Veterans Day

by Jane Flint

My uncle owned a parcel once. It was a beauty.
Up there outside of Brookings.
Most of it lay along a gentle slope facing southward.
During runoff in the spring,
every farm around would be wet or under water.
But that piece would drain as soon as the sun stayed out for good.
By May his feed corn would be sprouted.

Every year, when pheasant season opened
on Veterans Day,
they’d gather in his attic and clean the guns—
my grandfather, uncle, father, brother, cousin—
the high metallic smell clinging to their clothes,
and me, I’d tag along because
they were the ones who went out into the world, who did things.

They were the ones with red-brass shotgun shells
strapped across their canvas chests.
I was the one who went ahead, me and the dogs, out into
the stubble-field of broken cornstalks to call the pheasants
feeding on the corn’s lost harvest. Call them into danger.
Up cock, Up cock as if they knew what I meant by up,
as if giving them fair warning, we could only kill the males.

When the dogs had nosed one out and it flapped in a startled,
heavy way up and up and up,
eager to gain the sky or at least some cover in the shelterbelt,
I’d drop into the chaff, hold my knees, face close to dirt.
From behind I’d hear the shotguns pop-pop-pop like firecrackers.
When the shooting stopped, I’d peek back at the men,
tall silhouettes against the red Dakota sky.

If they’d missed they’d wave me forward, to cry out
my next betrayal,
and if they’d downed the bird, they’d point to the direction that it fell.
Then the dogs and I would head that way. Most times the bird
was only winged and still alive. I’d stand beside it,
jealous of its softly spotted feathers,
til my father came to wring the iridescent green-blue neck.


Category: Featured, Fiction, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing