The Deer Hunt
The morning was cold and motionless with a thick layer of frost that covered the long, bending grass of the field. In the headlights of the truck it sparkled like a sea of gems waiting to be plucked by the passer by. The truck rolled to a stop where the field ended and the woods began. The engine shut off and the world went dark in the moonless pre dawn.
Jack sat in the quiet darkness of the passenger seat with heavy eyelids. He was not used to rising this early any day of the week, much less a Saturday. The two of them sat in the darkness of the still warm cab and Jack felt his chin tilt toward his chest as he dozed off. He was unaware of how long he slept in that position, it could have been a minute or an hour as far as he was concerned, before his father roused him.
“O.K., Let’s go.”
The words were not spoken loudly, but in the quiet of the truck they made Jack jump from his sleep with a start. He thought he heard a soft chuckle escape from his father, but he was not sure. Jack blinked his eyes to remove the sleep from them and looked around to gain his bearings. The sun was not yet up, but the first hint of a red glow spread across the eastern horizon and made it possible to discern shapes.
Jack’s father opened the driver’s door and the dome light came on. Though not that bright by most standards, it was still harsh enough to cause Jack to squint against it for a few moments. He allowed his eyes to adjust before he opened his own door to the morning cold.
He stepped into the chilly, windless air and reached back inside the cab for his rifle, attentive not to touch the blued steel, but only the wooden stock. He carefully loaded the firearm with the shells from his vest pocket, then cradled the rifle in his arms like a sleeping child and walked around the truck to the driver’s side in time to see his father ratchet a shell into the chamber of the rifle he carried.
His father looked at him in the dim light. “You got one in the chamber?”
“Well, go ahead then.”
Jack pulled the slide of his rifle and the familiar “Chk-Chk” sound told him the chamber was loaded and ready to fire.
“Safety on?” His father asked.
Jack felt around the outside rim of the trigger guard with a probing finger. “Yes Sir.”