She woke me in the middle of the night. I was crying in my sleep. I don’t know why. I don’t remember the dream, but I almost never do. The disassociation of holding an emotion like grief and all of its effects without knowing where it came from is hard. You can’t understand it. You can’t reason it out. You’re just left with the emotional hangover.
Sleep has been evading me these last few days. I’m on the alert way more than normal. Broke the rifles out for function checks and lube. Unloaded the magazines, cleaned the springs, wiped down the bullets, reloaded. Checked my sling. My optics. Unloaded.
Went to window. SUV at one hundred yards, well inside maximum point blank for the 165 grain bullet. I drew down on the driver, leading him by a few feet, exhaled, felt the break of the trigger and the dry clack of the firing pin.
Would have been a good shot.
I repeated the ritual on the next six cars and their drivers. Haven’t lost my touch. Fucking psycho, yet pacifying. A lot of control comes back to your life when you’re the one with the gun. I put them away. Haven’t fired anything with bullets in almost five years. Too many fucking people around here.
I was twelve when I got my first rifle. Remington single shot .22.
“You kill it, you eat it. Understand?”
And that was the extent of my weapons safety instruction. It stuck with me well enough. Years later I was back from the war and hunting show shoe hare. I traipsed across the windswept Wyoming tundra at midnight, watching for the gleam of the moon in the animals’ eyes. I would take aim and put a bullet where the shine was, perforating the brain and leaving the hide intact, then I would walk out to the dead animal and drag it back to my path and throw it in the snowbank to cool down.
All rabbit burrows are infested with fleas, but if you leave the carcass in snow for twenty minutes the body temperature cools down enough that the fleas jump off. I would hunt on down the trail, and as I reached eight or ten rabbits I decided to turn around and bag them all up.
I tracked back and found the last rabbit I had killed missing from where I left it. In its place was a pool of freezing blood and red drag marks with the tracks of the predator alongside. I ran back up the path to where I had left the next one. Same story.
This time I looked out across the field and saw the fox running perpendicular to my position a hundred yards out with the rabbit in his jaws. I drew down and fired. The animal flipped and fell to the ground. I ran out on my snow shoes and chambered another round. The bullet had blown off the front of the fox’s skull, but he was still snarling at me. I shot him through the brain and sparks shot up off the rocks beneath him.
I was instantly struck with sadness.
You kill it, you eat it. Understand?
I packed up the fox with the rabbits that were left and threw them in the back of the truck and drove home. I tried to eat that thing, but just skinning it made me want to throw up; the smell of the meat was disgusting. I thought about keeping the pelt, then threw the bloodied mess in the trash.
I felt like I had committed a great evil, killing an animal that I would not use for food. Funny how a grown man can’t make exceptions for the rules of childhood. Rules intentionally oversimplified.