Buster nudged Hannibal as they sat in their deer stand. When Hannibal looked over, he pointed to the kid hiding in the bushes.
Rage lit Hannibal's eyes, and he breathed one word, "bastard." That kid was barely old enough to have a hunting license and here he was, haunting Hannibal's hunting areas. Of course, they were public lands and anyone could hunt there, but when it was the same kid over and over...
Buster knew that Owen was a thorn in Hannibal's side. They all lived in the same sub-division on the outskirts of town. Owen's dad must've gotten him the license, but Owen was always on his own. He seemed a decent enough kid to Buster, but grated on Hannibal's nerves. Not just here, either.
Owen lived across from Hannibal, and whenever Hannibal was out on his porch enjoying a cigar or a beer with Buster or another neighbor, Owen would show up. He needed attention, that's what Buster thought. He'd say hello, try to say something interesting about his life - what his dad was up to, something that happened in school, nothing truly interesting - and always asked if Hannibal would be hunting that weekend.
Sometimes he'd bring over a bird or a squirrel he'd pegged with his sling-shot. That was when he was younger. After he got his first B.B. gun, he'd show off the weapon along with his proudly caught vermin.
This year he had a genuine hunting license, and a genuine hunting rifle, and he'd somehow found Hannibal's favorite hunting area. This was the third time this month. But that wasn't the bad part. The bad part was how good he was. Buster had often listened to Hannibal complain about Owen "thinning the herd", or about Owen "shooting that buck when I had him in my sights" and worst of all about someday letting Owen "see how it feels".
Buster had no idea how Hannibal could show him how it feels to have his quarry taken from him, when Owen was by far the better shot, and quick and decisive to boot. Something about the look in Hannibal's eyes when he said it frightened Buster, though.
Now, sitting in the deer stand staring daggers down at the poor kid, Hannibal looked as if he was about to do it. Whatever "it" was. He was about to "teach that kid a lesson" about the etiquette of hunting or some such malarkey. Buster didn't want to know, but he was a captive audience in the tree branches.
Before Buster had pointed out Owen's hiding spot to Hannibal, he could've sworn Owen glanced up at them: like he chose that spot specifically for the two-man audience above him. Now as he watched Hannibal's frowning face shift his aim, Buster wished he hadn't pointed him out at all.
People always say "it happened so fast" when calamitous things happen. Tragedies happen "in the blink of an eye" and no one ever knows what happened because it was all "too fast to see". Later, Buster would wish that was the case.
The rage had filled Hannibal's eyes upon seeing his young neighbor in the trees below. His brow furrowed and he shook his head. It occurred to Buster that Hannibal was having an internal debate. He was angry, but how angry? Then Hannibal's breath evened, as it did when he was aiming at a deer. The frown remained as he shifted the angle of the rifle against his shoulder, then one corner of his mouth turned up, satisfied.
Buster glanced at the rifle and followed with his eyes the track it was pointing through space. His mouth hung open as if to protest, but no sound came out. He felt the worry line his brow as he willed Owen to move away. Just leave. Now. Leave now. Go. But Owen was listening to the forest sounds and his eyes were alert for all movement through the underbrush. He was oblivious to the nightmare raging in the forest canopy above.
A deer approached the glade, grazing on the low bushes and saplings, and Owen slowly rose from his crouch to take aim. In the utter silence of the moment, Buster heard Hannibal's exhale and a whisper of a squeeze on the trigger.
The silence was broken by a searing scream as Owen arched forward, the backside of his camo pants ripped and streaming blood. The deer ran from the noise, and Buster watched, wide-eyed, paralyzed, as Hannibal descended to dress his prize. The scene was horrifying as he used his hunting knife to cut through the pants and then - Owen must have blacked out from shock or blood loss already - removed a hunk of flesh from Owen's quivering body.
He raised it over his head and leered at Buster, stuck in the deer-stand, unable to move. "Butt steak for dinner!"
It's FICTION FRIDAY!
Every Friday I write a new flash fiction piece. This story was inspired by watching the geckos chasing around on our living room wall one night. The big gecko bit the tail off the little one and ate it in front of him!
If you have a writing prompt you'd like to see turned into a story, just leave it in a comment.