If there was one true thing that folks could say about ole Spark McGlothlin, it was that he loved to hunt. No matter what the season — quail, dove, squirrel, rabbit, turkey, or deer — you could bet your last dollar he’d be out in the woods or in the fields looking for his shot.
Of course, there were other known truths about Spark too. Folks knew he’d married his high school sweetheart, Mary Burton, and he’d joined the Navy where he’d learned how to weld, and after his four-years in the military, he and Mary had moved back here to this little town where he’d opened a welding shop while she’d gone to work as a cook at the elementary school.
But then last fall, this simple picture of Spark got a little fuzzy when Mary left him and moved away to where her sister lived in Oklahoma. Naturally, questions arose. The menfolk joked that Mary had gotten fed up with Spark’s hunting bucks all the time, instead of giving her a little bucking once in a while. And the gossip-mongering womenfolk whispered that Spark had grown tired of Mary’s eating habits which had caused her to blow up to the size of a two-year-old heifer. But whatever it was that had triggered their quarrel, after the split, Spark’s welding shop was closed more often than not, and as expected, curiosities grew over what was going on with him. He was depressed. He’d taken to drink. He’d found another woman. All the expected rumors. But little did anyone really know.
Truth was, like most folks who find themselves alone, Spark had started spending his time on the internet. At first, he was only browsing sites that offered scientific outlooks on hunting conditions, like how much seasonal rain affects crops, which then affects the territory of bird coveys. Or how a warmer fall season alters a buck’s rut behavior. He also surfed some sites of those fancy hunting ranches that offer prime-genetic species that anyone can take down with a second mortgage and the aid of an expert guide. Of course, Spark didn’t have that kind of money or the gumption. But he sure did enjoy the dream of partaking in such an excursion someday.
Then around Christmas, as Spark was browsing Google for more interesting hunting sites, he clicked on an Instagram post titled OutdoorRachel, and the screen opened to a photo of a young gal kneeled over a freshly-shot 300-pound boar. She was holding a scoped rifle in her lap, petting the dead bore’s ear, and her face was shining with ecstatic joy. The image was something Spark’s mind had never conjured before, not even in his most wanton imaginings, and he couldn’t peel his eyes off what he was seeing. Besides his appreciation toward the prize hog she’d shot, OutdoorRachel was gussied-up in a skin-tight camouflage outfit that looked as if she’d gone skinny-dipping in a vat of green paint.
So with no hesitation, Spark set himself up with an Instagram account and immediately went to placing his sights on more kill-glamor shots of OutdoorRachel. Her gutting a downed doe. Her holding up the monster rack of a bull moose. Her huddling over a congregation of laid-out pheasants. He then discovered that OutdoorRachel wasn’t the only Instagram pretty gal who posted hunter-prey fantasies. CompoundKathy liked to share bare shots of her bow-hunting gobbler turkeys. ShootingSusie liked to video-clip her wing-shots of ducks and geese. ScopingMichelle liked to show herself in a tight apron while cooking a smorgasbord of self-killed meats. And BeaverBeth liked to flash beavers caught in her conibear body-gripping traps. Spark could scarcely believe he’d stumbled upon such a striking flock of shapely, long-legged, dead-eye killers, and he wondered why he’d never heard about them before. And the more he clicked the mouse to find other nice-looking hunter gals and their dead trophies, the more of them he craved to see.
Days went by. Then weeks. And for the rest of winter and all through the spring, Spark ignored his welding trade to happily keep nurturing and adapting to his new-fangled way of hunting. And so it was on a Thursday morning in June when Spark dressed himself, drank his coffee, ate his eggs and bacon, and then went to open his gun safe. As with all his methods of hunting, his choice of weapon played a vital role, and this particular day he went with his Winchester 12-gauge. Popularly advertised as the Perfect Repeater, the old Model 12 pump had belonged to his daddy, it was the first shotgun Spark had ever fired, and so he held a fascination for its legacy, even if the safety on it was no longer dependable.
He then settled down at his computer and typed in OutdoorRachel, as he’d developed a system of pairing his gals with his guns, and since OutdoorRachel was his first and the Perfect Repeater was his first, their pairing was logically sealed. When her most recent Instagram post popped open on the screen and he saw that she’d nailed a brown bear in the wilds of Alaska, he began moaning and caressing the Model 12’s barrel and pump. Such was his reaction as of late, stirred on by his primal urges. He then leaned back in his chair, diddled with his clothes, and set his mind into a dream hunt with OutdoorRachel and her bear.
It wasn’t until later in August that Mary came back to the house, terribly upset that Spark hadn’t responded to her divorce papers. She found him still sitting there at his computer. His pruned body was costumed in a camo and blaze orange get-up, and his face was blown off. The Perfect Repeater stood erect in his lap.
Naturally, questions arose. Suicide? Accident? Foul-play? But at the funeral, nobody could say the truth of the matter. All folks could say was that ole Spark McGlothlin sure did love to hunt.
Sean Jacques is a fifth-generation native of the Missouri Ozarks. Currently, he resides in Los Angeles, teaching English Literature and writing noirs, westerns, and country-gothic tales of woe. His most recent work can be found at Across the Margin, Dead Fern Press, Cowboy Jamboree, Punk Noir, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Flyover Country, and 34 Orchard. He can be found on Twitter @SeanJacques10.