5
min

Vulpes

19 readings

7 votes

In competition

Late April is the worst time of year. It is the time of our annual camping trip. My female friends gather to go glamping, otherwise known as glamour camping, at a nearby park with their children. And all of the men go real camping out in western PA. This is the first year I could convince Nick to let me go with the him and the men. I didn’t know that their camping really meant drinking around a fire and bragging about past adventures. Most of the men have already fallen asleep tonight, slumped over in cheap folding chairs or on the ground in padded bags. The fire is just ashy coals now. I look to the four men sleeping and envy them as I refill my drink.

“So Susan, I know why you’re here.” Ahmed turns to me with his third beer in hand. I’m on my forth glass of wine.

“Yeah, whys that?” I ask him and take a swig of my bitter wine.

“You hate kids. My kids especially. Hell, I don’t blame you, I hate them too sometimes.” He laughs. I turn away taking another, longer, swig from my glass. My doctor tells me I shouldn’t ’t drink wine like I do.

“Who Susan? Hate kids?” Nick asks, “ Nope she loves ‘em. Even your little fuckers.” Nick throws an arm over my shoulder. He sits on the rock next to me and smiles.

I clear my throat, “What happens If you get caught out here without your hunting licenses?”

Ahmed drops his smile, “No one comes out here. We’ll be fine, always are.” He finishes his drink and stands, “Eggs and bacon in the morning Susan, and my wife’s biscuits are to die for.” He goes off to pee and finds his bed for the night. There are too many thoughts for me to sleep, as usual. How do other people do it? It’s better to sleep during the day and be awake in the quiet nights. I retreat towards my chair that looks out across the nearby field. Nick stands up from the rock he was on, sways, grabs my ass, and follows me, his gun in hand. He puts the rifle down under his chair which he flops into. Nick says nothing as he pulls his hat over his eyes. I look into the sky and drink until it reveals the stars.

If the men snore I can’t hear it, the night is full of the sounds of insects, leaves shaking, a stream nearby, and whatever else lies in these woods. The sun has gone but the moon and starts keep the darkness from submerging us. Cool wind sweeps across and up the field. I lick at my exposed neck and hands. I breathe in a refreshing lungful. I take a sip of my wine and enjoy the open space between me and the dim tree line beyond. I can see kids playing in this field on a warm summer’s day. I can see handing them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from a lunch box. It washes over me with tingling warmth as I drink more. The men can keep their beer, the kind they drink tastes like piss water to me anyway. A beetle lands on Nick’s open beer can. It stumbles a few steps before falling in, the tiniest of splashes.

I remind myself often of my mantra “Nothing is forever.” I mean two things by it. When I am in pain, when I am confused, angry, scared, stressed, I remind myself that the feeling will come to an end. And the second part of my message is that the good times are fleeting as well. Enjoy them while they are here. I won’t be young forever. I won’t be healthy forever. I won’t be here forever and neither was that beetle. That’s what gives value to life, the fact that it is limited. So enjoy every experience you can. And those you can’t, fear not for they will soon be over. This is how I go through life. Always looking forward. I worry this idea of mine will make me move through life faster. I believe the nothing that comes is the only nothing that is forever. I say a little goodbye to the beetle.

I turn back to the tree line and see a flash of movement, a shadow darts out. It stops and sits facing from where it came. I reach out to where Nick’s rifle sits under him. Quiet, I tell myself. I set the rifle on a rock in front of me and shrink to the ground. My moving rouses Nick. The little shadow creature looks our way in a split second. I look through the rifle scope back at it.

“Hey, what, what do you see?” Nick may still be drunk but at least he knows to be quiet.

“It sees us,” I say. The animal’s ear turns our way before sliding back against its head. It crouches down slowly.

Nick gets up from the chair shockingly graceful. He slides down next to me. He sees what I watch. He pushes my shoulder with one hand and pulls the gun from me with the other.

I start, “Just—”

Nick is sober in a second. He positions the rifle. He pulls the trigger. The ghost falls.

The other men are stirring. I hear some talk and one yell. I take off down into the field. Nick says something but I don’t listen and besides, I didn’t make out the words. Part curious, part angry, part happy, and a little drunk, I almost twist my ankle in a hole in the dark field. My bare feet slap against cold muddy grass. I finally reach the thing and crouch down to it. I hear the men coming behind me whooping to each other.

I reach out to touch. It is not moving, it is dead, it is bloody but I can’t see it bleeding. The men catch up. In the bright unhappy light of flashlights, I can see the shadow isn’t a black ghost, but a deep burnt red. The fur is long, dense, and fluffy on its back but wet with dew and mud near the bulging belly. The reddish-orange coat darkens near the hind end and its ears are jet black. The lean and strong legs are frozen at an unnatural angle on top of the bushy and long white-tipped tail.

“How did you see that?”

“I’ve never seen anyone get one before.”

“Susan, did you kill it.”

“Of course she didn’t.”

“I did.”

“Well shit.

“Fuck.” Nick bumps into me squatting with his hunting knife out. He sticks it into the thing and pulls it across the pink belly area in between the rows of dropping nipples. Nick pushes his hands into the animal.

“Oh shit.”

“How many are there?”

Nick’s bloody hands squeeze out large pink jelly beans. I hadn’t realized I had fallen back as I watched. The other men have circled the fox and are watching too.

“Nick,” is all I could say.

“Don’t worry hun, No one gives a fuck. These guys are pests.” He squishes out five more slippery pups. One slides towards me across muddy grass, it is twitching. “Susan, Susan, where’s the camera?”

I look back over to our camp up the hill.

“Go get it, will ya?” Nick asks.

I watch for the holes in the ground as I walk back. It is hard to not step in holes when walking in darkness. I feel but don’t feel and when I get to the camp and find my glass of wine perched on the rock next to Nick’s rifle. I blow away a fly from the rim of the glass and finish the drink. I trade the empty glass for the rifle. Placing the butt of the rifle on the ground in front of me, I can smell the barrel just a few inches from my face. I bring it just under my nose. It smells bitter and chalky and it is surprisingly cold. I stand there like this for a moment and wonder. How could I reach the trigger? I sigh. Using my toes would just be silly. I aim the rifle and look down the sight across the field.

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Roger · ago
A woman conflicted not sure if she's happy or sad. Not sure whether to kill herself or her husband. Nothing is forever. I enjoyed it. You might enjoy my story 'Dia de los Muertos', I hope you have a moment to read it.
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