Dad Shot Thumper
Dad used to hunt. He didn’t golf, so hunting was another made up reason to get out of the house. He never struck me as the hunting type, but once or twice a year, he’d be off upstate for a long weekend. It was a Yorkville man thing in the 1950s and 1960s.
As he was walking out the door in his Elmer Fudd hat with his rifle, Mom told him,”If you shoot something, I want you to think about Bambi’s mother lying in the woods bleeding to death, alone, and she’s thinking about her poor baby, left with that heartless bastard of a father.”
Dad’s face did tricks when Mom said that. I’d never seen such complicated movement from Dad’s mouth, eyes, cheeks, and eyebrows. He looked heartbroken, sad, angry, confused and through it all still came back to the look, like he wanted to kill Mom.
Well, one time he gets home from hunting, and he ain’t talking. I give him a good look over, and I can see he’s not playing mum because he’s hungover, something’s on his mind. He sits in his chair, and Mom starts pressing him.
“What the hell’s a matter with you?”
For a long time, he says nothing, but Mom keeps at him, and he tears up. Up to then, I only saw Dad cry over movies. “I watched it die,” he said.
“I shot a rabbit, then I watched it die.”
“You son of a bitch.”
“It was in pain, I’ll never hunt again.”
“You bet your ass.”
And that was that. While Mom and Dad were talking, I began to think about Thumper. Dad loved Thumper, he drew him for Rory & me all the time. Dad shot Thumper. I had nothing to say.
The next day it snowed heavy, I asked, “Dad, since you’re not going to hunt anymore can I use your pigskin gloves?”
Dad gave me one of his “you’re out of your mind” looks, he loved those yellow gloves, had them since 1952, then, he thought it over and said, “OK.”
I flew over to Central Park with Rory and the McNamara brothers. We worked the hill on 79th Street until we were soaked to the bone. When the chills got us, we dragged our sleighs back home. Mom wouldn’t let us in the house until we took off everything but our drawers in the hallway. I was hoping to go back up to the park that night, so I needed to get everything dried quick. I wrapped my dungarees and long johns around the steam pole and put my socks, sweatshirt and dad’s pigskin gloves on the radiator. An hour later, I went to check on everything. My dungarees and long johns were almost dried, then, I went to the radiator. The socks were fine, but Dad’s gloves looked like shrunken voodoo heads. The fingers were blackened and curled up like they wanted to take a nap, for forever. They were half their normal size. Beef Jerkies.
Before I could say I lost them, Dad came in the house and saw me looking them over. He walked up to me and took one of the gloves out of my hand. Dad didn’t hit, but sometimes I wished he did, rather than deal with his leaning in, verbal assaults. I could see he was about to rip into me and I rushed to say, “Dad I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean it, and you’re not going hunting anymore, right?” His face switched over, and I saw he was thinking about the bunny. He held the glove up, looked at it once, gave it back to me and walked away.
Thomas Pryor’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, A Prairie Home Companion, New York Press, Underground Voices Magazine, Ducts, Opium Online and Our Town. His blog is listed in The New York Times Blog roll. Find Pryor at: http://yorkvillestoopstonuts.blogspot.com.