I’d just hung the deer by its neck on the swingset for skinning and butchering when..... "Oh Hum-BERTO! Puh-LEAZE!”
I looked over and it was our new neighbor Freddie, wailing from his patio door, his face a mask of horror and disgust. "Humberto! How COULD YOU? Why that’s AWFUL!”
Freddie moved here recently from San Francisco. People didn’t skin deer in their backyards there. Freddie used to open his back door, prance to the fence, and discuss the screen and stage with fellow wine sniffers. Now he opens his back door and finds an assassinated deer dangling with its tongue hanging out, and some guy in blood-spattered camo slashing at it with a skinning knife, between swigs from a sixteen-ounce Brewskie encased in crumpled bag.
I looked over after a hearty swig. "How could?” I belched. "How could I? It’s easy, Fred.” I wiped my bloody finger on my pants, held it aloft and curled it. "You do this,” then made trigger-pulling motions. "See Fred? See you easy? Bet even you could do it Freddie my boy. You’re good with your fingers aren’t ya? Aren’t...?”
"Oh! You... you...YOU!” —SLAM!
Good riddance. Then the door opens again and my wife, Shirley, storms out. "Haven’t I told you to do that SOMEPLACE ELSE? My GOODNESS! Can’t you... OH WHY BOTHER!” —SLAM!
Shirley’s always having coffee with Freddie. They get along famously. He’s a designer of some kind, designs Mardi Gras floats in fact. Always happens that way: straight women and gay men get along. Straight men and gay women.... well--I've never seen much of it.
But I was in no mood for sociological reflection. I was still giddy from the ego-buzz of a successful hunt.
Five hours later--sure enough-- there's Freddie's distinctive knock. I opened and he dangled a bottle of wine from hand. Freddie looked primed to rip into the braised backstrap of the deer he denounced me for assassinating. Shirley had--naturally--invited him over for dinner.
"Monica!” Freddie called to my daughter upstairs. "Dinner’s served. Hurry before it gets cold.” Monica was home from LSU for the holidays. They get along well. Freddie helped pick her prom dress, did her hair, suggested a restaurant—the whole bit.
"Like your meat warm, do ya Freddie?” I said while pouring a hefty glass from his Chateau- something- or-other.
"Sure,” he twinkled. "Doesn’t everyone?”
"Of course we do!” I said while raising the wineglass.
"Oh brother,” Shirley sighed. "He’s starting already... Monica! Hurry down honey. Show’s about to start.”
"We all like it warm, Freddie, because that’s what fresh meat tasted like before the discovery of fire. Warm, the temperature of the blood of a living mammal. That’s how our primeval ancestors ate it, Freddie, like all predators.”
"Oh Humberto PLEASE!” Shirley huffed. “Not now. Can’t you....!
"Carnivores, especially those lovable cuddly wolves your California buddies get so giddy over, start ingesting prey while it’s still alive, Fred!” I gulped again, emptying the glass. “They hamstring or disembowel the elk to bring it down. Then dig in while it’s still moaning and writhing in agony. Those big furry puppies daydream about that when Cindy Crawford, Darryl Hannah, and Kim Bassinger nuzzle with them for the cameras.”
"That’s awful.” Freddie sighed. "And must we really hear all this while...”
I emptied my second helping of wine then leaped from my chair towards the bookcase, just as Monica entered.
"OH NO!” She wailed while rolling her eyes ceiling-ward. “Not again, mom! He’s grabbing that STUPID book of his again!”
"Stupid book?” I wheeled around and shook the dog-eared copy of Jose Ortega y Gasset’s Meditations on Hunting. "A work of genius!” I yelled. "Ortega was the century’s most acute philosopher!”
"Yeah, right,” Monica huffed. "My philosophy professor says he was a reactionary.”
"Figures!" I howled while turning to Shirley. "See? See what we’re paying for?”
"She won a scholarship.” Shirley said in her best Alice Kramden. "Remember?”
"That’s not the point.” Then I turned to my multi-earinged (but mercifully, still untattooed) daughter..."Tell me Monica. What philosophers are they teaching you about up there? Joy Behar or Nancy Pelosi?”
"Lady Gaga, actually” she said smugly. ‘We’re discussing her lyrics.”
"Heaven help us!” I shrieked, then opened the book and read: "Man’s being consisted first of being a hunter.” I looked up with a Jack Nicholson-type leer. "Hear that folks. That’s not some editorialist at the NRA or Ducks Unlimited. That’s the man who wrote Revolt of the Masses—I don’t suppose they’ve assigned that for Philosophy class, huh, Monica?”
"No, Da-ad” she said with another eye-roll. "But in English they assigned Maya Angelou’s....”
"Silence! Before I puke! Now back to Ortega: If we imagine our species to have disappeared in the Paleolithic era the word man” would lack meaning. We would have to call him hunter.”
Then I pointed a white-knuckle fist inches from Freddie’s face. "And you.” Then I looked around the room with a lunatic leer, pointing. "And you... and you. You’re all killers! Every time you buy a hamburger you’re paying for the death of an animal, you’re putting a contract, a hit if you will, on a poor stupid cow. YES! It’s called the law of supply and demand—don’t suppose they’re teaching you anything about THAT up in college, huh, Monica?
"No, Da-ad, but we learned about Che Guevara and —”
"Figures!” I snarled. "Anyway folks, I make my own hits, like Mikey Corleone. Remember Michael Corleone, Freddie? Remember when he whacked Sollazo and Police Chief McCluskey in that restaurant, huh? BLAM! I slammed the table with my fist. Right through the neck! "
"WHATCHIT, you CLOD!” Shirley screeched. "You’re spilling the—!”
"And watch the lamp behind you! And the coffee table! And there goes the red wine all over the Damn RUG!”
"Ooops! Here, I’ll get the towel, nothing to it. Well, same with this deer we’re eating, folks. Poor sucker was enjoying his meal just like McCluskey, contentedly munching away on acorns. He hears my whistle...looks up – BLAM!” I slammed my fist into my palm inches from Freddie’s nose. Right through his white throat patch. Never knew what hit him.”
"Mom, tell Dad to shut up! Please!”
"We’re ALL killers!” I turned back to Freddie. "It’s encoded into your genes Freddie! Be true to your human heritage. Stalk the fields and forests, not public toilets!”
"HUMBERTO!” Shirley yelled as Freddie tried to leap to his feet. STOP IT! You’re...!”
"Yes! Freddie!” I seized him roughly by the shoulders. "I’m going tomorrow. Come with me and prey on deer and ducks, not boy scouts and altar boys!”
"Oh! OH! Shirley!" Freddie shook free and looked towards her for succor, nearing tears. "He’s IMPOSSIBLE!! This man is so MEAN! He’s simply IMPOSSIBLE!”
"More wine!” I snarled while holding out my glass.
"Get it yourself!” Monica glowered. "Mom? Don’t! You’re not his slave!”
"You!” I pointed at Monica. "You stay outta this, before I backhand ya!”
"Aahh-Ahhh!” Monica went apes**t. "Mom, did you hear that? Heard Dad? Ms. Rabinowitz, my Sociology professor says I can sue you for abuse! Dad, you’re such a… a… a… fascist!”
"Oh Monica, hush-up.” Shirley said. "You know he’s never laid a hand on you. He’s just showing off in front of Freddie.” Then she turned to me and yelled: "Humberto! You know Freddie doesn’t do those type of things! You apologize this minute! And after drinking all his wine. Now you apologize! I MEAN it!”
But Freddie had already run home in a teary huff.