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By William Musgrove

Terry shook. In the distance, the imaginary image of his first buck grazed on the top of whiskey bottles. Beer foam covered his top lip like a milk mustache, making him look older. His trembling hands brought up an imaginary rifle, and he closed one eye. As I wished for my own story, he pulled the trigger.


The sound of a pretend gunshot.

Terry tapped the side of his neck, signifying where the round entered the buck, which was now fleeing past the neon Budweiser sign.

“When it’s your first, you get the shakes,” Terry said before taking another sip of his beer. “It was at least a ten-pointer, but we never found it.”

I didn’t have a story. You weren’t anyone without a story. Not any story. No, you needed a story that killed something while also killing a part of yourself. Where I come from, life’s a hell of a lot easier if you kill a part of yourself, so everyone walks around with pieces missing.

Otherwise, you can’t trudge through the mud. You realize you’re standing in mud and sink to the bottom, stuck.

I excused myself and followed Terry’s buck through the exit, thought if I saw how it ended I’d be able to begin. Ten-pointer, ten-pointer, ten-pointer, my boots said as they kissed the concrete floor. Outside, I smelled freshly cut grass, the sweet, nostalgic scent of nowhere, a distress signal to the surrounding vegetation.

Terry’s buck sprinted across the dive bar’s parking lot, and I formed fleshy antlers with my fingers. As a kid, I thought deer were modern-day dragons. Stories upon stories of orange-vested knights thinning the herd of white-tailed monsters. Now, watching Terry’s buck gallop across the street, I understood why they were hunted: Dragons could fly.

Terry’s buck collapsed in front of the out-of-business hardware store. It looked so far away. By the time I made it to the other side of the pavement, I’d be old and frail. Here always seems so large, and there always seems so small, like a pinpoint holding up a mountain range.

I stepped off the curb, and Terry’s buck, curled up like a croissant, started breathing hard.

Ten-pointer, ten-pointer, ten-pointer, his snout said, snot oozing from his nostrils. I took another step, and Terry’s buck popped up, took aim at this place, and dashed into the sky. He kept going and going, a piece missing from his neck but still whole enough to shrink into a tan speck rounding the horizon and disappear.


The sound of another step.