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ON BECOMING A MAN (standard:drama, 1163 words)
Author: Billy Jack BaxterAdded: Oct 14 2003Views/Reads: 2192/1439Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
I wrote this story when I was studying short story form, but the events are true.


Willy sat on the cold boulder and watched his father disappear around
the ridge, following a vague game trail. He ran his fingers over the 
smoothness of his rifle's stock and watched his breath fog in the 
briskness of the November morning. He watched a bright star on the 
horizon twinkle, changing colors like a kaleidoscope. It was still an 
hour before sunrise.  He thought about how close the star appeared, as 
if he could reach out and touch it. 

His father had told him he was going to ease around the ridge then work
his way back down the canyon's bottom. Keep an eye peeled, he had said, 
probably'll push some deer your way.  Be ready. So, there Willy sat, a 
round chambered in his .257 Roberts and his thumb resting gently on the 
safety. All he had to do was push it foreword--easily, his father's 
voice boomed in his head, set the crosshairs on the deer's shoulder, 
and squeeze the trigger, don't jerk it, his father's voice said again. 

He wanted to do it, too, to shoot the deer, not for self-satisfaction,
but so his father would be proud of him. It seemed that was the only 
way he could get his father's attention: to kill something.  Kill 
something to be a man. 

Willy sat perfectly still, just as his father had taught him, for what
seemed like an eternity. He knew it wasn't an eternity, though, but 
only an hour. The sky was starting to lighten nicely; the star he'd 
been watching was nothing but a distant pinprick in the fabric of the 
morning sky. 

Then he heard it: the distant clattering of hooves on stone. God, I hope
it's only a doe, Willy thought, ‘cause then I wouldn't have to shoot 
it. He could hear rocks clattering farther up the canyon as well, 
probably Dad, he thought, flushing the deer my way. Willy waited, heart 
racing, hands shaking slightly. The clatter of the hooves drew closer. 
And from his trained ear, he could tell there was more than one—sounded 
like four, at the least. 

Minutes passed and Willy could clearly make out the game trail across
the canyon seventy-five yards away.  It would be an easy shot, no doubt 
about that, especially when the deer stopped, as he knew they would, 
once he released the safety.  Deer were just curious like that.  If 
there was a buck in the group, he would have to shoot and he knew he 
would hit his mark. 

The first deer crept around the bend in the trail just as the sun peeked
over the ridge top.  It was a doe.  He felt relieved and disappointed 
at the same time.  The doe inched forward, muley ears twitching, soft 
black muzzle thrust into the air.  Two more does came into sight.  It 
always amazed Willy how they simply appeared, like ghosts.  He breathed 
easier, then another and another came into view.  The deer stopped; 
they were directly across from him, looking his way.  Why don't you 
run, you stupid deer, his inner voice screamed.  Run, can't you hear my 
dad coming up behind you?  Run for your lives.  Nevertheless, they 
didn't.  They simply stood there broadside, as if they were waiting for 
something, and a moment later Willy knew what the does were waiting 

He was a large buck, eight points, from what he could make out.  The
buck eased up to the does, sniffing the air, brushing his antlers on 
his broad neck.  Willy gripped his rifle and eased the safety forward.  
No matter how cunningly you do this, the deer always hear it.  The buck 
stood slightly behind the does; it was going to be an easy shot.  The 
buck would fall wherehe stood, dead before he hit the ground.  Of this, 
Willy had no doubt.  He felt the recoil pad nestle into the hollow of 
his shoulder and felt his left hand instinctively weave its way around 
the sling, for better control.  He felt his finger touch the trigger.  
His right eye peeked through the scope, the cross hairs zeroing in on 
the buck's front flank.  It would be a heart shot.  Surely it wouldn't 
hurt.  However, Willy knew it would.  The muzzle blast would be 
deafening in the serenity of the mountain morning.  The bullet would 
rocket to its mark, parting the soft, gray hair at the flank, then 
pierce the skin.  It would travel through muscle and strike the heart, 
exploding it, then exit the opposite side leaving a wound so large you 
could stick your while fist into it.  The buck's head would rise, his 
adrenaline would pump through his veins, his legs would buckle, his 

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