Good Hunting

    After I returned home, I spoke with family over the telephone.  As I’ve said, they live very far away.  My brother had a good weekend, too.  He went with his dogs and his friends north into the mountains and took a deer. 

     “I hope you didn’t torture it,” I said, my voice more shrewish than I intended.  It is hard for me to relate to killing an animal; I’ve never understood his enjoyment of hunting (but to be fair, I’ve never tried it–perhaps I should). 

       He said that he dispatched it quickly and efficiently.  I believe him.  He is a practiced marksman, and serious-minded about guns.  So am I.  We are very different from one another, but not in every way. 

       In my mind’s eye, I picture my young brother folded in the treestand, or sitting in the duck blind with his well-trained dog in the hour before dawn.  He is long-legged and blue-eyed, like me.  He is a man prepared to wait.  He didn’t like college, but there is nothing wrong with his intellect.  My brother is not an aggressive man, but I have to tell you–I wouldn’t fuck with him. 

        We exchanged recent photos.  Sis, he tells me, you’re looking a little bony.  

        You know I don’t drink anymore; I’ve been working out,  I say.

        Nobody likes a quitter, he jokes, but I know that he approves (he doesn’t drink, either).  You’re a rail.  Knock that shit off.  Five more pounds and you’re going (away).  

      That’s not going to happen.  I’m healthy.  Do you remember when (our Mother’s last husband) would bring back a deer and hang it in the garage?

       And it would drive the cat and dog nuts?  Yeah.

       A childhood memory–the deer hanging upside down from the rafters, wrapped in a blanket to its neck.  The huge black eyes, gone blank and dusty, the beautiful face, the mystical antlers almost touching the concrete floor.  To my child’s eye, it looked fantastically wild and incongruous with its setting, surrounded by a car and boxes of Christmas decorations and tools.  It was like he had brought back something exotic and almost fearsome–a shrunken head from Guinea, a monkey’s paw, an African mask–and hung it in the garage.  I was afraid to approach it at first.  It looked like it could spring, suddenly, to life, and it was so much bigger than me. 

      Venison steaks to eat when I go back for Thanksgiving. 

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