature heads toward their campsite and then starts to cry when she does. Eben’s eyes remain fixed on the deer's magnificent haunches as she advances toward them, pausing to inspect with her wet, blackish nose the neat bouquets of shrubs hugging their campsite. She grazes. They watch. Eben inches closer and even too close, so that Walter almost tackles him in case she’s rabid, if deer get rabies. But she does not become aggressive and she does not retreat. Eben is unafraid.

Walter waves his spatula at his campground neighbors. The couple tiptoes over in sweats to help out. Tom mans the breakfast. Kim scoops up Walter’s camera from the picnic table and motions him to stand beside his son. Walter sets off too eagerly and snaps a fallen branch. The animal lifts her head. Walter does not breathe. They wait. Finally, Walter marches on until he gets close enough to Eben, who is all but nuzzling the doe’s mottled body. Throwing his arm around his son, Walter holds his pose long enough for the lovers next door to point, shoot, and capture his family on film.




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