Saturday, May 06, 2006

Bonus: Short Story by HH

TODAY I AM A MAN

Leading his platoon to the barbed gates of the German extermination camp, fifteen years later, Lt. Kane remembered his father and the morning of his first Hunt.

Awakening the morning of his first Hunt, Kane was, as ever, delighted by the white trails of snow sifting down the red-brick walls of his great-grandfather’s pentagonal barn, the Seventh Wonder of Oolitic County, Ohio.

Kane had turned ten the week before, barely qualifying for the Hunt, but insuring himself place of pride as the youngest. After farm chores and breakfast, Kane worked at nonchalance, bumping with his family in the old Model T, disdaining his younger sister’s pokes in the side. (Something from school about Orion the Hunter: Kane the Hunter sat like a constellation.)

The County Fairgrounds was filling up when they arrived. Editor-Publisher-Owner Webb of the Oolitic County Herald-Examiner Enterprise was positioning his giant view camera. Snow had fulfilled itself a yard deep; thick now the haze of leashed and chained dogs, quickened by the scent drifting from the wire cages in the County Extension Agent’s Pavilion.

Kane stood shivering with the other Hunters (by custom, the oldest not yet fifteen), and made the jokes of males or boys in final moments before battle or Little League games.

The prayer was offered by the pastor of the First Oolitic County Community All-Faiths [meaning Protestant] Church, the Reverend Dr. I. Mather Milhous, B.A., B.Div., M.Div. (Hon.), Doctor of Divinity (Hon.). (The good Rev. drank; Mrs. Rev. had money.)

“Almighty and Everlasting God Who hast commanded us to be Fruitful and Multiply and Bring Forth the Grains of the Field in season and For Thy Sake Subject the Beasts of the Field to Us, we do therefore pray …”

Seems the dogs always barked when the Good Rev. prayed.

“Grant them therefore the Strength of thy Might Right Arm. Amen!”

And all the people said, “Amen.”

The crowd formed a circle three dozen feet across. Mothers clutched Brownie Box cameras as knots of sisters were suddenly and unexpectedly proud of brothers. Every two or three feet around the inside of the circle, stood males with leashed dogs, shuffling cold feet and sharing nips.

The Master of Ceremonies, the Hon. State Senator Ulysses S. Grant Brooks, slyly oiled a few choice and mirthful remarks into the crowd, then introduced the Master of the Hunt. With a palsied twitch of hand, the Master decreed a small gap in the circle, through which fifteen fathers entered, carrying fifteen cages, Kane’s father last.

The fathers arranged the cages in a circle, in the center of the larger circle, Kane’s father’s cage alone at the center. The fathers withdrew for a moment, then returned with their fifteen son. They arranged themselves, two-by-two, as if in parody of The Ark, within the ring of dogs.

Ceremoniously, piously, in the spirit of civic ritual immemorial, the Master of the Hunt opened fourteen cages.

Fathers couldn’t assist in kills, only shield their sons from harm. The clubs their sons of Orion wielded were home-fashioned, many handed down by generations, handles stained by generations of frightened sweat.

Four would appear in the Warhol auction.

Always a few minutes, but then finally one the red foxes released from the cages broke true, clean, and fast for the circle and the freedom and life beyond, stopping and dodging only as the screaming dogs converged. The fox began his run.

A boy advanced from the right, his club harvesting the first kill. (Eddie Brooks took the first prize.)

The other Hunters then also; general streaking of frantic, hopeless bodies, and hopeful, inevitable clubs.

Kane, as customary, stood aside, basking in the masculine glow of the nips of whiskey shared with his father.

The year was 1930.

Soon, fourteen pelts hung from fourteen hands.

Breath steaming, the Master of the hunt again raised his hand, and Kane and his father strode to the center of the circle. The final door was raised.

An old fox proudly marched from the cage. Ragged and patchy of coat, clouded eyes, disdaining to cringe before the screaming crowd of civilization, sniffing the frozen air and his chances.

Kane saw it was good.

“Picture!” shouted Editor Etc. Webb. Kane and his father looked up, father resplendent in Auxiliary Deputy Sheriff’s dress blues, sam brown cross-over leather belt, motorcycle-cop-style soft cap, revolver on his hip. Kane in red Mackinaw, plaid scarf, hat with tied-up earflaps.

(This is a short story, based on a cruel civic ritual practiced somewhere in Ohio until at least 1944, since this slaughter appears in a LIFE magazine feature in that year.)

Much gambling; no sport.

Hemmed by a converging shallow curve of boys, fathers, and clubs, the old fox, after pivoting and jumping to his extent, expressed his contempt: ran straight to Kane, who smashed in his skull with a solid practiced swing of his cut-down, lead-filled, Louisville Slugger.

Fifteen years later, at the gates of the German extermination camp, Lt. Kane watched as incredulous prisoners, surviving bodies parchment stretched over bone, stumbled toward the wire.

Kane smiled, turned away from the living dead, and led his troops on toward Berlin.

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Copyright 2006 by HH his mark

3 Comments:

Anonymous Brutal Comrade said...

As requested – critique of “Today I Am a Man”, Museum of the Bourgeois post of 5/6/06:

Paragraph 4:
“Webb” - naming this character is unnecessary.

Paragraph 6:
“All Faiths (meaning Protestant)” - distracting
“Dr. I. Mather Milhous, B.A., etc.” – naming character is unnecessary
“The good Rev. drank; Mrs. Rev. had money.” – unnecessary unless you were going to develop this thought later on.

Paragraph 11:
I like the phrase “suddenly and unexpectedly proud of brothers.”

Paragraph 12:
“Hon. State Senator Ulysses S. Grant Brooks” – naming the character is unnecessary.

Paragraph 13:
“as if in parody of the Ark,”
I question any association of the Ark to this situation nor any analogy you are attempting to draw.

Paragraph 17:
“Four would appear in the Warhol auction.” – this is really distracting; how does it benefit the story?

Paragraph 19:
“Eddie Brooks took the first prize.” Again, naming any character other than Kane is unnecessary.

Paragraph 22:
“The year was 1930.” - This seems out of place. If you want to place the story in time, doing so closer to the beginning of the story would be better.

Paragraph 28:
Is this statement in parentheses a part of the story or is it just an “aside” commentary on your part? If it is part of the story, it breaks the mood.

1:18 PM  
Blogger HH said...

HH thanks "Brutal Comrade."

In the spirit of DADA and surrealism, HH invites you to rewrite the story the way you think it should go, e-mail it to HH, and HH will post it.

11:25 PM  
Anonymous brutal comrade said...

HH -

It was with good intentions that I offered the solicted comments on your short story. I am hoping you took them as such.

On my part, I will have to decline your invitation to rewrite your story. Then it would not be your story. I would hope that when you submit your novel to Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin, or Random House that you do not ask your editor to rewrite your story.

Please know I respect your talent and continually regard you in the highest esteem.

12:33 PM  

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