The Hunter

by Virgil Owen © 2001

The cracking of twigs, snaps the old man out of his light slumber. His hands grip tighter on the gun as his senses become heightened. "C'mon!" he thinks as aggravation and anticipation intertwine. He knows how long it's been since his last kill, and the thirst for blood grows more as the tick of each second passes.

"Perhaps," he thinks, "It was just my imagination." However, another popping sound fills his ears. A vicious smile is illuminated on his pale face by the faint glow of the moon. Ignoring the cold that has eaten at his body for the past hour, he looks toward the direction of the light footsteps that's now coming his way.

"In just a moment you will die, and I will be the victor," taunts the old man in his mind. "I shall strip you naked, dine upon your tasty meat, and I will feast upon your blood!" screams the man inside his head. As the snapping of new fallen twigs gets close, the old man raises to his feet with gun in hand. "Now, I shall not be mocked by the others in the camp!" thinks the old man joyfully. "No more being put down because I haven't had a kill, and respect will finally be mine!"

At that moment, gun raised, the stag steps out from behind the green brush. The old man's finger rests gently upon the trigger, and his eyes are wide in astonishment. "Surely, this creature is the oldest in the forest!" he wonders. He is delighted after mentally counting the 27 points on the deer's head. The gun is aimed at the stag's chest, and his finger fixed upon the trigger. In the instant before the old man is about to pull the trigger and win back his respect, the stag's ancient eyes lock onto the old man's.

The old hunter's finger traces the outline of the trigger. With a saddened look upon his face, he calls out to the stag, "Go!" The trophy lowers his head and tramps off into the woods leaving the old man behind. "I had him," he thinks as he begins his long walk back. "Respect would have been mine!"

"There's ole rusty gun!" One man shouts as he sees the old man enter camp. "What did ya get today?" another yells.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told ya'll anyway!" he screams out in his defense.

It's at that moment that the stag stepped out from behind a green bush. "Everyone's mouth opened wide!" One man raised his gun and fired, but the bullet went through the intended kill. The old man looked in astonishment at the stag and asked, "What are you doing here?" The forest ancient looked down at the old man and said, "I want to know why you didn't shoot at me!" Puzzled, the man replied, "Out of respect!"

The old hart smiled at these words and began to weep. When the old man reached out and tenderly patted the deer on its head, it gradually evaporated into the mist of the forest that had slowly begun to rise from the cold damp ground. In its place, were diamonds, in the shape of teardrops.

It was then that the old man had everyone's respect, not because he was the richest man, but because they saw what was hidden in his heart.

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