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EIDERS/Lewis Robinson ISET THE DECOYS—my father called them tollers—by dropping their smaU steel anchors overboard, paying out line. They had thin keels on their underbeUies that kept them pointed in the same direction, looking exactly tike any raft of ducks you'd see up the cove. They were perfectly buoyant, rigid. Some had their heads down as though they were feeding. Td been hunting with my father before, and while I liked firing the gun and having the kick punch my shoulder, I never aimed at the ducks. He assumed I was a lousy shot and tried to improve my aim by telling me to relax, anticipate, breathe. When I finished with the decoys I pulled the skiff ashore and sat next to him. We were on a ledge inJackson Cove, in the dark. Fig stood on all fours next to us, shifting her paws on the rocks, unable to fund the right place. "Christ, wiU you sit?" he said to her. I hugged her down to the seaweed . She was excited to hunt because it was the only time she could swim and hold dead birds in her mouth. My mother had never aUowed it; she felt it poisoned the dog, turned her into something she wasn't. The goal was to shoot birds for Thanksgiving lunch, but I wasn't sure Td be eating with him—my mother had been pushing me to visit her in Boston. I was relieved and wanted to go, but at school we were having two-hour orchestra rehearsals to prepare for the Hotiday Gala. Even at second clarinet, I had to be there every day. Missing even one day of rehearsal was out because my father believed rules were worth following—though it seemed the rules he especially liked were the ones that applied to other people. The cold made my fingers slow and my insides weak. The overcast sky in the east was beginning to glow, but it was still dark on the reef. "So, what about Melissa?" he asked. "What about her?" "It's pretty nice, isn't it? To be in love," he said. "Who said love?" I asked, but he was right. I loved Métissa—I hadn't had a choice in the matter. She was this girl Td met in the fall, during FamUy Skate at the rink, and it took me by surprise; she felt Uke a miracle to me. I was worried she'd find out I was ordinary. But she hadn't yet. She seemed to love me, too. The Missouri Review · 63 "You know, your dad can just tell with these things. I know you better than you think." I stayed quiet on that one. I knew it was better not to challenge him when he was trying to be my buddy. "You can be so cynical sometimes, Keith. I mean, come on. Admit it. She's a special girl to you," he said. "What the fuck, Dad," I said. "'What the fuck, Dad?' What the fuck? Jesus. Okay, listen," he said. Light from the moon brightened the far shore, so I looked over my shoulder. Ithad just slid out from behind the clouds in the west, above the trees, and it was full, with crisp edges. Dad scanned the water in front of us, not looking back at the moon. "Here's the thing," he continued . "You look at me tike Tm an old man, which I am. Tm aware of that, that I look different than you. But what you don't understand is that I don't remember having ever gotten old. I still feel the same as you feel." "Fine," I said. "And I know what it's like to be your age. And to be in love. I apologize , but I do." He'd dumped my mom; maybe she deserved it, maybe not. AU I knew was that he came out looking like a coward. And a failure. This was not something I liked to think—it didn't make me feel any better—but it was the truth, and there's not much you can do about what's true. He used a...


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