I am on the hunt. My hands feel gritty against the stock of my rifle. Sweat and dirt have tightened my grip. I turn to my faithful friend, Hobbes.
“Do you have the scent of the prey?”
“An antelope. A buck, I’d prefer. I think we should climb that hill. We can settle in a bower and wait, just as we did that time in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.”
“Sure, what ever you want to do, Calvin. But don’t you think that your dad will be upset with your taking his gun?”
“I think, being a good man, he’d tell me not to return without blood on my hands.”
“That sounds kind of yucky to me.”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
And we were off.
I thought about Margaret, back at home. Her wondering if I would return.
She was always too concerned. She didn’t understand my need to hunt. She understood little. Yet, I did feel a bit of love for her. Enough, it seemed.
“What do you think it means to be man, Hobbes?”
“I wouldn’t know, I’m a tiger”
“It is moments like this, that I know I can test myself—see what separates the boy from the man.”
“You weren’t much of man last night when you wet the bed.”
“Is it the light breaking through the trees while I perch behind a rock, ready to shoot? Or is it the sound of skinning your dinner—freshly killed?
“Or is it the sound of your dad chewing you out?”
“When we get home, Hobbes, I owe you a drink—maybe more.”
We settled in behind a large oak tree. We would have to wait until dusk for the hot fetid sun to set. Then, the animals would appear looking for food and water.
I considered my friendship with Hobbes. An odd thing, having conversations with a stuffed tiger. Perhaps this is not what a man does. It is what a boy does. I eyed the talking tiger suspiciously. Perspiration ran down the back of my neck.
“How long are we going to sit here, Calvin?” the tiger asked.
“As long as needed.”
“I thought we were going to tape down all of the toilet seats at home.”
“Those are children’s games, Hobbes. I am on the verge of no longer being a child.”
“Too bad, sounds like fun.”
A group of young boys played football in a distant yard. Grunting, rolling around in the dirt. I felt a dryness in my throat that could only be quenched by a stiff drink. Something hard. Like grape Kool-Aid.
“Hey, Calvin, I know. Why don’t we grab that bag of balloons you borrowed from Margaret’s party, fill them with water, and throw them at her?”
Doesn’t this tiger ever stop his talking? How can I keep my head clear with his incessant noise? Perhaps, this “Hobbes” was more of a liability than I had previously considered.
Perhaps this was that moment when I would truly become a man.
I gripped the stock of my rifle harder. A hot breeze blew over the hill.
“Hobbes, is that an antelope over in Mrs. Wilson’s yard?”
“An antelope? Here in the neighborhood? I can’t see it”
The stuffed tiger was turned away. I brought up the barrel of the rifle.
The harsh caw of a crow echoed in the tree above us.
But, the barrel was caught on my pant’s leg. I fell forward. My face landed in the dirt. My finger pulled on the trigger of the rifle accidentally as I hit the ground. A metallic click told me that the rifle was empty. Something I had not considered.
I lay in the dirt for a moment. Humiliation struck a match and began to light up, like the old Guajiros I had encountered in that dusty Cuban town.
“Calvin, that wasn’t an antelope, that was Margaret. And, look she’s all dressed up to go to a party or something.”
I jumped up, ready with a new plan.
“Hobbes, let’s go get those balloons!”
I was already halfway down the hill.