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We waited for morning in a sad little motel filled with hunters. I lay listening to vague presences in the next room—strangers up all night playing rounds of five-card draw—until it seemed all right to dispense with the pretense of the clock and, gently, wake up my father and my son, Sean.
Pop couldn't turn himself over or sit upright right away; everything hurt and it was no use pretending otherwise. But Sean, yawning, made a clean break from his dreams, spun out of the bed and wheeled toward the bathroom. When he returned he sprawled on his bed and stuffed shotgun shells into the pockets of his field jacket. "Come on, Pop," he said. "Up and at 'em."
Pop grunted, blinked and fished for his glass of teeth, words leaking from the corner of his mouth. "You thlow down, Thawn. Take afther your damn dad. Too damn frithky firth thing like that."
I shook my head: They were both immoderate. "That was me a long time ago," I reminded Pop.
Pop fixed his teeth in place. "Not so long," he said, trying them out, his jaw working them over, the long crevices in his cheeks churning. "Where are we going to get breakfast?"
We drove through a silent and frosted darkness with the sage desert just beyond. "There's no 7-Eleven in this sage desert." All the local businesses had opened up at 4 a.m.; now they were small pools of comforting light at the verge of the lake. In the west toward the dark mountains and home, a loose band of clouds wandered along the horizon. "We'll get flurries at noon," Pop predicted. "It just might help."
At breakfast we were surrounded by hunters, all interested in eating swiftly, most of them younger than myself, though not as young as 20-year-old Sean. Pop tried to give away his pancakes three or four times before Sean took them off his hands. "You need them," Pop explained. "Eat them up. Go on, son."
"Sure I'm sure."