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Featured in the third installment of Artemis, a SCAD publication of literary works..

Sporting

“This doesn't seem very sporting.”

“It is sporting. Now be quiet.”

The two men sat in a wooden deer stand high in the branches of a large tree. George sat and stared intently at the ground, gun ready. Sherman, his bowling buddy, leaned back against the trunk of the tree.

“No, really, when you think about it? It's terribly unsporting. Here we are, sentient beings that rule the planet and what are we doing with our free time? Hiding in a tree to shoot the lesser creatures. It really isn't very sporting at all.”

“It'd be more sporting if you'd keep your mouth shut,” George said, shifting his weight.

“It just doesn't make any sense, is all.” Sherman picked at the grain of the wood floor, silent for a few minutes. Then, “Why shoot them?”

“Because it's part of the sport,” said George, not looking up from the ground.

“But it's not sporting.”

“That doesn't matter. Please be quiet, you'll frighten the deer off.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes.

“If it's a sport, it should exhibit sportsman-like behavior. Certain rules and contexts apply to be sporting.”

“We do follow rules,” said George. “We aim for the bucks and leave the does and fawns alone. It's part of population control.”

“You know, deer do have families. By killing off the males, you're leaving young mothers widowed to take care of children that'll never know their fathers. Kids'll turn into little hooligan deer from lack of proper fatherly influence.”

“Could you maybe go ten minutes without talking, please?” asked George. He never took his eyes off the ground.

“Right, right. Sorry.”

George tried to regain his concentration. He needed to be alert, to have all of his senses at their fullest, ready to take the shot. Occasionally, Sherman would let out a loud, awkward cough, to the point that it was obvious to George that he was doing it on purpose.

“What if that was you down there?” asked Sherman .

George looked up from the ground and blinked a few times. Finally, he turned to look at Sherman . “What?”

“I said, what if that were you down there?” Sherman pointed toward the ground as he spoke. “Minding your own business, not a care in the world, maybe eating a sandwich. Then some guy comes along and shoots you in the head, all because you're a big, strong male. How would that make you feel?”

“Now you're just being absurd,” said George, turning back to face the ground.

“You didn't answer my question,” said Sherman , scooting closer to George. “How would you feel about it?”

“It doesn't matter how I'd feel. I'm not a deer.”

“I didn't say you were. Just saying, if you were down there, minding your own—”

“I'd be annoyed.” said George. “Happy now?”

“It'd be annoying to be shot in the head?”
“Yes.”

“Shot where you'd probably not live to tell about it, you'd find that annoying?”

“Yes!”

“Okay, now you're just saying stuff to make me stop talking.”

“ Sherman , would you just shut up already?”

“I just want you to see my point,” said Sherman . “Get you to think like you haven't before. Maybe then you'd be able to see things from a different perspective.”

“Here's a new perspective for you: Go to a different stand and leave me the hell alone. Shoot the trees for all I care.” George pointed at the ladder. Sherman shouldered his rifle and scooted back toward the edge of the stand.

“Are you at least considering things from the deer's point of view?” asked Sherman , his legs dangling over the edge.

“Yes. Completely.”

“You're lying to me again.”

“Would you just switch stands already?”

Sherman turned to make his way down the ladder. After a moment or two, his feet hit the ground.

“So what am I supposed to do?” he called back. “I mean, I can't talk to you from way over there.”

“Just watch the squirrels or something.”

“I dunno, you might shoot one that I take a liking to.”

“Yelling at me from the ground,” said George as he glared down at Sherman , “is much worse than talking to me up here. Just stop it, all right?”

“All right. Hey, wait, I think I saw something moving in those bushes.”

“Quiet! There's still a chance to get a buck today.” George steadied his rifle.

“No, not a buck, there's—“

A massive brown bear rose from the bushes. Sherman froze, gun at his side, as the bear stared him down. It let out a loud roar, then rushed toward him. Sherman swung his gun up and fired. The bear jerked and fell to the ground dead. George climbed quickly down the stand and ran over to his friend.

“You okay?”

“I'm fine,” said Sherman , clutching his gun.

George stepped closer to the bear, looking at it carefully. “Nice shot. Right between the eyes. There's a bit of luck for you.”

“Y-yeah. That's pretty darn lucky.”

Both men stared at the bear for a few moments in silence. George looked over at Sherman .

“You know, that bear probably had a family.”

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