HEARD THE UNMISTAKABLE CRACK of a .22 and then a crash as a well-fed grey squirrel fell from its tree.
I saw Harold in his backyard, reclined in a chaise-lounge, beer in a can cozy, rifle across his lap – I gave him an informal salute and he raised his beer and took a long, satisfied drink.
It was nice to see that I was not the only one on the block who had been thinking about sniping the little bastards that had begun to overrun our yards.
When I initially suggested it to KT, she tersely refused, if for no other reason than not wanting a gun in the house.
“But I have three back in Wisconsin,” I said.
“Well, keep ‘em there,” she replied.
“And I have at least two more that I’m inheriting.”
“Sell ‘em!” she suggested, and the insult cut deep.
The rifles held far too much sentimental value. To sell them would be like selling my own grandfather, the man who had bought them for me, and who was the closest thing to a father I had ever known.
Granted, it had been nearly fifteen years since I last picked up a gun, but the point of hunting, for me, had never been to actually kill anything, but the time spent alone with the one and only man I ever, truly, loved, and I rarely fired my rifle.
My first kill, in fact, had little to nothing to do with my grandfather, but rather was a direct result of the coercion of my uncle, my grandfather’s brother, who was less interested in things such as bonding and the beauty of nature than bloodshed.
While at a family picnic, my uncle spotted a groundhog and, before I knew it, a rifle had been placed in my hands.
My grandfather told me not to do it, but his brother urged me on, and so I pulled the trigger, blowing off the back of the groundhog’s skull.
My uncle sicked his dog on the groundhog’s warm carcass and, for the remainder of lunch, we ate our potato salad and bratwursts while my uncle’s dog lapped at the wound on the groundhog’s head and crunched on its bones.
“I hate you!” KT hissed at a squirrel no more than three feet away from us and threw a rock that failed to deter it from digging in our yard.
In the distance, Howard raised his gun and, again, I saluted – the sign for him to shoot.