Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Heart of a Man - Part II

Part I - ending:
Even with a loaded gun, David still had trouble getting his feet to move further down the dark pathway.

Part II

Soon he heard the gurgling of the creek that signaled his arrival at the prime squirrel hunting area. David moved himself into position beneath one of the decaying, hollow, hardwood trees that lined both sides of the creek. His listened patiently for the tell-tale chatter of the gray squirrel. The darkness faded with the rising of the sun, and David’s surroundings became clearly visible. Suddenly the silence of the swamp was broken by a bedlam of chatter. David’s keen brown eyes turned skyward as they caught a slight movement on a leafless limb of a nearby oak. The fluffy tail of the fat squirrel moved slowly back and forth in a motion similar to that of a metronome, as he barked indignantly at those who had invaded his private play ground during the night. David’s muscles tightened as he slowly raised himself and lifted the heavy shotgun to his shoulder. His thumb caught the exposed hammer and pulled it back into the cocked position with a slight click. He gripped the large gun as firmly as possible, and planted both feet firmly into the spongy soil. His arm extended full length down the dark oil stained stock, and his forefinger stretched to make a slight arch around the trigger. David moved the barrel so that the silver bead at the end was centered on the squirrel’s body. His heart began to pound furiously, his face took on a powdered appearance, and shiny beads of sweat appeared on his brow. His finger nervously began to pressure the trigger. The guttural roar of the shotgun ruptured the early morning serenity of the swamp. David struggled to retain his balance as the barrel spewed forth its contents and arched skyward. His ears rang, his shoulder throbbed, and his nostrils were filled with the strong sulphur smell of burning gun powder. Beneath the tree, David could see a writhing lump of gray fur. He moved quickly toward his prize, pushing aside the underbrush as he went. He stopped and gazed down at the suffering creature in sickening horror. The wounded squirrel’s teeth were bared in pain, and his eyes focused momentarily on the creature that loomed over him. His hind legs moved in quick staccato jerks, and dark red drops of blood oozed from the bristled fur that covered his body. David’s stomach retched, and twisted. He wanted to cry. The squirrel twisted again and stirred the dry, spongy leaves. David knew that the job must be finished. He had seen his father do it dozens of times. He knew the suffering had to be stopped, but now it seemed so brutal. He leaned his gun up against a tree, and extended his trembling hand down, and grasped the warm underside of the squirrel. He could feel the tiny thumping beat of the heart, and see the rise and fall of the miniature chest as it expanded against his fingers. He knew if he was going to do it he couldn’t wait any longer. Carefully he placed the small head on the exposed root of a nearby oak. David’s jaw tightened. There was no time for second thoughts as he raised his boot and slammed it forcefully down causing the oak to resound with a muffled thud. He glanced at the squirrel once more, sighed, put the squirrel in his pouch, shouldered his gun, and headed home.

Youth is the period in which a man can be hopeless. The end of every episode is the end of the world. But, the power of hoping through everything, the knowledge that the soul survives its adventures, that great inspiration comes to the middle-aged. G. K. Chesterton