Armed to the Teeth


by Jessica Higgins

"Dad?"

"Shhhh, son!  You don't want to scare 'em away."

"Sorry."

"It's okay.  We just have to be real quiet because deer have really good hearing."

"Right.  Okay."

"Dad?"

"Yes, son?"

"Why do deer have really good hearing?"

"Because they are prey.  They have to have acute senses so they know when predators are after them."

"Oh, okay.  What's a predator?"

"A hunter."

"Like you, Dad?"

"Yup.  Like me."

"Dad?"

"Yes, son?"

"Why do you want to shoot the deer?"

"Because their meat tastes good.  You know that.  Don't you like that venison sausage your mom makes?  It's good, right?"

"That's deer?  Yeah, I like that!  I like it a lot."

"Dad?"

"Yes?"

"Why did Mom move in with Grandma?"

"Grandma's real old, you know that.  She needs help so your mother is helping her out.  Now, try to be quiet.  Eat that candy I brought."

"Okay, sorry...Dad?"

"Yes?"

"How does a deer get turned in to sausage?"

"Well, it's kinda hard to explain, but basically, I shoot the deer and it dies.  Then, I take it home, skin and clean the meat off its bones.  That meat is then ground up, seasoned and pressed into tubes.  That's sausage."

"You take its skin off?"

"Yes, son, that's how a person gets to an animal's flesh."

"Flesh?"

"Meat."

"Oh, okay.  And then Mom cooks the sausage?"

"Right.  Then your mother cooks the sausage."

"I like the way she cooks it.  It's good."

"Yes, I like it too.  Your mother's a good cook."

"I miss her."

"Yes, I know.  I do too."

"So, dad?  Why don't you tell her to come home?"

"Because.  Because she's busy right now.  Busy with your grandmother."

"Grandma doesn't seem sick.  Why does she need help?"

"Shhhhh, why don't you just eat your candy and be quiet for a few minutes.  We don't want to scare the deer."

"Oh, okay, Dad.  Sorry."

"Dad?"

"Yes?"

"How do deer pray?"

"What?"

"You said earlier that deer have to pray because hunters are after them.  So, since they're animals, how do they pray?"

"Not that kind of 'pray.'  Prey, as in p-r-e-y.  That means they get hunted."

"Oh.  Do they hunt something else?"

"No, they just eat grass.  They're always being hunted; they don't do the hunting."

"Do people always do the hunting?"

"No, deer have lots of predators."

"I meant, are people ever prey?"

"Oh, I guess, yeah, sometimes."

"Well, I suppose there's a few animals that would hunt a person.  But mostly people are prey to other people."

"Really?  So people can both hunt and be hunted?  That's weird."

"Yes.  It is weird."

"Dad?"

"Yes?"

"Have you ever been the prey instead of the predator?"

"Geez, what's with the questions today boy?  Why don't you be quiet for a minute and eat your candy."

"Sorry, Dad."

"Dad?"

"Yes?"

"What does divorce mean?"

"Why do you ask?"

"Cuz, this kid at school, Jimmy Knudsen, said that you and Mom are getting divorced."

"Well, Jimmy Knudsen doesn't know his ass from his elbow.  We're not getting divorced.  Your mom just needs a little space and time, and she's busy helping out your grandma.  Like I said."

"But what does it mean?"

"What does what mean?"

"'Divorce.'"

"Oh, well, uh, it means that two people who were married are no longer married."

"But I thought married was forever."

"Yeah...so did I.  Now, shush!  Do you see that?"

"What?"

"That!  That's a deer!  Now, be quiet!  We don't wanna scare her away."

"Her?"

"Yup, it's a doe, son."

"You're gonna shoot a mom deer?"

"Not if you keep talking.  Now, shush!"

"Dad, I don't want you to shoot a mom deer!"

"Son, the meat's just as good on her as it is on a buck.  Now, quiet, Please!"

"Dad, please don't!"

"Son, you need to toughen up a bit.  Now, see, I just wait for her to get a leeetle closer.  There, that's it."

"Dad, I don't want you to shoot a mom deer!"

"And then I just make sure I get her lined up in my sights like this, and–"

"Dad!  Don't!"

"...pull the trigger."




BIO: Jessica Higgins' short story, "The Infirmary," appeared in Bartleby Snopes in July 2009 and was selected as the July 2009 Story of the Month. Jessica is an English Professor at Broward College where she teaches courses in composition and literature. She lives in South Florida with her husband, daughter, and dog.