The Sticks

Bumping into the headlight of a parked 1972 Chevy C-10 pickup and losing a small chunk of flesh and fur, the rattled white-tail skittered passed the pumping islands and into the convenience store. The bell dinged above his antlers and two rounds from a Remington blasted out the window that marked the new price of chewing tobacco. Wounded and winded from the chase, the deer hunkered down behind the Frosty machine and checked his German Mauser C96. Fumbling with his ill-formed hooves to reload, he caught his battered reflection on the side of a biscuit tin. What horror.

Outside, Heck reloaded his Remington 870 Express. A projectile from the Mauser whizzed by Heck’s ear. He ducked down behind a flame-painted Ford Pinto. The Pinto took three more bullets before the firing stopped. Heck wiped the sweat that had been accumulating between his forehead and his John Deere cap. Silence. The cicadas uneasily started to murmur again.

“Walk away, man!”

Heck peered over the dented hood. The deer had the gas station attendant, the hot barrel of his pistol digging into his temple. Heck spat and frustratedly twisted the corners of his graying mustache. The deer had bandaged himself with gauze and duct tape. He was a handsome ten pointer. The hostage clerk gazed stoically ahead as the agitated ungulate aggressively muttered something into his ear.

“Just walk away!” the deer barked, his voice quavering. “Nobody has to die today!”

The 50 something with the hunting rifle steeled himself and raised his Remington defiantly. The deer, fearing he might have to shoot the clerk, backed inside. A moment later several distress flares were shot directly at the docked Pinto. Taking note of the gas leak that stained the pavement, Heck bolted for the Chevy. Six flares later the Ford erupted in a ball of fire, plexiglass, and metal. The blast knocked Heck to the asphalt. From this new coign of vantage he could see the deer running out the back of the convenience store. The clerk was nowhere to be found.

With the sure-footed maneuvering of a seasoned hunter, Heck stood up, took aim, and fired. The deer saw his own brains paint the oncoming treeline like a monochromatic Jackson Pollock before everything went black and still. Old Heck left the fiery carnage of the gas station and approached his quarry. The clerk emerged from the store and walked over to the corpse.

“Why’d you do it? It wasn’t deer season.” The clerk’s words were flat and emotionless.

“Deer season nothing. That son of a bitch slept with my wife.”

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