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Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Hunt

They watch the water for signs of life, bows and arrows in their hands, like 19th century Native American Warriors in hip boats and Green goose down vests, posted on the bridge between here and Garfield. They humped backs to the skyline of old red brick paper mills. When they release, shafts shoot straight into the water, answered by a wail of fear.
"Missed the mother, damn!" the slim boy shouts, his voice breaking with puberty, his small hands gripping the rail too tightly out of frustration, waving it at the swallows and the gulls that distracted his friend's aim from the fish.
Far below, stirring up the muddy water, the catfish and the carp swirl around the ripples where the arrow wounded the water, fish alarmed only by the vibrations.
"I know I missed!" the other boy yells, his face partially hidden in the shadow of the tree that line both banks of the river. He takes in the thin line attached to the rear of his arrow, pulling it up hand over hand, the dripping arrow flapping guiltily at the end instead of a fish.
This boy turns, his face suddenly revealed by a shaft of light through the leaves, painted rose from the sprinkle of red lights and the first blush of dawn, as well as a good helping of sunburn from whole days of hunting catfish.
"I know I missed," he said again, in a lower voice, a scolding voice, a voice aimed at some inner part of himself, his gaze searching the spotty bottom where the stones free the water from the mud, glaring at the web-backed catfish as if they betrayed his aim, glancing at the birds that flutter to either side, warning them not to try and upset him again -- he at war with all of nature at once, seeming to hate the fish, birds, trees and water with an equal intensity, but unable to kill them all with his thin shafts.
"So what are you going to do?" the other boy shouted, he gazing at the water, too, at the lively mist above the ten foot water fall near the diner, where the fish sometimes flip back to avoid falling. Bloated, wounded bodies of previous victims bob at the edge, their deaths preventing them from falling or flipping, left in a continual state of suspension.
"You can't leave those fish floating like that," the thin boy says.
The boy gripping the bow turns, looking as if he wants to shoot his friend, too, his tattered hat floating on the back of his curly hair like yet one more dead fish. In the advancing light, red scars show on his face, from endless scratching. The light also reveals more than bodies bobbing in the water, but dead shafts, too, never tied up, never recovered, a criss-cross of sticks and fish as if modeled after some ancient battle.
"Leave them!" he shouts to the thin boy.
"But momma said..."
"To hell with Momma," the first boy says, and scratches and turns his back on the slaughter and slowly walks up the road from the river.
"Damn you," the first boy shouts and rushes after him to catch up.

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