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Pheasant Hunt
A Hunting Story from the Checkered Demon


To rise well before dawn and make a thermos of coffee, coming awake dressing for the day. The clothes laid out last night like everything else. It's a lovely freedom to have, to be able to launch out into the day in a quest for Pheasant dinner.

I had rolled down the hill to visit my neighbor, and found him sipping whiskey and ice. Looking a bit frazzled, he was back from Los Angeles and showing it. He is tall and slim, slightly cadaverous in that Norwegian way with a goodly nose. With a droopy mustache he'd be a textbook western Sheriff. I've never been anywhere that unsettling, he said. Every person you'd see had an attitude all over the place, looking like too much trouble to bother with. The cops were in squads of three or four and carrying rifles. Some in armor.

If you asked a question everyone would look away to the side, then slide the eyes back saying something laconic and finally answering sort of. A few more polite and patient questions would get your data, but you had to forgo the joy of bottoming your thumbs in his eye sockets for being stoned at work.

He found his boat in Long Beach, and they sailed off into some of the Pacific for awhile. For that while it was fine. Life viewed through a lens, in a way; narrowed down to the essentials: the winds and the currents within the waves, the compass and the log. You'd wake rolling in the dark and fumble into your gear, pissing over the Lee rail with a coffee cup at hand before moving aft to break the helmsman for chow. Three men, old friends and trusted, pushing a small schooner through great waters around the clock. He was an engineer and loved the numbers and values. Loved plotting the charts and taking sextant sightings, though modern electronics makes it mostly a conceit. It was the elemental part though: the squinting through salt spray and the bruises, gashes sometime, and the strains catching yourself trick-footed by a roll. Sailing that small ship wore them all down to a really good exhaustion every day, and that was the point. A benevolent beating by an old, treacherous lover.

Back in Long Beach the profane made itself known, as it always has to sailors. All talk was jive talk, and everyone is in business. He and his mates scattered, and here he was home, drinking whiskey. I can't adjust to how bad it's got, he says. I turned on NPR, grinning, I like a balanced view. Here's some girl that sounds 17 squawking about castrating white men. Do you know what has been happening while I was gone?

He has a beautiful Irish Setter that was around his ankles, and I asked him if his dog had been out to hunt lately. He said no. I said nothing has been getting resolved since he left, and to dwell on it was nothing but a headache. Everything is either a lie or a ploy.

Do you hunt birds any more? Not lately, do you want to? Actually yes, but where? About 80 miles East. And so forth. And so on. And so life goes on for some and ends for others, as we set up to drive out in the plains for Pheasant on the next front that blows through. The old Browning Auto-5 is as always. A place I've never been before, but sometimes that's how you have to find those best spots of all.

-C Demon

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