Nicole Yurcaba

Rifle

“A girl with a husband can be limited in what she can do. A girl with a rifle ain’t got that problem.”
- Calamity Jane

I.

November
“Well, let’s just put it this way: I’d take you with me,” you quietly tell the coveralled, cold-whipped young woman, complaining while standing in the church fellowship hall’s dimly-lit doorway, about the supposed-country-boy-of-a-boyfriend– who’ll buy her Chinese buffet dinners, pay her way into Friday night late-showings of movies she truly has no interest in (she’d rather be bear huntin’)—who left her, on this first Monday of West Virginia buck season, to hunt with her Daniel Boone-of-a-father. At home, yet conspicuous, in the hunter’s supper’s male-filled crowd, she strikes an unladylike slouch against the doorway’s beige wooden frame—tantalizingly rolling a slender wood toothpick between Victoria Secret lip-glossed full lips and straight white lightning teeth—she switches conversational gears as easily as she would shift manual ones if driving her Dodge truck from complaining to questioning—“D’you shoot anythin’?” Slyly reaching into your deer-and-camo hunting shirt’s breast pocket, you fish out with dry hands three copper-colored shrapnels, a spent Gibbs round’s remnants: “Doe, seven hun’red eighty-one yards.” Curled black strands orchestrate her crimson cheek’s curve as she understandingly nods, admiration’s flames flowering in her tired dark eyes. You didn’t ask, but she informs you “I got a five-point buck; he come out a-chasin’ a doe,
and so,
I punched four .270 rounds through ‘im. Took that ol’ boy’s fun away” with a good-ol’-girl-giggle uniquely hers, the slender wood toothpick, lifting, falling, in her full mouth’s corner with the tale’s every mountain-lilt inflected word. And you smile that shit-eatin’ Timber Wolf-stained grin, wanting to say “That supposed-country-boy-of-a-boyfriend? He’s afraid you’ll out shoot ‘im.”

II.

December, Two Years Later
“Are ya gonna shoot?” you gruffly whisper into the coveralled, cold-whipped young woman’s red-nipped ear, as you gangster-lean against her significantly older brother’s pick-up truck bed, where she sniperly crouches, expertly shouldering your tactical-styled .25 WSSM . Unblinking, she peers through the high-powered, high-dollar Leupold scope, eyeing an oblivious doe– feeding, flicking its thick white tail. You hear her inhale; you hear her exhale half. (She’s following the one shooting rule her Daniel Boone-of-a-father taught her—“Deep breath, then let half out”) You watch her camo-gloved trigger finger pull the rifle’s black trigger.
“Yes,” she cheekily answers, smiling tiredly, after the rifle’s loudly spoken report echoes in your unprotected ears; she watches the deer fall lifeless into the crystallized winter coating the North Forty’s cornfield. “Well, we know where that one fell,” you bluntly state, taking the tactical-styled rifle from her deadly hands, watching as her one leg and then the other swing over the truck bed’s side, and the crystal crunch of her rugged leather boots reports in your recovering ears. Similar to how, years before, she’d followed her Daniel Boone-of-a-father through woods and fields, she follows you, striving to match your stride—step-for-step, to the field’s craggy edge where the lifeless deer lays, two hundred yards from her pickup bed deer-stand. She fishes out, with dry hands, from the back pocket of her coveralls, a double-bladed Winchester hunting knife(a Christmas present her Daniel Boone-of-a-father gave her the year the supposed-country-boy-of-a-boyfriend left her after she went bear huntin’ instead of going to the movies with him)—the same pocket housing Victoria Secret lip gloss and slender wood toothpicks. Reverently kneeling before the downed doe’s fat brown body, curled black strands orchestrate her crimson cheek’s curve as she unfolds a knife-blade, and presses its sharpness into the animal’s still-warm skin.
“You’re doin’ it wrong,” you tell the coveralled, cold-whipped young woman, who halts her mountaintop field dressing on a field’s craggy edge, who,resistant, glares at you—one more man telling her she’s wrong in this male-filled world. Kneeling beside her, you command “Gimme the knife,” and take away the long-ago Christmas present her Daniel Boone-of-a-father gave to her the year her supposed-country-boy-of-a-boyfriend left her after she chose “bear huntin’” over “Friday night date” from her bluing numbed hands: “I can do it myself,” she adamantly insists, indignantly protesting your intrusion, your violation of the one rule her Daniel Boone-of-a-father established when she was merely six years old (“If you’re goin’ to shoot it, you’re goin’ to gut and clean it yourself.”) You slant the fat doe’s brown body downhill on the field’s craggy edge; pooling red life syrup stains the winter white blanket; pink, warm stomach and snaking intestines slurp and slide forth from the manmade slit jagging up the doe’s body. Behind you, she helplessly stands, wounded, watching you do what her Daniel Boone-of-a-father said she had to do if she were going to be a hunter, and with rapid-fire speech firing “I can do it myself, dammit, I’m not a baby.” Glancing over your shoulder, stopping for a mountaintop moment, halting your mountaintop field-dressing process, your sarcastic tongue threatens to deliver a “Shut up!”lashing out of fear of revealing your uncharacteristic admiration of a coveralled, cold-whipped young woman’s uncanny knack to handle high-powered rifles.