Spending Time With Uncle Dean

Cross these questions (chosen at random from a Scientology pamphlet) to create your prompt:  (#14) Would the idea of inflicting pain on game, small animals, or fish prevent you from hunting? and (#17) Are you usually concerned with the need to protect your health?


My uncle Dean is in town again, and he’s crazy, Fucking crazy. Mom makes he hang out with him but I hate it. Hate him. He’s crazy. Kicked out of high school and also out of college. Lost his job, should have gone to jail for that last one, attacking that girl in the back alley, he said she was drunk, that she said she wanted it.

And now I get to hang out with him. Yay me. “Family,” mom says. This is not good.

Dean wants to go hunting. The worst idea imaginable, him with a rifle, a shotgun, how can he even have these things?

He picks me up, me too young to drive so I’m stuck in tow. My mom thinks I’m not man enough, not playing football or hooking up with girls, preferring to read and play the saxophone. She puts up with it but she hates it; that’s why she makes me do this.

We drive out of the city and into the woods, where after an hour or so we pull over, a lookout, nothing but trees and greenery and the road we came in on. Dean goes to his cab, grabs his rifle. It’s as big as I am.

“Ever held one of these before?” he asks, already knowing the answer is no. I don’t respond and so he laughs, then without warning: “Catch!”. He tosses the gun.

I freak, stick my arms out, catch it in midair.

“Nice reflexes,” he says. “Use that out there. If anything moves shoot it.”

“What about other people?” I ask, no idea what I’m doing.

“No one out there but you and me,” Dean says. “Just don’t step in front of me, cause…” Dean mimes a bullet entering his head, then it exploding. This is not good.

“Alright,” he says. “Let’s go.”

Into the woods. Through the thick forest, me with the rifle, him with his shotgun; are they even loaded? He didn’t load them at the lookout, so either they aren’t or he drives around with loaded guns.

He’s getting ahead, way more into this than I am. “Wait up,” I say, not wanting to get lost, then I’ll be a target, something moving in the woods. He’ll shoot me, I know it, shoot first and check later, then he’ll see it’s me, little scrawny me who’d rather be playing my saxophone, not hunting animals, not getting killed. He’d probably just shrug.

“Hurry up! You’re slowing me down,” Dean says without breaking stride. I run up to keep up.

“Will it hurt? Will they feel it?” I ask.

“Huh?” he replies. “What are you talking about?”

“The animals. Will they feel it?”

“Not if you do it right,” he says. Do it right? I don’t want to do it at all. He sees my fear and so he replies “Don’t worry, animals can’t feel shit.”

He keeps walking, must be going somewhere. Don’t know where but he’s fast and determined, passing all sorts of animals. Well not really, but a squirrel here, crow there. He’s too focused to notice, focused on his travels. So much for shooting anything that moves.

Finally, we reach it: a stream. Where the big game come, Dean tells me. Deer and beavers and maybe even a bear if we’re lucky. We take our hiding spot, settle in, and then he tells me about last time he was here: a bear came, he popped two in its head but it was still alive when he went over, had to gut it with his knife before it was dead.

We wait and wait. No animals coming, not that I mind. This is manhood? Sitting here bored, waiting for animals in the cold itchy woods, being attacked by insects just so we can kill some innocent creature? I’d rather be reading, or playing my saxophone.

An hour goes by, Dean cursing and annoyed, me lying quiet, hopeful and annoyed. Hopeful the animals stay away, annoyed at being stuck here, afraid of my uncle Dean, when he’s annoyed he does bad things.

Another hour, I think. I don’t know for sure, for I closed my eyes, tried to sleep, who knows how much time actually went by. Then Dean nudges me, points downstream. A hundred yards away, a deer, grazing by the river. Two actually, a mom and her newborn. They are beautiful.

“Shoot it,” Dean says, me with the rifle, them in my range. I shake my head. “Shoot him!” Dean says again, louder but still quiet enough not to alert his game.

“No!” I scream, taking a stand. “I won’t! Run deer run! Escape!” I scream loud enough for the deer to hear, to see us and save themselves by running away. They do, they look our direction as Dean grabs me and ducks down below, his hand over my mouth, silencing my noise, forcing me to hide. The deer don’t see us; they go back to their grazing.

Dean looks me straight in the eyes. “Don’t fucking move,” he says as he grabs the rifle out of my hands. Slowly rising from hiding, he settles himself and takes aim. Taking him time, the perfect shot, taking aim.

Bang! A huge blast, echoing loud, throughout the woods. But it’s not him, it’s me, shotgun in hand, aimed up at the trees, birds scattering and surprising Dean as the recoil knocks me off my feet. But it doesn’t matter, because the deer hear and instantly start running, sprinting away. “Run deer run! Escape,” I scream again as I jump to my feet. Dean takes his shots but he’s desperate now, all over the place, the deer on the run and Dean keeps on missing, then they are gone.

Dean stops, looks at me. Rage in his eyes, on his face; he’s unable to speak. Then he hits me. “Fucking prick! What was that shit?” he yells as I fall to the floor, him towering over me.

“Your mom was right, you are a little bitch,” he says as he grabs his things, including both weapons, then starts heading back the way we came.

I follow, happy to leave, careful to keep my distance. Bang! The shotgun goes off, birds scattering from the trees. “I’m killing something today boy!” Dean screams, “better hope you’re not it.”

Dean reloads, continues walking and I continue to follow, leaving more space this time. This continues the whole way back, him shooting from the trail, birds scattering as he cusses at nothing and I hang further back, further and further until I lose sight of him completely, only the bangs of his shotgun telling me where I’m going.

Eventually we make it back. Except I’m so far behind that he has to wait. And when I arrive, out of the woods and through the clearing, I find his rifle aimed, pointed straight at me. I freeze.

“Whatcha gonna do now big boy?” Dean says, taunting me. “How you gonna save this one?”

Save this one? Save me? I don’t respond, unable to breathe as Dean’s foot comes crashing down, squashing a bug underneath it.

“There, I killed something. Lets go,” Dean says as he gets in the car and I do too. “Never again,” he says, glaring at me, “let your mom deal with your shit.” Those are his last words and it’s a quiet drive home, where he drops me off. No loss for me, I don’t mind never seeing him again, even if he’s family. Soon I’ll turn 18, leave my whole family behind, but until then, if at least Dean’s gone, I’ll definitely take that. I turn away from the car and walk back to my house, no Dean, no family, I’ll definitely take that.