Following newly laid rabbit prints in the snow began early this morning. It was an act of perseverance for the man.
Impressions led the hunter through a harvest of hardwood. Over a period of twenty years, it developed into a hideaway of expanding trunks and clusters of spreading branches.
It was here the prey rested, within masking sounds from a trickling stream. Rabbit's breath steamed, nostrils quivered and a 'jack hammering' of heart almost loud enough to be heard.
The man thought of his wife back home, and four children depending on him. They understood his need to get away on his own.
He reflected on the death of his father several years before. And how painful it had been traveling from Nova Scotia to Toronto to attend the funeral. "A massive heart attack," mother said over the phone.
Death is so final, he thought. And now he was pitting hunting skills against a worthwhile foe, a veteran jackrabbit.
Within this majestic forest the man was an intruder.
Finally, the rabbit could stand the emotional strain no longer. His presence was an explosion of movement from his shadowy space.
The man awaited this precise moment. The scene unfolded as if he had written the screenplay. During hunting trips with his father he learned about the exhilaration of success.
And that the animal's dash for freedom was too late. The accuracy of this hunter's skills were fashioned from long hours of practice. Firing regularly at tin cans and bottles took place, from youth to manhood.
An energized "POW! POW!" impatient from inactivity, would create an echo of mutated sounds. And these rifle sounds would reverberate with a satisfied sigh throughout the valley.
A shudder of shock, old as painful memories, would then thud into tender flesh. A second fierce intrusion could easily discover an entrance between valleys of bone within the jackrabbit's frame.
Hunter and hunted had finally met; one preparing to shoot, another accepting its fate. The script was a replay of intensity, from ancient tales of the Hunt.
The human's heart pounded with excitement, satisfaction exhaled. Yet, at that precise moment his slender instrument of death was lowered. A satisfied smile crept slowly across the man's face.
Less than a hundred feet away the jackrabbit panted from exhaustion.
After many seasons of survival the animal was prepared to face his loss of future. When was the hunter going to fire his weapon of anger? How soon would blood gush from a fatal headshot? Rabbit was certain the pause was a temporary respite.
Victory shouts did not hasten from the man's grizzled throat. With a lighter heart the man realized chasing wild creatures through the forest no longer was a reason for his manhood.
Respect for this creature of the forest was enhanced. The man's decision was really an acknowledgement of the animal's love of life. And yes, father would understand. No longer a rabid hunter, the man lowered his rifle, bullet unspent, a smile expanding.
"This one's for you, dad," he managed to say.
The rabbit was surprised to be alive, not twitching in the dance of death.
"I really miss you, dad" was an escape from the man's chapped lips. It signaled the end of today's hunt. Then he turned, cradling an empty rifle against his chest.
And rabbit was left to enjoy further lives in the domain of his inheritance.
* * *
Richard L. Provencher 2004
My wife, Esther and I really enjoy writing. It is an excellent salve, in addition to prayers, a great wife and family during my continuing recovery from a stroke/aneurysm. You can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org re comments on our work. We live in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. Pray for others.