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Bill lay rigidly, lids clenched tightly together concealing a pair of muddy brown eyes, eyelashes laced intricately, hoping, almost knowing, that when he allowed his eyebrows to hike back up to the peak of his brow bone, he would see an immaculately white ceiling blemished only by a perfect square breathing cool air directly onto his face. He knew he eventually had to open his eyes, but the reality waiting behind his thick lids caused him to cringe and subconsciously open his eyes.
Branches—concrete gray, molding, dying, but alive. He sat up quickly by pushing his strong hands against the faded, cracked wood to his upper body. He hoped that Artie hadn’t seen him in this vulnerable state.
“Listen, Artie, I have a lot of work to do at the office. We should come back another time, or better yet, let’s do lunch.”
“We mighta swell wait. Ain’t no usin leavin nowen we been herall week and ain’t seen smuch as one antler. I reckon buck’ll be comin round hereny minute, nowis lady and Bambi eatinat alfalfa. ‘Sfunny how the babies always stay withtha moms’n never with the pops, they’re jus like us eh?” Artie mumbled assertively through his thick mustache as they perched upon a makeshift watch post jutting out from a gnarled cedar tree whose silhouette was just visible in the fading sunlight. Bill bobbed his head up and down several times to mask his uncertainty. As much as he tried, Bill still could not understand Artie when he spoke, even after working with him on his case for more than two weeks. One, of which, being the week they spent hunting and “gettin’ ‘quainted” as Artie so elegantly stated when inviting Bill on this adventure. He blamed his law partners, assistants, and secretaries for this communication block, as they spoiled him with perfect Princeton English, right down to their Listerine commercial smiles at the end of each thought. Under ordinary circumstances in Chicago, Bill would’ve appreciated such a gesture, but Artie’s from Pickens County. He hasn’t a clue as to what would help his case, so he need not infiltrate Bill’s strategic, intelligent plans for the case with senseless country activities.
He couldn’t have known that when he suggested that Percy Roe & Todd, LLC expand that he would be the partner selected to head the new office; but he should’ve guessed. What’s more, his partners had decided to put him in charge of the newest addition to the Percy Roe & Todd, LLC family before they decided, at least before he was aware that they decided, the new location would be in northern, green and leafy Alabama, a far stretch from corporate headquarters in gray and windy Chicago. He supposed he was the most responsible of all the partners, most capable of handling an entire firm himself—the father of the company. He considered it quite an honor that James and Francis both voted him supervisor of the new firm, even though he knew that what one voted the other would vote as well, as they often left him the third wheel.
Artie’s was the toughest he’d encountered thus far; he had to admit. Bill worked unusually late into the night, even late for him, a lawyer used to the countless sleepless days and nights typical of Chicago law. He had really had to try to get the jury on his side for Artie’s case, or else both Bill and Artie would lose their reputations in their respective groups: Bill in the law community and Artie in the hunting community. He didn’t think Artie fit the mold for parenting; his wife could provide for the three little ones much better than he could. How did Artie expect to win this case when he’s off hunting every other week, not taking care of his children? He guessed Artie was banking on his expertise in law to just dig him out of this giant pit of a custody battle into which he had dug himself. But he could barely communicate with his client, how could he convince a jury full of them that this man deserved to be in his children’s lives? Maybe he didn’t have to; his opponents would probably present fallacious reasoning again, earning him the trust and respect of the jury. Despite the unfortunate communication barrier between himself and his clients, namely between he and Artie Skeet, he had already won his first case within two months of establishment. This success, however, wasn’t entirely unexpected when he considered his challengers, the smartest young country boys a small town like Pickens County could produce. They clearly read their law textbooks from cover to cover absorbing everything, but they couldn’t yet talk around the law. He didn’t believe in lying, just fluffing up the truth. The law school’s most recent graduates couldn’t seem to get their noses out of their books and into the gritty, brown dirt that covers the nose of every lawyer in the United States of America. That communication block again, he guessed.
“Shh shh, eerie comes” whispered Artie as he tucked his brown Remington rifle closer to his worn green and brown spotted jacket, though Bill clearly never intended on speaking in the first place. “I’llgit the lady first, they’re fastern more likelyda run at the sounduva shot. And I reckon I’mmore experienced en you in thissorta busness. But yugotta keepn eye on th’daddy orelse w’gonna missat buck webin waitin for allday. I’llgit ‘im as soon as I git the lady.” As if Bill didn’t understand the fundamentals of hunting. The man could barely speak coherently and he thought he should boss Bill around. Everyone seemed to think he needed their help and guidance. Just like those lousy partners of his, sending him off to Alabama on their order, probably chuckling in their cherry-stained dark velvet-cushioned break room chairs as they sipped on their mineral water and thought of him already grown tired of the trite cases brought to Pickens County court by the friendly locals. Their plan became clearer and clearer to him as he squatted, alert and silent, eyeing the three creatures below. The majestic buck tending to his family as his lazy partners frolicked deeper within the woods without a care.
He was an honorable, proud man, so he could not abandon the newly established firm on the basis of boredom. Or if he couldn’t get out, he’d at least give that buck a chance. Such a regal animal weighed down by the bonds of a deceitful doe and their fawn, bringing about his death simply by munching on the crispy thin alfalfa sprouts in the clearing.
He’d show Artie and James and Francis that he no longer needed them to make his decisions for him. He’d taken matters into his own hands, and for once in his life he took initiative. In one swift motion he snatched the smooth brown Remington rifle out of Artie’s hand and leaned out over the watch post to shoot two quick bullets in nearly the same place—one penetrating the rich mocha coat of the doe, the other splitting that of the fawn. The double kickback of the powerful hunting rifle overpowered his sense of balance and he went tumbling over the front of the watchpost into the clearing.
He winced as the shock wore off and piercing pain in his left abdominal punctured his grand plan. His legs felt as if they had shattered into a million tiny pieces of milk white bone, no longer attached to his body but still his own. As he tried in earnest to lift himself to collect those broken pieces, he caught a glimpse of black orbs of feral fury, assuming the doe’s protective nature in such extenuating circumstances, below a strong pair of antlers tilted towards his already cracked left side. In those reflective, black eyes Bill saw the lush green of the clearing and the stiff, thin cedars surrounding it, blocking from view the white concrete law office in the midst of the various wooden mom and pop shops of Pickens County—the immaculate concrete that obliviously deracinated three of the four local businesses founded by Wallace Pickens himself. The same immaculate concrete’s most recent expansion, in the form of a parking lot, displaced the last remaining local legend, as Bill stood idly by applauding progress.
In those black holes, Bill saw the buck’s fury—his own fierce pride and protection of his company, Pickens County’s unwavering commitment to its landmarks. As the three were not compatible, and Bill had already seriously debilitated Pickens County’s pride, the buck dragged Bill’s nearly lifeless body through the woods and into the wet concrete shaded by the shadow of a spotlessly white house of justice where he rest in peace.