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--- M A R T I N   O T T

My father taught me to fire a gun
on my grandfatherís gold mine - north
of Manley, Alaska, the first time Iíd seen
him in twelve years. We carried rifles 

for bears, for the mistrust of strangers migrating iceward from the States. I was accepted by the miners, the great- grandson of a sourdough, already expert in the yawning chasm between people and land. My father fondled a revolver like a man used to having his best friend within armís reach. At daybreak,

we mounded mud with dozers and blasted it down a sluice with freezing river water, gold flakes catching in wooden slots like the unformed words we swallowed.

My father was exotic on that northern slope, as pungent and dark as blackberry wine passing between loversí lips, the bottomless sky we feel when we wake to ourselves.

At night, we gulped whiskey and slapped mosquitoes, listening to grandpa rant about the war that would one day engulf us all, the sun refusing to die above the glaciers.

At dawn, we woke to a bear cub pawing through the trash. Even I was not afraid. My father unholstered his pistol and handed it to me. I saw he wanted this connection

of death. Time was...just time. We were separated by a distance no bullet to flesh could span. I missed the shot on purpose, the cub scampering into the underbrush.

My father stared at me in bewilderment, then a glint of fear. We took the day off from mining and drove dirt bikes into town, where he introduced me as his son, the killer.

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