Not for Vegetarians
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.
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.