New Fiction from Nathan Graziano

Not for Veg­e­tar­i­ans

I.

I had nev­er killed any­thing oth­er than bugs, and I told Jay, who laughed and put me in a head­lock. “You need to go duck hunt­ing with me tomor­row after­noon,” he said, and it wasn’t a sug­ges­tion.

So the next after­noon, we shoved off the lake shore in Jay’s old alu­minum row­boat. We had a cool­er full of beer, Jay’s twelve-gauge, and half a joint. We rowed out to the cen­ter of the lake, the White Moun­tains sur­round­ing us like old­er broth­ers, and cracked a beer, wait­ing for the ducks to arrive. An hour or so lat­er, a flock of gray ducks touched down about fifty yards from us. Jay pressed his fin­ger to his lips and picked up the shot­gun.

When I used to pic­ture ducks being shot, I imag­ined they’d be shot out of the sky and fall like they do in video games, but this duck was still in the water, stu­pid­ly look­ing around. The gun fired, and the duck was shot, its wings fly­ing up, and it start­ed to fly away, but then dropped like dumb­bell into the water.

Jay and I began to pad­dle over.

But the duck was not dead. In the water, it start­ed flop­ping around, and when we got close enough, Jay whacked in the head with the pad­dle. But still its body kept mov­ing. So Jay pad­dled us over beside the duck, reached in the water, and picked up the duck by its neck. In one swift motion, he snapped its neck.

Dead now,” Jay said and threw it in the boat with us. We decid­ed to smoke the half-joint.

II.

Jay fil­let­ed the duck, and Jess cleaned the meat and cooked it in a fry­ing pan. Sun-burned, we sat down to din­ner: the duck with gar­lic mashed pota­toes and creamed corn. When I looked down at my plate, press­ing my knife into the oily breast, I began to relive the duck’s death, frame-by-frame, and bolt­ed from the table. I threw open the front door and vom­it­ed on the side of the lake house.

Nathan Graziano lives in Man­ches­ter, New Hamp­shire with his wife and two chil­dren. . He is the author of After the Hon­ey­moon (sun­ny­out­side, 2009), Teach­ing Metaphors (sun­ny­out­side, 2007), Not So Pro­found (Green Bean Press, 2004), Frost­bite (GBP, 2002) and sev­en chap­books of poet­ry and fic­tion.  His work has appeared in Rat­tle, Night Train, Freight Sto­ries, The Coe Review, The Owen Wis­ter Review, and others.A high school Eng­lish teacher, he holds an MFA in fic­tion writ­ing from The Uni­ver­si­ty of New Hamp­shire For more infor­ma­tion, vis­it his web­site: www​.nathangraziano​.com.

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