CONTENT WARNING: GUNS, MENTION OF ANIMAL DEATH, VIOLENCE, TRAUMA AND ABUSE, IMPLICATIONS OF DOUBTING REALITY.
Your father takes you hunting in late fall
Heavy animal furs draped over both your shoulders
Almost too much for the light weather.
Your weak legs cause you to stall
So he tells you not to be an inconvenience any further
And he crouches, left hand on the leather
Of the old shotgun that had found its way to him.
In the underbrush you wait for hours
But no creature is there, not a single sound.
Your father stretches, then retracts every limb
You fear that his mood might have soured
And he tells you a story while you wait around.
He holds up his right hand, missing three fingers,
And says he lost them to a bear attack.
He scolds you when you lose your balance.
Many summers past and many winters
Ago, many years and solstices back
Your father and his siblings honed their talents
In the art of hunting. There was a great
Bear in the forest, and the bear was his father.
The bear taught them to hunt and to survive.
However, kindness was a difficult trait
For the bear. You decide you would rather
Not hear the rest of the story. Your father strives
To continue: Once when he and his siblings were playing
And the bear caught them in the childish act
The blame was placed onto your father as the eldest
And the bear, despite your father’s praying
Decided to test his strength and attacked.
You try to cover your ears. In a turn of events that had not felt just
Your father lost his three fingers, but he was incensed
That his younger brother suffered no repercussions.
With his fingers still bleeding stumps
And the bear still bloodthirsty from the rich scent
Of meat, he grabbed his brother and threw him, both sons
Screaming, one in anger, one in fear, both trapped like helpless pups.
The brother lost his arm that day, your father finishes his tale
And he laughs a joyful laugh at the boy’s demise.
You do not like your uncle very much
But even so your face grows pale
At the cruelty your father makes no effort to hide.
Seeing the fear on your face, nauseous like you’ve been punched
Your father’s face contorts to anger
Hunting knife driven into your thigh
And blood dripping onto dry leaves.
But when you look back down at the dagger
There was nothing there. Your trousers are dry
And clean. Your father looks at you with concern as you fiddle with your sleeves.
When you get back home, having shot a deer,
Your father’s hunting knife was on the table the whole time.
Your thigh, though never wounded, still aches
And pounds, your blood rushing all you hear.
Your fingers bleed from how long you spend cleaning the grime
And you doubt your own mind as you patch up your scrapes.
27 February, 2021