The old man stood under the pines, just at the edge of the field. A fine hint of cool fog blew across his face as he awaited the sunrise. He loved this time of day, where things were peaceful and the hours and minutes seemed to be holding their breath in anticipation of wondrous things to come. The old man had stood at this spot many times over the past thirty-some odd years and the dog at his feet had been there waiting with him for a good number of those. Looking down at the Lab, the man smiled, “Today is the day old fella, he’s coming to join us in the hunt’. The dog as if understanding the words, thumped his tail in response. It was all good. Of course any day of hunting was always good, but today had been a long time coming.
There was a small herd out in the field. One buck with a massive rack and three does and their fawns, all supposedly unaware of the man and dog watching from the sidelines. The breeze was at their backs so they were calmly enjoying their early morning graze. The pair had watched this band of deer for quite some time and over the years had learned their habits; from the cool and secluded stream that they favored, to the hidden pathways they utilized, woven like a maze through the forest. While the old man always carried his shotgun, cradled in his arms, for all those many years he had never taken a shot. It was as if he was waiting for the right time, the right moment. He didn’t know when that moment would be exactly, no one was ever privy to that information, but he figured that he would be given a heads up, so as to prepare himself and the dog and to insure they would be in the perfect spot when the time came. He was correct in that assumption. Just recently it had seemed, a whisper had floated on the wind and a sense of anticipation had brought a clear realization to his mind. It was time.
The dog heard the foot steps first, soft and with stealth as they were, but the dog was a pro. He stood slowly and gazed down the trail that ran the perimeter of the forest. Recognition brought a slow wag to his tail and the dog looked from the approaching figure, up to the man’s face standing by his side, and back to the man heading their way. The deer in the field sensed rather than saw the man, but they did not flee in fear, as they were there for him, waiting just the same as the old man and dog.
The approaching hunter trod steadily towards them, his hat worn low over his forehead, and his shotgun also cradled in his arms, just as the old man had taught him.
Upon his arrival, the hunter stood in front of the old man and the dog. There was no fatigue upon his face even though he had endured a long journey to reach them. The men stared at one another, mirrored images only adjusted by their ages. The old man once older, the younger man now understanding the truth, that time is relative and never absolute.
“I’ve been awfully proud of you son, over the years.”, were the old man’s opening words. “You lived a good life, raised a good family and stayed true to yourself. You were a little hard headed at times, but as your Mother and I discussed just a few weeks ago, you came by that honestly”. The old man broke into a smile…”Damn it’s good to see you again”.
Raising the brim of his hat, the son looked into his fathers eyes. “It’s good to see you too Dad. I had missed you.” Waiting for a moment to gather his thoughts he then added, “I had always hoped you would be waiting here for me, and I’m glad that was the case”. He looked away quickly so as to not be overcome with emotion and then knelt down to pat the dog, which he swore had been smiling up at him.
“I have always been with you and your brother and sisters, as well as just waiting here”, the old man said, touching his sons shoulder lightly. “Now that you’ve arrived let’s get to it. I’ll show you the way”.
The son rose and spoke to the Labrador, “Heel Coach”. Turning slowly with their guns still cradled in their arms and the dog between them, the three headed towards the field…. heading towards the dawn.