Missing The Bullet


Back in 2008, I wrote a short story called Missing The Bullet. I just finished revising it after revisiting it years later. Sometimes a story needs to age; the writer needs to step away from it, then look at it again. I decided it was time to look at this one again. It’s short, but sweet. Enjoy!

On a cool February evening – the 28th to be exact, Jim sat on his porch in denim overalls contemplating sunrise, for daybreak would bring the first day of South Carolina’s rabbit season. The L.C. Smith double barrel was cleaned and oiled; he looked up from his whittling at the orange sun as it settled like a dome touching the swaying tall grass in the distance.

The shotgun, like the Uncle Henry knife, were gifts from his dad. He got the knife for his 16th birthday, and the shotgun for Christmas the same year; that was back in 1949 when the last of those shotguns were made. To this day, they still make the Uncle Henry’s.

The stag handle knife and the double shotgun never failed to bring moments of reflection. Bittersweet memories of his dad flooded in. Memories of training beagles together, hunting together, and the bugling cry of the dogs as they ran after a rabbit as it zig-zagged for escape. Jim and his dad trained some of the finest Beagles in the state, arguably the country.

Of all of the dogs Jim and his dad had trained together, the last was the best. The morning sun on his beautiful coat as he ran was like lightening striking across flat ground; his bark was his thunder, so his name was Bullet.

Jim looked down at the newest Beagle pup and said, “It seems more like six years than two since Bullet’s been gone. I wish he was around to help me teach you what you need to know when we’re afield.” The puppy Jake laid at his feet looking up to meet misty eyes; his puppy eyes filled with wonder.

“Jim,” Lois called out to him as she opened the screen door and stepped onto the porch. After over 50 years of marriage, she could read him like a book. She knew what he was thinking half the time before he did. “Jim I hope you aren’t going to compare Jake with Bullet. I hope you appreciate him for his own merits. Bullet was a wonderful dog. He’s gone now and I know we will see him again someday.”

“I know, I know”, said Jim as he reached down to give the puppy a pat. “I can’t help but miss Bullet. I know I always will.” After a moment Lois touched him on the shoulder and said “I know. I’ll always miss him too, but you’ve still got some living to do and now a new puppy to train.”

“Your father was so proud of the way you helped him train Bullet. You can train Jake the same way now. You be fair and give Jake the chance he deserves. He wants to please you. You can see it in his little face.” Lois stepped back into the house and Jim considered what she said. She made good sense; She always did.

About an hour before daybreak Jim woke without need of an alarm. He got up and made a bacon and egg breakfast. All dogs love bacon and Jake was no exception. When breakfast was finished he grabbed his coat and shotgun and Jake started bowing and jumping with excitement the way he always did when he knew he was about to go somewhere.

Jim walked along a hedgerow next to an open field with the shotgun broke open hanging over his forearm. It’s the same open field he watched the sun set on, so now the sun was slowly rising behind the woods casting light through the tree line which met the hedgerow.  He had a couple of 20 Gauge shells in the breech. The hedgerow was riddled with briar patches that went towards the woods in one direction and met the field in the other. The briar patches along that hedge row, so thick you couldn’t throw a cat through it, is perfect habitat for holding cottontails.

The sun continued to climb as they approached the south end. Jake stuck pretty close. He looked happy as he looked up at Jim just as he had on the porch the evening before with his eyes shining.

Panting now, Jim looked at Jake, “I get tired so easily these days, bad circulation I guess. My arms are numb clear up to the shoulder.” Jim took a seat on a flat stump from a felled tree near the wood line. “Whew, I shouldn’t have wolfed down that breakfast so fast I guess.” Jim said to Jake; then he fell silent.

Moments later Jim opened his eyes and heard Jake barking up a storm. The dog was chasing a rabbit. It was in the middle of the field a good-ways off.  The big cottontail ran full speed leaping into Jim’s sight above the wheat with every bound. Doing what rabbits do, the critter circled back towards the hedgerow where the chase began. The dog stayed on the rabbit and its barks resonated like a bugle much too loud and deep to be the bark of a puppy.

As the game got closer he closed the side lock shot gun, planted it firmly into the pocket of his shoulder, gave lead to the rabbit and let him have it. The dog picked up the rabbit gently and brought it over to Jim. As the dog approached Jim realized it wasn’t Jake at all. It was old Bullet, only he wasn’t old Bullet anymore. He was young, strong, agile as ever with a beautiful shinning coat.

Jim took the rabbit with wonder and savored their reunion. Suddenly, Bullet quickly turned and was on another rabbit and then chase, the flash of the barrel, and finally the perfect retrieval of the game. Jim sat and the beagle jumped into his lap and covered his face with kisses.

As Jim continued to pet Bullet he couldn’t help but notice the light from the sun was somehow different. It was brighter but didn’t make him squint the way it always did. The field had a warm glow like never before. The light cast prisms across the treetops in the forest, it danced across the golden field. The sky had never been such a deep blue.

Moments later, as he continued to survey the scene around him, so familiar, yet so different, he smiled with a sense of peace. Jim started towards the stump and for a moment thought he saw someone there, then he felt a warmth on his shoulders. He turned and was face to face with his dad.

“Hey son, I can’t believe you’re here already. This is amazing isn’t it. Bullet and I have been hunting this field for some time now, but of course time doesn’t mean anything to us.” With the sun on their shoulders they just stood there looking at each other taking in the moment as Bullet ran to meet them, his tail wagging and as he nipped at Jim’s coattail.

As soon as it got dark, Lois called their son Peter. They arrived later than night, too late to go looking for him. Before the first light came everybody was up and ready.  “You sit with Lois, I’ve got a pretty good idea of where he and Jake went hunting, they probably went to the same old hedgerow they took me,” Said Peter, and out he went.

Daylight was breaking by the time he reached the hedgerow. When he found them, Jim was lying on the ground next to a stump, Jake was curled up close to him. His game bag held two big rabbits. Jim was smiling. He never looked happier.

 

 

The End

The People I Meet at Work


On my day job, I deal with the public. One of the most interesting things about that kind of job is the variety of people I meet. At work yesterday, I saw an old man with his Grandchildren. He was wearing a cap with the words WWII Veteran. I approached him and reached out my hand. As he took my hand, I thanked him for his service, and for being one of my childhood hero’s. I explained that the WWII vets were the reason I dreamed as a child to be a soldier someday. His eyes brightened, he gave me a trembling smile beneath a tear, and in that moment I could almost see a little of what his eyes must have seen as he told me he was in the Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945.) I’m in my late 50’s now, but I take comfort knowing super hero’s still walk among us. It is humbling to stand before them for their days are growing shorter. Soon the honor of being in their presence will be but a tale to be told.

I retired from the Army National Guard after 20 years of service in December of 2014. I’ve got my share of years served overseas, and I’ve seen a lot, but I’ve seen nor endured anything compared to our World War II heroes. Hell has anybody?

Current Works In Progress


I’ve been busy either writing, thinking about writing, or researching two stories. One is called “Saved By The Enemy,” the other is called “Stories While You Wait.”

“Saved By The Enemy”  was first written as a play; however, I decided it had the potential to be a good short story, perhaps even a novel. “Stories While You Wait” is a new work in progress. We will see how that goes and I’ll keep you posted.

That, short and sweet, is what’s going on right now. Thanks for checking out my blog.

Always my best

Steven

Recovering From Rejection


How do I apologPhoto on 1-16-15 at 3.14 PMize for my lack of blogs? I think by telling the truth. Yes. This fiction writer will tell the truth about why I have been absent from the blogosphere.

I got my feelings hurt with another rejection. I’ve had a great deal more of my stories rejected than printed. Haven’t most writers? But this. I worked on a play I thought was awesome, different, fresh, and last but not least pretty damn good.

I did what writers do. I became despondent. The wind was knocked out of me. “I’m just not good enough,” I told myself. So, I stopped writing. Now, weeks later, I have to start again. Am I some kind of glutton for punishment? “No,” I say to myself, and to you dear reader, and/or fellow writer. I have come to the conclusion that it is perfectly natural to think of ourselves as lousy writers.

With that in mind, I have decided to write wheather I ever get published or not. It’s what I do. I keep writing. I keep writing even when I am forced to scrap my darlings to the big shoe box. I keep writing when I recover from a particular painful rejection. I keep writing when I turn on Netflix and see a horror movie that is so terrible compared to my efforts, it is inconceivable that a writer actually got paid to craft it.

It’s the efforts that should by all rights have been a flop that keep me going. The hope that I’ll someday get paid for something I wrote. And sometimes, and this is when it’s the best, I get to write the storis I really want to tell.

My Response to Anne Rice’s Facebook Question


I have never blended a Facebook post, or the post of any social media with my blog; however, I could not resist my response to this one.

One of my favorite authors, Anne Rice, posted this question of Facebook.

“How many of you have read “Gone With The Wind”? Is it a book you like, dislike, approve of, recommend, don’t recommend? (I’m not talking about the movie now, just the book.) Thanks for your comments…

My response was as follows:

Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone With The Wind’ is a must read. Is it politically correct? No. Life is often not. Great literature does not have to equal political correctness. This is the opinion of a person who is more often than not quite politically correct. The truth buried within the pages of lies is an important part of what makes great fiction. In 1936 when the book was written, it was an amazing success. In 1939 it became the most successful movie since the 1938 release of ‘Jezebel,’ staring Bette Davis, which featured her introduction of the macabre and menacing. The bottom line is, like some of the racy and controversial works of the brilliant author Anne Rice, it’s the appeal to our human desires, of which we may never speak, that we can entertain through the power of reading.

Vietnam Calls To Me


Vietnam. The mere mention of the name of that country in South-East Asia brings to mind the unpopular war. In the American mind Vietnam and the war are inextricably connected.

When I hear that countries name I think of Graham Green’s ‘The Quiet American,’ of lush green forests, the undeniable beauty of Ha Long Bay, now a world heritage site that my eyes have never seen. I think of Hanoi, and of making my way from there to the Capital, Ho Chi Minh City.

At the starting and the finishing point there is night life, beautiful temples, architecture and style. The places in between offer simple life, simple food, and sites to be seen no where else in the world.

What makes Vietnam so special to me? I long to see it from the saddle of a bicycle; all 1,713.5 Km of it. I would no doubt arrive in Ho Chi Minh City, then cycle along the beautiful coastline to Hanoi. The food is largely vegan and vegitarian. It is cheap but good.

When I arrive at my destination, Hanoi near the border of China, it will be easy to take a train, or four back to Ho Chi Minh City to catch a flight back home.

I have traveled to and through many countries, yet Vietnam keeps calling to me. Maybe someday. Maybe.