Vasant (Spring) 2020 Short Stories - Niles Reddick


Tree Stand

By Niles Reddick


My brother and I had inherited the land my dad had hunted on for years. He’d built the wooden tree stand high and over time, he’d replaced rotten boards, but the roof was sturdy. It had two layers of shingles. After my brother slipped on one of the wooden steps up the tree, we replaced them with metal ones that were easier to grip and climb.

Dad never told us much about why he’d selected the land or this particular stand of trees to locate the stand, but one day we discussed what a keen hunter he’d been.


He always tagged the limit for the season mostly because the stand was surrounded by agricultural fields, a creek ran through the edge of the property, there were multiple secondary food sources just at the edge of the fields like acorns and nuts, and the sun was at our backs, which helped with visibility when scanning for deer.


Derek and I usually went together on the weekends, but if Derek got called in to assist at the clinic, especially in flu season, then I might ask a friend or go alone. Cell coverage there was spotty at best, so my wife Stephanie and I had a system. She knew if I hadn’t checked in by lunch at 12, then she needed to call for assistance. We both knew I wasn’t going to skip lunch. Derek and his wife had the same system in place.


Derek called me Friday night, said he had to work at the clinic, and it was a bit late to ask anyone to go. I didn’t sleep well, Stephanie said I snored, and I woke up groggy with a sore throat. Coffee burned and the biscuit I gobbled down from the drive-thru irritated my throat. It had rained during the night and everything was cool and damp, and when I neared the top step before the door of the stand, a hawk took off screeching and my foot slipped.


My coffee hit the grown below and splattered and my gun slipped from my shoulder to my forearm. I flipped backwards and was hanging by one foot. I tried to use my hands to grip one of the metal rungs to keep from falling, but they were out of reach and I didn’t think my leg and foot would support a rocking motion. I felt like every muscle in my body had been strained. I hated to drop the gun, but felt it was in my best interest. It wasn’t loaded and the lock was on; it thumped below.


I managed to get my other leg back to the rung, just as it started to rain, but the flat leather surface of my boot would not stay put and I had this dreaded feeling the other wouldn’t last either.


Unfortunately, I was right, and I dropped to the ground landing on one side. I didn’t come to for a while and the shoulder pain was intense. I managed to push up with the good side, pick up the gun with the right arm, and walk back to my truck. I tried to call Stephanie, but I didn’t get coverage. When I got to the clinic, I saw Derek’s Jeep, and called his cell from the truck. He rushed out with a nurse and helped me out of the truck and into a room. He also called Stephanie to come.


I wore a shoulder sling for a couple of months until the pain began to dissipate, but I didn’t go back alone, and I added rubbing stripping to the rungs, bought new boots with grippers, and can now feel the rain coming from the arthritis in my shoulder.


Niles Reddick is author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, two collections Reading the Coffee Grounds and Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in eleven anthologies and in over two hundred literary magazines including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, New Reader Magazine, Forth Magazine, Cheap Pop, Flash Fiction Magazine, With Painted Words, among many others


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