Excerpt from Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Medicine Walk

by Richard Wagamese

Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese X
Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese
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  • First Published:
    May 2015, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2016, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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Chapter One

He walked the old mare out of the pen and led her to the gate that opened out into the field. There was a frost from the night before, and they left tracks behind them. He looped the rope around the middle rail of the fence and turned to walk back to the barn for the blanket and saddle. The tracks looked like inkblots in the seeping melt, and he stood for a moment and tried to imagine the scenes they held. He wasn't much of a dreamer though he liked to play at it now and then. But he could only see the limp grass and mud of the field and he shook his head at the folly and crossed the pen and strode through the open black maw of the barn door.

The old man was there milking the cow and he turned his head when he heard him and squirted a stream of milk from the teat.

"Get ya some breakfast," he said.

"Ate already," the kid said.

"Better straight from the tit."

"There's better tits."

The old man cackled and went back to the milking. The kid stood a while and watched and when the old man started to whistle he knew there'd be no more talk so he walked to the tack room. There was the smell of leather, liniment, the dry dust air of feed, and the low stink of mould and manure. He heaved a deep breath of it into him then yanked the saddle off the rack and threw it up on his shoulder and grabbed the blanket from the hook by the door. He turned into the corridor and the old man was there with the milk bucket in his hand.

"Got any loot?"

"Some," the kid said. "Enough."

"Ain't never enough," the old man said and set the bucket down in the straw.

The kid stood there looking over the old man's shoulder at the mare picking about through the frost at the grass near the fence post. The old man fumbled out his billfold and squinted to see in the semi-dark. He rustled loose a sheaf of bills and held them out to the kid, who shuffled his feet in the straw. The old man shook the paper and eventually the kid reached out and took the money.

"Thanks," he said.

"Get you some of that diner food when you hit town. Better'n the slop I deal up."

"She's some good slop though," the kid said.

"It's fair. Me, I was raised on oatmeal and lard sandwiches. Least we got bacon and I still do a good enough bannock."

"That rabbit was some good last night," the kid said and tucked the bills in the chest pocket of his mackinaw.

"It'll keep ya on the trail a while. He's gonna be sick. You know that, don'tcha?" The old man fixed him with a stern look and pressed the billfold back into the bib of his overalls.

"I seen him sick before."

"Not like this."

"I can deal with it."

"Gonna have to. Don't expect it to be pretty."

"Never is. Still, he's my dad."

The old man shook his head and bent to retrieve the bucket and when he stood again he looked the kid square. "Call him what you like. Just be careful. He lies when he's sick."

"Lies when he ain't."

The old man nodded. "Me, I wouldn't go. I'd stick with what I got whether he called for me or not."

"What I got ain't no hell."

The old man looked around at the fusty barn and pursed his lips and squinted. "She's ripe, she's ramshackle, but she's ours. She's yours when I'm done. That's more'n he ever give."

"He's my father."

The old man nodded and turned and began to stump away up the corridor. He had to switch hands on the pail every few steps, and when he got to the sliding door at the other end he set it down and hauled on the timbers with both hands. The light slapped the kid hard and he raised a hand to shade his eyes. The old man stood framed in the blaze of morning. "That mare ain't much for cold. You gotta ride her light a while. Then kick her up. She'll go," he said.

Excerpted from Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese. Copyright © 2015 by Richard Wagamese. Excerpted by permission of Milkweed Editions. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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