The Hunter by Linda Simoni-Wastila

Even at night the desert swelters. Sweat drips from my forehead, fogging the scope, veneering the sparse mustache tracing my lip. Perched in the granite outcropping and hidden behind camel thorn, I wait for dawn, when animals venture forth for food, for water and mating, before the sun sends them back to shadows.

“Do it for honor,” the elders said. “Do it for your manhood.”

I am blessed with a sharp eye, a steady hand, and do not yet taste fear. The elders chose me for this hunt, for of all our clansmen, I have the greatest accuracy. With one shot I can kill a hare from a stone’s throw or fell a bat in flight. This week I killed the leopard preying on our goats after other men had failed.

But I am a poet, not a hunter; even as I crouch amidst the rocks I weave words in my head.

Listen to the sand, to the tale it tells,

the spirits of the prophets joined with the One.

Gold silhouettes the distant ridge. My arms tremble, from the heat, from the weight of the Kalashnikov, from the exhaustion of anticipation. Below, a pale rectangle of light spills from the hut onto the scorched poppy field. My finger curls around the trigger, and I pray for the animal souls I’ve taken – panther, gazelle, hyena, vulture.

“It is only meat,” I murmur as the Commander greets the day.

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9 responses to “The Hunter by Linda Simoni-Wastila

  1. Wonderfully vivid description. Nice job.

  2. Al McDermid

    Despite the clues trying to steer me away, I know the scope meant ‘sniper’ and what the true prey would be, and even knowing it, it still sent a chill–only meat.

  3. Thanks for reading, Katherine and Al. This little story was going somewhere else, but ended up in a mountain in Afghanistan. peace…

  4. Jen

    I thought it was a Western until the great twist at the end. And I love how you describe setting. Feels so real.

    • Thanks for reading Jen! The story started out (in my head) in the White River, AZ area, then after sleeping on it, morphed into Afghanistan. Funny how that happens sometimes. Peace…

  5. stories can so easily disappear in the Hindu Kusch. i really enjoyed the language here and how there seem to be more than one story in it. “pale rectangle of light spills from the hut onto the scorched poppy field” interested me most and i wonder what will happen to the narrator when he grows up.

    • Thanks Marcus! I liked that line a lot, too. Nothing thrills me more than you wonder what happens to the hunter when he gets older; I hope something shakes him from the all-too-familiar cycle. Peace…

  6. Pingback: Wk #11 – Red Meat « 52|250 A Year of Flash

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