Last year, Tim had been allowed for the first time to go with his father on his yearly deer hunt. Then his father had given him a rifle for Christmas, and this year they would have hunted together for the first time. There had never been any open agreement between them – that would have spoiled the whole thing – and his father would never have admitted that these were rewards for good behavior. Good behavior was simply expected. But if Tim hadn’t gotten control of his temper, the rifle and the hunt would not have been his.
Tim picked up an axe and took his anger out on the wood.
* * *
Tim was standing beside the pickup when his parents left the next morning. His dad tossed a worn leather satchel into the back and squeezed his shoulder. “Your mother is going to drop me off on her way to work,” he said. “Maybe I’ll be able to get a day between runs before deer season is over.”
“Now don’t you go driving crazy!” Tim’s mother said.
“You know me, Helen.”
“Yes, I do.” She turned and kissed Tim, and said, “There are leftovers in the refrigerator. You’ll have to make your own supper. I’m taking another double shift while Susan is having her baby. Maybe you ought to bike over to see your Granddad.”
“All right, Mom,” Tim said, but inside he was shouting, Not you too! He knew he shouldn’t be angry at either of them, but he was. After the pickup pulled out of sight, he wandered around the yard, feeling abandoned and feeling sorry for himself.
Eventually, he went to his bedroom and sat down on the bed with his new rifle across his knees. It had never been fired, except on the practice range. He took the shells from the box on his desk and loaded it, then unloaded it again. Finally he dropped a half dozen cartridges into his pocket and picked up his pack. As long as both parents were gone for the night, he figured he might as well spend the time with his grandfather. Maybe he could get in some target practice, or maybe he could get his grandfather to tell some of the family tales about the old Miwuk Indian days.
He left a note for his mother and strapped his rifle across the handlebars of his bike. He turned up the main highway into the mountains, standing on his pedals to make the initial grade. When he got to the turnoff to his grandfather’s place, he hesitated. Up the road, only seven miles further into the mountains, was the campground where he and his father had parked last year when they went hunting. At least he could go there. He had all day.
The road rose sharply for those seven miles, and Tim was thoroughly winded when he arrived at the campground. Half a dozen empty campers were parked there, but there was no one in the campground. Everyone was out hunting.
Tim stood astraddle of his bike for a long time, running his hands across the smooth steel and wood of his rifle. He was sorely tempted to have his hunt anyway, alone. Finally he decided to just walk in the woods for an hour before he went down to his grandfather’s place. He reached for his cell phone to tell his grandfather, then remembered that it was at home. The one girl he liked least had begun to call him twice a day, so he had stopped carrying it. more tomorrow