Friday, February 15, 2013

February Excerpt: The Offer by Jennifer Hanno

The Offer
Jennifer Hanno

Bob clutched the rifle and considered that this might be a turning point of some kind. He had never been so close to such a great specimen . . . even he could not miss a shot like this. He froze into the background, the cold metal of his rifle burning into his clenched hand. Watching the animal move with majestic grace, he was reminded of the basketball games of his youth, of the strong, young athletes whose fluid movement with the ball seemed a mystery to him as he sat on the bench. 

His grip on the rifle tightened and it seemed as if the animal could sense that imperceptible movement. It lifted its head, suddenly alert and on edge. Yes, this could be a turning point, Bob reasoned, one shot here and he would be the hero of the hunting lodge tonight. They would be telling tales about it for months. This was what Darwin was talking about; this was survival of the fittest. Maybe not actual survival, but social survival, which was more important anyway.

His finger on the trigger, he raised the gun slowly, ever so slowly as he had seen his companions do. It was, after all, the chance of a lifetime. Suddenly, he knew his companions were near. He sensed them even as the animal seemed to become aware of danger. It was now or never, one shot and it would be over and any guilt he may feel would be diminished by the praise of his hunting partners. He could almost see the pictures of him holding the antlers of the dead beast, its eyes a glassy and still window into death.

He could feel the other hunters bearing down on them and he felt more like the prey than the predator. His hand cramped as it held tightly to the instrument that would bring death to one of them and an assertion of manhood to the other. Sweat collected on his brow, his chest tightened. Not too far off, he heard a footstep. The animal heard it, too, but seemed frozen, as though Bob held it immobile in the scope of his gun.

Suddenly, he lowered the rifle.

“Run, you idiot,” he hissed to the majestic beast. “Get out of here.”

Like the bullet that might have been fired from his gun, the buck shot through the woods and out of Bob’s life. Later on, his companions would ask him how he could have missed it. He would make up a story about how he fell asleep, drowsy from the drinking the night before. They would laugh and jest at his expense for some time to come, but he would dish out the mushroom stew he had meticulously prepared and all would be well. He would settle back into the bench.

Ah well, he sighed. He went to the woods so that he could live deliberately, he told himself, as he shivered in the tree stand. With a sigh, he took out the tattered copy of Walden he always carried with him when he went hunting.

If you would like to read more of this article in Empirical, the February issue is now available at your local bookstore and online at our website.

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