My First Published Work


The following short story is my very first published work. It was written for a WWU literature competion and published in The Gadfly. I also had a poem published in that same magazine of budding literary genious, which I’ll share at a later date.

First Kill

1960

Just before dawn … when the Mother of Earth has just passed by, sprinkling everything with a morning dew … that is the best time.

You sit in your blind, gun in hand, waiting for the first honk of the majestic waterfowl overhead. Gramps has taught you well, hasn’t he? Taught you how the old “pump-cannon” should be held, how to sight “by instinct,” with both eyes open, how to “lead” you bird just the right distance.He has taught you the use of chokes to get just the right shot pattern. Gramps has had a lot of experience in his seventy-three years, and he is a good teacher.

You’ve admired Gramps ever since you can remember. Remember when you were only twelve years old? You found him practicing down in the woods behind the barn. That was kind of silly of you, begging him to let you shoot one of his guns. You’re not sorry he gave in though, are you, even if your shoulder did hurt for quite a spell.

Seems like a long time since that day. You’ve learned a lot about guns in the last five years. You’ve shattered many, many clay pigeons on the skeet field. That was good shooting last Friday, you even out-scored Gramps! But you did notice the twinkle in his eye after you tallied up the score. You wonder, don’t you, if Gramps didn’t purposely slip up on that last shot just to make you feel good. If that’s the way it was he was a smashing success. After the shoot, you and he went to the clubhouse and laid plans for this hunting trip.

Gramps is a thorough organizer; he didn’t forget a thing. Too bad that he sprained his ankle last night, he would certainly like to be here now.

It surely is cold isn’t it? Way to go off and leave your hand warmer in the car. It would come in handy about now. Better drink some of that hot soup you brought.

Ummm! That’s hot enough to boil the blood at your toes!

There it is, man! The honk you’ve been waiting on. A chill of excitement runs up you spine, crashes against your skull, and comes screaming down again.

Wonderful, isn’t it? It’s just like Gramps said you would feel.

Quickly cap your Thermos, part the reeds of the blind for a better look. You cautiously look out, taking care not to make any sudden moves.

There they are fellow. Beautiful, aren’t they? You wait till they circle close, real close. So close that it seems you reach out and touch them. Then, like Gramps explained, you will stand up and give’em all Hell! Hot lead down to the tonsils.

Flying birds sure are beautiful, almost too good to eat.

O.K. Man! Here they come on their last lap around. Wait just a little bit more … hold it … steady … NOW!

A lump leaps to your throat as you come to your feet.

Shake the excitement from your eyes for better vision, remember?

Come on, fellow, come on! Pull the trigger before they see you. What’s the matter you lily-livered pansy, SHOOT!

The resounding BLAM and the kick against your shoulder proves you’re not “chicken.”

But, just one shoot and one bird, that’s bad. If you had been a little faster you could have had at least three. Well, they’re gone now. Too late to be sorry.

You wade over to your “bag” and pick up the warm, lifeless body from the cold, bloodstained water.

Here it is, your first kill.

Exciting?

You’re not so sure now. You fondle him and smooth his feathers as the remaining blood oozes from his fatal wound and trickles through your fingers.

That’s strange; Gramps didn’t say you’d feel this way.

You slowly pack your gear and make your way home. You try to ignore the sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach.

At home, you toss the bird without a word, to your kid brother to pick and clean. At dinner you seem to have lost your appetite for roasted bird. It isn’t quite the same now.

You leave your unfinished meal and shuffle up to Gramps’ bedroom. You tell him the best you can, how you feel and hope he’ll understand.

For the first time you notice that he hasn’t eaten any of his bird either. His heavy arm goes around your slumping shoulders and he mumbles, “Guess I dinna tell ye all ‘bout my first kill.”

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