*Today's #fridayflash involves Jason "Jace" Matthews and his dad as they go out on Jace's first hunting trip. Hunting is a favorite pastime in the county Starred takes place. This is a pre-Starred memory from the love interest of Rose and Mary Beth.*
First Hunting Trip
Jace crouched in the tree stand besides his dad. A breeze carried the scent of decaying leaves and reminded him of their walk through the woods. Rough bark scratched through his coat as he adjusted his stance. His eyes widened at the rifle at his dad’s side. He knew it was heavy in his eight-year-old hands, but he’d been practicing with it at home. Dad even took him to a shooting range, and he had a gun safety course.
He was ready.
“Do you hear that?”
His dad’s breath tickled his ear, but he strained to listen. At first, he heard nothing, but then there was a faint scuffling sound, like someone brushing against leaves.
“What is it?” He winced at his voice. Was he too loud? Did he scare them way?
Dad put a gloved finger against his lips before pointing between some oak trees.
Jace turned and followed the tip of his finger. His eyes widened at the three deer along the edge of the clearing. They stepped farther into the forest, closer to them.
Dad nudged him, and when Jace looked at his dad, he smiled. He offered the rifle to his son.
Jace eased it into his hands. It was heavy, but he lifted it up so he could peer through the sight.
“Take your time, son. Make a clean kill or none at all. Just like we practiced.” His words rumbled through him.
Anticipation gave him a tingling feeling, as if he had to pee. He focused upon the deer’s body until everything lined up. Clean kill or nothing at all. He didn’t want the animal to suffer. The weight in the rifle seemed to triple as he fingered the trigger. Just right about there.
The rifle shot echoed through the forest, hurt Jace’s ears. A flock of birds took off from a nearby tree. The deer bounded away. One, two, three. Uh, oh. He’d missed.
His shoulders sank as he passed the rifle back to his dad.
His dad’s arm slung around him and gave him a quick squeeze. “You were a little high, but a great first shot. We’ll get ’em next time, okay?”
He peered into his dad’s face. Wrinkles crinkled around his eyes. Smile crinkles, he liked to call them. He wasn’t mad or disappointed. Jace started to smile too.
“Yeah, next time.”
Both happy to just be together, dad and son settled into the tree stand and prepared for another long wait.