by Stephen V. Ramey
Women in the wild are not like the women I know: Mother, Sister, Aunt. Women in the wild are, well, wild. They wear devilish waders and fly-fish in the creek at its most dangerous flow. They mainline Art, sip rattlesnake venom in the nude. They balance tea cups on their bosom and dare you to notice. They borrow your boombox and never give it back.
Father says I can track them, but I must never touch. Wild women are brittle despite their strength, like iron with too much carbon. And I do see it sometimes, the soot running from their eyes, the trembling hands as they paw through undergrowth in search of something they never seem to find.
We’ve tracked a young one today, a thin girl with big doe eyes, long brown hair, a crooked grin that makes me bubble. She’s watching a bird feed its young, and her hand stretches out, cups, falls to her side, squeezes closed. I see all of this, and yet I feel a million miles away. I want to move closer, but the snap of a single twig might send her running.
Father lets me use his binoculars. I work the notched plastic wheel above the nose bridge, pushing past focus, pulling it back too far. It has to be perfect, the way I see her, the clarity of my process.
“Try this,” Father says, and he swings the rifle around from his back, slides the strap down his arm, onto mine. He taps the scope. “Steadier,” he says.
I hesitate. The gun is his power. I don’t feel ready for that.
“Don’t fret,” he says. “It’s not loaded.” He chuckles. “Too tempting.” He makes a pistol shape with his finger, points it to his temple, and pulls the imaginary trigger.
I don’t really understand, but it doesn’t matter now. I swing the gun up and around. It’s heavier than it looks. I pan the scope slowly until the girl comes into view.
She’s looking at me. Startled, I stumble back; my finger jerks the trigger. Click!
Embarrassment floods me. My face goes hot, my body cold. I lean down and lay the gun on the ground.
Father squeezes my shoulder. “Don’t worry, son, we all do that the first time. Here, try this.” He unslings the bow from his back and notches an arrow.
“But I’m not supposed–“
“Shush,” Father says, working his arm around me, positioning my fingers around the bowstring, drawing back. “There comes a time in a young man’s life,” he whispers in my ear, “when the rules no longer apply.” I feel the tension in the string, the tension in my father’s arm.
“Is it my time now?” There’s wonder in my voice, like sunshine fighting through the canopy.
Father swallows and steps away, eyes turning to the girl. The bow trembles in my hands.
“Aim for her heart,” he says in a voice as soft as the breeze.
Stephen V. Ramey’s work has appeared in various places, including The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, The Journal of Microliterature, and Daily Science Fiction. He lives in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania, where the fireworks are always wonderful. You should visit sometime.
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The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review is a print and digital literary journal. We offer original fiction — short stories, short short stories, hybrid—poetry and nonfiction. We also curate The Eckleburg Gallery — visual artwork and intermedia — as well The Groove including first released, original music by The Size Queens. Our archives include emerging and established writers, poets, artists, musicians and performers such as Rick Moody, Cris Mazza, Eurydice, Steve Almond, Stephen Dixon, Moira Egan, David Wagoner, Zach Galifianakis and many more. We run annual print issues, The Eckleburg Reading Series (DC, Baltimore, Chicago, New York….), as well as, the annual Gertrude Stein Award in Fiction with a first prize of $1000 and print publication.