An Incident While Hunting
by Bryan Grafton
Another one was killed, and the cat that had killed it was about to leave with its victim in its mouth. It had infiltrated his pigeon coop and now squeezed itself through the bobs of the fly hole, waiting for all to be clear before it made its escape. This cat had taken some of his birds before and the owner hadn’t been able to catch it in the act, not until now that is.
Jonathan Goodson ran to the farm house grabbed his twenty two rifle and hurriedly stuffed some .22 shells in his pocket. He loaded the rifle on the run, arriving just in time to see the feral yellow cat sneaking across the barnyard with his pigeon in his mouth, toward the barb wire fence and the safety of the cornfield beyond. Seven foot high corn stalks, thriving noxious weeds that had survived chemical sprays, and thick knee high blue grass in the waterways beckoned the cat to safety. Traversing through all that green haze and maze and trying to hunt down and kill a fleet footed fleeing feral cat would be mission impossible. He had to act now.
He took aim. The cat had not seen him yet as it slinked onward. He fired, sure of a kill shot. But it wasn’t. He had hit the cat in its rump and it continued crawling forward on its front feet, dragging its bloody backside, minus its meal.
Jonathan wondered why he had not done more damage and then noticed the shell casing at his feet. It was a .22 short, only birdshot, fine little pellets that were dispersed over an area, not a .22 long deadly killing slug. In his haste he had inadvertently grabbed the wrong ammo. This was his first mistake. It being too late now to go back for the longs, his only option was to disable it. Then go up to it and shoot it in the head at point blank range. The shorts would be able to kill it then.
Hastily he fired again and this time missed. The cat still able to use its front two feet continued to drag itself toward the safety of the corn. As it did so, its rear end wobbled from side to side and therefore by chance it had dodged the second shot. Under the barb wire fence and into the cornfield it dragged itself leaving a blood trail as its wake.
Jonathan watched it disappear as he picked up his dead pigeon. It was a young cock bird, not yet a veteran flier. A bird that he had named Joe. Jonathan named all his pigeons. It was a childish thing to do but he was only sixteen, and still a child in many ways like now, as he suddenly imagined himself a soldier about to go on a mission to avenge the death of a fallen comrade.
On his belly, Jonathan low crawled under the fence noticing the blood on his hands and clothing, compliments of his intended victim. The parallel cornrows ran straight west for a quarter of a mile, up to the next fence line. On the other side of the fence was the Campbell abode and barnyard, refuge for the cat. Jonathan could not let his nemesis escape for if he did so, his bird would go unavenged.
He moved slowly, cautiously forward, his rifle primed at his shoulder while scanning furtively up and down the rows. Perhaps his enemy would bleed out becoming so weak that it would collapse unable to move. Then he could shoot it in the head. But his biggest fear now was that the wounded maddened animal would turn on him and instinctively attack. And with a loaded rifle with the safety off he would be an accident waiting to happen.
The field was muddy slick with black slimy gooey soil due to last night’s downpour. Jonathan’s feet slid as he walked, gumming and mucking up his boots, impeding his progress. He couldn’t run without fear of sliding or falling so he moved ever so cautiously. The thick overlapping corn leaves covered the narrow space between the rows, making visibility poor to say the least, and causing the razor sharp corn leaves to leave fine cuts on his hands and face. The sweltering heat and the high humidity of a cornfield added to his misery, making him sweat profusely, soaking his clothes.
The blood trail was hard to follow at first, but Jonathan quickly caught on. His eyes kept fixated ahead of him about ten feet or so, which was all the farther that he could see anyway. He covered three rows at once, the one he was in and the adjacent ones on each side. Drops of blood were pooled here and there in all three rows, because sometimes the cat would weave from row to row. But it always kept going, not circling back or veering to the right or left. The hunted feline knew where it was going and so did Jonathan.
Tediously, slowly went the hunt as Jonathan took his time checking the rows. But it paid off, as occasionally he would spot his foe just ahead of him. However the cat would also see him and would bolt forward, melting into the corn jungle, staying that one step ahead. That was when Jonathan made his second mistake. He didn’t see his maddened desperate crazed enemy as it suddenly, almost as if from out of nowhere, leapt toward him.
All the aforesaid flashed through the mind of Jonathan Goodson in the nano second just after the wounded V. C. that he had been tracking jumped out of the jungle and shot him in the head. Nor did he know that he had crossed over into Cambodia. There are no fence lines in the jungle.
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Bryan Grafton’s stories have previously appeared in this magazine, Heater, Romance Magazine and elsewhere.