The Rifle

This is a short story I wrote several years ago. It is one of my favorite stories about my family and the craziness we get up to. This tale is not extraordinary. Strange things happen all the time. particularly when we travel. Sometimes caused by us, other times just happening around us. Nonetheless, life is bizarre. I am just glad I am here to write it down and make some great stories out of it.

The Rifle

It was a normal Tuesday afternoon towards the end of the summer season. I was sitting in the office of our family business, answering phones, and working on a project with an imminent deadline. The air in the office was thick with tension as there was much to do before the busy travel season filled with trade shows began, and of course it seemed as if nothing was going right. Suppliers behind schedule. Deliveries gone missing. Important contacts going on holiday, and their incompetent subordinates unable to answer the simplest questions. Every time one of us got off the phone, we cursed a blue streak. It was a loud, tense atmosphere.

Suddenly, “Sons of bitches!!” my father shouted from his office. I looked up, startled, to see my father charging out of his office, holding a rifle, and promptly out the door without saying a word. This was quite an unusual sight, to say the least.

But let’s backtrack a moment. Really, it all started with the deer. Wild turkeys, squirrels, and groundhogs, too. But really, it was the deer that started it all.

You see, my parents moved to a new home, and like any proud new home owners, the first thing they did was landscape their pretty new yard. Put their stamp on it. Make it look welcoming and inviting. My father, knowing he would be spending many long hours in his office, decided that it would be nice to have a rose garden outside his window. So with these thoughts in mind, they began planning a landscape.

What my parents did not realize about their new neighborhood is that not so long ago it was wilderness, and the animals who lived in this wilderness, couldn’t take a hint. So even though the wilderness was gone, they still lived there. In fact, they thought it was great because there were so many new treats to eat. Like roses.

So, not knowing much about gardening or deer, they hired a landscaper and set about making their home look inviting. And that should have been that. One new home with a lovely cultivated landscape. Check. End of story.

But that was not that. It was not long before a menagerie of woodland creatures began to visit my parents’ new home to taste the buffet of treats left out specially for them. The groundhogs dug up plants to eat their roots. The squirrels ate the roof to burrow in winter. The turkeys ate the lawn. But most noticeably, and most distressing, the deer ate the roses.

My parents were shocked and appalled. They were at a loss. What does one do in this situation? They regaled assorted friends and relatives with the story of the deer and the roses. Getting laughter and various serious and not so serious suggestions in response.

At the same time that my parents had moved out to this former woodlands, another couple they knew was in the process of moving to Manhattan from a town that was equally plagued by a distressing assortment of beasts. Their friends were downsizing. And a great deal of what they owned would not be practical in their new city life. Including, as it happens, a rifle.

Now it wasn’t an actual rifle. It shot pellets rather than bullets. It’s a Gamo Cadet-Delta .177cal. So it cannot kill anyone. It may sting when it hits you. But that is all. It does, however, look like a real rifle.

So my parents and their friends went out to dinner. The women gossiping about their children, lives, the process of moving, etc, and not paying attention to the men’s conversation. My father regaled his friend about his issue with the deer. How so much time and energy was put into landscaping. How beautiful the roses were. And how the deer ate them in one fell swoop. His friend mentioned that in the process of moving and downsizing, he did not plan to take his riffle to Manhattan, and perhaps this might be a good solution to my father’s deer problem. Their conversation then turned to current events, economic crises over the world, and other such topics.

Later that evening my parents drove their friends home. The rifle was put into the trunk of the car. Everyone expressed how lovely a time they had. And the evening ended.

The next week happened to be my uncle’s birthday. My mother decided to gather everyone to celebrate in her home as she usually does for most family celebrations. On such occasions, she finds the best way to prepare for guests is to go grocery shopping very early in the morning the day of the gathering. She wakes up naturally quite early, so is not an issue to arrive to the grocery store as soon as it opens. So following her usual tactic, this particular Sunday morning she woke up early, drove to her favorite grocery store, and did her shopping as per usual. Nothing strange about that.

However, what happened next was quite out of the ordinary. As my mother walked into the parking lot with her cart full of groceries, she pressed the button on the little remote control of her car keys to open the truck. The large trunk of her SUV swung wide open for anyone to see. My mother was still several hundred feet away. As she approached her car, she noticed something strange laying in her trunk. A rifle. She was shocked. How could a rifle have ended up in her car?! She had no knowledge of any of her family members owning a rifle. She whipped her head around hoping no one could see what was in her trunk. Then she began to wonder if it was possible someone put it in her trunk while she was walking towards her car. But the time period was too short, and she hadn’t seen anyone. Frightened someone might see what was in her car, she quickly loaded her groceries and drove off.

Returning home, she told my father of her shocking discovery in her car! A rifle! In her car! A rifle! Where did it come from? Why was it there? Who did it belong to? My father realized that he had forgotten to take the rifle out of the car after the evening spent with friends. He explained that it is not a real rifle, that it shoots pellets, and the goal was to keep the deer away from the roses. My mother was still bewildered by the whole thing, but chose not to argue. My father removed the rifle from the car.

Which brings us back to the Tuesday when I was sitting in the office helping to deal with the overflow of work. Nothing was going right for anyone that day. Everyone was tense. Each of us was shouting at one another. My father was shouting at people on the phone. There was so much to get done. Not enough time to get it done. And demanding clients waiting as well as our reputation on the line.

So it was not at all unusual to hear cursing and shouting in the office. That day in particular it wasn’t unusual. When I heard my father shout, “Sons of bitches!” I cringed thinking some supplier, some asshole, has screwed up. What email has he received now? I was ready for whatever fallout would come.

In spite of this, I was not ready for the sight of my father running out of his office holding a rifle. In that moment, I truly believed that he had finally lost it and was charging out the door to hunt down whichever asshole supplier had enraged him. My next thought was wondering how far he planned to run as most of our suppliers are located in Europe or the Mid-West.

Curious, my brother and I followed my father out the door. We found that it was in fact the rose-eating deer that had raised our father’s ire, and not another hapless supplier. He did not, in fact, have a chance to shoot it because it ran away.

This battle went to the deer. But the war is far from over.