“Get ready, boy!” my step-father, Neil, shouted. “I don’t want to get skunked again.” Getting skunked meant going home empty-handed.

As the sun set it became harder to see and the ducks flying into our decoys became shadowy ghosts. Occasionally you’d hear the low thump of wingbeats and a splash as something landed nearby. Neil shot at everything that came close. “Dang it!” he yelled after firing both barrels and missing, again.

Every year I swore would be my last. But I never seemed to be able to say how I felt. Recently I’d started missing on purpose.

Finally, Neil had had enough and we loaded all the decoys into the boat. Normally we both jumped in and he’d row, but ice had formed throughout the afternoon, and we were forced to push the boat through the frosty surface and thigh-deep water. After 20 minutes we were both soaked with sweat and still not halfway back to the truck. Neil stopped suddenly.

“Gotta catch my breath . . . wait a minute.” He bent over at the waist gasping for breath. After a minute, we started to push again.

“Oh, no,” he stopped abruptly, clutching his chest. He looked deathly pale.“I can’t breathe . . . my heart.“ His voice rose in pitch and sounded on the verge of panic.

“Just stay calm,” I said. “Climb in and I’ll push.” Neil didn’t say anything but let me hoist him up into the boat where he slumped against the metal bench. Over the next hour, I had to stop repeatedly to make sure he was okay. When the truck finally came into view I was exhausted but had to pack everything up after he collapsed into the front passenger seat. 

As I drove home he started to regain his colour and made me promise to never tell anyone what had happened. Mom rushed out crying when she heard us pull up. She’d phoned the RCMP a few minutes earlier as we were long overdue.

Neil told her we’d had problems with the truck. He glanced at me nervously, but I just looked away.

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Margarida Brei
Margarida Brei(@margarida-brei)
5 months ago

I guess “problems with the trunk” was sibling code for, “Please, keep your mouth shut.” Another great read, Preston. Always enjoy reading about different experiences far removed from my everyday life. Hope you or Voice.Club do not take insult, but if you want to write for this site and branch out too, Horrortree.com lists many links to publishers with open markets. It includes a wide range of writing from novels to drabbles,… Read more »

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
5 months ago

It’s an understated and yet intense picture of a winter hunting day that you have painted, Preston. I can vividly imagine the desperate situation and the nervous feelings underneath the few words that the two men speak, because of the excellent way you describe the scene. One detail that leaves me uncertain is the relationship between the men. Since “mom” appears at the end, they could be brothers, but with a mom… Read more »

Christer Norrlof
Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
Reply to  Preston Randall
5 months ago

They are always very nice and helpful. Your great story became a little better!

Lotchie Carmelo
Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
4 months ago

What a nice portrayal of winter hunting day. And the problems and emotions that came to them along the way were also well presented. Well done, Preston.

Deborah Goulding
Deborah Goulding(@deborah-goulding)
1 month ago

Preston, I just read this story and needed to say this. I feel from the perspective of the stepson, how difficult it was being in an uncomfortable situation with his stepfather. His heart was in the right place though, much more than I can say for his miserable stepfather! A relatable story on many levels. Well done. I’m have read a few stories on voice.club dating back a year and a half… Read more »

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