Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Hunter

He checks his watch for the thousandth time since first attempting sleep.

Five minutes.  Close enough.

The older the he gets, the easier it is for him to wake up.  Of course, it's also easier for him to shit his pants, too.

Swinging his legs off his perch, he takes a breath and shakes out the cobwebs.  He's on the couch again.  He's always on the couch this time of the year.  It's a preemptive measure, one of the many he takes to ensure he does not wake his wife or kids up because that would suck...

...on many levels...

...for quite a while.

Still though, his back's in knots.  He's lost count on how many nights since the season began he's endured the ill sleeping bastard, but it's in the double digits.  He rubs his hands together feeling every bit of his raw, chaffed, wind-cracked fingers before looking with more than a modicum of aggravation to the coffee table.  He glared hatefully at the now watered-down glass of bourbon.  It had been neat, but at that moment, felt anything but.  Smacking his lips, he became nauseatingly aware of the hair growing on his tongue.

Never shoulda poured that last one.

Running his fingers through his graying beard, he turns to the kitchen.

Coffee'll help.  

Before he can rise and feel his angry knees bitch and moan, a whine from the other room draws his attention.  The dog had heard his master's movement and knows it's time yet again.  So, he gets up and feels his angry knees bitch and moan.  A few seconds later, the dog's released to air in the backyard.  He watches as the black ball of utter consternation lopes off into the darkness barely able to keep his joy in check.  He smiles at the wagging tail which he knows is nothing more than the proverbial middle finger.  That smile though.  It was rich but also carryied an edge of sadness to it, and doesn't quite reach his eyes.  He knows their time together is getting short.  Too short.

I'd go with him if I could.

Gritting his teeth, he turns away, refusing to give the dark thoughts any purchase within his mind.  Finally, he hits the kitchen, doing what was required, and after hearing the first blessed chirps of the percolating concoction, he begins the ritual repeated every morning.  The pants that are pulled on over the long-handles are old now, with well over a decade's worth of abuse soaked into their fabric.  One leg, then another, into a pair of pants that resembled nothing of the double-tinned pair of arrogance and condescension they were when he first bought them.  The wax now dull, even missing in areas of the most heaviest wear, and they are covered in stains - blood stains.

These damned things are just reaching their prime.  Fastening his belt, painfully aware that the buckle doesn't travel nearly as far across his waist as it used to, he jealously wishes he could say the same for himself.

Next, the he pulls his top on.  It's nothing but an old, tan sweater that stinks of hard work, whiskey, and cigarettes; but, it just feels right and keeps the chill away, so on it goes.

Every hunt.

He then slides his socked feet into an old, comfortable pair of L.L. Bean duck boots and, looking into a mirror, smiles.  He's heard all the comments from his friends and agrees.  He does look like one of those candy-assed, snot-nosed, waxed-cotton and twill peddling catalogs puked on him...and, he couldn't give less of a shit.

Grabbing his lanyard with its single call and his gun, he heads out into the night, quick to peak over into the bed of his truck and go through the mental checklist.

Decoys...check.  Dog stand...check.  Waders...check.

He opens the back door to the backyard and steps aside, barely avoiding the black rocket of fur and hardheadedness that shoots past.  As the dog undergoes his own front yard ritual, which is to say pissing on every piece of ground and sprig of grass from the driveway to the neighbor's front door, he glances skyward.  Doing so, he takes a slow, contented pull from the coffee mug keeping his hand warm.  Sleet's starting to fall, and he takes a moment to relish the stinging bits of ice peppering his windburned face.  He doesn't understand the world anymore.  Doesn't understand how a human can not live for the raw sliver of nature he's about to experience.

Getting snotty.  Long drive on shitty roads. 

It's the same thing every morning.  He knows the drive is a long one and the hunt likely to be less-than-stellar, but the thought of going back to bed never enters his mind.

Never does.  Like a pig at breakfast time...he's committed.

"Load up", he commands quietly, his first words during the entire process.  The change in the animal is absolute.  The dog spins in the direction of man's voice and trots stiff-legged back across the yard, its every step coming with purpose.  An unyielding aura of confidence engulfs the dog as he leaps quietly into the bed of the truck and slips into his dog box.  In a world of uncertainty, he knows his dog tips the scales in his favor, if only slightly.  Quickly, he steps back inside for one final equipment check and to grab his thermos of coffee.

Moments later, his truck lights disappear around the corner and he's headed for parts unknown; another morning spent in the brisk wonderment that is winter with the world none-the-wiser of The Hunter's passing. 

1 comment:

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