Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Shooting Rabbits

It was a hot, sickly day that we drove out to the country to do the deed. I sat in the passenger with my head half out the window, not looking at Dad and wishing that we had my little brother along with us to break up the monotony of the ride. Dad was insistent though, said it was a coming of age thing. Like shaving and fucking. I’d done neither of these things but Dad was making a point and there was no getting around it. The deed would be done and it would be done with just the two of us bearing witness.

After I don’t know how many hours of wind in my face, Dad pulled in to a gravel track and killed the engine. I got out first, eager to get it over with and, to tell the truth, eager to see some action. I’d never held a gun before and when dad opened the boot and handed me the old rifle I was startled by its weight, nearly dropping it. Dad gave me one of his looks and I saw him bite his tongue to stop him snatching back the piece and shoving me back into the car. Instead he took a breath and said “Careful”.

We walked into the field, as silent as we had been in the car. It was a different type of silence now though, tainted with expectation and fear and longing.

Crouching in the dirty stubble, Dad explained how I should line up the sights and then squeeze gently when I was ready. “Give her an OBE”, he said and laughed, “One Between the Ears” and he laughed again before lapsing into a watchful silence, cupping his eyes against the sun.

Before long I saw him extend a forefinger and, following its path, I saw the movement it was pointing to, about two hundred yards from where we were squatted. I pulled up my rifle in a panic, desperate not to disappoint the old man, and peered down the long barrel. As I lined up the little x with the back of her head I felt a sudden twinge of regret. I hadn’t expected her to be so pretty. Crouched naked with her back to me she seemed utterly oblivious as to what was about to happen. I paused a second longer, a second longer than my Dad could contain himself and I turned as he hissed, “do it” between furious teeth. I looked back to see her staring straight at me, stiff at the sound of Dad’s outburst. I closed my eyes and squeezed gently.

Sprinting across the field to where her body lay jumping and twitching in circles, Dad used every swear I knew and some that I didn’t. As we approached her I saw how badly I had missed. The bullet had gone through the side of her neck and blood was pumping up through her mouth and nose with each groan. I’m embarrassed to admit it but even through all the mess I remember looking at her tits in awe. They were the first pair I had ever seen in real life. She looked about my age.

Dad shattered my reverie, snatching the gun from my limp grasp and raised it up to take aim. I saw her look from the barrel to me, her eyes resting on mine a split second before Dad squeezed gently and her head exploded.

He left me standing there as he walked slowly back to the car with the gun, coming back with a shovel grasped in his fist. “I hope you can be trusted with this at least” he said before turning and walking back to wait in the car.

We sat in silence all the way home, Dad peering out at the fading light, while I stared back at my reflection in the window, dusty and sun burnt. The deed was done, at least that was something. It was all part of growing up, of becoming a man. And next time, it would be easier.

Lee Mess

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