You can't just up and hunt, with me or anybody. Too much to learn first." And besides, you're a city kid, I thought. As though that was the difficulty.
"What if I only watched?"
"Do you eat what you get?" he growled in the steroid-induced basso that strangers find so amusing.
"Can you shoot lambs, Uncle Syd? I love lamb."
It was good to remember that funny conversation from that Thanksgiving, the one after my 10-year-old nephew, Tim, got back from his stay at a clinic in Denver, where he had been treated for failure to thrive syndrome, a mysterious children's disease that affects a child's ability to breathe and grow. The following August, Tim and I had finally settled on a tent trip, and here we were in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Though it was mid-August, scarlet touched the mountains to the east, flickers exploded from the side of the road, and geese flew over the Connecticut River—jumpy birds, heading south early. Well, once we reached the granite apron of the Lookout, on the Vermont side of the river, we could start a fine, safe fire, and our view of the White Mountains would rival the birds'. Let it freeze; we wouldn't be cold.
I shouldered all our gear except Tim's pack. Still, we would pause now and then in our climb so the boy could catch his breath. As he stood against the piny ridges, his pose seemed willfully dramatic. Because his chest was swollen to bearlike proportions by his lifelong struggle to breathe, one could imagine he had precocious physical strength.
Uncertain, nervous, I dawdled before unloading the inhalator and the mask attached to it. Amid the ledge's hemlock spills, rodent-fretted acorns and deer droppings, the machine seemed out of place. I put my hand on it, as if to keep it from bursting into flight, and fumbled with my other hand for the list prepared by Tim's mother, my wife's sister. Putting down the machine, I pulled out two vials.
"No, those are morning meds," Tim whined. Like most kids, he can speak in italics. "Look at the paper." Rereading the list, I found he was right and shivered; good thing one of us was on the ball.