In the Wilderness

by on November 23, 2021 :: 1 comment

photo "Aiming to Shoot for the Shot" by Tyler Malone

I am the loudest animal on the planet, and the funniest looking, Annelise thought, as she trudged through the snow wearing footgear resembling tennis rackets. Over a long white puffy coat, she carried an ugly black- camera necklace.

“How do I look, Mom?” she said out loud, looking to the sky. You look noisy, she heard in response, but she knew it was only in her own head, because her mother died a year ago, while Annalise was pregnant. “I wish you were here, Mom, to answer my questions.”

As Annalise talked, squirrels hurried into trees pushing out the birds perched there.

The only animals I am seeing are running from me. I must be scaring the delights out of them, or is it scaring the daylight out of them? Her secondary thoughts seemed to stack up on the first ones these days, she was just that tired.

Just focus on the here and now, she thought. Where should I go?

Looking up ahead, she spied her favorite pine grove, the one that wasn’t quite in the park, but better. She’d been there many times before, often with her mother.

The sprawling pines belonged to a church. Luckily, the modestly steepled building had been cemented in the least remarkable spot, far from this quiet sanctuary. She wanted to make it to the bench there and sit still long enough for the creatures to lose sight of her. The last time she was there, a season ago, someone had taped a note to the concrete seat with duct tape.

The note said this: Lost white AirPods in this vicinity. Call this number if found.

Annelise had taken a picture of the note because she so wanted to be the bearer of good news. But she never found the goods to go along with it.

Today she set out with hopes to see an eagle or a fox. But in her despair, she thought, I rarely get exactly as I’ve wanted.

Here, the quiet was enough to keep her coming back. When she reached the bench, snow covered this time, the packed snow atop was enough to make it a highchair. Instead of sitting, she got behind it and propped up the camera and waited.

“I’m actually not the loudest animal on the planet,” she whispered and then merely thought: Not a sound or you’ll see nothing. You haven’t long, remember? You promised you’d be home before baby Darryl wakes up and cries for the food only you can give.

And then she saw him, a mature buck. Broad shouldered with a rack that would probably hang at least eight coats thanks to good genetics. It wasn’t close enough yet to look him in the eye or for a camera click to reach his ears and make him nervous.

Don’t scare him away like Baby’s disposition is scaring off his ill-equipped father. Is it my imagination or is he staying later and later at work each night?

Losing focus, she shifted her stance and the snow crunched. She immediately froze her position, peering through the shutter, trying mightily to hold her head steady. And then she and the animal cocked their heads at the same time. She, because she saw a loose white cord hanging from the upper antler; he, because he seemed to question the danger level and turned to go. Without a word she fired in succession click after click.

The adrenaline and irrational thoughts sped through her body. She just needed one good shot, so they’d believe her.

Is the “they” who had lost the AirPod male or female? Did I get at least one good photo to share?

She so hoped to share a photo that told a story and to text back-and-forth with the stranger. She was that lonely.

editors note:

If you don’t catalog life, how will anyone know you lived? Anyone, anyone?! ~ Tyler Malone

Comments 1


    Absolutely wonderful story! Beautifully written and moving. I love how we’re taken deeper into the mind of the character (and deeper into her fears & loneliness) as we’re drawn deeper into the wilderness, and finally to this almost surreal, spiritual encounter with the buck. It’s humorous how she fires “shot after shot” of film at the buck, instead of, say, buckshot, desiring not to destroy or dominate another creature but build a relationship with one (specifically, the person who’d lost the airpods, or anyone at all, really) through the story embodied by the buck–even if said relationship is only imaginary (at this time–hopefully). Perhaps a commentary on our current state of social affairs.

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