The clock told him that it was 5 o’clock. There was no knocking at his door, but he wondered why he should have ever thought there would be. He was in his bed. His feet felt like blocks of ice and his bladder was pointing out the obvious; he was a very old man who could not control the simplest of his bodily functions. The day was almost upon him, the night almost gone.
His old bones rang out in protest as he climbed from the bed. He glimpsed the scene from the window and stopped, stock-still. Winter had made another return and the snow was piled high against the home’s walls.
When he had been young, he had known winters like this. The winters were punctual and predictable. They were perilous to anything or anybody that chose to ignore the obvious. He and his brother were not afraid of danger, well, they never admitted to being so in the presence of others.
Long, long ago, on a night such as this they had ventured out into the fresh fall. Their challenge was to find the last wolves on the high peaks. Their father was asleep, pickled by his love of the spirits, so they didn’t even have to sneak out. The old man did not stir at the lengthy sound of their digging as they sought to create an escape from the house. They left the warmth and allowed their crisp steps to lead them where they must.
It was a long and hard journey to the peak. They exchanged few words and none of those were encouraging. The two brothers walked in silence in the knowledge that this was the greatest of adventures that they had set out upon. Tonight the world would know them.
As usual, the eldest took the lead. The younger fell in behind reluctantly. He knew these peaks more than anyone and should, would, soon be the one in charge. He believed that he was the finer tracker, the bravest hunter and the best shot, but the older boy carried the rifle. His brother had been blessed with an additional year as well as the unconditional acceptance that he would gain the family home when the told man had gone. The way things were going, that could be soon. If only the boot was on the other foot.
They had been climbing for hours and their strong muscles were succumbing to the exertion.
“I need to pee,” he had told his brother. “I am ready to burst.”
The elder one had turned around wth a look that was hardly-disguised disgust.
“We’re up a mountain, in the middle of the night, tracking wolves, and you want to piss? What is it? Are you so scared that you cannot hold yourself in?”
His bladder had always been weak and had always seemed full.
“I need to piss, that is all. Like you will probably need to shit if we meet some wolves.”
He didn’t wait for the reply. He disappeared into a growth of trees and prepared himself. He was out and read to aim when a crack of branches from behind forced him to lose his balance.
He tried, but he couldn’t stop himself.