Monday, December 1, 2008

harold the hunter

Harold shot himself in the head on the night of the second snowfall of the season. Already, the midnight air was swarming with sirens, distantly far off and slightly muffled by the cold.

The finality of what he did was not his intention.

He'd put the kids to bed and kissed his wife, his second, once on the lid of each closed eye. Then he'd gone to the basement to move a load of laundry into the dyer.

The gun that did it was one he got from Uncle Ron years before, when he was 14 and enrolled in hunter's ed classes.

Uncle Ron was the main reason Harold got into the deer hunting in the first place. He was the consummate outdoorsman. The kind of guy who wears camouflaged clothes wherever he goes, year round, unselfconsciously, proudly even.

Ron neither smoked nor drank, so when it wasn't deer hunting season, after sun lapsed behind the horizon, he spent his time in his pick-up truck with his Maglite, driving slowly along the rural roads, shining for deer. He loved watching them like that, frozen and statuesque, their eyes glowing sharply in the light.

Uncle Ron had died several years earlier. Something with his lungs. Harold tried to not think of it, so the details were blurring from disuse.

After loading the dryer, hopelessly lost in other thoughts, Harold slammed the space above his temple and below his hairline into the edge of the heavy oak gun rack that sat at the bottom of the stairs.

In the years since Uncle Ron died, Harold had hunted less and less. It became so rare, in fact, that he'd thought about pawning off his hunting gear and guns. But something always stopped him. Harold never called himself sentimental, but when he really thought of it, he didn't know what else it could be.

Harold pulled out his first gun, and with his calloused finger, stroked the trigger, as if it was some genie's lantern and all he wanted was to get those times back.

The whole house shook.

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