Blue Ticket

by Zach Falcon
Blue Ticket by Zach Falcon

It was early October and raining and near dark when Amos arrived at the squatter’s camp. Russell watched him come up the trail and stop, uncertain. Amos looked boyish, eighteen at most. Scrawny and hollow faced. It appeared that he’d cut his own hair, hacked his own thin beard, with a knife. The only thing he carried was a scrap of visqueen that he rolled about himself to keep the rain off while he slept, tucked into the one-walled crease of a roofless mining bunker.

The squatter’s camp was a mile south of Juneau, hidden in the woods two hundred feet back above Thane Road. Fifteen or so sagging tents and precarious lean-tos made from blue tarps and warping plywood. The forest was littered with the remnants of the Alaska-Juneau Mine: concrete ruins and rusting hulks of inexplicable machinery. The squatters lived among the ruins and between the spruce trees, adding their wreckage to the decaying past: soggy mattresses and drifts of beer cans. Some people stayed for a week, others longer. Russell had been there since June, and was scared he would die there alone and unacknowledged.

The next morning, Russell pushed out of his sleeping bag and unzipped the door of his tent. Amos sat on a log next to a dead fire, wet and shivering, hands between his legs as though in hidden prayer. Russell regarded him for a moment before speaking. The boy’s clothes were ragged. A pair of duck-cloth pants, a homemade plaid shirt with carefully matched seams, a thin parka. All soaked through. He looked worse off than Russell did when Fat George took him under his wing. With Fat George gone, Russell felt the obligation to help the boy.

“Hey,” Russell said. “Get any sleep?”

Amos dipped his head in a nodding shrug, seeming to fold further into his frame. Russell waited for him to raise his head and meet his eyes but he didn’t. Russell coughed wetly and leaned out of the tent to spit. He set his stiff leather boots outside the tent and stepped into them as he emerged. “Give me a second,” he said. He shuffled to a patch of devil’s club and pissed and then walked back to where Amos sat by the dead fire, pausing to turn his torso sharply, cracking his spine.

“What’s your name?” asked Russell.


“I’m Russell. I bet you didn’t sleep at all.”

“I’ve slept worse,” said Amos. His spoke with a strange mumble. It sounded somehow antique and vaguely Southern.

“I’ll make a fire,” said Russell. He’d never built a fire before getting stuck in Juneau, but now he prided himself on his skill at nursing wood into combustion. When the fire held, he squatted across the fire pit from Amos and fed larger, wetter branches that popped and hissed in the dawn. The heavy smoke stung his eyes, but the fire was warm. He watched Amos unfold and ease in the heat, straightening his back and letting his legs splay open. Steam rose from the cuffs of his pants. Russell fed another branch into the fire and sat back on a log. It satisfied him to see the boy warming. He felt an impulse to make coffee or hot chocolate or oatmeal. Something to offer. For the last week he had been finishing a tub of peanut butter, scooping it out with his fingers in a way that would be apparent and depressing to an observer. The grooves of his fingers against the greased plastic jar were depressing even to him. It could not be shared. But in the hierarchy of human need, when it’s raining, food comes second. So Russell considered that.

“That tent over there is empty,” said Russell, pointing. “You can sleep in it until you figure something else out.”

Amos regarded the tent, a lime-green A-frame style with a single ridgepole across the top, sides sagging. “Who does it belong to?”

Russell could hear the camp stirring. The usual coughs and groans.

“It belongs to a guy named George. Fat George.”

“Where’s he at?”

“Lemon Creek.” Amos’ face remained blank, leaving the question in the air. “Jail,” Russell added.

Amos glanced at the tent again, seeming to weigh the option. “For what reason?” he asked.

Russell shrugged. “A cop tapped him on the shoulder while he was pissing in the doorway of a restaurant downtown. George was so drunk he turned around and splashed the cop’s shoes. He’ll be out in a week or so.” Russell added another branch to the fire. “George won’t mind. He likes to help people out. You warm now?”

Amos nodded.

“Then get some sleep.” Russell checked his watch. “It’s not even eight yet.”

After Amos disappeared into the tent, Russell stared at the fire a while longer. He felt the pinch of his stomach but the idea of the peanut butter made him ill. He had forty dollars left. As he listened to the camp wake, as puffy-eyed men straggled to the fire and sat heavily, he decided to walk to town and spend some of it. Make a meal he could share.

Russell’s remaining forty dollars represented a heroic act of financial management. He had five hundred when he came to Juneau in the spring. He’d gone to Alaska to escape Seattle. To get away from Second and Pike. He hitchhiked to Bellingham and took the ferry north to start over and make money and get clean. At thirty-two, a fresh start still felt possible. He rented a week-rate room at the Alaskan Hotel and looked for a job. Everyone said he’d come at the wrong time. Summer jobs were booked. Maybe try back later, after the seasonal turnover. Maybe in the fall. After that first week Russell had two hundred thirty-two dollars and a tent and a sleeping bag. Another week’s rent would clear him out, so he turned back his key. He camped the first night in Cope Park where a mustached cop moved him along before dawn. He shivered in the bus shelter downtown for hours until he met Fat George, who wandered south toward Thane in the evening and told Russell to follow. After four months, Russell felt much older.

Here’s how Russell aged: early on, in June, he visited the library every morning and perused the paper. He scanned the sparse want-ads in the Juneau Empire and followed the news. Occasionally he would leaf through a GED study guide and jot answers on a piece of scrap paper with a stubby pencil from the tray by the card catalog. In the afternoon he would spring four dollars for a bagel and a cup of brewed coffee from Heritage, and stroll along the cruise ship docks, feeling faintly superior to the tourists. He was young and local and regenerating and clean. The squawking rain-ponchoed hoards were just visiting. In the evening he ambled back toward camp. He had a rod and reel and angled off the beach below Thane Road, catching Dolly Varden or humpy for dinner. It was not bad. Almost civilized. He could conserve cash and wait until fall. But the want-ads stayed sparse and the dirt took its toll. By August the tourists looked away from him with studiously blank expressions. Homeless is homeless no matter where. He skipped the library and ate the free bum lunch at the Treadwell Kitchen on South Franklin. Some nights he loitered at the Imperial Bar, drinking water or cheap burnt coffee. Waiting for a happy drunk to win big on rippies and ring the bell. A round for everyone. Then he’d walk home. By September, Russell’s cheeks had sunk and his beard had grown and he left the camp only if he had to.

The camp changed through the summer, too. For a month of good weather it was like a drunken carnival swap meet. There were late nights and bonfires. The northern lights curtained the sky above the mountains. People came and went and shared suitcases of Rainier and convenience-store cold cuts. Their laughter echoed off the mining ruins and their humping shadows splayed on tent walls. Then came September and the raucous parties died in the rain. Some kids, semi-pro hippies, would show up for a day or two and change their minds. A panicked phone call and a Western Union later they’d tack back to the land of plenty, leaving nothing behind them but the scent of patchouli. Their odor was replaced by old men who stank of mouthwash and aftershave and perfume. Fat George, with a traveler of whiskey, roaring and shaking his hairless belly in the firelight. Russell had a phone number and had called it twice in his adult life. Once it paid for rehab and the second time it said no. He didn’t want to call it again.

It was an hour walk to Foodland from the camp. Down the muddy trail gnarled with spruce roots and hedged by devil’s club. North on Thane Road until it turned into South Franklin Street at the edge of town. A dispiriting strip of shuttered tourist shops intermixed with bars. The Great Alaskan Tee Shirt Shop, The Rendezvous, Columbian Emeralds, The Lucky Lady, Northland Fur Company, The Arctic Bar. At the corner of Franklin and Main, Russell passed the enclosed city bus shelter where he’d met Fat George. Some people called it the Crystal Palace. Later in the day and through the night it would be full of people from the squatter’s camp and other like-minded hobbyists, drinking from paper bags and marking time by the arrival and departure of busses none of them rode.

Russell crossed Franklin and walked down Main Street, past the Triangle Club and the Imperial Bar. Already a short line of old men fidgeted outside the door of the Triangle, waiting for it to open. Russell walked the rest of the way watching his feet.

When he reached the Foodland parking lot Russell saw two police cars with their disco-lights rolling near the entry. A man he knew from the camp slumped unsteadily on a concrete parking bumper with his legs outstretched and his hands cuffed behind his back. Jerry’s pants and the lower half of his white tee shirt were dark with what appeared to be blood. Russell stopped short. Two cops stood nearby with a woman dressed to the store’s code, a maroon vest and a name badge. A stack of plastic-wrapped meat and two disposable cameras tottered on the hood of one of the cop cars.

“Hey Russell,” Jerry drawled, grinning, as though his situation was a fine joke. “Thought they shot me but it was just the steaks in my pants broke open.” One of the cops turned and stared hard at Russell. Jerry kept talking. “Keep an eye on my shit will you?”

“Move on,” said the cop. Russell nodded and went into the store. He spent nineteen dollars on coffee, three cans of condensed soup, two boxes of tuna helper, oatmeal, and a box of powdered milk. He decided against the hot chocolate and the new toothbrush. A young Filipino girl took his money without looking at him.

It was drizzling when Russell made it back to camp. The fire smoldered but there was no one about. Russell stowed the groceries and then stood next to the lime-green tent, listening for Amos’ breathing. He heard the boy stir. “You awake?”

“Sort of,” said Amos.

“Sleep more if you need to,” said Russell. “I’m going fishing. Catch something for lunch. Come if you want.” Russell gathered his gear and was heading toward the trail when Amos unzipped his tent. Russell waited for him to catch up and then proceeded. Thane Road runs along the shore of Gastineau Channel, a cold deep finger of the Pacific that cuts between the mainland and Douglas Island. Russell and Amos crossed the road and stepped down the steep embankment onto the rocky beach, grabbing at branches of scrub willow and alder to steady their descent.

The tideline of the beach was littered with scoured logs and driftwood and marine trash: chunks of cork from seine floats, sun-bleached and deflated buoys, milk jugs, useless lengths of fraying rope. Russell led the way down the beach toward the stubby point where he liked to fish. Amos followed, walking carefully on the slick barnacled rocks, his arms outstretched for balance.

At the point, Russell geared up his rod. It was a short button caster; the kind generally used by children just learning to fish. Russell found it at Sally Ann’s for three dollars—a package deal with four pixie spoons. He set his feet and cast awkwardly. The drizzle continued from the low mat of gray cloud, but there was no wind to stir the slack ocean. The spoon arced out in the air silently, like a raised eyebrow, hitting the water with a fleeting gulp. Russell reeled back quickly and cast again.

“This has been an okay spot for me,” he said. “I caught a lot of humpies in the summer. Dolly Varden too.” He cast easily now. Another fleeting gulp. “We’ll catch something. Even if we don’t, I got some other groceries.”

Amos stood a few paces behind and to the left of Russell to be out of the way of the hook on the backswing. He held a mussel shell in his hand, rubbing his thumb in its smooth pearled chamber. “Thank you,” he said. Russell shrugged his shoulders slightly.

“I mean it,” said Amos. “I thank you for your kindness. I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

Russell looked back at him over his shoulder. “It’s nothing,” he said, casting again. Gulp. “Where are you from?”

“Skagway. North of Skagway.”

“Take the ferry down?”

“No. I walked.”

Russell turned back and looked at him. “You walked?” Amos nodded. “Jesus,” said Russell loudly. Amos’ face flinched, a momentary squint and twist of his cheeks, as though something had been thrown at him. Russell took a moment to reel in the line.

“You walked with no tent? Nothing?”

Amos looked down, focusing on the nacreous shine of the mussel shell. “I had things,” he answered simply. “I just lost them is all. I had to swim once and I lost them in the water.”

Russell shook his head, marveling. “Well that is something else, my friend. You’re lucky to be alive.”

Amos gave a fleeting half-smile, an abbreviated twisting grin. “I was scared,” he said. “I shouldn’t say so, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t.”

“Everybody’s scared of something,” said Russell. “It’s okay to say so.”

They fished a while longer, following the lapping edge of the water as the tide ebbed slowly down the beach, uncovering rust-orange rockweed and wet pockets of squirming blennies. Things trapped and left behind by the sea. Russell caught two small Dollies in quick succession. He gutted them out on a flat rock, leaving the ropy entrails for the ravens eyeing him from the branches of a nearby cottonwood. Amos gathered an armload of driftwood for the fire and they headed back to camp, struggling up the muddy trail, breathing hard.

Amos built a fire on the coals left from the morning while Russell wrapped the fish in a creased scrap of tinfoil and read the instructions on a box of tuna helper. When the fire came right, Russell put a rack on the edge of the fire and set the fish upon it, together with a pan of water for boiling.

“So what are you scared of?” asked Amos.

Russell snorted. “Bears. Everything.”

“Bears come around much?”

“Once or twice this summer. People get sloppy with their food. I do too sometimes. But we make enough noise, I guess.” Russell pushed the fish around on the rack with a stick. His voice grew serious. “I’m scared of being stuck here forever. I’ve got to start looking for a job again. Can’t even afford to leave Juneau right now. Stupid to come to a town with no roads.” Then he snorted again. “And I’m not crazy enough to try to walk out of here.”

Amos grinned sheepishly. “I wouldn’t recommend it to you.”

Russell gave Amos his plate and heaped it high when the food seemed done. He ate his own portion directly from the pan after it cooled. They stared into the fire as their jaws worked. Midway through their meal one of the squatters returned up the trail. A taciturn man named Hugo who never said much but sometimes shouted out in his sleep. Russell offered him a bite but Hugo shook his head and disappeared behind the flap of his lean-to. Amos scraped his plate clean and belched softly. “It’s not so bad when your belly’s full, being stuck here. There’s worse places.”

Russell nodded. He thought of Second and Pike, of waking up sick after lost time, not knowing where he was. “Sure,” he said. “I suppose there is.”

They remained in camp all day, staring into the fire, talking off and on until nightfall. Amos whittled on a long thin piece of flat driftwood with a pocket knife. Russell yawned and dozed and awoke with a start. Amos kept shaping his piece of driftwood until he seemed pleased with it. It was oblong, with notched edges and a dull point, shaped like a spearhead. He carved a hole in one end of it and asked Russell if he had any twine. Russell nodded and yawned and stood. He shuffled to his tent, feeling the air bite cold away from the fire. He found a tangle of bristling brown twine, the same twine that held up his too-large jeans. He stood over Amos as he watched him fix a length of it to the wood and then begin to twist it.

“What’ve you got there?” asked Russell.

“It’s a wolf roarer,” he said. “To keep the bears at bay.”

“What, you hit ’em with it?”

Amos looked up with his half smile. “No. It makes a noise. We used to have sheep and goats at our place and my brothers and I would make these to keep the wolves off. Listen.” Amos stood and swung the piece of wood around his head like a lasso, letting out twine so it swung in a widening circle. The wooden piece spun on its axis as the twist in the twine released. The sound it made, doppling as Amos swung faster and wider, was like a slow chain saw, growling and screaming in the dark. There were some half-hearted protests from the men in their grim tents, but Amos kept swinging the wolf roarer, his face lit with firelight. For Russell, the noise was comforting. It gave fear a sound and made it a warning to the surrounding darkness. It echoed in his head as he slept.

In the days that followed, Russell and Amos fell into an easy pattern together: fire and coffee in the morning, fish if they were lucky, or lunch at the Treadwell. Part of each day was dedicated to getting out of the rain. Damp amplified the cold and they were always damp. Their clothes stank of mildew and wood smoke. Sometimes they spent time in the atrium of the State Office Building. With its skylights and potted trees, the SOB was like a vacation. In the center of the atrium stood a totem pole that Fat George claimed came from his family, but the plaque made no mention of it.

One cold night they went to the Imperial Bar and sipped water while it was still empty enough for the bartender not to care. Russell kept an ear open for someone ringing the bell, but no one had any luck with the rippies. Amos sat uncomfortably, eyes down. He didn’t say much, or talk about his past. Russell had gathered that he came from a large religious family that homesteaded land and kept to themselves. His father was dead and Amos had left for reasons he didn’t say. Russell didn’t press.

At the other end of the bar, playing pool and feeding the jukebox, clustered a group of loud young men with close-cropped hair and braided belts and gym arms. They laughed and pushed each other and called each other faggots. Russell recognized them as a type and avoided looking their way. When he went to the bathroom, though, one of the men was standing at the sink, a small black kit bag open on the counter, a syringe in his hand. Russell froze. He felt his heart lurch and a small sigh escaped him. The man, tall and bulging, with tiny cauliflower ears on either side of a head that itself seemed well-muscled, glowered at him. “What?”

Russell stammered. “Nothing, man. It’s just that you shouldn’t, you know. I used to—”

“I’m a diabetic, asshole,” spat the man. “You homeless hippie faggots make me sick. Get the fuck out of here.” Russell’s face burned as he left. Amos followed and didn’t ask what happened. Russell appreciated that. Sometimes you just left a place quickly for reasons you didn’t have to say.

Another week passed before Fat George returned, and when he did it was a big to-do. He embraced everyone, hooting as he pressed them to his stomach. He embraced Amos and thanked him for watching his tent. They made a bonfire and someone supplied hotdogs that they ate right off the sticks with Tabasco sauce. Fat George, fully rested and enjoying a fifth of Country Club, stood on a log and performed his story of pissing on Officer Vandiver’s shoes with great animation. “He said to me: ‘In the olden days, we’d blue ticket your ass for what you did to my shoes, kick you out of town.’ And I said to him: ‘You can’t blue ticket me motherfucker, I am Wooshkeetaan, Wolf Eagle, I blue ticket you, motherfucker!’” The assembled cheered and Fat George took off his shirt and danced slow and Tlingit in the firelight, singing a song to himself, eyes closed.

It was late when everyone crawled off to sleep, and Russell saw Amos looking uncomfortable, sitting by the dying fire. “Sleep in my tent,” said Russell. “There’s room. We’ll find something else tomorrow.” Amos nodded, relief on his face.

When they finished arranging themselves in Russell’s small tent, tucked in their sleeping bags and blankets, they were comfortable as could be expected. The camp went quiet but for the creak of the surrounding spruce trees and the occasional ember popping in the fire. Russell felt his breath lengthening, becoming even and heavy as he eased into sleep. It was his favorite time, feeling his body go slack and the heaviness come and his chattering mind go silent.

“Russell?” Amos whispered. “You awake?”


“You awake?”


The boy was silent for a moment. Then he whispered again. “I was thinking, maybe tomorrow you could cut my hair right. Or we could find someone to cut my hair right. Those people in the bar were looking at me like I was crazy.”

“Your hair’s a bit uneven,” said Russell. “You could wear a hat.”

“It used to be long. My beard, too. But it was wispy. My papa said my beard would go full after I had seventeen years but it didn’t. He was wrong about that. I cut my hair off with my knife after I left home. I was eager to be rid of it but I wasn’t thinking what it would look like.”

Amos’ voice came low and ragged. He was on his back, face directed up to the roof of the tent. “I used to think God lived in Papa’s beard. When I was a boy. His beard was so long and white and sometimes when the light hit it right it looked like it was on fire. His beard moved and danced when he spoke and all he spoke was God’s word.” Amos took a deep breath. “Or he said it was. I suspect he was wrong about some of that, too.”

There was a long silence. Russell felt he should say something. “He passed on, didn’t he? Your dad?” Russell heard Amos’ nodding head scrape against the sleeping bag.

“He’s dead enough,” said Amos. There was another long silence but Russell did not break it. In a moment, Amos spoke again, as though he was picking up from where he left off. “Before I left I took a map that Papa had on the wall in the room where he kept books and other forbidden things. It was a big map, some three foot square. It had never been folded before I folded it. It showed the coast between here and Skagway. I thought I needed it but I didn’t. All you do is follow the coast. I didn’t need a map for that. Nobody does.”

“What do you mean forbidden? You couldn’t read books?”

“No,” said Amos. “We weren’t to read or write. Just to listen when Papa spoke out of his beard.”

Russell turned and propped himself up on his elbow, looking at the shape of Amos’ face in the darkness. “So you can’t read?”

“I can read some. Mother taught us some, on the side.”

“So you’ve never been to a library?” Amos didn’t answer.

“Well,” said Russell. “That’s just crazy. Tomorrow we’ll go to the library. It’s a good one. We’ll go in the afternoon.” Russell dropped back flat onto his sleeping bag. “No books allowed,” he said, mulling it over. “I can’t imagine it. It sounds like leaving was the right thing. Jesus.”

“Came here to be punished and ought to be punished,” he whispered.


“It wasn’t just the books that made me leave.” Amos’ voice was choked, thickening. “I’ve done bad things, Russell.” He heaved a sigh that broke into a jagged sob, the crying of a child, face wet with snot. He rolled on his side and brought his knees to his chest, curling in a tight ball.

Russell let him cry for a time, and then reached his hand over and rubbed his back, soothing him. “It’s okay, Amos. We’ve all done bad things.”

The next day Russell found some scissors and evened out Amos’ hair as best he could and found a hat for him to wear. In the afternoon they walked together into town and went to the library. Russell sat with the want ads while Amos wandered the aisles for an hour, picking up book after book and setting them back as gently as if they were eggs. The library had a cart with tattered paperbacks for twenty-five cents apiece. Russell counted out five dimes and Amos spent another hour looking through the paperbacks for the two he wanted most. He finally chose them based largely on their lurid covers. Russell scanned each one and handed them back to Amos with a shrug. “Have to start somewhere,” he said.

It was already growing dark when they left the library and strolled along the empty cruise ship docks. The hulking mountains that fenced the town were silhouetted against the dim gray sky. They left the docks and cut through town before heading back south down Thane. Amos chatted about the library, asked if they could go back tomorrow, what it took to get a check-out card. Russell considered the job situation. The want ads were a bust, but he figured it was time to stop treading water. He would catch the bus out to the job center. He would at least make an effort.

“How long does it take you to read a whole book?” Amos asked. They were on Main Street, heading toward the Crystal Palace. Russell could make out the usual small crowd of people in and around the bus shelter.

“Depends on the book,” said Russell. “Depends on what else I’m doing.”

“I’m going to read books all the time.”

There was a clutch of smokers around the door of the Imperial. Russell and Amos stepped off the sidewalk to move around them. “Well, you’ve got two. You’re off to a good start,” said Russell. He looked up absently as they passed the smokers and locked eyes with the man from the bathroom, with the cauliflower ears.

“What are you looking at?”

Russell looked down and away but the man advanced out of the group. “What are you looking at, you piece of shit?”

Russell raised his hands, moving away into the street. The man advanced toward him quickly, flicking his cigarette at him and grabbing at his jacket, shaking him. “What are you doing here? Didn’t I tell you to get out?” Russell leaned back, trying to pull away. He felt himself going limp. Then Amos was between them, shoving at the man, trying to break his grip on Russell. The man spun, knocking Amos in his face with an elbow, hurling him to the ground. Amos seemed to crumple and the man kicked him, making awkward contact against Amos’ shins. Amos curled into a ball. Russell stood trembling, his hands yet raised in the air. The man cleared his throat loudly and spat, a wet smack landing in Amos’ hair. For a moment everything was still. Then a voice came booming from the Crystal Palace.

“Hey you.”

Down the street came Fat George. Not running but coming fast—he seemed to almost float. His arms were outstretched in the pose of a mounted grizzly—his shirt was open exposing his hairless belly. “Hey you fuckers. I’m gonna eat your face.”

The crowd of smokers tightened and pulled back. The cauliflower-eared man stood his ground. “Stay out of it, you drunk muck,” he said.

“Haaa,” roared Fat George, coming faster.

The cops were on Fat George before he could take a swing. They came at a flat run, utility belts jangling, and combined their momentum with Fat George’s to spin him hard into the rough wall of the building. They cuffed him as a cruiser pulled to the curb. The crowd of smokers relaxed, became mere observers again. Russell reached for Amos and pulled him to his feet. Blood from his nose smeared the boy’s cheeks. Russell pulled him away from the crowd now watching the routine and unremarkable arrest of Fat George for drunk and disorderly conduct.

“My eyes are watering, I can’t see,” said Amos.

“Hang on to me,” replied Russell. “I can see fine.”

Two cops, each taking an arm, led Fat George off the sidewalk and leaned him against the cruiser. He looked back at the crowd. “I blue ticket you, motherfuckers. I am Wooshkeetaan, Wolf Eagle. Aak’w Kwáan Tlingit. And I blue ticket all you.”

Russell looked back at Fat George as he led Amos away. Fat George nodded at him and called out to Amos. “You watch my tent okay. You keep it good.” Then he grinned to himself and raised his eyebrows at the cop standing next to him. “Hey Officer Vandiver, you got real nice shoes on today.”

By the time they reached camp, Amos’ nose had stopped bleeding. They paused at a creek that cut through Thane Road in a culvert and Russell wet a handkerchief and washed away the blood. Amos’ face was swollen and he did not speak. In the fight he had lost both the books.

Russell helped Amos into the tent. The boy curled into a ball and went silent. Russell made a fire and warmed a pan of powdered milk and brought it to Amos in a mug. “Drink this,” he said. “You will feel better.”

“Came here to be punished and ought to be punished,” Amos whispered.

“No,” said Russell. “Drink this and you will feel better.”

Russell left the mug next to him and backed out of the tent. He noticed the carved piece of wood, wrapped in twine. He took it and stood, unwrapping the wolf roarer and letting it dangle. He went through the steps as Amos had done and began to swing it slowly over his head. He stood next to the tent in the light of the fire. He swung it until it sounded a pitch, a scream, a warning to the darkness. To keep the bears at bay.

Zach Falcon’s fiction has appeared in Sycamore Review, Bear Deluxe Magazine, and The Bridport Prize Anthology. Born and raised in Alaska, he now lives in Maine.