I woke up early to get the coffee on and to check on Chira to make sure his heart hadn't given out overnight. I kept checking on him, but he wasn't ever dead. He wasn't ever even a little sick. But I kept watch. I did that until the summer was over and the next crew was coming out to relieve us.
Chira sat on the dock and asked me if there was anything I was going to miss about this place. He would miss the mountains, he said. Majestic.
I wondered if he knew I'd been awake each night waiting for him to die so that my life could mean something more than it did. I wondered if he ever saw me over him. If he was ever pretending to sleep.
I said, no.
He said, do you ever wonder why in the hell we were sent up here to do this?
I wondered if he knew I had wanted him to die every day from the day I had first met him, if he knew I had pictured him blue-lipped in the snowdrift back by the woodpile waiting for wolves and the float plane home. I wondered if he ever wished for the same gifts from me.
I said, it's curious.
Chira asked me if I had any chew left.
I wondered if he knew how I had watched him plod on ahead of me and how I had lowered my rifle at his back a thousand times to kill him but hadn't the courage.