BY ALI AZAR
Copyright is held by the author.
THE LAND rover was sliding across the meadow. I was firmly holding the barrel of the rife with my hands. Its stock was among my grasping legs and Its Muzzle, with a faint whiff of ammonia, was in the vicinity of my nose. Aghajan, leaned his upper body over the wheel, was steering the car, looking around gingerly.
“In the back of the car, there is a bag with a knife inside. Take it out and keep it. You have to be ready to finish the job at any time,” he said.
“Sure” I replied and turned my back, placed my knees on the leather cushion of the seat to see the spacious rear of the Land Rover. A khaki bag was lying there. I stretched out my hand and dug inside the bag, felt the knife’s leather sheath. It was a graceful big-belly knife with a long grip made from beast horn.
“Be careful boy! With a little push, it will chop your whole finger off!
I rested the unleashed knife on my chest, ready for action.
He took the rifle from me with his right hand and placed it on his pot belly, then lowered the barrel away from the body of the rifle and put two shotgun shells in it but didn’t close the breech.
“You have to be vigilant. They sense the threat before it comes” he said, not taking his hazel eyes off the meadow.
“They say hunting the partridge is hardest of all hunts. Rubbish! To get these stupid birds, all you need is a pair of sturdy legs to find where they have buried their heads. But, the hare would make you chase them forever if you don’t know how to trap them. You need to find a way to square them,” he said. I was sheepishly nodding my head.
“Yes, squaring is the word. You drive around the hare in a box-like shape over and over again, then the hare will hear a roaring predator coming from every direction but can’t see where it is coming. You know what the hare will do, sunny boy?” Aghajan smiled at me.
“They won’t move. Stunned, destined to be hunted.” He giggled, swaying his head. He wasn’t very interested in children’s company but was unusually talkative that day.
The silence followed. Two pairs of eyes were probing the meadow thoroughly.
“There it is, Aghajan!” I said, trying to keep my voice down. I pointed out a hare on Aghajan’ s side with my index finger.
“Oh yes Boy! Well done!” he said. This filled me with pride to have impressed my grandfather, a man not easily impressed.
The hare was far from us, and we had to advance further. Aghajan sharply turned into the next immediate track on his left, then slowed down. We were approaching from behind, the hare held its ears upright, started sniffing around. Met its eyes with us for the first time, it darted away in the opposite direction. Aghajan closed the breech swiftly, unlocked the trigger and aimed at the direction the hare was running for its life, but there was no trace of a living creature.
“We were too close!” he said, fiercely shifted the gear to the highest, left the road in behind in dust.
A few minutes passed before he slowed down again.
“Does here have more hares, Aghajan?” I asked to prevent lengthening the silence. He nodded his head but did not say anything.
The meadow was vast and lonely, with scattered sparse woods within it, surrounded by beige mysterious mountains on the far horizon.
“Uh, over yonder!” he said.
“Yes! Yes! I see it,” I lied.
He slowed down. I saw them now; there were two of them.
“Look, they are bigger than the previous one” he said.
We reached the beginning of a valley. He switched off the engine, let gravity carry the car down the steep slope to the bottom of the valley. Neither of the hares had moved. Their flabby fluffy bottoms were toward us. Aghajan braked smoothly to stop the car, turned the barrel of the rifle to the right, which was my side! The gun, to be fired soon, was a couple inches away from my nose. My throat became dry, my heart started bouncing; I felt sick but didn’t say anything as my grandfather would’ve interpreted it as frailty.
“Lean back,” he said, rested the stock of the rifle against his broad shoulder. I pushed my back as hard as I could against the seat, stuck my index fingers in my ears and shut my eyes firmly, waiting for the gun to be discharged. I glanced at Aghajan with my half-shut eyes. His head was buried under his brown flat cap.
A smell of ammunition hit my nose, my ears were blocked-the hard part was over. I looked at him.
“It is your turn!” he said calmly.
I slammed the door open, threw myself out of the car, ran in the direction I wasn’t sure of, then stopped. Two dead bodies were lying over yonder. This time, I didn’t run and walked instead; haste is indicative of naivety.
My lungs were filled with fresh air; it was a beautiful morning. One was dead, and the another was pedalling the air. I unleashed the knife from its sheath and grabbed the long ears of the dead one whose eyes were wide open. The shot had punctured its stomach. I put the knife under its throat and slashed it once, but no blood came out, I thrust it forward and backword a few times. The blood, as dark as bitumen, spattered on the field. I continued to saw the hare’s head to make sure the job was well done. I hold the ears of another one, its pedalling now weakened, and rest my knees on its belly to restrain it. There was no trace of any gunshot wound! This time, I cut the throat more forcibly, which made me sweat. I then grabbed the hind legs of hares and walked toward the car-they were heavy. I opened the door, put them on the floorboard furnished with newspapers and got into the car.
Aghajan was smiling. “You didn’t have to cut off the whole head! Slitting the throat would been enough.”
I looked at the hunted bodies. They were headless. The heads were left somewhere in the field.