By Kim Suhr
Yeah, we were drunker’n skunks.
Yeah, we smoked some weed.
Yeah, we were at Jamie’s step-ma’s brother’s cabin out in the middle of nowhere for hunting.
Yeah, we done a lot of crazy things at deer camp before. But mostly just trips to the strip club in Kelner.
This year, Jamie was pissier than usual, which surprised me. I figured with his old man gone, Jamie’d lighten up a little. I mean, if it was me, I’d a been glad not to have my dad there calling me a pussy, saying if I was more of a man I’d shoot a damn deer. Up until now, we cut Jamie some slack. All except Smitty who liked to stir things up.
“Hey.” Smitty downed a shot, grabbed the black garbage bag he left by the shelf of old videos when we unloaded. He looked straight at Jamie pouting in the plaid chair in the corner and opened it up. “Whaddya say, boys?” he said in a fake girl voice, pulling out four big old-lady dresses, a bunch of high-heel shoes and a pouch full of makeup. You could a heard a pin drop. We all looked at Jamie. He leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees, but he didn’t say nothin’. He looked two holes straight through Smitty’s chest. Smiling, Smitty fluffed out a flowery dress and held it up in front of him, batted his eyes at Jamie.
Me and Will looked over at Jamie. He leaned back and downed the rest of his Bud. I don’t think he even had to swallow, just poured it straight down his throat. He put the empty bottle on the end table next to him. His nostrils flared as he took a big breath. I held mine. Then
he got the shit-eatin’est grin on his face I ever seen. Musta been the pot. He stood up, grabbed a blue striped bundle outta Smitty’s hand and dropped trow. It was like the whole room let out a breath.
“Atta girl!” Smitty laughed. He balled up a yellow and green thing and tossed it at me.
“Where the hell?” I threw it back at him.
“Cleaned out my aunt’s house last weekend.” He flung it at me again almost knocking over my beer bottle.
“Fat Aunt Trudy,” Will giggled. “Gimme one.” Pretty soon, he was wobbling around on a pair of shiny black heels. Slips and nylons came outta nowhere, even a pack of Virginia Slims. Smitty kept pulling out stuff. I put on some blue eye shadow, and Jamie smeared his mouth with Sierra Sunset lipstick. We cracked up at the name, lisping all the s’s. Smitty opened up another bottle of Beam, poured some in one of Aunt Trudy’s shoes and we passed it around. “Drink! Drink! Drink!” Jamie grabbed the shoe and downed it with his fist up in the air, his big hairy armpit hanging out of the sleeveless dress. I laughed so hard I wet my panty hose.
Someone said, “Man, good thing no one’s taking pitchers of this.” I think it was me.
I heard Jamie’s voice. “Put that damn phone away, you asshole.” He made a grab for it, threatening to flush it down the toilet. I blacked out before I could find out if he did.
Next morning, we slept through the alarm, all except Jamie. He was up and out already. The rest of us were pulling on our wool pants, when we heard the report of his rifle. We looked at each other. Waited for a second shot.
“One shot is what it’s all about,” we said together like Robert DeNiro in The Deer
Hunter. Then, like we all remembered Jamie’s old man at the same time, we put on the faces we wore at the funeral and got real interested in tying our boots.
We put on our blaze orange and headed out to help Jamie gut his deer and drag it back to the cabin.
Looking for a blood trail, we spiraled out from Jamie’s tree stand. Nothing.
“Maybe we should yell?” Second time anybody’d said anything all morning.
“Nah. We’ll find him.” I didn’t want to piss off any other hunters in earshot. I did a slow 360 and saw Jamie’s orange a couple hundred yards off.
When we got to him, he was standing over the doe. Her legs were still twitching, and her eyes were rolling around like she’d gone crazy. The sound that came from her was like a sob. I was about to say, “What the hell’s the matter with you? Kill her for god’s sake.” But then I saw Jamie’s eyes. They were red with two black streaks running down his cheeks. A smear of Sierra Sunset like a clown mouth.
Smitty took the rifle from his loose grip, stepped between him and the deer. The only thing on Jamie that moved were his eyelids. He shut them so tight I thought his face would fold in on itself. Smitty put the barrel of the gun between the animal’s crazy eyes and pulled the trigger.
Kim Suhr’s work has appeared at Foundling Review, Staccato Fiction, and Grey Sparrow. In addition, her writing has aired on Lake Effect at the NPR affiliate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Kim is the director of RedBird-RedOak Writers and Red Oak Young Writers, organizations dedicated to supporting writers through critique groups, workshops, camps and camaraderie.