Spirit Deer 39

With a growl that shook the forest, the black bear wheeled; the spear shaft quivered in his side. He charged. Tim cast his second spear at the bear’s open mouth, but missed. The obsidian point flew high and cleaved a gash through the animal’s already mutilated nose and up between his eyes, glancing off his heavy skull. The bear screamed and reared up, pawing at his face. Tim lunged forward, grabbed the shaft of the first spear, and plunged it deeper. A mighty paw caught him and tossed him aside.

Tim staggered to his feet. Blood rushed into his eyes, but he wiped it away. The bear, too, was blinded by blood. Moving unsteadily, Tim recovered his second spear. He circled the thrashing bear, found his atlatl, and took a stand near the club. The bear was dying, but he was still deadly. Blinded by blood, he turned his shaggy head from side to side to listen.

“Here, Bear,” Tim whispered. The bear jerked his head toward the sound, then rose on his hind legs, turning his head to catch the slightest noise.

“Here!” Tim screamed and hurled his spear. It pierced the bear’s belly once again. Dropping to all fours, the bear charged. The spear shafts burrowed twin furrows in the snow. It was a blind charge, and Tim stepped to one side bringing up his club. He swung it as he would have swung an axe in his father’s woodpile, overhead and down with all the power of his chest and arms, directly onto the bear’s skull. The bear dropped, plowing up the snow as it skidded to a halt, twitched, and lay still.

* * *

The crippled deer stood proud and defiant on his island of traction. Tim faced him with a spear in his hand. The deer’s hard brown eyes never wavered and his antlered head was lowered to fight to the last. But it would be no contest, for Tim could kill from where he stood.

Tim had followed his deer a long way. Both of them had been cripples, and now both were nearly well. Tim had been alone and helpless. Slowly, bit by painful bit, he had gained the tools of survival. Now he stood with the deer’s life in his hands.

And now he no longer needed to kill it.

The deer’s flinty eyes never changed as Tim laid aside his spears and removed his snowshoes. Moving carefully with his club raised, Tim fenced with the deer until he had tangled the club in its antlers. When the deer threw up his head to rip the club from Tim’s hand, Tim did not resist. Instead he lunged forward and threw his shoulder against the deer’s side, reaching under its belly to grasp his opposite foreleg, and tossed him into the snow. Tim rolled on over the deer’s back to avoid his flashing rear hooves and caught him by the antlers.

Throwing his weight backward, he dragged the struggling deer off the mud bar onto the smooth ice, then dragged him to shore. Tim stepped back as the deer plunged to his feet and bounded away. When the deer reached the edge of the timber, he turned for a moment and looked back.

Tim raised his hand to the deer. “Good luck,” he said.

The deer disappeared into the forest, and Tim turned back to the carcass of the bear. last post tomorrow

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