“You ready kiddo?”
My father was looking down at me, smiling, waiting for me to let him know today was really the day. We were both excited but also a little bit nervous. Today I had turned 13 and today my father said I would begin my lessons in becoming a man. Today I would be hunting.
“You sure about this, kiddo?” He kneeled down, hand on the top of my head ready to tussle it at any answer I gave.
“Yes dad, I’m ready.” I was doing my best to be serious and to be brave. I was going to be a man now. The truth was I was terrified. I really wanted to do this right.
I had never been hunting with my father before today. I hadn’t done much of anything at all with my father before today. I know he loved me and wanted to be around more but he couldn’t. His job kept him away. He worked early in the morning until late at night and any time he was home he could quickly be called away. Today would be different, though, he promised. Today there would be no interruptions. He said our lesson was too important.
Off we went, him in front and me behind. I carried our gun, and he carried everything else. We marched out silently, I followed him and watched what he did. Hunting deer meant camouflaging ourselves the best we could. We got rid of our own scent, we added other scents, we covered ourselves, and we hunkered down behind a trio of trees. We waited and we made no sound. We waited and while my father watched the woods I watched him.
My father was getting old. He was greying around the temples but he still looked young. He kept himself healthy, he said he had to for his work. His eyes were always smiling even when he was mad. I thought my father was just an ordinary man who had been lucky enough to think his work and wife and kid were all he needed in life. It would be the last moment that my father would be just an ordinary man.
He turned quickly to face me, put his finger to his lips and pointed out into the clearing. I saw it, a buck, a young one, sniffing the place we’d scented for him. I had the gun and my father motioned for me to get ready. We’d practiced this moment for a year, I knew what to do. I aimed he way my father had taught me, toward the place I knew the heart would be and with a nothing but a thought the trigger was pulled and the buck was down.
I had done it. My father was beaming and so was I, we were both shaking with excitement.
“Let’s go get him, son”
This is the part I had been very anxious about. We needed to prepare the body for the butcher. Killing it had been one thing. I had felt it like a hit to my own heart but my mind hadn’t really taken in what I’d done. Now, being so close, and knowing the next steps made my head dizzy. I could feel my heartbeat in my ears. I felt my father’s hand on my shoulder and I found the strength start.
My father talked me through cutting, pulling, and tying off bits of the animal, removing the organs we would eat later, and dumping the blood. It wasn’t easy, and there were moments I thought I couldn’t do it, I’d even released my breakfast on the ground next to our prize. My father helped but the lesson wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t do most of it.
Each time I thought I couldn’t my father would give me that look as if to say “Go on Kiddo, you can do it” or something more serious like “Come on Kiddo, you have to do it.” and I would take a deep breath and continue.
When we’d emptied the insides and I knew we were finished. My father let me know we could rest. We sat back and he pulled me close.
“You did good today son. You have done what you had to do and now you will get your reward. But son, this was not your lesson today. Today you learned to kill, but the lesson you need to learn is this: Sometimes…people are like deer. Sometimes we have to plot, and bait, and hide, and when the moment comes we sometimes have to kill them. It is important you do it quietly and efficiently.”
“Afterwards, it will be necessary for you to deal with your kill, no matter how much your stomach may turn. People are like deer and in this family, we make the kills we have to to eat and to live”
“We do this because we are part of an ancient line that works with an ancient organization. We do their bloody work to keep those who have always had power. We have always done this, we will always do this, and after I am gone it will be your turn. One day, when you are going grey like me, you will teach your son the same lesson. It is in your blood. There is no choice.”
I heard what he said and I don’t know why but it didn’t really shock me much. I think my father was right. It was in our blood. Not to enjoy the killing but to know the killing was necessary.
My father continued, “This a lot to take in, and there will be much more still. For now just know that you are my son, you are the future of this family, and I am proud of you. Never forget this day and remember me and my words whenever you find your work hard to do.”
That was the day I became who I was always meant to be. It would be a very long time before I would begin my work and I would learn a lot more still just like my father said I would, but I would think back on that day many times. That day I learned what I aways needed to know: The world isn’t what it looks to be, people and animals are not so different, and I am my father’s son.
Author’s note: The plan for this challenge was to post small pieces of fiction that read more like excerpts rather than stories with a true beginning, middle, and end. I think instead, these have turned into something in between, some more, some less. Please bear with me, these are my first attempts at writing fiction. You can find them all under my AtoZ2016 tag.
Featured image via Pacific Southwest Region USFWS