A popular night of killing animals is cut short by an unsightly blemish.
It was cold that afternoon when Grandpa and I made our way past Townline Creek over that narrow homemade bridge he built. It was still his land way out back there. I don’t know how far it was from the house, but it seemed like miles. Of course, I was a kid so everything seemed like miles.
The little shack was only about six feet wide at the biggest. Room for a chair, a stove, and a twin-size bed. Grandpa had some old yellow newspaper comics in there, but I got tired of reading those pretty fast.
I watched him build a fire and waited as the shack got warm. Grandpa took off his coat and loaded his rifle.
He opened up the latch on the window facing across the creek where a pile of apples lie rotting.
You never knew what as gonna be there. Could be deer, black bear, grouse. I had my small compound bow along with me, but there wasn’t any sense in it. I only had practice arrows. If I wanted to shoot anything I was gonna have to use Grandpa’s thirty-ought six.
It was the first day of rifle season so he wanted a buck.
Where I come from people take hunting season seriously. It’s like a national holiday or something. Most people wouldn’t want a kid along either unless they already got their buck for the year.
Grandpa was in his eighties. Maybe he figured he shot enough deer.
We waited as the sky got dark.
I had a weird mole on my neck that I started picking at. It was ugly. Every time I looked in the mirror I had to see it and it was driving me nuts.
I scraped my fingernail hard across it, felt a gush of something warm in my hand.
Putting my fingers up to the light by the stove, I could see the darkness running down past my wrist into the cuff of my jacket.
My shirt underneath was getting wet.
“Grandpa, I think I’m bleeding.”
He set the gun in the corner and picked up a flashlight.
Nodding gravely, he began packing up our things.
I could feel my jacket getting wetter and wetter with blood. I started to panic. Maybe I clawed down to an artery or something and I was gonna die right there in the woods. My throat made some kind of sound. Like a deer gurgling and choking on its own death.
“Go on, run ahead to the house,” said Grandpa, moving slowly.
I ran, hard.
Back over the bridge, through the wet grass of the field. The coyotes were starting to yip. I could hear a pack of ’em far off to my right and I ran faster. I imagined them smelling my blood and signaling one another to come and get me. One coyote wasn’t anything, but a whole pack of ’em could take me down easy.
I knew there were wolves out there too, bob cats, cougars, and I was sitting there bleeding away like a dumbass.
I cursed my stupidity, looking behind every now and again to see if Grandpa had caught up with me.
I finally caught sight of the smoke from Grandma’s chimney. The scent of frying meat hit my nostrils and I ran faster, breath coming in bursts of white steam in the cold night air.
I just about tore the door off its hinges.
Grandma jumped, her eyes wide at my bloody coat, face, hands.
“Are you shot?” she croaked.
I shook my head and peeled the sticky layers off me, feeling the hard crusted scab that had started to form on my neck.
“I think it was a blood mole,” I sniffed, snorting up a stream of snot that was running down my upper lip. “I picked at it too much.”
She nodded and handed me a plate of venison. Last year’s deer.