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THE VIGIL / James Ulmer Walking in the woods, my father and I found a paw track pressed into mud, a child's hand. Raccoon, he said, and put out apples and bread to keep him from the garden. I tried to picture the ringed tail and mask, something wild the bulldozers drove away. That night I watched from my bedroom window and thought I saw him at the edge of the woods, catching our scent on the food. Later, I woke and saw him ambling back to cover. He turned—red eyes and teeth flashing at me. I sneaked down the stairs and out, followed the route he'd take away from torn ground and ribs of lumber— a path through brambles and skunk cabbage, the field of chest-deep Queen Anne's lace, still and white in the moonlight. I knelt on the bank of Salt Brook, near where the animal vanished. In the quiet, I felt even the trees disappearing. Under my reflection something stirred: a catfish lying on the streambed. The outline of its body wavered. Its whiskers showed the way the water moved. 18 · The Missouri Review ...


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