by Civrene K. Brabt
On Election Day I’d voted. I took a chance and I rang him, to ask if he’d been to vote too. ‘It’s important’, I said. My husband wasn’t far away. ‘Hunting,’ he said. ‘Okay?’
I didn’t like it but I knew better than to get into that. ‘Men have to hunt,’ he once said, and I said something back to him that I’d heard someone say, something that I’d thought sounded clever. I said that we don’t live in a famine culture. He said ‘where did you hear that?’ and he laughed. I could feel I was blushing. ‘What do you think prey is on earth for if not to be killed?’ he said. I could feel my mouth moving but I had no idea what to say and it was like I was drowning I guess, with my mouth flapping open trying to breathe some words out and he jumped in to drag me away from the conversation. ‘You think God is not going to come hunting you one day? You think he won’t finish you off just when he feels like it?’
‘It’s the way we are’, he said. ‘People get messed up when they try to convince themselves that we aren’t the way we are.’
He didn’t say any of this to me, of course. He said it to his hunting diary. In the early days when he went hunting I went hunting too. I went hunting him. I went through his things to find out who he was.
He said in his hunting diary that he liked to hunt things that believed they were the hunters and not the hunted. He liked how it would surprise them to be so easily outwitted just after they had done something which must have seemed particularly clever. He said that the look in their eyes just before he killed them was what he was really hunting for. It was a kind of stupefaction, and a kind of wish that they had chosen the quiet life, and that their nature hadn’t been as it was.
It wasn’t the blood he was after. The blood didn’t matter much, though he said in his hunting diary that he did sometimes drink it. Other times he would just immerse his hands in it, somewhere between the heart and the solar plexus, and he would feel the pulsing waves of it against his wrists. Sometimes he closed his eyes and drifted off briefly to those waves, and he would say to himself, guessing, that the waves would stop after ten or twelve or fifteen more pulses. He would close his eyes and count the pulses and when they stopped he would know that the heart had stopped. Sometimes he was right and sometimes he was wrong about the ten or twelve or fifteen pulses. It didn’t matter. It was just a guessing game, a relaxation between the look in the eyes of the thing that he was going to kill and the moment when its heart stopped. Then when the heart did stop he said he would get up and look at the clouds and scream some sound that made no sense to him, and scream that sound in as long a breath as it needed for him to get feeling more like how he had felt on the way to the killing.
What mattered to him above all was making sure he saw the eyes of whatever he was killing. I sometimes wondered what had happened in his life for him to want that satisfaction, and what had happened in the lives of the things he killed that led them to think they were the hunters and not the hunted. But, to be honest, after a while mostly I did other things when he was away hunting, like going to the mall and buying the stuff he liked to eat when he returned from killing things.
On election day, he wrote in his hunting diary about another day, when it had been beautiful out there. He had parked where the vehicle wouldn’t be seen other than by someone deliberately looking for it and he took the canoe and paddled down the creek till it met the blue water river. The sunbeams had been streaming through the trees and hitting the water, making diamonds glint on the surface. He had left the canoe and headed south into country where the trail was bordered by vines, and on into the old goldfields. Every now and then deer crossed the trail. He never killed deer. He said that deer just sighed when you kill them, and a sigh is not the response that he required from such a momentous instant. He said a deer wasn’t surprised, only frightened. One without the other wasn’t the style of hunting he liked to do. Yes, he said in his hunting diary, fear was good but not like the surprise and recognition in something’s eyes which showed they knew who he was and why he had come to that place.
He said that when he emerged into the open country the corn was high, the folk medicine people were out cutting the tassels. This had bothered him a little since he was near to where he would be killing and he didn’t like to kill where he might be overlooked, or where that scream to the sky might be overheard. In those situations, when he was bothered by something, the tension sometimes made him do things he might not otherwise do. It had happened before, things like cutting out the heart and forcing it into the mouth of the thing he was killing. He didn’t like it that sometimes the tension and the apprehension meant that his enjoyment needed to be hurried and made him savage in a way he felt was momentarily beyond his control.
He said that it had been like that today, on election day. He didn’t speak about it to me of course, only to his diary. He said that the sun on the way home was the kind of sun that warms the bones and the body and the heart, the kind of sun we hardly ever see in November. He said that he’d stopped to vote and afterwards he’d seen her. He said that when she saw him she hadn’t really understood. He said that realisation dawned on her so gradually that the look that he liked was in her eyes for a wonderfully long, long time.
Civrene K. Brabt is currently working on a slim self-help volume – Choose your own: New personal pronouns in the age of transitioning (Pink Panther Press, due 2018). Civrene’s motto is Everything is fluid. Civrene’s own favored personal pronoun is currently: darling. Darling’s mood today is: apprehensive/feminine.