A Communion in the Rain
By Sharon Poppen
“Now we got rain. Shit! I’m cold.” Gene stomped his boots. Slushy snow spattered out in all directions as Gene sought to warm his feet. Scanning the forest, he noticed very little green amidst the tall pines in the snow-covered landscape and no deer tracks.
“Hey!” His brother, Bubba Ray, backed away from the icy muck spewing from Gene’s boots. “Damn you, Gene. Now I’m all wet. Calm down.”
“I’m gonna calm down all right. I’m outta here.”
“You leaving?” Charley, their younger brother, couldn’t believe his ears. They couldn’t be giving up.
“Damn straight.” Gene turned around. “This rain’ll spook ‘em off anyhow. No use catchin’ cold when we already got two nice bucks.”
Bubba Ray nudged Charley to follow their older brother. “I agree.”
“But, I ain’t got my kill yet. You promised. Said when I turned fourteen, I could get my own deer.” Charley stood his ground. This was his first hunt with his older brothers and he sure didn’t want to go home empty handed.
“Next year. There’s always next year.” Gene was making his way up the hill. It was at least a mile back to the truck.
“I ain’t goin’.” Charley continued along the trail alone.
Gene turned around. “Don’t be a pain in the ass. It’s too damn cold. Get over here.”
“No.” Charley kept walking.
“Can’t leave him,” Bubba Ray told Gene. “Mama’ll have our hides.”
“Charley. Don’t make me come get you.” Gene yelled after his brother.
“Leave or shut up. You’re scaring the deer.” Charley hefted his rifle up with a jerk skyward as if to punctuate his determination. He lowered it and kept walking.
“I ain’t kidding Charley. We’ll leave you here.” Gene gave a last warning.
Charley kept walking. Eventually, he risked a look back and found the trail empty. His first reaction was fear, then anger took over. “Hell with ‘em!” Charley muttered into the downpour.
Within a few minutes, Charley found a thick copse of trees that offered a canopy to shelter him from some of the rain. He squatted down to wait.
The rain showed no sign of letting up as minutes crawled by in the downpour. When despair would begin to inch its way into Charley’s resolve, he’d picture the bucks his brothers had already loaded onto the truck and his hope would surge. He had to get his kill.
He was about to lift his hat and shake out some of the rain, when a rustle in the bushes across from him drew his attention. Fighting his instinct to take aim at the noise, he froze in place.
A deer tentatively eased out into the open, just as a ray of sunlight broke though the overcast. The magnificent full-racked buck looked up toward the heavens, then turned to face Charley. The sunray was eaten by the clouds, leaving the buck and Charley to exchange a look of understanding, as if each knew their place in the universe. Charley blinked. In graceful leaps, the buck moved across the snow-covered ground and out of sight.
Charley walked from beneath the tree branches and looked off in the direction the buck had taken.
“Damn it, Charley. Enough is enough! Get your ass back to the truck.”
Charley smiled at the sound of Gene’s voice. “I’m coming.” He almost waved, so strong was the spiritual feeling that the buck was watching him. Like they’d made a psychic connection of some sort. He turned and began to walk toward his brother.
When they were side by side, Gene put his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “There’s always next year, little brother.”
They walked back to the truck with Gene sharing the details of a couple of his unfruitful hunting trips. As Charley opened the truck door, he glanced at the two bucks stacked in the truck bed. He winced. Charley put his gun in the window rack knowing full well, he’d never touch it again.