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By Roberta C. Bondi

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Whether or not I was realistic in my fear of snakes, however, I was not so unrealistic with respect to the gunshots that had exploded periodically but regularly from the time we had set off at noon until far into the night. Richard had warned us before we’d set out that this was the opening weekend for deer season, and there would probably be hunters afoot. There was something eerie and terrible about walking hour after hour in the pitch darkness with no visible sign of human habitation, no house or barn or even field (though we had caught sight of a pasture around four o’clock the preceding afternoon) while we heard those guns.

In the darkness the doves mourned and I cried, mourning with them. I mourned for my father; for my friend Susan Cagle, who moved away when I was nine, for other children I knew who didn’t like me; for my step-grandmother, who disapproved of every breath I took; for my inability to learn in school; for my failures at home; for my mother’s fear, grief, and distraction; for my inability to be like other children; for my own questions and doubts, pain, and anger, none of which I could find a way to express.

Two years later I remember being enclosed in darkness, swallowed up by its suffocating thickness with no hope this time of being saved, for it was an adult darkness springing from a grown-up knowledge, and I was still a child. It was the darkness of grief, and I entered it my first night on my grandmother’s farm in Kentucky immediately after the official end of my parents’ marriage. Their divorce had been finalized the morning before at the courthouse in Jacksonville, Florida, following a very long train trip from Delaware.

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