The Elements are Harsh, But the Pup Must Be Set Free

By Miranda Keskes

“Did you get enough to eat?” 

“Yup.”

“Excited for school today?” 

“Nope.”

“Looks like great weather for football tonight.”

“Sure.” 

He speaks in mono-syllables these days. It reminds me of his toddlerhood, but the inflection’s all wrong. He looks down at his phone, thumbs in constant motion, slouched over in the passenger seat. I sigh, pushing a little harder on the car’s accelerator. 

  The gaps between the time we spend together are widening. 

Last night, I stumbled across a documentary about harp seals. The mothers abandon their young after two weeks. The pups learn to fend for themselves, bobbing along on ice caps, adrift at sea. 

 

I tighten my grip on the steering wheel, stealing glimpses at his newly sharpened jawline, the light shadow across his upper lip. We inch our way through the school dropoff line. 

 

Many dangers await the young pups: hunting, vessel strikes, entanglement, chemical contaminants, oil spills, climate change. The mortality rate for harp seals in their first year is 20-30%.

My foot presses on the brake. Our turn. He opens the car door, climbs out. “Bye, mom.” 

“Have a great day. I love you.” 

“Yep.” He pokes his head back in before closing the door. “Love you too.”  

 

Harp seals often appear to be crying. I’m told it’s because they lack the ducts to drain away the tears. 

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Miranda Keskes is a writer and educator whose fiction has appeared in Pigeon Review, Everyday Fiction, and the anthologies: You Do You, Heart/h, Hysteria, and 100 Ways to Die. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two sons. Find her on Twitter @mirandakeskes.

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