The tracks ended next to a big pine tree. Badger looked to his left, then to his right, and just as he started to raise his head Billy heard a quiet hiss, almost like someone blowing a kiss, and the dusk seemed to turn a shade darker, just for an instant. And then Badger grunted as if he had stubbed his toe. A big soft yellow boulder fell on the back of Badger’s neck. It didn’t bounce off.
Billy tried to run, and tripped. Badger’s legs were moving funny, and Billy saw that it was the heavy yellow thing that was making them move. Badger’s eyes grew big and frantic and now he was waving his arms but the heavy thing was calm, barely moving. Billy could see the tawny boulder breathing. He closed his eyes and he heard a purring and a ripping. When he opened them his counselor wasn’t Badger anymore. He was meat.
Billy ran toward the river. He jumped in the canoe and thrashed his way back to the campsite, toward the other campers. The river gurgled, but over it he could hear wet, terrible sounds from where Badger was. Had been.
No one found Badger’s body. They only found the beer cans and a wet, shaking, mute Billy Gubin, who never spoke again, not about his supposed rescue, or anything else. And so they arrived at the most awful conclusion they could imagine. Alcohol, a cold river, clowning around. What could be more sad?