”You see this meadow, boy? It was a swamp before we moved here. One of the conditions for buying the mansion and the adjoining land was that I paid to have it fixed and also the beach. You enjoy the beach, right boy? The restoration of the pier as well. How do the villagers repay us? They let their dogs shit on the meadow. They shit on the meadow, boy. They want me to pick it up… Look out the window! There’s Andersson with his ugly daughter.” Erik stopped and rolled down the car window. “HEY! Andersson! Pick up after your shitty daughter’s shitty dog! Or I will empty my septic tank all over your ugly house. I’d do you that favour. The shit glaze would probably raise the property value.”
“Jonsson! My daughter’s here. Go home and sober up.”
“You hear that boy?”
“You fucking hear that? Wait here.”
Erik left the car and rushed to the meadow. Andersson raised his hand towards Erik, but he wasn’t slowing down. He turned to his daughter. “Jenny, go home. Please! Tell your mother to call the police.”
“Get the fuck out of my meadow!”
“Erik, go home!”
Erik picked up a rock and threw it at Andersson who started jogging home with his barking dog. “We never should have-”
“AAAAAAAAAH!” Erik shouted as he fell. A few minutes passed until Fredrik dared to walk over. “Dad?”
“Come son. Lay down beside me.”
“Then why are you taking so long? Lay down beside me.” Fredrik did. “You see up there, the skies with the clouds and all that? These people believe they will end up there. It’s a bullshit argument for never achieving anything, you see? They can shift the responsibilities to someone else and live without contributing.”
“Like the meadow.”
“Exactly, boy. Good.” Erik ruffled Fredrik’s hair and stood up. “Now we can eat. You want to drive? You want to drive up the hill there?”
They walked back to the car. “It’s too steep.”
“Nonsense. It’s the car not you. Can you reach the pedals? No. Okay you steer it then.” Erik sat down behind the wheel and Fredrik in the passenger seat. “Ready?”
“I think so.”
“Good, boy.” Erik accelerated. “Aim it to the left. To the left. We’re going to hit the tree. I’m not braking. The left! LEFT! Good. Now hold it. To the right. You have our lives in your hands. Keep it steady here. That’s it. Just over the… Good. There you go. That was the hardest part.”
Erik parked outside the mansion with the spectacular view over the village, the lake and the meadow. The timber from the forest lay in piles while the machines rested for the season. Erik threw a can of pea soup from the shelf into the sink. Fredrik cooked it but by the time it was finished Erik had fallen asleep.
Two knocks on the front door. Fredrik opened it. Two police officers in blue uniforms. The old model Volvo was parked beside Erik’s car. New models never reached this rural part of Sweden. The older officer straightened his uniform and started asking questions.
“Hello, ehm. Is Erik Jonsson home?”
“Okay. Are you by any chance Fredrik? Yes I guessed so. Do you know if your father’s been drinking today?”
The officer tapped with his notebook on the wooden door a few times. “You know it’s illegal to lie to officers, right?”
“Yes, but I said I don’t know.”
“Yea of course. You know we only want to help you, right? You know that, right Fredrik?”
The younger officer mumbled something to the older officer and walked back to the car. The older turned to Fredrik. “You have phones here in this mansion?”
“Okay. That’s good. Okay if there’s anything…”
The officers left. Fredrik closed the door and put a blanket over Erik. He did his homework for the last time that autumn.
One morning, a month later, Erik woke up when Fredrik was about to leave.
“Boy! Where are you going?”
“No. We’re going hunting. Come here, sit down beside me. My father took me hunting. My mother cooked the moose and we had something to eat for weeks. You see, we were a poor family. Are you and I a poor family?”
The few birches were naked and the breeze could stop hearts. Pines reached the skies and the forest was thick. “Now, this road is called the Moose Road, you know why?”
“There are moose here.”
“Correct. And since we are hunting off-season it means we are the only ones out here.”
“This is nature. Murder is not illegal in nature. We have breached the realm of nature; life and death. The comfort of society is long gone, boy. It’s a father and son lying still in the snow with one rifle against all dangers.”
“There will be dangers?”
“Oh yes. This is wolf country. The bears are hibernating, but the wolves hunt all year. As do we. A mother moose with her calf will protect her baby to the death. Both sides are prepared to die, boy. It will end with death.”
Erik stopped in the middle of a gravel road. Fredrik looked around for moose. “How long will it take?”
“Death is swift. Anything else is just delaying. Come.”
“Just leave the car here?”
“Yes. We must wander into the forest. They’re not going to walk into death willingly. Take that bag of supplies.”
Father and son lay down in the snow. Erik drank and pointed the rifle towards the distance. Two hours of silence.
“Are you cold, dad?”
“No. That’s what this is for.” He held his bottle. “Are you cold, son? You can walk back to the car and get a blanket. We’re staying here for the night. I will keep watch over you while you sleep and vice versa. If we are lucky we will not stay for long. We are not competing with any other hunters, any human hunters.”
When Fredrik walked back it started to snow, only lightly. The footsteps were still there. Small snowflakes filled the entire screen of the car. Fredrik wrote a message on the screen. He knew nature would erase it in just an hour. We are camping two kilometres to the east. Please find us. Erik would never see it. No one would see it. Two blankets. No three blankets. Small footsteps, must be a hare. Nothing to take notice of. What if the bears wake up? It has been known to happen in these parts. Or what if a pack of wolves come? What good are two shots against a pack? Even two hits. Maybe if Erik hits the leader the others will turn back.
“Here you go.”
“No I don’t need the blanket. You take both.”
“There are three.”
“Really, did you pack three? In case the dead moose gets cold? Here, take this. It’s dried meat. My father used to give me this. You know, he used to take me out hunting. We were poor and he was an idiot. He shot his moose for the season and we ate it. There are hundreds of thousands of moose and we were starving. Boy… BOY!”
“Are we starving?”
“That’s right. What do you think of Andersson’s ugly daughter?”
“Jenny? She’s nice.”
“Do you want to fuck her? Are you old enough for that? You’re twelve. You must be.”
An eagle soared above the pines. “I’m ten-”
“Boy, see that eagle. It’s a golden eagle. Hundreds of years ago men in these parts used the golden eagle in falconry – trained birds whose vision were better than that of men’s – to hunt and kill grey wolves.” Fredrik held his breath. “Majestic. The royal eagle of Sweden, how it floats through the skies. The shitty villagers think they belong up there with him…”
“You think there are wolves around?”
“No. They hunt just before dawn. Of course they won’t pass up an easy meal, so when we shoot our moose we need to be quick. Dragging the large moose will leave traces of blood that even hibernating bears can’t resist.”
The golden eagle disappeared from sight. A squirrel rummaged in the tree. Erik drank. But Fredrik was quiet. Hours passed and the night came.
“Are you sure you’re going to sleep there? What if you freeze to death?”
“You will wake me before that. I can take a blanket. Wait!” Erik grabbed his rifle. “I almost gave up. Take the bottle. Okay. A judgement call: take the risky shot or risk it for a better shot. Do it.”
“Take the judgement call?”
“Yes. Hurry. Before it’s too late.”
Erik fired. The sound, loud enough to frighten birds out of their nests, was followed by the sound of steps crunching in the snow and a heavy thump. “Go. Hurry over there. I’m right behind you.”
Fredrik ran towards the sound. A giant moose lay in the snow. Thick purple coloured snow. Eyes wide open. Still alive. A calf stood by the mother. Erik limped – his legs had fallen asleep – to Fredrik.
Erik shot the calf. The mother blinked with her wide opened eyes, but barely moved a muscle when her baby fell on her long legs. Erik shot the mother dead.
“Why did you shoot the calf?”
“It wouldn’t have survived on its own. If we leave it here we will not have any wolves after us. They will take the calf. Come.”
Both dragged the heavy body to the car. Erik fell over a couple of times, but never lost his enthusiasm. He tied the moose to the car, drank the last from the bottle and started the car.
“What time is it, dad?”
“It’s… a quarter past nine.”
“So, people may be out in the village. In the old post office.”
“They will see us dragging a dead moose through the snow. Blood-”
“What’s your point!?”
“If it’s illegal-”
“Don’t worry about it. I paid for that post office. In fact we should barge in there and show them what a result looks like.”
Erik drove fitfully to the old postal office. He yelled, sounded the horn and banged his hand on the hood of his car. Four cars stood parked outside and the lights were on. A small party. Danielsson was the only one to come out.
“Hello there. I see you have caught yourself a moose. That’s good-”
“Shut the fuck up, Danielsson. Get Andersson out here. Get Andersson and his fucking dog. My son’s going to fuck his daughter. Get her out here too.”
“Shut up. Give me the rifle. That’s MY HOUSE! I built that house. You’re having a party in my house. Why wasn’t I invited? Why wasn’t my son invited!? HUH!? My son! Show him! SHOW HIM!”
Erik waved to Fredrik who looked at his father. “What should I show him?”
Andersson peeked out the window. “Calm down, Erik. Just go home and sleep it off. Don’t make us call the police on you.”
“The police…?” Erik fell over a snowbank. “Who laughed?”
“No one laughed dad. Let’s go home and celebrate the hunt.”
Jenny, her mother, Danielsson’s wife, the Berglunds and the Svenssons, all looked out of windows. No one was smiling. Erik had a hard time to focus on a single face. He got up on one knee, grunted and stood up. “If you are not gone by tomorrow I’ll set the house on fire. It’s MY house!”
Andersson mumbled to his family. Erik spat at him, sat down in the car and accelerated. “Tell me when to brake.”
Fredrik steered the car up the hill. Erik went down to the cold basement and came up with another bottle of homemade vodka. After he fell asleep Fredrik poured out every single drop of alcohol and replaced it with water.
Erik woke Fredrik up in the middle of the night. “Boy! We have had a break in! Here take this rifle. We’re going to the Anderssons. They have stolen from us.”
“They have stolen from us. All of my supplies are gone.”
“Dad it was me!”
“I poured it out.”
“What the fuck are you saying, boy?”
“I don’t like you.”
“Boy… what are you saying?” He sat down on the wooden floor. “Why? We-we hunt together. I let you drive.”
“Everyone hates you, dad. They hate me too.”
Erik shivered. “No!”
“The police want me to tell on you.”
“NO! Dad. It’s not. It’s you!”
Erik leaned back, eyes searching for a place of empathy in Fredrik’s eyes.
“They hate you. I hate you! I HATE YOU!”
Erik dropped the rifle and walked out the room. Fredrik stayed in bed for a minute. He pulled the blanket over his t-shirt and moved his pyjama bottoms under. He was dead quiet. Nothing was heard. He rushed out and turned on the outside lights. The traces of blood were barely visible under the deep snow. The freezing winds of the Swedish winter whipped against hair, windows and branches. He turned to the car. The bloody mother was still bound to the parked car. He turned the other way. He saw a shadowy figure of his father and hurried over. His father’s coat blew open by the cliff.
The figure vanished. Fredrik ran. Numb toes, feet, fingers, hands. “NO! NOOOOO!”
His dad lay disfigured in the abyss. Fredrik screamed his lungs dry. Hurried. He hurried down the hill. Traces of blood, dragged through the snow, on the road under his feet. His numb feet. A tree. The hill. His dad’s hill. Trees. The lake. And by the hill, his dad. Skull crushed. The bones poked through the skin. No.
Fredrik screamed for help. The call echoed over the lake and returned unanswered. He dragged his father behind him. Down! Down to the village. Must get help. To the post office. His leg pushed down a snowbank and up. A bang. A loud enough bang will wake everyone. If he can just get it loud enough.
“Come, dad. Just… please. Come. “
He dragged the body to the first step of the postal office. A bang without power. Louder. BANG. The cars. They’re gone. They’re gone…
“I’m your boy…” Fredrik leaned his head against the door and held the collar of Erik’s shirt with his last ounce of strength. “Soar with eagles, dad.”