Route 7 Review | Page 116

Twilfod Baines, Buck Hunter Unbounded By Darrin Doyle Rifle season is ephemeral, lasting only a few blissful weeks, and Twilford, like his brothers and father, uncles and cousins, and generations of Baines preceding them, rose before sunlight and drove to the rural acreage of land where he’d become accustomed to spending this day, where deer were plentiful, where trees were dense enough to provide cover but not so thick as to prevent sight lines to his prey. He preferred to hunt alone, something sacred about the quiet pine air, the flickering of birds in branches the only disruption to the stillness. On this particular morning, fog-headed and lethargic and emotionally spent, Twilford slipped a pinch of chew behind his lip and propped his orange-jacketed torso against a birch. The soil was frosty. He knew the area well, the landowner being an old friend of his deceased father, and he knew a trail that served as a thruway for the animals to reach the pond. Already he’d spotted tracks, some old, some recent, and so he positioned himself a good forty yards distant and hunkered in for a wait. To hunt required supreme patience and a monk-like stillness and silence. His scent he’d dulled with a few sprays of pine essence, not one to believe in the application of deer urine or other methods that he deemed trickery. After all it wasn’t hard to outwit a dumb animal. Twilford’s true druthers was to bow hunt; however, a high school football injury had left a poorly healed tear in the muscles around his scapula, making it impossible to draw the string without intense discomfort. So bullets it was. Twilford was having trouble staying awake, his eyelids weighted to the point of agony. His head throbbed from the copious whiskey he’d guzzled mere hours ago. He felt at once numb and wretched, left this way by a personal issue of a magnitude he’d never experienced and didn’t quite honestly know how to handle. The woman he’d been seeing for over a year – her name was Elsa; they had talked of marriage – had sat him at the table the previous night and told him, with a stern and placid face, that she loved another man. That the cuckolder was his closest friend of twenty years, his name Jeremy, seemed a tragedy of comical country song proportions, but the hurt was very real, deep, and debilitating. A double betrayal. She’d been sleeping with his now exfriend for upwards of three months, she confessed with dry eyes, a quarter of the duration of her and Twilford’s courtship. That evening Elsa left him, officially and bodily anyway, he thought, because quite apparently she’d not been truly present for quite some time. She had only been an illusion, albeit a warm-bodied, soft, fragrant one. He secured his lips to one bottle followed by another and got so wasted he needed to throw up, so he throated two fingers and purged while slumped over the bowl. Though highly inebriated in the waning hours of night, he still made a point of setting his alarm before collapsing upon the mattress. He would not miss Opening Day just because of the cruelty he had suffered. If anything a return to the woods and to the tradition he prized above all might provide at least a temporary balm to his scorched soul. Against the tree he jerked awake, not realizing he’d fallen asleep. Juice had dribbled out of his mouth, spattering his pants brown. When he spasmed into consciousness he also tipped his Thermos, the lid of which wasn’t properly secured. Coffee chugged out onto the ground beneath him. Pants wet, he stood and cursed. Was this, he thought, all to provide laughter to the man upstairs? When and why had he been appointed cosmic jester? At that exact moment he heard the crack of branches, his eyes detecting a glimpse of movement. Two deer were cautiously proceeding along the feed run, nosing the soil and picking at