A story by Mark Joseph Kevlock
The gun proved a heavy burden as years accumulated. The Orange Men scouted the woods less often. This journey, Grandpa felt, would be the last. He had to return to Alden Station.
The power lines towered above him, rationing out the energy of our lives. Grandpa had not marked a new trail in many winters. Food came from the supermarket now.
Uphill he clambered, above the city-spread. Clouds lent perspective shadows to the high school, the ball field, the churchyard. This was air Grandpa could breathe.
Single-file marched the Orange Men’s procession. Etiquette dictated that branches be held for the man walking behind. Grandpa had not led for two decades. There might have been a groove worn into his shoulder, where the barrel rested against. His body defied his will in many ways. But his legs still carried him, ready or not.
Grandpa came upon the narrow valley where his quarry ran. Elegant as ever they were, without wasted motion. Had he ever been thought of as so? Bullets collided in his pocket. Rainwater wore new canals alongside the trail. The bugs had all died.
He used to wear dapper suits, ride the train from Alden Station into town. The tracks had since been overgrown like boyish fantasies and could no longer be seen. The gun slid a little, down. Earflaps muffled sounds that used to ring clear.
The treestand sat like a permanent outpost to some, having existed at least, oh, a grandson’s lifetime by now. Suspenders chaffed a spine no longer erect, bent double sometimes when no one was looking. Liver spots replaced hair. Memories replaced the making of them.
Grandpa took pride that he never stumbled. His eyes, knowing where to look, were still the first to see. Leaping they came, over boulders the Ice Age had carelessly strewn. The Orange Men’s breath held as one. Triggers needed to be pulled.
Grandpa, fearing he would achieve accuracy, did not aim. His shots went nowhere they were supposed to. Murder was no way to mark his ending.
Creatures fell. Orange Men descended upon them. These men had bellies hungry for soup, familial warmth. Dusk brought its ancientness to their surroundings.
Carcasses were secured in trunks, upon rooftops. Grandpa dragged no flesh save his own. He could easily make Alden Station by nightfall.
This work was featured in our spring/summer 2020 issue.