Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Outdoorsman

“So then…I gutted him like a fish.” I leaned forward and asked him, “What was that like?” The grim-faced man, sitting opposite the campfire replied, “Well, it was a fish, so it was pretty much standard procedure.” “Ah, I see, and then what happened?” “Well,” he said, noticing that he’d burnt another marshmallow for the sake of dramatic pause, “the one thing I didn’t count on was the smell of that fish attracting the grizzlies—and that is absolutely true—I didn’t get a wink of sleep that night. I spent it mostly running from tree to tree, trying to hide my greasy, fish scented scent from the bloodthirsty bears…Of course, once I’d killed a few of them, they got the point and left me alone. But that’s not the point, you see. The point is this, if there is a point to this bloody story, the decisions you make in the wilderness are never pointless,” he paused once more, both for effect and to impale an unsuspecting mallow, “for example, the day after I’d killed the grizzlies with my bare hands—do you get the joke?—good, because it’s not one, I ripped their paws off and beat the bears to death with ‘em. Bare hands, bear hands, it’s a pun.” I laughed, but only to keep my hands attached to my body. His attempts at wordplay were not enough to quell my rising doubts. I thought, maybe it just was the way light from the flames danced across his face, or his eye patch, or maybe the way he seemed so comfortable atop a freshly dispatched bear carcass, one which he had beaten to death only moments before, but I wasn’t so sure that I could trust this man, not anymore. “So the next day,” he continued, “I found myself in a clearing, and goddammit it was the prettiest sight I’ve seen in my life. I walked through the tall grasses, sniffed the wildflowers, and frolicked amongst the trees—but I swear to god, if you tell anybody about that I will rip your ankles off and beat you to death with them—and suddenly I came across a whole bunch of wild shrubs, just full of blackberries, and I ate every single berry that I could see, musta been pounds of ‘em, and it wasn’t until after that I realized that they weren’t blackberries at all.” “Do you know what they were?” “Hell no, and at this point I don’t even want to know. I nearly died out there that day, puking my guts out all over the grasses and wildflowers. It was the first time I’d been that close to death.” The Outdoorsman became silent at this; he lowered his head, not speaking for several moments. Until I asked, “So what did you do?” “After that--” he stopped again, the memory of it pained him in a way that I would never have guessed possible, “I just, woke up.” I woke up, to the blare of the alarm clock shaking the dream from my mind.

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