Well, as you can see Roy said

Wiping the rest of the blood from his nose, it comes at a price. I only did it because I was desperate. I didn’t know how much longer you’d be, and I was starting to drift off lying in the cabin. I figured I’d walk back to the car to try and stay awake, and to be further from it, hoping it’d help. Seems to have worked. I’m sorry I took so long, Steven said. I should have retuned sooner. I got caught up once I found the cave. Cave? asked Roy. Yeah, another fifteen minutes past where you stopped, Steven told him. I went a ways into it, didn’t find a grave before I decided to turn around and come back. Did you go to the end of the cave? Roy asked. No, it went on past where I stopped. When I ran into animal bones I thought it might make more sense to explore it armed. Good thinking, Roy said. We’ll use my Benelli.

We’re, Steven replied, not going to use anything. I’ll be using it. You can’t go back there. If I have my protection, I’ll be fine, Roy said. Forgive me if I doubt that, Steven replied. Look, you need me to find the grave in that cave, Roy said. I can locate it. Locate it? Steven asked. How are you going to do that? You can’t even get within a thousand feet of it, let alone locate it. That’s because I didn’t have my protection, Roy said. Look, you need to trust me on this. I know what I’m doing. I’ve been doing it a long time. You’re telling me if you drink that stuff, you’ll be able to walk into that cave without a problem? After what we saw today, you’ll be able to just walk along, carrying a shotgun, and help me survey a dark cave, full of water?

Yes. And not fall and break something, not get sick? Yes. I don’t want to have to carry you out of there. You won’t have to. How do I know? Steven raised his voice, angry and frustrated. How do I know that? If you collapse in that cave and I have to carry you out, I’m not sure I can do that. Roy didn’t respond. A moment of uncomfortable silence passed. Steven remembered the fear he felt as he left the cave earlier that morning. He couldn’t imagine trying to do that with his father slung over his shoulder. Listen, Roy said calmly. I realize you think I’m an old geezer who is two steps away from falling into my own grave. And I realize you think my protection is bogus, and I’m too weak to defend myself.

You think everything is worse than it is, you always have. You don’t understand these things, they’re all a mystery to you, you’re frightened because of your perspective. No, that’s not it, Steven said. It has nothing to do with my perspective. Then what? Roy asked. Why do you think I can’t handle myself? Steven felt tears surfacing, and he fought to stop them from appearing in front of his dad. Because I’m worried you’ll get hurt. That you’ll misjudge something and be permanently hurt. Or worse, that I might lose you. And I don’t want that to happen. Roy reached across the seat and placed his hand on Steven’s shoulder. Steven couldn’t remember the last time his dad had touched him this way. I’m more worried about you, kiddo, Roy said.

They agreed on the way home that they would not return to the cave thsrugby.com until the next day, when they’d have plenty of daylight to maneuver in the woods. They stopped for food and then returned to Roy’s house, the sky already starting to darken. Roy went about gathering the various guns he thought they should use, and ammo, and placed them on the kitchen table. You could outfit the army of a small country, Steven said, looking over the pile. We can decide later which ones we want to take, Roy said. I’m going to be in my bedroom for a while. Not sleeping, I hope, Steven said. No, not sleeping. Making more of this, Roy said, shaking the empty Mason jar. Can I watch? Steven asked. I’d rather you didn’t, Roy said. Why? It’ll just make me fuck it up. I’ve always made it by myself, if you watch I’ll get something wrong. Nothing like confidence in the family, Steven said.

I have enough confidence to know you need to stay the hell out while I make it. I want to be able to concentrate and make a strong batch. How long? I’m going to check on you if it goes past the time you tell me. Half an hour, Roy replied, and walked back to the bedroom. Steven was intrigued by whatever was going on behind his father’s bedroom door. He could hear rustling, and once he thought he heard chanting. He was careful not to make any noise; he didn’t want to disturb Roy in any way, make him think he’d been distracted.

Even if the stuff is just psychosomatic, it works for the guy, and he needs it, he thought. Anything that might help, he was for. Steven noticed the book on the kitchen table under the guns, the secret book his father had tossed there a day before. He had told him to look through it, to see if he could find anything that might help. He pulled it out and flipped through it. The book was both old and new. It was bound, but handmade, and had been expanded and reinforced several times.

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