If paper targets came to life just once, I’d never return to the range—I might set down my weapon forever—but while they’re silhouettes of simple black on simple white, I’ll shoot until the world is out of ammo, and surprisingly the opposite doesn’t spook me: when the living things I aim at resolve to silhouettes and target shapes and center themselves within concentric circles and fairly beg me to fire away, six shots to the head if I have time. I try to paint a smiley face, two bullets for the eyes and four for the smiley mouth. I’m talking about the targets now. What do you take me for? So, this is the time and the place: I wouldn’t have chosen either, but this is the job, not so different from other jobs, I imagine, you track your prey with all your skills forever and never find it, then one day it finds you and you’d better be ready. But I’m not ready. I’ve emptied my weapon on smiley faces and now I’m face to face with something that doesn’t get the joke. It’s not conventionally pretty. If hunger had a face, if pain had eyes, if survival were an animal, I’m looking at it. I won’t be wisecracking my way out of this. Does it know what it’s found? Is this the time and place it chose to execute me, and if so could we maybe reschedule? And with that I take off running, across the practice lanes hoping it will follow, because there are other shooters here and other bullets, plenty of bullets, and the one that misses me might take down my new friend and give me a moment’s advantage, which is all, with all my years of training and preparation, I’ll require.

Copyright © June 19, 2008 David Hodges

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