I don’t normally post fiction here, but I felt like it today. This is a short short titled “The Blind.”
At four-thirty on a cold, gray morning, we rowed the quarter mile toward the blind across silent water flat as a skillet. Since my mother passed, my father had become volatile and rudderless, liable to chase drivers who cut him off, to yell at waitresses and argue with managers, to curse President Nixon on the television. However, on the water or in the blind, he was a man of limitless patience, his eyes scouring the horizon and his ears attuned to any feathery flutter or rustle. Still as the reeds surrounding us, he told stories in a hushed voice about his own father and grandfather, who had also outlived their wives. That morning, he took four shots, but missed each time. He stared at his gun, betrayed. I don’t understand, he said as he resumed his study of the marsh. Nothing moved out there. There was no wind. After a long silence, he said, your mother was a beautiful woman, even if she didn’t think so.
Several months before she died, my mother overheard a group of students joking about her size. Mrs. Hunt is so fat, one kid said, that her yearbook photo is taken by satellite. Another kid added, Mrs. Hunt is so fat that when she stepped on a scale, it said, One person at a time, please! My father insisted on knowing their names so that he might talk to their parents, but my mother waved off his request. They’re just seventh graders, she said, and good kids, too. Besides, she added, who wouldn’t want to make fun of this? She grabbed her hips and shook herself. She smiled to show that she didn’t take it personally.
The geese mostly stayed clear so my father knelt down and unpacked our lunch. Having wasted the best part of the day with lousy shots, he grew impatient, tapping his foot, looking at his watch. He took only a few bites of his food and then went back to his post. He didn’t look at me for a long time and didn’t speak. He cleared his throat and blew his nose. Only years later did I realize he’d been crying. A dozen geese flew from the east, several hundred yards distant. My father raised his shotgun and sighted. The geese grew faint against the gray sky. He did not shoot. Pack up, he said.
On the way home, we stopped at a 7-11. Inside, we overheard two boys telling fat jokes by the donuts. My father set down his steaming coffee and went to our car and unsheathed his gun from its case. The boys were teenagers, faces ripe with acne. My father waited until they were seated and then stood in front of their car and raised the barrel until it was level at his waist. The boy’s faces blanched. The passenger boy said, Go! The driver froze. My father walked over and leaned into the driver’s side window. The barrel rested on the opening, in line with the driver’s neck. My father spoke a few words and then walked back to our car to secure his weapon. The driver was crying as he drove away. I pretended to study the display of Slim Jims. Get yourself some of those, my father said as he walked back to his cup of coffee. His hands were steady as he lifted the cup and blew softly over the steaming surface.