Wednesday, November 11, 2015


We saw the hunter before we saw
the pheasant—a man far off down
the trail, bright orange hat, rifle in
hand, walking towards us. Then we
saw the bird. It stepped deliberately
near and ahead of us, towards the
hunter and directly along an invisible
line between where we came from
and where the hunter was heading,
as if we three, my brother and I and
the pheasant, had gone for a stroll
together, the pheasant a friend of the
family taking a slow constitutional with
us after dinner. My brother waved at
the hunter, to be sure we—not just
the bird—had been seen. We had.
We got a measured nod, as if to both
acknowledge us and to compliment
the pheasant on its skill, and then the
hunter abruptly veered off the trail;
a dog, his dog, had found something
to flag in the brush. A sharp exhale (I’d
been holding my breath), and then a
look down at a tangle of soft color.
I'd found a scattered handful of torn
feathers—stiff contour feathers and
downy semiplumes—from another
pheasant. There was a small smear
of blood at the base of one shaft. I
looked up at my brother just in time
to see our friend startle, dart away.

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