Threatened Species by Jeff Vande Zande

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Two weeks--that's all the time Ed Winters has with his son Danny before Ed's ex-wife and her new husband move with the boy to Paris. Those days, filled with fly fishing, camping, and an unplanned cross-country road trip, grow ever more desperate as Ed struggles to face the reality of losing the boy, and Danny of losing his home. Set amid the streams and backroads of Michigan and Montana, THREATENED SPECIES is a harsh but beautiful ode to fathers and sons.

The novella is collected here with five other Michigan short stories by Jeff Vande Zande.


Through the van’s windshield Dad was a silhouette. He walked bent, one hand groping, the other filling with thin shadows that looked like rose stems. “Kindling,” I said. I liked the word. He’d said it before getting out. He’d told me to wait. “Just look at the bridge,” he’d said.

I’d be with him for two weeks. Mom and John left this morning. Marquette to Chicago to New York to Paris. We’d be moving there in August. John’s new job. “Paris,” Mom sighed, her eyes far away. She said it a lot.

Dad told her we’d be here, camped on the beach near St. Ignace.

“We’re going to heat up pasties in the coals of the campfire,” I said.

Mom stood, arms akimbo. “I’m not surprised.”

“He doesn’t worry so much about the expense of things,” he said. He put his fingers in my hair. “So what happens to every other weekend?”

Mom shrugged.

Lit, the Mackinac Bridge looked to be floating in the darkness. Dad was almost gone. If I tried, I could see him crouched by the fire pit. I waited for a flame. When it didn’t come, I turned on the CB. Channel 19. “Where the lonely look for the lonely,” Dad always said. There were more voices here, near the bridge, than I’d ever heard before. Deep, accented, foul-mouthed and misted over by a static that made them otherworldly. So many voices.

“It’s the confluence of every U.P. highway,” Dad said when we came down U.S. 2 and the bridge materialized in the southeastern distance. I sucked my milk shake. Dad talked about slow ferries, the straits freezing over, the importance of connection. “Had to have some kind of bridge,” he said.

When we pulled into the campsite, he asked me if I liked John. I shook my head. I lied. Dad looked out at the water for a long time.

“Does he treat you okay?”

I nodded.

I couldn’t see him anymore. The bridge made everything else darker. No fire yet. No tent. The driver’s door opened, and Dad pulled in behind the wheel. A chill came in with him, and I shivered.

He stared at the bridge. “Let’s cross it,” he said.


He started the van. The fire pit appeared in the headlights. No fire in it, but the twigs and small branches leaned against each other, tepee style. Kindling. He’d slid birch bark into some of the spaces, left others open. “The space is as important as the wood,” he told me four years ago. Mom had listened, shaking her head. “He’s too young for fires,” she’d said.

“A fire survives on fuel and space,” he explained. “Too much of either kills it. It’s a balancing game.”

The bridge hummed beneath us. Dad told me they vented the middle lanes to keep high winds from tearing it apart.

The van’s vents blew cold air. I shivered again. The lights of Mackinaw City glowed dimly ahead of us. The darkness beyond it was much bigger. “Where we gonna camp at?” I asked.

He told me he didn’t know.

  • Published by: Untreed Reads

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