Dad slapped his neck in disgust. “The fish aren’t biting but the mosquitoes sure are.”
I was covered in itchy red blotches, one of which I’d scratched so hard, it bled. “Can we go in now?”
“If we don’t catch anything, there’ll only be rice for lunch.”
I was sick of rice. We’d eaten nothing else for days. “Maybe it’s time to call it quits. Go back.” The instant the words were said, I regretted them, but my stomach hurt from hunger, and things were getting worse.
He sat opposite me on the skiff and laid his rod aside. “You remember why we left?”
I couldn’t meet his eyes. “Maybe it’s different now. Better.”
“Why would it be?”
“But maybe it is!” I missed pizza and internet and food on the grocery shelves. I missed talking with my friends and hanging out. I even—oh my god—missed school. I would have been a junior this year.
He touched my shoulder, and I flinched. “We’re going through a rough patch. It’ll pass.” He straightened. “Tell you what. We’ll kill a chicken for dinner tonight. How does that sound?” He slapped his arm, and I saw blood. The mosquito had got him.
Killing a chicken was a huge sacrifice on his part, but I didn’t care. I wanted things to be the way they used to be. I was tired of scrambling in the swamp for survival. It had gotten old weeks ago, and how would we make it when summer came? Just thinking about having no AC made me break out in a sweat. He’d talked about trying to make it north to relatives in Chicago, on foot so we could avoid the checkpoints, but every time I brought it up, he changed the subject.
He was scared, but I wasn’t. I’d prove it was safe to go back, then return for him.