Short Story: A Perfectly Pathetic Predator

by on February 1st, 2015
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Throughout my “career” as a writer, I always felt honesty, simple wordage, that is not using a 25-letter word when a five-letter job would do the trick, and a down-home style was the key to reaching people. I don’t mean simply with the magazine or whatever “vehicle” I was writing in, but “reaching” their hearts, their funny bones or their own memory banks. Somehow reminding them of times they may have shared or spent in the outdoors. To my mind, honesty and not writing “down” to an audience is vital to my satisfaction with myself and to your enjoyment.

But, sometimes, we writers must draw from say, several experiences to get one story, all of which may in fact be dramatized truth but which didn’t in fact happen all in one day. This is such a story and much of it is dramatized truth. The truth of my archery, deer hunting days, now over, would be too difficult to believe. Trust me on that.

And sure, there are some times about which a writer doesn’t care to write for personal reasons, intimate reasons or terribly embarrassing reasons. I spared myself in this piece, but most of it is enhanced truth. I promised myself I just would not expose to my readers that moment in Yonder Wood when I got caught with my pants down by a hunter of the opposite sex. Literally and truthfully. I do know I could clearly hear her laughing as she finally made it over a small knoll just beyond the place where duty had called…

A Perfectly Pathetic Predator

“Just look at your pitiful self! Why you’re without doubt the most pathetic specimen of desirability I’ve ever seen! To think I married you and had the courage to hang in there for twenty-three years! Had I known you’d eventually flip your lid, why…” The words of a loving wife?

Yes. But I stood there unmoved by her calloused outburst. As a monument of sheer masculinity, before her in my most recent, rather small, investment. One that cost little more than the furniture in our living room. The investment which cost me a mere 18% APR interest for a paltry two years? The complete battle array of a real-life Orion the Hunter. The lavish, deceiving garb of the archer which, to my simple mind, made me symbolic of the ultimate male-even though my loving wife had suddenly become a current day Artemis? But then, she’s the same gal who thought monogamy was a type of wood…

My hair was packed and slicked down with a rather pungent mixture of top soil and clay. Protruding from this concoction I’d extracted from the breast of Mother Earth, were branches of mountain laurel with just the right touch of multi-flora rose stems for the total effect. These would surely add to the most natural guise even though they were a bit on the aggressive side.

My face was splendiferous in its coats of green, black and brown and very greasy theatrical makeup. Leaving just the whites of my eyes to reveal what actually lay behind this disguise-the confident sneer of the ultimate predator. There would have been more had I been able to get something that would adhere to my eyeball whites, but no. They were simply too moist.

My neck wore a goodly amount of the same makeup and this natural blending carried well down into my chest area. Just in case it got hot in Yonder Wood and I was forced by discomfort to open my first few shirt buttons. I left no stone unturned.

My shirt was of a common camouflage. Leafy pattern to be sure, but I thought it cunningly strategic to staple on a number of real oak leaves, again, for the natural effect. According to my cajoling wife, “You look like the grand marshal of the National Arbor Day parade!” Perhaps. But I was soundly content with the fact and certain knowledge that I would sooner or later send forth a killing arrow into the vitals of a whitetailed buck.

Britches matched the shirt pretty much. But the belt I’d fashioned from wild-grape vine concerned me a touch, perhaps because I felt it contrasted too much with everything else? I felt I could live with that if the deer would and so, I kept it wet and viable for the intended purpose-to hold up my pants. I did, for the sake of those newer to the sport, find tying a knot in the vine rather difficult and a bow with loops is totally out of the question!

My boots were a remnant of Vietnam war days. Half camo on the upper part, and leather on the bottom. I pondered that shiny, black leather area for the longest time, thinking whitetails are much smarter than Charley was (VC) and finally decided to have my wife tackle and solve the problem for me. “Honey! Would you please sew me a couple of booties out of that green blouse material you bought to slip over my boots?” That completed, I had her tack on two slab-like sections of old, worn-out snow tire I’d found in the garage. Cut to my size, I told her, “Sweetheart, if I’m gonna be a furtive archer, I’d best have good and quiet traction material on my feet!” Enter a snicker here from someone’s wife…

My hands were concealed with two green, rubber gloves I’d salvaged from under our kitchen sink. Upon these, I painted a matching leaf pattern and went so far as to paint on several acorns in burnt tan; and complete those with little acorn nut caps. No sir! No stone unturned…

Ah yes, my bow! A thing of high-tech beauty to say the very least. This thing has more wheels than a garbage truck and more lines here and there than I cared to count. They crisscrossed and reminded me very much of my Interstate highway map. Attached to this one cord among the multitude were two little rubber ditties that looked like a species of Arachnid, or spider, for the sake of those not biologically inclined. To the avid bass anglers? They resemble jig skirting. Whatever, these constantly-dancing little items function (so I was told!) as string silencers and at the start I felt they should be sold by the dozen what with cords crisscrossing every which way. As I approached my wife with the aggressive little things she goes haywire even though I tell here, “They’re absolutely harmless, Sweetheart!”

“You’re totally pathetic!” She squealed as she ran from the kitchen. “I swear, absolutely pathetic!” Obvious now where I got the story title?

My sights are of the pin variety, the tips of which are painted in brilliant fluorescent colors. These too, at first were confusing due to the fact that the low pin is used for higher arc or longer distance while the high pin is used for lower arc and shorter distance. Initially, I assumed (hate that word!) the middle one to be a Come-What-May-And-Hope-For-The-Best sight-pin?

I worried not, however. I’d practiced shooting in my back yard for months on end. I just hoped my neighbor, Clyde, didn’t ruin his new lawn mower when he shredded all the stray arrows that sneaked into the root system of his yard. Arrows that completely defied detection as though they were “alive,” very furtive and hiding! Nonetheless, there were but a couple of dozen. Clyde should find them? I tried consoling him with, “Just be careful Clyde, old buddy. They ought to surface with the spring thaw and new grass growth!” A further attempt at comforting my worried neighbor. “Clyde, it could be much worse, ya know? Just thank your lucky stars they weren’t razored broadheads. I know how you enjoy working barefooted in your yard!” Clyde didn’t find that funny and I never got a smile for the verbal effort so, I added the following to determine whether Clyde still retained his usual and simple sense of humor. “Why you tramp on a broadhead with your bare, little tootsies and you’d have to call yourself a toe truck, old buddy!” Nothing from Clyde. “Get it, Clyde? Toe truck? T-O-E truck?” It didn’t work. Clyde just wasn’t smiling but he did manage to ask whether my life insurance was current. And I’m relatively certain he wasn’t asking so he could help me pay the monthly premium…

In the house, my usually intellectual wife, a former school teacher, asked, “Who’s the broad with the nice head you and Clyde were speaking of?” I declined explanation as at the moment I could clearly hear Clyde screaming.

“I ain’t had a lucky star since you moved into the neighborhood, Robin Hood!” Good old Clyde, witty as always.

Now then, back to my stuff. My quiver was of the quicky type about which my wife made snide remarks, bitter, sarcastic in nature. Granted, when I initially saw how this outfit who makes the quiver spelled quicky, I was a bit skeptical with regard to the intellect of archers. Apparently it didn’t run rampant in “our” ranks? Quicky being spelled, K-w-i-k-e-e. Regardless, it too was decorated well in camo paint and securely held the arrows in place.

I positioned the release/trigger mechanism in the nocking area and my loving wife came up with yet another comment. “Boy you’ll need that!” She said as I explained its function, “You’re not nimble-fingered enough to button your own shirts let alone hold that skinny little arrow in place!” I told myself to just ignore such mistaken perceptions regardless of how close to the truth they were and went on about my business.

All in all, excluding the abundant labors of my loving spouse, with the possible total destruction of Clyde’s lawn mower, practice time of several hundred hours and driving time to scout faraway scrapes and potential stand locations, I had about $1,395 wrapped up in my stuff-give or take a few (okay 10 or 12!) twenty-dollar bills? But, I was ready! The hay bales holding my targets were reduced to mere piles of fine alfalfa grain in the back yard, however, one thing remained bothersome to me, being the type who deplores loose ends. The loose ends in this case being in the form of some 9 or 10 target arrows protruding from Clyde’s dormer.

For love nor money, I couldn’t figure a way to get to them without getting caught. And I doubt Clyde would ever have noticed had most of the starlings in the neighborhood not taken a liking to them, using them more often than not as an early morning and late afternoon perch! Clyde developed this terribly negative attitude about the cute little birds just because they whitewashed an entire side of his house. The perches, of course, making this habit of theirs rather convenient and those directly above Clyde’s back door seemed especially annoying as it seems the host of birds ruined two of Clyde’s favorite hats, not to mention his boss’s 20X Stetson that got “decorated” one morning. Clyde’s language and threats may have gotten him into serious trouble that day with the National Audubon Society. Lucky for him, shooting within the town limits is illegal (for me too, according to Clyde!).

Opening day found me in my stand well before daylight. It was raining, but I enjoy hunting in the rain since it drives scent into the ground and all, however it is tough on makeup format. Most of mine left my face, ran down my neck front and back, then down my chest and stomach, neatly depositing itself in a marble-like mixture into the depths of my belly button and, not having any lint in there to absorb some of the runoff, it continued downward. It goes without saying where that makeup ended up that cascaded down the back side. But no matter, I was hunting and happier than a pig in slop…

About an hour into the hunt, the first deer appeared. All alone was this plump little six-pointer (eastern count) and my arrow was nocked and ready. I drew it to my cheek, held steady and the whisper of the speeding arrow barely broke the silence of the drizzly morning. At least until it and three others I shot slammed into a tree some 15-feet behind the little buck. He simply milled around, then headed off into the bush. If I correctly recall, all four shots were taken with the “Come-What-May-Pin?” Obviously, the wrong one!

About another two hours had passed when I noticed five deer picking their way into the same shooting “lane.” Same smooth draw this time, good hold then, “pssst,” went the broadhead through the forgiving air then “kerplunk,” into the ground some 10-feet in front of the troop of deer. They were out of there in a hurry with the 8-point leading! I was totally bewildered and aloud I thought, “Must be all these sight pins are of the come what may variety?” I took an “Oh Well” attitude, knowing there were plenty of deer out there and they were seemingly active. I just prayed that at least one buck was less intelligent than I…

After lunch, I settled in again. After a short time waiting, lo and behold another buck, a loner, apparently winded my doe-in-heat scent and was nosing his way right toward me but his curiosity could have been triggered by the fact that I’d drenched my attire in the stench of rotting apples for several weeks in the confines of a black garbage bag? Whatever, he was coming! Hell-bent for amorous activity which, at the moment, made me thankful I was off the ground and in the tree! His head down, seemingly unaware of my presence, I thought, “Just one thing on that Romeo’s mind.” I then slid the arrow across the rest and to my cheek. The release felt good as the arrow sliced its way through the rain, then “choonk!” A hit! The buck hunched up then bolted for cover, however just seconds after he’d gone, I heard him pile up not too far away. I knew he was down and dead, for the arrow had buried itself to the fletchings just behind the right shoulder.

I left my bow aboard the shooting platform of the stand and in my haste to get to the buck, I fell some 15-feet to the ground (where else?) buttocks down! The imprint of said incident remains there today!

Sitting there rather stunned, I heard then saw another hunter coming my way. With no time to compose myself or position my body into other than the sprawling manner in which it was, I hurriedly grabbed a granola bar from my shirt pocket with the hope he’d believe I was merely having a relaxing snack. “Mornin’,” I said, “just figured I’d have me a relaxin’ snack here. Little bite t’eat for energy, right?”

The hunter, half smiling asked, “Izzat your buck I just passed over yonder?”

“Yep, he’s mine alright! Just figured I’d have me a bite before the chores.” I said, chuckling, “Heh, heh…”

“Mister,” he said, “you must be awful dadgummed hungry cause I hain’t never seen anyone come out of a tree quite that fast!” He then walked away, lengthening the distance between us when I heard him holler. “Hey! There’s several arrows in this here tree over here! They yours?”

“Yeah! Yeah, they are!” I answered red-faced.

He bellowed back, “Nice group but ya oughtta do your practicing at home!”

I yelled back at him, “Thanks! I’ll remember that!” But, I don’t think he heard me over his raucous laughter?

I cleaned up the buck, made my usual sacrificial offering to the hunting gods, took him to the truck and loaded him for the trip home. I drove literally awash in ecstasy having found this new (to me) and exciting method of hunting and being successful first time out. Orion, I thought, eat your heart out, buddy!

Clyde saw me pulling into the drive (he always did!) and my buck was highly visible through the open tailgate which I must have forgotten to close? Immediately, he ran into his garage. I felt, perhaps, he was envious of my proficiency with the complicated compound? Into the house I went, happier than an osprey at a sushi party!

“Hi Honey, I’m home!” Apparently she’d seen my buck protruding from the truck and it didn’t impress her? I learned I was in direct competition with Robert Redford in a TV movie so, needless to say who lost the battle for my wife’s undivided attention. I always wondered why women liked a guy with surfer-like hair and moles but so be it. On his cheeks yet! Sure, he’s pretty, but who wants a pretty man? Most women, that’s who!

She did find the decency to acknowledge my being alive at least since she saw the buck from the living room window, “Just get the poor thing to the processor before it spoils!” That was all she said. No generous congratulations or “atta boys.” Nothing! Which brings you to a clear understanding of my undiluted hatred for Redford! I’d been walking in his shadow for too many years now.

Outside, I could hear Clyde. He’d busied himself with feverish, incessant pounding, nailing what appeared to me to be sheet metal panels to his dormer. “Whatchya doin’ there, good neighbor? Did ya get a gander at the buck I arrowed?”

“Yeah, yeah, I saw it! Which is precisely the reason I’m protecting this dormer with heavy gauge sheet metal! I just know darn good and well you’re gonna be back at it again next fall after getting that buck and this here metal ought to serve as good protection against your many stray arrows. And right now, I’m hopin’ some of them eventually glance back toward you!” Good old Clyde, loves to joke.

I picked up the wrapped venison the following morning. When I brought it into the house, my wife asked, “How much venison in the little box, Tonto?” This reference to a good Native American, one Jay Silverheels, I felt was due to my archery expertise? But I should have known better…

“Thirty-eight pounds Sweetheart!” Budget-minded as she always is, she whipped out her trusty calculator from the pocket of her apron so fast it would have embarrassed Pat Garret or Wyatt Earp, then went into statistics at about Mach 1!

“Let’s see now, you put about $1,395 on our credit card for all your archery junk, right?”

“Yes Dear. Gee your hair looks marvelous today!”

“Nevermind that!” she snapped. “Okay, thirty-eight into one-thousand, three-hundred and ninety-five dollars, right?”

“I think so, Sweetie?”

“Well, Tonto, that comes to $36.71 per pound we have invested in that meat!”

Defensively, I came back with, “Yes, but ya can’t buy the stuff. So what then is it worth? Stuff is priceless, that’s what!”

“Look buddy,” she said staring at me like I were a known felon, “lobster tails are just about $19.99 per pound right now, so how can you even try to justify $36.71 a pound for venison?”

“Okay, look at it this way, Sweetie,” I said in a state of domestic terror, “I won’t have to spend hardly anything next year! ‘Cept maybe for a few broadheads or so! Besides, I’m getting’ pretty good at this archery game. Why you wouldn’t believe the group I shot into a tree the other day from my stand while I was (I clear my throat here!) practicing! Why some stranger, a hunter, even made a comment regarding how good my group was!” She just walked away, shaking her head in negative directions and I know I detected a snicker under her breath. Anyway, hurt pride and all, I headed for the sporting goods store.

Wayne, the clerk and owner of the Triple-D greeted me. “Hi, Joe! Can I help you find something?” I saw something suspicious (perhaps humorous?) in his eyes.

“Yes, Wayne. What might you have in the way of a ground blind in camo? You know, something from which I can hunt from the ground next deer season rather than climbing high into a tree? And, while you’re at it, is there such a thing as a tool for removing broadheads from trees available?” Wayne laughs at this inquiry.

“Step right over here, Joe. Got this new broadhead extractor in yesterday. Only $89.95 too! But it’ll sure save a lot of expense, you know, pay for itself in short order? And that camo blind over there? Just $289.50, but hey, didn’t I just sell you a nice tree stand last summer?”

My face warmed with blood. “Yes.”

“What’s the problem, Joe, you don’t like it?”

“Yes Wayne, I like it alright!” Don’t you just hate nosey, rather pushy store clerks?

Then Wayne began laughing as though he’d just remembered some hilarious joke of the recent past!

“Oh! Now I know! Why you’re the guy old Jake was telling me about the other day. That was you he saw diving butt first out of a tree! Said it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen!”

“Did he also tell you of the arrows I shot into an oak tree?”

“Yep. That’s precisely why I ordered in this broadhead puller! Figured whoever it was would be lookin’ for one.”

“Did you by chance happen to tell my wife about my archery equipment expenditures?”

Wayne’s face now reddened with a rush of extra blood, “Why yes. Yes I did. She phoned telling me she was conducting some sort of study on the direct cost comparison of seafood and beef to the overall cost of venison. No harm done, I hope?”

“No Wayne, not really. Say, does the video store in the plaza have any Robert Redford tapes for sale?”

I went to the plaza, bought her several video tapes starring Mr. Redford then brought them home to her. My broadhead puller and ground blind were tucked beneath a tarpaulin in the bed of the truck. As I handed her the Redford tapes, all she said was, “Thanks Tonto! And even though I do love you, you’re still helplessly pathetic! Why, paying $36.71 for venison!”

I walked away and under my breath whispered, “That trip I just made to Triple-D Sporting Goods just drove the price up $9.99 per pound.” It was at that moment I was startled from my meditative state by a hideous clattering coming from Clyde’s yard. Apparently, he was making a final lawn cut for the year? And sure enough, as I peeked through the window, I could see his ambitious effort was bound to drive the cost of venison up another few bucks per pound! I could tell by the fragmented arrows flying from his mower discharge hold, hitting his garage and house with tremendous velocity! “Maybe my wife is right,” I thought, “Maybe this whole archery hunting idea is pathetic?”

I walked around the neighborhood dejected; feeling alone in the world with my love for archery and the romance of its primordial beginning. The burden seemed even heavier as I saw the “Safety Zone” signs all the neighbors had placed in their yards; unsightly such as they are anywhere! I was able to handle this pretty well but when old Jim Spencer came out to prune his fruit trees in full fluorescent orange attire, I was crushed. This was perhaps the proverbial straw that broke this camel’s back? I headed home, silently contemplating how much money I’d lose selling off my once-used archery gear?

The yard and general areas around my house and Clyde’s seemed uncommonly quiet. The lights were off in our kitchen and I noticed that Clyde had put his mower away without finishing off his lawn. Of course his mower may have been unable to take anymore punishment but, to me, something seemed terribly amiss?

I stepped into the kitchen and switched on the light at which time I was startled by two archers standing there in full “battle array.” “Welcome back, Tonto!” the two screamed in unison. It was my loving wife and tolerant neighbor, Clyde.

“Clyde and I figured we loved ya enough to join you in this crazy and primitive endeavor of yours! What do you think, Tonto?”

“What do I think?” I said, my eyes tearing in happiness, “What do I think? What do I honestly think? One, the price of venison will climb to an all-time high but so will my mood in the deer woods from this moment on! We’ll be the perfect team, predatorily speaking, that is! Thanks a lot you guys!”

My wife added a note of happy news, “Honey,” she said, “I’d like you to know I returned the Redford tapes and with the money I got back, I put a meat grinder and some fine butchering knives on lay-away. I thought that may help cut down on the per-pound cost of venison?”

“You’re absolutely right, Sweetheart. And it may also cut down on my time spent in Yonder Woods, huh? Let the new honeymoon begin, Mrs. Tonto!”

Then Clyde broke in with, “Yeah, right! Your second honeymoon will just be starting while my marriage goes to the wolves. My wife picked up those Redford tapes today before they lost the warmth of your wife’s hands!”

“Clyde, ol’ buddy, there ain’t nuttin’ like a fall from a high treestand to take your mind off such trivial civilized matters!” Clyde just smiled but his expression seemed to ask, “You sure of that?”

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