The Kingdom

The logging road snaked down into a basin of second-growth hardwoods, then died among New England trees. “But somewhere over those ridges is Canada,” her uncle told her. “This’ll be home, Katie Girl. Least for the next three days.”

A window had been cut into each wall of the cabin, the glass hidden behind hinged and padlocked shutters, and she watched as he took keys to the locks and swung the shutters aside. The final padlock was on the door and bigger than the others. He clicked that last lock, then pulled on the shed-antler handle.

It was early July, several weeks after her eighth birthday. He had bought the one-room cabin in the spring. Years ago this had been someone’s deer camp, but the cabin was musty and empty now except for a few left-behind items: an iron stove and two metal cots, a wooden table and three wooden chairs, a gas refrigerator. The cot mattresses weren’t all that unlike the thin naptime mats she remembered from preschool, then kindergarten, and her uncle folded these like envelope letters before hauling them outside.

He set the mattresses on the hood of the truck and called for her. The hot, humid air smelled of rich decay—of turned earth and rotting leaves—but the maples surrounding the cabin were full and green, obscuring all but some patches of blue sky. It had been quiet when they first arrived, but now birds were singing. Or maybe she just hadn’t noticed them. She couldn’t be sure. From high, high above came the drone of a plane.

Her uncle went to her and put a hand on her shoulder. He cut granite for a living, and she could see the white dust of stones under his fingernails. “Come on with a chair or whatnot if you can,” he said. “We’re gonna empty the sucker out, spruce it up good and nice.”

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