Hunters and Gatherers
“Stop, stop, come back here or I’ll shoot,” Waldorf commanded. Brady tore through vines and branches, breaking spider webs and stumbling over fallen trees without looking back. He wasn’t very far when he heard a loud thud followed by a shot and a scream.
“Help me, help me, help Mr. Mushroom picker, Daddy fell down and shot himself. You gotta help me. I think he’s dead.” Brady reluctantly turned around and came upon Kelly standing next to his father who lay flat out on the ground. “My Daddy’s dead,” Kelly moaned.
Brady felt for a pulse and then pronounced, “No, don’t worry, he’s alive. Didn’t shoot himself either. But looks like he broke his leg. No way can we get him hoisted onto that ATV. Might make it worse. You need to get out your cell phone and call 911. I’m sure they’ll be glad to air lift a soldier out of the battlefield.” As Kelly tried to process the diagnosis, Brady stood up and announced “But I’m not waiting for your old man to come to. He’s crazy. Probably blame me for him slipping in the woods. Which way is the road?”
Kelly pointed up the hill and thumbed his phone. “It’s that way, mister, that way. Hey, I think they’re answering. But you gotta stay until they get here. I can’t do this on my own.”
At that point Sargent Waldorf opened his eyes, still dazed. “My leg don’t feel too good. What happened? Where’s my gun?” Brady didn’t need to hear any more and took off up the hill. Running in a panic, he was uncertain how long it took but none too soon found himself on the Pine Mountain Road near Mile Post Five. Shortly thereafter he heard a car horn around the bend and soon was relieved to see Stuart’s truck making its way in his direction, an arm waving out the driver’s window. Jared was at the wheel.
“Blowing on that whistle back up the road. He’s worried to hell you got shot in the woods.” Jared turned the truck around. “You do look like you fell into a damn deep hole,” he pronounced pointing at Brady’s ripped jeans. Before they got to the first bend Jared pulled a slimy piece of leather out of his pocket and handed it to Brady. “Got this for you,” he announced.
“What the hell?”
“It’s a salamander’s tail,” Jared proudly announced. “Of course, not as big as the penis sized one you were talking about. Looks more like a baby’s wee wee.”
“Yeah, OK kid,” Brady tried to smile as he examined the flesh and placed it in his shirt pocket.
“Saw the damn thing wiggling next to a log and ripped its tail off with my teeth.” Soon they came upon Stuart, and Jared got out from behind the wheel.
“Oh, man, you found him,” Stuart was relieved. “Thought maybe you got in some trouble.”
“Let’s just say I met up with Bigfoot.”
“Oh come on,” Stuart insisted. “Where you been?”
“In the deep woods, in the deep shit,” Brady dodged. “But I do appreciate you guys waiting around for me.” He opened up his mushroom bag and pulled out the deer skull. “This is for you Jared.”
“Oh man, thanks.” Jared held the skull in both hands. “I’ll tell everybody I killed it with my switchblade.”
Casey Bush is a Portland poet whose eighth collection Student of Hippocampus was published in 2018 by Last Word Press (Olympia, WA). His essay “Sisters Around the Cauldron: Mary Barnard and Her Sappho” was recently posted on the Berlin based website The Decadent Review. Casey is the poetic voice of Notes & Motes: The Vlatkovich Trio Plus One. He recommends Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Center.