Errata Literary Magazine

Bucks County Writers Workshop

Otto's Mark

by David Jarret

Otto S. stood beside an enormous fir and pissed his name into the deep snow. He took careful aim as he deftly etched each letter, thinking the whole time he was exposed in the frigid wind that he was glad he wasn't a 'Manfred' or a 'Heinrich'.

The cold slashed at his thighs as he stood trying to protect himself with his hands. Otto had a little more urine to waste, so he embellished the end of his name with a curlicue. He shuddered, buttoned his fly, and rubbed his crotch, resting his carbine on his shoulder. The steaming letters, reminding him of the sauna he had left behind, cooled in the blanched landscape.

The air draped over him like a blanket that had been quilted with ice cubes. When he was within but fifty meters of the house, the sole of his boot caught a branch buried under the snowpack. He tripped and the rifle pitched out of his grasp, pin wheeling into a drift. He cursed his luck and trudged after it, groping for its wooden stock. He flailed his hands beneath the snow, and his finger finally hooked the trigger. He tugged it out of the snow, shook it off, vowing to clean it and oil it if he made it home.

Otto glanced skyward as he pressed on. The snowy evergreen branches were bent low. He reached the barbed wire fence and leaned against a post, catching his breath. He tried the bolt and it slid open fluidly, incongruous in the frozen Swiss countryside.

The bull had not challenged him so far, since the deep snow made it too much trouble for the animal to chase him. He was ready for it, and placed his last shell into the opening. The beast stood in the open, peppered in snow and, in its final act of bravado, snorted and thrashed the ground with its front paw, raising its head to meet the bullet.

Bucks County Writers Workshop