by Jake Christie

a story.

“Clean shot,” says Rufus, standing on the seventeenth green. He’s squatting down, his hands stuffed in his jacket pockets, right below the patch that says “Game Warden.” Jerry Childs, the owner of the golf course, stands on the edge of the green, uncomfortable.

“I don’t see anything clean about it,” says Jerry, twisting up his face. He tugs the brim of his hat. “No, sir.”

The buck’s footprints are still visible in the early morning frost. Jerry follows them with his eyes: from out of bounds, across the twelfth fairway, into a copse of trees, onto the seventeenth green, right to the body of the buck himself. Jerry had heard the shot just hours ago, before the sunrise. It left someone’s loud gun, traveled across his property, and went clean through the deer’s neck. The blood is still shiny on the ground, almost like metal, in a pool under the animal’s neck. The crystals of frost there look like early stars in a late red sunset.

“Welp,” says Rufus, standing up, groaning through the word in the empty air, “we’ll try and find ‘im. Truck tracks and such.” He sips coffee from a thermos, then pulls a bottle from his jacket and sips from that. He offers Jerry the coffee, and Jerry declines. “‘Til then, deer’s all yours. You wanna get him cut up, I know some people.”

Jerry kneels down and looks at the buck’s face. His big black eyes don’t move. Jerry grabs one of the antlers and tries to pull him, but he barely can. His fingers barely fit all the way around.

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