Nebraska Center for Writers

OPENING DAY OF PHEASANT SEASON, 1996
by Bruce R Nelson
for Jeff Heimgartener

Harry leans toward me
and laughs
his face red, his hair a mess and in his eyes
waving his hand in the air as though it might stop the spasms in his
abdomen.
Did I ever, did I ever tell you about the time I went hunting with Davey
Updever?
Harry swallows and regains his composure
I brace in an-ti-cip-a-tion

Usually when I hunt I like to hunt with four
maybe five men
total, he emphasizes, his fist on table
I am reminded of tapes of Kruschev at the U.N.
“We will bury you!”

But this time, Harry points his finger toward the sky,

there were forty-five of us.
Davey, thinking no one would show,
had invited everyone he knew.
And everyone he knew showed up that warm November day

Lured by the promise of a keg of Bud
which he did not deliver.
Harry leans back on the couch, sips at his bottle
and arches his eyebrows, an act meant to display his arrogance, I think.

Clouds floated lazily across Harry’s eyes, already misty with reverence
We walked shoulder to shoulder, spanning a quarter mile.
I felt proud and elated, I guess the power got to me,
it was as if I were a Union soldier under Sherman’s command,
blazing a path of glory through Georgia

Then down the line, just a few men, I heard those words
“Oh, I’ve never hunted before,
I just borrowed this gun from my brother-in-law.”
I casually dropped behind the rank
and moved near Davey, at the far end

When ever a bird flew into the air,
it didn’t matter what kind of bird mind you,
it was open game.
Hell, you’d fire and kill the bird
and down the line someone else,
not quite so quick on the draw,
would fire and kick the bird back into the air.
And down the line,
someone else,
attracted by the sound of gunfire would look this way
and see a bird
and fire
Keeping the ever-diminishing
and seemingly animated carcass in the air.

Harry sat down.
He had long been standing;
pointing his air-gun into the tiled sky,
marching in the waning days of the Civil War,
his hand pulling cartwheels, illustrating the birds postmortem
activities.
He took a long pull from his beer.
It went on forever I tell you.

Reprinted with permission
from Nebraska Territory
Copyright © 1996
by Bruce R Nelson


TOP SPEED
by Bruce R Nelson


You know you've hit top speed when the stereo,
half-cranked,
doesn't cover the sound of rattling keys
and the steering wheel vibrates like a jack hammer
in your death grip tight hands.
When the dash shakes so hard dimes and pennies filter
through a crack in the glove box,
and fence posts, oh fence posts, are but a blur.

You reach for a cigarette, but stop;
the loose front end and steering wheel play gets you to thinking.
What if a deer or stray cow were to wander onto the road
just after I crest this hill?
I might hit it at one-hundred-ten clicks
and lose control.
It happened to Tony Peters and he's a mess:
face like Frankenstien, patched and scarred,
bad knees, plastic hip and memory loss.
His car a total wreck:
spider-webbed windshield, radiator smashed; it's green life blood
spreading across the highway.

And you, sensing the bald tire on the passenger rear is going to blow
back off the pedal.
The engine whines a song of lost rpm's
and the exhaust crackles like rapid gun fire

Reprinted with permission
from Vantage Point
Copyright © 1998
by Bruce R Nelson


IN THE COMPANY OF THIEVES
by Bruce R Nelson

You have to watch your wallet
                                                               earrings
                                  flatware in the company of thieves
You have to watch your cash
                                  interest
                                  credit in the company of bankers
You have to watch your tongue
                                  manners
                                  ego in the company of relatives
You have to watch your crotch
                                  fingers
                                                                   hamburgers in the company of
hungry dogs
You have to watch your drinking
                                                                         driving
                                                     turn signals in the company of police
You have to watch your girlfriend
                                  pride
                                  secrets
                                  back in the company of friends

Reprinted with permission
from Vantage Point
Copyright © 1999
by Bruce R Nelson


from BEER-BRAISED RABBIT
by Bruce R Nelson


Four boys stood on the edge of the grove in a snow-covered cornfield. The sawed-off remains of last year's crop poked through the the blanket of white.
Red unzipped the bag strapped to his waist and pulled out a beer.
“Anybody else?”
The Sence brothers answered his with a blank stare and a shaking head.
“Nah, but I’m gonna have a grit,” Brian said.
“Pussies.”
“Fuck that! I’m hungover from last night and you call me a pussy for turning down a beer? Whattaya got, some sort of death wish?” Doug was usually polite and quiet, but he could be hostile under the influence of whiskey or a bad case of cottonmouth.
Red shook his head, “Hair of the dog is the best hangover cured invented. My grandpa pours a little Budweiser on his cornflakes and I never met a happier man.”
Steve paced across the frozen turf, kicking rocks and lumps of mud.
“Let’s go. There’s rabbits to hunt, bunnies to barbeque, cottontails to corrupt. I wanna see some fur fly.”
Red drained his beer, tossed the empty can on the ground, and grabbed a fresh twelve ounces.
They walked fanned out. Each about ten feet apart. Sometimes they drifted in close to another walker to talk.
Doug looked down at his gun, then over to Brian’s. “I’ve got my new one. A Remington. Holds nine in the clip and one in the pipe. What’re you carrying?”
“My old single shot.”
“A single shot! Who the hell do you think you are? William Tell?” Brian patted his gun affectionately. “With this scope and these nerves that’s all I need. One shot.”
A few yards to the right a mother rabbit ran from the underbrush, followed closely by her two young offspring.
Red swung the barrel of his .22. “I got this bitch!” The first shot hit the rabbit in the belly. She squealed and tumbled, struggling to keep forward motion. Red ran closer and fired another shot, this one through the hare’s head, ending the squeal and stilling the thrashing body.
“Wotten wittle furbearwer. I got you this time,” Red imitated Elmer Fudd when he spoke.
He held up his trophy with pride. After he stuffed the carcass in his game pack he grabbed a beer from his pouch. In the excitment he dropped his other can. It lay on the ground, surrounded by an ever-enlarging patch of yellow snow.
“How’d that carb kit work on your Charger? Is it running and smoother?”
Steve answered Red without looking at him, “Nah, idles rougher than shit and dies if I don’t pump it at stop signs. But the new EQ clears up all the mud from the bottom end. You should hear it when I crank up the new Anthrax. It rocks.”
“You should give it a little more juice on the idle screw.” Red grinned and farted. “More juice.”
“Like the juice in your pants?”
A streak of brown bobbed along the left side of the group. Soug called for the kill and fired. The bullet missed the rabbit, hitting the snow several feet behind it. He fired again; again the projectile was off target. A third desperation shot did not bring down the hare. Steve called his brothr for being a “girlie man” for missing such and easy shot.
“Bullshit, that was a hard shot. It was running away at an angle, and it was a fast rabbit.”
“If it was so fast, why didn’t you lead it more?”
“Why didn’t you lead it more,” Doug mocked his brother’s nasaly voice.
“Why don’t you get one, lard ass!?”
“Easy there, big shooter,” Brian stepped in, “let’s not get all bent out of shape over a lousy missed shot.”
“Or three,” Red added.
The time was 8:20 and the dark had almost completely yielded to the sun; in half and hour it would be completely light and they would abandon the farm and go back to town for TV and pizza. But the Dobson Grove was ripe with animals of all sorts. That meant there was plenty of time to flush out more rabbits.
The brothers continued to argue as they walked, now side by side. Red ducked behind a tree to piss. Steam rose from the spot where his urine, colorless from drinking, hit the ground. Ahead of the brothers a hare sprung from the ground. It had been wounded recently and it ran with a limp. It faded to the left, the stronger right leg pushing it that direction.
“A cripple! This ones mine,” Steve shouted.
He aimed his gun and fired, striking the rabbit’s rear right leg. Steve rushed to the dying creature and brought his heavy foot down on its back. He stood over the animal and pointed his at his brother.
“Got one, retard. Let’s see you do that.”
The rabbit flopped and struggled under Steve’s weight. It squealed loudly, warning others of danger.
“Finish it off,” Brian said. “That fucking squealing is getting on my nerves.”
“Listen; listen to my cripple. Hear how it begs for mercy. Its pathetic cries fall on my deaf ears.”
Red cracked a fresh Budweiser, “Just shoot the thing.”
“Hear my little paraplegic.”
“KILL THAT FUCKIN’RABBIT! It’s driving me crazy.” Doug was only inches from his brother’s face. He screamed loud enough to drown out the hare momentarily. He backed up a step, then sprung at Steve; knocking him to the ground. Back on his feet, Doug pointed the gun at his sibling for a moment then swiveled around, shooting the rabbit pointblank in the head. Then there was silence.
Brain pulled out a Marlboro and lit it. He inhaled deeply and offered the pack to Red.
“Don’t mind if I do. Got a light?”
“Yeah, and I think I'll take you up on that beer.” They exchanged not only the beer and lighter, but glances as well. Brian looked worried, Red thought.
“They’ll be all right,” he said softly. “They’re just brothers.”
It was approuching 9:00 when a rabbit bounded from its hiding place in front of Brian. He lowered his rifle and butted his gun to his shoulder. Peering through the oversized scope, he found the rabbit. The crosswires intersected at its head. He then lead the animal slightly. Brian drew in breath and held it.
The hare slowed and turned its head. It ran for survival, not knowing the first thing about ballistics. Brian shifted to the left and fired, his single shot wasted.
The bullet lodged in the stump of a rotting elm.
By the time they walked to the cars the temperature had risen about ten degrees. The surface of the snow, once crusty with ice, had softened and become sticky. Red trailed the rest of the gruop and playfully tossed small snowballs at the others.
“You want a beer yet?”
Doug and Steve answered together, “No.”
“Pussies.”

Reprinted with permission
from Here From There
Copyright © 1997
by Bruce R Nelson
Logan House Press


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