DEERHEADS

John William McMullen

Once I arrived at the Lamasco Inn for my tenth high school reunion, I saw Tim and Dog o'War. They hadn't changed--both had the same old long hair and faraway look from their drug of choice. Tim's long black hair was as greasy as ever as it stuck out from under a green ball cap. In his faded black KISS t-shirt, worn and torn Levi Jeans, and old high top basketball shoes, he looked like he did senior year. He gave me the usual handshake with several shifts and finger configurations. "Horny-horny," Dog o'War howled out. He wore a sleeveless white undershirt and grey running shorts with flip-flops. A red sock cap kept his wild sandy blonde hair in check. I was dressed in a white open collared oxford, khaki slacks, a blue sports coat, and dress shoes. "Hey, Slick, like my wife beater outfit?" "Uh, huh," I was unsure how he wanted me to respond. "I ain't even married, dude." Dog o' War laughed. We started drinking beer and sharing old stories of our parties, evading the cops, and midnight hunting trips. After that we started doing shots and Tim pulled some weed out of his pocket. We went out to the parking lot and smoked a couple of Js. Afterwards I went back in and everything was a blur. The music tasted bad, the lights were too loud, and my eyes couldn't hear too well. It had been a while. I got the invitation to the Lamasco High reunion months ago. I really hadn't planned on going until Tim called and said that he and Dog o' War were going to be there. We were friends in high school, but the only thing that really served as a common interest was our getting stoned together on the weekends. I was glad the wife had decided to stay home in Chicago. I rarely return to my hometown, except to visit my dad. I figure if I stay in Lamasco for more than three days I'll have a relapse into dysfunction. At least that's what my therapist says, or wants me to believe. I had been in therapy for two years. My mom left dad and me when I was just a kid, ten or eleven. Dad tried to raise me, but he was so busy with work that I pretty much grew up in the streets. Once I got married, my father-in-law gave me a job with his advertising agency and saved me. Well, my wife helped. Things were going well in my life until Tim called. Once I heard his voice, it was just like old times. Now here I was smoking marijuana again. "Big shot, what's wrong with you?" Tim said, bringing me back to the present. "I'm not used to this. I guess I'm a lightweight." I held the joint out to him. "I'd say. This is just starters for me and the Dog."

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DEERHEADS

John William McMullen

"Maybe I'd better go back to my dad's place." I said. "Ah, hell, don't be a wuss. The night's still young." "I don't know, Tim." "Don't be worrying none. Your wife's in Chicago." "I better be getting home." I staggered out to the parking lot and got to where I left my car and it was gone. "My car's been stolen!" I shouted in a cry. Some women walking across the lot stared at me like I was a hopeless alcoholic. I was drunk, I was stoned, and now my car was stolen. "Great. I ought to call the cops, but I can't." "Why not?" "I'm too messed up." "You sure you drove?" "Yeah, yeah. I parked right here, I'm sure of it." I felt like I was spinning around and around. "Now I'll have to walk." "No you won't, Big shot. I'll give you a ride." "Thanks." "Where you staying?" "At my Dad's." When Tim got to his car it was unlocked and the keys were in the ignition. He still had the same car he had his senior year in high school. I opened the passenger side and scooted my feet through the debris on the floorboard. Empty beer cans, McDonald's cups and bags, empty food packages, candy wrappers, and other assorted trash. As soon as we were in, Tim started the engine and turned on the air-conditioner. "Want to have some mattress action tonight?" "What?" "Do you want to get laid?" "No, I'm married!"

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John William McMullen

"Easy, man. I was just asking. Me and the Dog know a little place. It used to be the old Rainbow Motel--" "Tim, I'm not interested." "Oh, well, you're probably so stoned you'd never get anywhere with a woman tonight anyway." "Thanks for the vote of confidence. Just take me to my Dad's. You do remember where I used to live?" "Yeah, yeah. Say, you know, Dog o' War did say he'd like to go out hunting like we used to do." "Now?" "Why not? Remember the woods up at Honey Creek?" "Yeah, but it's two in the morning." "So? That never stopped us before. Besides, it's been too long since the three of us went hunting together." Tim turned the stereo and put a cassette in and cranked the volume full blast. "We were younger then." "You're as young as you think." Tim smiled, singing along to AC/DC's Dirty Deeds. "The last time me and Dog o' War went up there was about five years ago and I'll bet there's a ton of deer up there now." "But we could kill somebody." I yelled over the song. "You worry too much. Being married has ruined you." At that, the tape began to warble, I reached over and turned the music down. "Where's Dog?" I asked. He had disappeared at some point. "I don't know." "Did you see his car?" "He don't drive." "What?"

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DEERHEADS "He's a habitual offender. They took his license five years ago." "Damn." "Ah, he don't mind. It's probably for the best." "Is he still inside?" "No, he said he was going to wait out here for me."

John William McMullen

Tim put the car in drive. "Maybe Dog's already at my house waiting. He's so used to walking." We drove down the street and at the first stoplight Tim and I turned to each other at the sound of passing gas. "Tim, that's the most intelligent thing you've said all evening," I laughed. "Very funny, but he who smelt it, dealt it." The odor was atrocious. Then we heard another fart in the backseat and we turned around. "Horny hooters!" A lump of old clothes and a blanket began to stir. A familiar face emerged from under the heap. "Dog!" Tim called out. "There you are!" "A'right, a'right. We going hunting?" "I don't know about Big shot here." Tim asked, "You in?" "It's too late, guys," I argued. "Horna hona! Let's go bag us some deers," Dog said. "I don't have a gun and I'm dressed up." "Just lose the jacket and you're all set." Dog o' War attempted to reason with me. "Don't worry about it none, slick. They've brainwashed you in Chicago. You've still got it, man. Just loosen up," Tim said. "You need another doobie." "I don't know, guys. The last couple of hits about did me in."

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John William McMullen

"Here," Tim said, handing me the joint. Dog o' War reached up from the backseat with an open flame from his lighter. I leaned over and lit the joint, taking a drag. "I'll take you by my old man's and we'll borrow his pick-up truck and some of his shotguns." Tim explained. "Oh, I don't know," I said, puffing on the weed. "Are you in or not?" Tim asked. "All right. But just tonight. I'm getting too old for this." I took another hit from the joint. "We'll go back up to the Honey creek woods where we used to hunt all the time." Tim said as he squinted, driving slowly. "Are you sure there are still deer up there?" I asked. "Yep, a lady got killed up there a few months ago when she hit a ten point buck," Tim said. We pulled up at Tim's house. A junk car stood on blocks and old rusty bikes, tires, and an assortment of trash filled the yard. Dog fell asleep in the backseat as I waited for Tim to secure his dad's truck. Meanwhile, the radio cranked out acid rock as the marijuana did a number on me. I sat there studying the door handle of the car wondering how it worked. I couldn't remember if it opened in or out. I couldn't even recall how to unlock the door. A few minutes later Tim banged on the hood startling me from my reverie. "C'mon, guys. I got the truck and plenty of ammo." He got impatient with me as I struggled to move my hands toward the door knob. "What's wrong, big shot?" "I can't open the door." "Here!" He opened it and I fell out of the car along with a couple of empty beer cans. "I must've been leaning against the door." "Do you think so? Let's go! C'mon, Dog o' War!" "Heena-horny-horny-heena! Ha, ha!" Dog bounded out of the car with the blanket draped over his head. He danced in the street. "Woo!" He howled up at the moon which was disappearing and reappearing amidst fast moving clouds. I wavered over to the pick-up truck and saw the shotguns hanging in the

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John William McMullen

back windows. Dog o' War got in the middle of the cab and I sat on the end and shut the door. "Besides the shotguns, I got two rifles in the back of the truck and another pistol if that's not enough!" Tim drank from a bottle of Jack Daniels. "Big shot, you'll be taking venison back to your old lady in Chicago." I thought about my stolen car and I knew what my wife would think if she knew what I was doing. "We'll have deers for breakfast!" Dog o' War barked. Tim drove up in a liquor store parking lot explaining that we needed some beer. Studying the door handle again, I thought I saw lightning streaking across the sky, but it I didn't think about it again because I must have dozed off. The next thing I remember was the truck bouncing down Old Honey Creek Road and Quiet Riot ringing from the truck's cheap speakers. "Horna-heena-honna," Dog o' War cried out, reaching around for one of the shotguns, pulling it off the rack. "Watch it with that thing," I yelled. "I know what the hell I'm doing." He shoved the gun out the open window and took aim. "Wait till we get out of the truck to shoot that damn thing," I said. Tim parked the truck under some trees and we got out. I could hear the sounds of the highway traffic and looked into the thicket. The moon was now absent from the sky, behind thick clouds. I felt a few raindrops and saw some lightning and heard the far off rumble of thunder. "Guys, it's starting to rain. There's a thunderstorm coming." "You're a worry-wart," Tim said. "Yeah, what's a little rain to you?" Dog o' War asked, with the barrel of the shotgun aimed at my groin. "Watch where you're aiming that thing!" "You ain't got nothing down there to shoot!" He and Tim guffawed. I looked at my watch and it was now nearly four in the morning. And with the rising of the sun Tim and Dog o' War would soon go home to bed. "Guys, were damn near thirty years old!" "No doubt," Tim sneered.

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John William McMullen

"We're not in high school, any more," I continued. "It's been ten years." "Duh," Dog said. "Did you, like, just figure that out?" I was angry at myself for letting my old pothead friends talk me into midnight hunting. Dog pumped a few rounds of fire into the woods and screamed out, "I hit a bear." We had finished off the six-pack and had done about seven joints by the time the first hint of light began to grace the dark purple sky. I couldn't believe I was still able to stand. The rain drops were intermittent now, but the lightning was more intense and the thunder louder, following the lightning more closely. "You see anything, yet, dude?" Tim asked me, as we went deeper into the woods. "No, nothing yet. I don't think there's any deer here any more." "Yeah, there is," Dog said, again aiming the shotgun directly at me. "Quit pointing that thing at me, Horna-heena!" Just then a blinding flash of lightning came down in the woods fifty yards from us and its simultaneous thunderbolt was followed by a downpour of rain. "Awesome!" Dog o' War cried out. "Let's get going." I said. "Hey, guys, look!" Tim yelled. "There's something moving over there!" There was. I took aim, but Dog o' War fired the first round, with Tim and mine following his. We heard an animal moan. "Heena-horny-horny-heena!" Dog o' War squealed. Suddenly I saw a deer. It must have been a buck it was so big. I yelled out and fired. The shot hit the animal and made a hollow sound. I looked up and saw that the deer was still standing. Tim aimed and fired. I heard a loud ricochet like a shot against a metal trash can and a woof like that of a large dog. Then a light turned on. And another. And still another. I was so drunk and stoned it took me a few seconds for me to realize that they were back porch lights and kitchen and bedroom lights from people's houses. "My God," I said aloud, "we went in too far. We're in a damned sub-division!" Our old hunting grounds had succumbed to Suburban sprawl. As the lights from the homes and the sunrise fused, I could see that my target had been a lawn deer ornament, while Tim and Dog o' War had shot at two Irish Wolfhounds.

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John William McMullen

"Let's get the hell out of here!" Tim cried. Dog o' War, still in his flip-flops, ignored Tim and jumped over the fence and grabbed the large lawn deer by the head and dragged it back to the fence. A man from the neighborhood came out of his house yelling and fired a shotgun at us. The man then opened his gate and turned the Wolfhounds loose. Obviously from the way the dogs were hurtling towards us, Tim and Dog had missed their targets. Dog o' War picked up the deer and threw it over the fence, leaping over after it, but one of the Wolfhounds had caught him by one of his flip-flops and he dangled on the fence for a second or two before falling down in the mud. I heard another shot and an unbearable pain ripped up and down my right side. Tim and Dog o' War both got away--Dog o' War carrying the lawn deer away in bare feet. Both of his flip-flops were casualties. I fell down and lay there in the mud and pouring rain as the two gargantuan dogs larger than ponies pounced on my chest. The pain in my leg was so bad, I thought my head was going to explode. That was the last thing I remember before waking up in a bright, cold hospital room lying half naked upon a Gurney surrounded by doctors and nurses. I had taken a shot in the thigh from the angry homeowner. After I was released from the hospital, I was taken to jail. It was then that I reported my car stolen. My wife came in from Chicago and paid my bail and I was released from jail that afternoon. She didn't say a word to me as we left the police station. She stopped on the front sidewalk, her red dress accentuating the positive. She looked at me. Her tight blonde hair made her face look taut. "What? I said I was sorry." "The police found your car." She said calmly through clenched teeth. "Where?" I was dumbfounded. "In the parking lot at the Lamasco Inn--right where you parked it." I looked over and there it was along the curb, unscathed, in front of the station a few cars down. "I took the rental car back to the airport once the police told me where your car was," my wife explained. "Happily I had a spare set of keys with me." "That's a good thing." "It's a good thing you didn't kill anyone. What possessed you to shoot at dogs?"

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John William McMullen

I hung my head in shame without an answer. "Do you want me to drive?" I asked her when we got to the car. "No. I'll drive," she said, getting in the driver's door. "That way I'll know you'll make it back to Chicago. Besides," she reminded me, as she shut the door and buckled herself in, "the doctors said you couldn't drive with your leg like that." I shut the passenger door and she started the car. It was a quiet trip home. Once I was back in Chicago, I received a letter in the mail from Tim. In it he included a picture. Dog o' War had cut the lawn deer's head off and mounted it on his bedroom wall. A pair of blue flip-flops dangled from the deer's antlers.

John William McMullen holds a Master's Degree in Theological Studies from Saint Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana. He is a Theology Instructor at Mater Dei High School in Evansville, Indiana, and an adjunct Philosophy Professor at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. McMullen has written numerous articles on religion and politics, a collection of short stories, and six novels: The Last Blackrobe of Indiana; ROMAN: Unparalleled Outrage; Defector From Hell; Utopia Revisited; 2084: Tomorrow is Today; and Poor Souls. He resides in Evansville, Indiana, with his wife and children.

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