First Draft Theater – Ronald’s Church

Ronald was at church.  On the Sunday after Thanksgiving he always worshipped at the altar of the antler, as he called it.  His ex-wife hated that.  She said it was disrespectful.  Once, he countered with, “It’s more disrespectful to sit in church when you don’t believe and you don’t want to be there.  I’m just being honest about it and not showing up.”

He figured, him and God had their own thing and he would pay up sooner or later.  Maybe even before he died.

Ronald sat in the tree stand watching the ridgeline and listening for any movement around him.  He’s been sitting for a couple of hours and the only thing he has seen are some squirrels who thought about getting too friendly.

He had the rest of the week off just so he could do this.  He always came alone because it wasn’t always about killing something.  This is why he called it church.  All he really wanted to do.  Sit and watch nature move about as if he was not here.  His ex-wife thought he did not believe in God, but he did.  He saw his work every year sitting in these trees watching as it moved around him.  Watching as life continued as it had before he was born and probably after he died.

He and his brother-in-law Carl go squirrel hunting.  Ronald does that just to get his eye back and warm up for deer season.  One time Carl asked him, “Why you go deer hunting?  You just sitting up there in that tree stand by yourself.  Ain’t you worried about one of them drunk-ass white boys by ‘mistake’ thinking you a deer or something?”  Ronald ignored him as he pulled the trigger on a squirrel about 60 yards away.  He hit him just below his head.  He would taste good in the stew they planned on making for Thanksgiving.

Carl was always asking him stuff like that.  He was always talking about those “drunk-ass white boys” or those “cracker-ass boys” he worked with.  It was like Carl hadn’t met any normal white people in his life.  All the white people he met were suspects.

Just then he caught a little flash of white off to the left just to the outside of the tree line.  Ronald waited for the antlers before sighting the deer down.  He turned with his snout in the ground looking for grass to nibble on or trying to find the scent of a doe.  He gave his side to Ronald and lifted his head.  He wasn’t too big.  Maybe 3 years old.  He would grow into a big one if he managed to survive this season.

Ronald watched him for about 10 minutes just nosing about and grazing on whatever grass and tree leaves he could find.  His path corkscrewed towards Ronald’s tree.  Ronald had probably 10 chances to get a good shot off, but he didn’t take it.  He just watched the young deer go about his life.  Ronald imagined he was trying to find food and thinking about finding some doe to fuck.

Ronald’s mind drifted back to his weekends in college and how they were much different than that.  That was a long time and a divorce ago.  Now his weekends were filled with hoping his son wanted to see him and hoping the football games were worth waking up for on Sunday afternoon.  Maybe he would go to IHOP for breakfast to see that waitress.  She was a black haired Costa Rican woman named Sonya.  She had a fourteen year old son and a deadbeat ex-husband he went back to Costa Rica to avoid paying child support.

When his attention came back to the buck he had made his way to about 40 yards away to his right.  Ronald thought for a moment and decided it was time to do something.  He brought his Browning up to his eyes and sighted the buck.  He waited for him to give him another flank.  The raised his head and looked about exposing his left side to Ronald.

Ronald took in a breath, let it out and moved his finger over the trigger.

The deer never saw him.  Maybe he caught Ronald’s scent.  Maybe a rutting doe happened by on the other side of the ridge.  Maybe that’s why he bolted before Ronald could complete ritual.  Whatever happened, the deer was gone.

Ronald wasn’t sad about it.  He lowered his rifle and relaxed a little and looked out over the land as a couple of squirrels dug around looking for the last of the acorns of the year.  He was alone with himself and God again.  That was enough.


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