woods (2)Mother unzipped our snow pants and clumps of sawdust fell to the floor.

Before that, the bloodhounds sniffed us, and their handlers asked us where we had been. The police needed to retrace our tracks, to know that the hounds had been on our heels.

Before that, the man offered us a ride in his jeep. I was four. My brother Jacob, six, said, We don’t take rides from strangers. The man said, I’m with the police. I’ve been sent to take you home. Jacob said, That’s okay, we know where we are.

Before that, we didn’t know where we were. Surrounded by evergreens and deciduous on all sides. Patches of snow and dead leaves underfoot. Jacob said, The woods are going to close. I imagined a metal gate clank, clank, clanking shut between two evergreens, and the two of us sleeping on a bed of pine needles. I ran that phrase through my head like a mantra. The woods are going to close. The woods are going to close. Thewoodsaregoingtoclose.

Before that, we climbed mountains of sawdust and slid down. Climbed up and slid down. Climbedupandsliddown. Mount Fine Like Sand. Mount Clumpy. Mount Wood Chips. The scent of chewed up balsam fir, or maybe it was pine. Four meant I did not yet know the names of things.

Before that, we knocked on Mr. Fogg’s door to ask him where was home? But he wasn’t at home.

Before that, in Mr. Fogg’s vacant lumber mill, Jacob climbed atop an oil barrel and turned a knob. Oil sprayed from a plastic hose, coated the road and piles of logs.

Before that, we threw rocks in the creek and they went ker-plunk.        

Before that, we climbed the low rock wall that divided our eight acres of trees with the rest of the world, that first taste of freedom, in search of three disappeared geese.

Before that, Jacob and I walked out of the house and into the yard, where we found our three pet geese were gone. The word coyote was mentioned.

Before that, Mother zipped our snow pants on over our t-shirts.


e.v. de cleyre is a semi-nomadic writer, currently residing in the Pacific Northwest. She holds an MFA in nonfiction from New Hampshire Institute of Art, and her essays and reviews have appeared in Ploughshares online, The Review Review, and ayris.

Photo by Marcia Krause Bilyk