Woodsman in Valentino

by TechDiff's own Laura B

Stepping out the door, Woodsman took a deep breath of the chill air. The crabapple pollen was down from yesterday, there was a hint of Red Lake currants beginning to blossom on the air, and no more than 13 Casualties on the Valentino fence this morning—the tang of death and Blight juice was just about right for that many. There’d probably be a drive to the fence before Friday’s phys. ed. practicum.

Woodsman (he barely ever thought of himself as Erik anymore) scanned the crowd of children running around the yard as he left the dorms. He still wasn’t used to how muted children playing tag at Valentino was. His head snapped left; just a puff of dust kicked up by one of the youngest’s sandals. Smelled dry; they needed rain soon for the barrels. Made sense the enclave had abandoned this courtyard to recess/training though—the dirt here wouldn’t even support a grass variety. Woodsman paused as the smell of kicked dirt intensified from his right; two girls in 5th rank uniformed pants ran past him, the one in the lead suddenly juking behind him and evading the second. It wasn’t enough and, a bit past Woodsman, the longer-legged second caught up and tagged the first.

Still weaving his way through the courtyard, Toto alternating between chasing a child and following at his heels, Woodsman made his way to the edge. Jane looked up from the roots of a sambucus candensis she was digging around. Kelev thumped his tail once and went back to wiggling around in the dirt Jane was turning up; Toto bounced into Kelev. A waft of elderberry juice mixed with bone-dry dirt wafted up as the two dogs wrestled. Woodsman nodded towards the former soccer field and Jane stood up. Woodsman whistled the follow signal and turned towards the field.

Roger the Nurse was walking through the children towards the dorms Woodsman had just come from. A lumpy, brown haired chubby infant stared at Woodsman over her shoulder.

Woodsman blinked and dug his fingernails into his right palm; the smell of hot copper was in his nostrils. He blinked, hard, but the skin sloughing off Nurse’s should remained. He closed his eyes, squeezing them tight. He could hear his breath ratcheting up.

A small hand slipped into his left hand. Woodsman looked down; Jane was watching Roger the Nurse too. She looked up at Woodsman; her eyes blank but her lips were twisted in a pinch of sadness. She squeezed Woodsman hand and he squeezed back.

“Right,” Woodsman said with a sigh, “let's work on teaching Kelev the right distance from Casualties for kiting.