At dawn the hunter dons an orange vest, black and green pants, and sets out to track his prey. He’s hoping for a big buck, maybe a twelve-pointer, but he’ll take a doe if he has to. A mile away, a mother and baby sit at the kitchen table. She feeds him strained peaches, strained peas, everything pastel colored, soft to the palate.
The hunter sees movement in the trees, a flash of brown, a white tail’s flame. He fires. The bullet misses the prey and flies the distance to a stop sign, bounces off the metal, changes course. The sound of shattering glass is quick, too sudden for the woman to turn, and the bullet enters her left temple, where a major artery flows wide and close to the skin’s surface. The baby, surprised, waits for the spoon.
The hunter chases the flashing white tail through the trees, blackberry brambles slap his face and an irregular pattern of blood blooms on his cheeks. He shoots again. The leaping form falls. He stumbles up to the dead doe. Nearby, a fawn hides in the grass. The hunter drags his prize back to the truck.
In the house, the baby cries, then falls asleep. His mother’s head, on the table, is surrounded by a halo of blood. In the forest, the fawn stays still but is taken by wolves. In town, the man dresses the doe and sits down to a venison dinner, his first of the season.
William Reichard is a writer, editor, and educator. His fifth collection of poetry, Two Men Rowing Madly Toward Infinity, will be published by Broadstone Books in 2016.