Persistent little fuckers. His head cranes back, mandibles snapping at me in an audacious display of David vs. Goliath. And if I remember my Bible stories correct, the outcome doesn’t look good for me.
I break eye contact to scan the horizon. The heatwaves distort the grass into vertical slithering snakes making every direction I look appear to be the same. The mountains get all the credit for being the domain of badasses, but plains can be just as inhospitable. It’s been a long five days being subjected to whatever the plains had on the menu for the day. From hail to searing heat, hypodermic needle encrusted plants to rusted barbed-wire triplines. I got the feeling it wanted me to leave in a bad way. The hints were anything but subtle.
My shoulders ache, my palms sting from the remnants of cactus quill still stuck in them and my legs ache from the awkward movements that only crawling creates.
Sweat beads down my forehead, burning my eyes, but I don’t mind. Anything to ignore the now enraged colony of fire ants exploring their giant invader; me. Encroaching on another’s territory has seen effects like this since the beginning of time, an all out attack.
I look back down at his red head. He hasn’t moved an inch, but his brethren have. They test their front lines, advancing forward only to retreat. They want to see how interested I am in their game. We study each other, both wondering who is going to be the first to go on the offense.
“Let’s call it a truce fellas. I’ve got no beef with you. I’m only a temporary visitor to your land, a vagabond passing through . My business will be over here shortly.” I whisper in a pleading voice.
My bow looks like it has been resuscitated from the afterlife and came back as some sick monstrous deformation. Ants pouring over it, crawling up the string like gymnasts walking the balance beam, squirming through my peep, and making the limbs look alive with their pulsating surge.
Leave no place unexplored.
“Come on, come on.” I encourage.
I can’t take it anymore, I feel they are looking for exposed skin to sink their mandibles in which puts me on the attack. The best defense is a good offense I suppose.
The palm of my hand slides down my pant leg, crushing the advance sentinels. The living remain unfazed, almost callus as they step over their brother in arms. For every one I kill he is replaced tenfold. Persistent. The individual life doesn’t matter, the protection of the colony does. Great, that’s all I need, John Stuart Mill disciples.
This is gonna have to do. War has been declared and I know it’s full time to finish my business and beat a hasty retreat. I’m outnumbered and outgunned.
Head back in the game knucklehead. You’re here for a reason. Twenty four blown stalks and I’m not sure I have the mental fortitude to continue forward after so many screw ups. Failure weighs heavy on motivation. The last few stalks were made out of pure stubbornness.
I peer over the ant infested pronghorn decoy that I so conveniently stabbed into the colony’s home like a planted flag on a new continent.
The buck comes in broadside and he’s confused. All alone for the last few days and now this intruder in his territory.
“Well thanks for coming in to find out fella.” I whisper into the wind.
My stalk ended long ago. My only hope being that the curiosity of this creature would override its good sense to stay away from my nylon decoy. Curiosity, the cat and so on.
The wait for the right moment is never easy for me. I have a tendency to try to force something/anything to happen. Hence the twenty four previous blown stalks. My thick headedness causes me to be slow to learn. I’m not completely hopeless, after that many failures I resolve to try something different; patience. Even with the encouragement of the ants to get the hell out of their home, I succeed. I wait.
I ease the dial of my site to seventy-two. I think of the painstaking seasons I’ve spent getting this bow dialed-in to be a killing machine. Persistent, meticulous effort. Hours upon hours reduced down to this one shot.
I peer over the decoy’s back one more time to make sure all is right, that the stars are truly aligned. It’s perfect.
I anchor back, remind myself to follow through. Don’t pull your head away to watch the flight terminate on impact. Let the animal confirm it was a good hit, only then can you watch what you have just done.
The anchor is right, the distance is right, the animal is right. There’s nothing more to do than to execute.
He trots off a short distance and lays down. I can see he is struggling with his breathing. The oxygen is having an internal battle with his lungs, deciding the two holes I just created are more appealing as an exit than staying in that stuffy container. His lungs betray him.
I look down at the ants that feel my body is their rightful claim since I trespassed on their land. They haven’t bitten me and I wonder why. Maybe they feel like we have something in common, we’re both persistent fuckers.
I walk towards the lifeless body I have just created, letting the ants come along for the ride.
“Let’s go see how our persistence has paid off.” I say.