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The Hunt


Paul Arnold

The doe grazed quietly. It dipped itís head and pulled the soft grass chewing, looking left and right, as if watching for a predator. Itís simple beauty was surprising, and a welcome addition to the cold morning.

The hunter watched the deer through the scope. It was graceful, itís muscles strong and elegant. His mouth became filled with saliva again, and he swallowed it down. The thought of meat, after all these months, had seemed almost an impossibility. Now, all that remained, was to gently squeeze the trigger, and perform the rite of the cut, something that had become holy to him.

He watched the deer.

His finger tightened briefly, but he pulled it away, slowly and gently. The muscles in his arms protested, and his brain screamed in outrage.

But he held.

The wind blew faintly through the trees, and the deer, raised her head, looking around more cautiously. He tensed, waiting for it to bound away as it caught his scent, but she bent down again as the breeze died away.

It was just before sunrise, but the sun lit up the horizon in colors of blue and pink. He thought of cotton candy at the carnival, buttered popcorn, the sweet smell of funnel cakes and corn dogs, of candied apples and childrenís delighted squeals of joy, and their screams of terror, so quickly banished when the ride was over.

He watched the deer.

A brief squeeze of the trigger, he told himself. Just three pounds, and you can have meat for the rest of the month, at least the rest of the month, if not more. His mouth worked the saliva, he could almost taste the salt.

The sun broke between the mountain peaks, and he watched in silence. Power lines skirted above him, silent now, and weathered, looking like fingers of a primitive god, reaching to the Heavens.

He breathed through his mouth, as the sun warmed his cheeks, and worked on melting away the mist on the ground.

It was good. Spring was here, and the weather was glorious. He bent back to his rifle.

He watched the deer.

She still grazed, silent, peaceful, a wonderful creature, taking simple pleasure in a morning meal, perhaps to return to a new yearling, to watch and protect it, while her buck roamed his kingdom, the domain of the dead.

A gentle squeeze of the trigger was all it would take. It wouldnít do to pull it, a light squeeze would suffice.

And there would be meat again.

He sighed, and brought the rifle down. The doe, which stood only a few dozen yards away, heard his clothes as they rubbed against his skin, and her head jerked right. She stared at the man.

He watched the deer.