Disoriented, delusional, alone in the frigid north country, staggering in deep snow beneath the weight of moose meat in his pack, an experienced hunter gets himself in deeper trouble with each frozen-footed step in David Pratt’s short story “Goodbye, Steve,” from the current issue of Deep Wild: Writing from the Backcountry:

"The going was hard, harder still where the brush was thick. At times, his snowshoes sank in the snow more than a foot. But without them, one would be exhausted in a hundred yards. He was moving up a steady gradient. The light ahead indicated a break in the trees, probably a lake. It was a lake all right, a small one, but he had come out at the edge of a forty-foot cliff. 

"He looked furiously to right and left for a descent. Slow down, slow down, he told himself. Start getting frustrated and you end in trouble. If he’d still had the rope, he could have tied it to a tree and rappelled straight down. It looked as though the best route was to follow the cliff top eastward until the land dropped to the lake. There was no path, and the ground was steep and broken, but here the snow had blown off the high ground, so he took the snowshoes off and carried them. At its lowest point, the shore was four feet above the lake. He took a good grip on his rifle and the snowshoes, jumped down to the surface, and went right through the ice. 

"The shock of the cold water was stunning. But it wasn’t deep. He went in only to his thighs. He gasped and clambered out. He cursed his stupidity. He should have tested the ice. An underwater current or a beaver hole was always a risk near shore. He crawled to firmer ice and knelt for a moment trying to catch his breath. He rolled over a couple of times, so the snow could wick some of the moisture from his clothes. His right leg was hurting, and when he stood up, it buckled. He’d twisted his knee…" 

David Pratt’s superb story is one of our nominees for this year’s Pushcart Prize awards, celebrating the best writing published by small presses in 2022. To find out Steve’s fate, visit deepwildjournal.com/subscribe.  Our December Holiday Sale is in full swing!

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