This month is my one year writing anniversary! To celebrate, I wrote three short stories that all take place around Cal's birthday. These will be released each Friday until the 24th, so make sure you jump back to the blog to check them out.
The first one is The Hunt. Enjoy!
“Papa, look!” Marybell jumped while she pointed up the trunk of a tall tree. “There it is!”
Gunner stepped over closer to her, peering up the expanse of the huge beastly tree. They had been exploring the forest near the river for nearly an hour trying to find the perfect present for Uncle Cal. While Gunner had spotted a lot of what he thought was very acceptable beetles for his collection, Marybell was quick to correct him.
Apparently those beetles were not good enough. She had a very specific one in mind and had made it her life’s goal to find it, trekking her Papa up and down the river bank on a beetle safari.
To her credit, this beetle was pretty damn impressive. Gunner gave a whistle.
“That’s a huge damn bug.”
“It’s perfect!” she declared with another hop of excitement. The fucking beetle was as big as a man’s fist, with three sets of stacked, spiked goddamn antler-horn things coming out of its face. Its hard shell covering the wings had an almost metal sheen to it, and glittered a mix of onyx and purple.
“You sure your net and jar can hold that thing?” Gunner glanced down at his daughter’s equipment. Along with a long, wooden pole with a cloth net Mack had made her, Marybell had a big, empty jar tucked under one arm. She nodded quickly, setting the jar down at the base of the tree. Standing on her toes, she stuck her tongue out to the side and swung with everything she had to try and catch the massive, horned beetle into her net.
She was about three feet too short to succeed in her task, even with jumping and yelling for extra effect.
“Wanna boost?” Gunner offered as he picked her up by the waist and lifted her up over his head. Marybell gave a mighty battle cry and swung again, but the slap against the trunk drove the beetle scuttling up into the higher branches.
“Lift me to the branch and I’ll climb up!”
“That’s a tall tree, Squirt.” Gunner eyed the height of the branches the beetle was aiming for as it moved, and imagining Marybell hauling her tiny self up that far made him queasy.
“I can do it! I’m not scared!”
That wasn’t a question. This child feared nothing, and that courage gave her fathers heartburn. Cooper more than Gunner but it still happened. Gunner watched the beetle shuffle up the trunk, disappearing into the thick branches.
“I got an idea.” Gunner set Marybell onto her feet as he kicked off his boots. Reaching back, Gunner tugged his shirt off over his head and tucked it into one boot so it wouldn’t get lost. Since he wasn’t going to shed his pants, those things would have to be sacrificed for the good of the hunt.
Shifting into his Manticore form shredded the pants to hell, but he wasn’t going to deny Marybell her chance to get Cal that damn beetle. He kneeled down, tucking his wings to his sides and made sure his tail was clear out of the way as he motioned to her to climb aboard. Marybell giggled her minical little laugh he’d grown to adore as she climbed onto his back. Two little arms wrapped around his neck, one fist clutching the bug net, while her legs wrapped around his ribs just under the wings. It took a moment for his wings to adjust so they were both comfortable, and she damn near choked him with her bear hug around his throat.
“Ready!” She giggled again and pointed up the tree with her net. Gunner flexed his claws and hopped up onto the tree and began his slow crawl towards the prize. The beetle had retreated pretty high up, resting almost near the top. Gunner focused his eyes on it, pausing as it scuttled up further and fluttered its wings.
Carefully, Gunner crept closer to it, freezing each time it would move as to not alarm it. To Marybell’s credit, she was as silent as snow fall while they neared striking range, only priming her net when Gunner nodded for her to do so.
She held her breath and swung.
The beetle lifted off and flew into the air just as she slapped the net down where it was, taking to the sky and darting away.
“Oh, no!” Her little voice was so full of sorrow and guilt. “I missed!”
“Hold on, Squirt. It won’t get away that easy.” Gunner leapt off after it, spreading his wings wide once he cleared the tree and took flight. Marybell squealed with delight, squeezing her arms and legs around him as Gunner shot after the bastard.
The beetle flew over the treetops, looking for another place to descend as Gunner rushed towards it.
“Get your net ready.”
“Ready!” Marybell held it up.
“When I dive, swing. Got it?” He glanced back over his shoulder to see her nodding vigorously.
Gunner tucked his wings in and dove down in a control motion, aiming them right towards the flying present for Cal. This time when Marybell swung, the fat, purple-black son of a bitch landed right in her net.
“I got him!”
“Good job, Marybell.” Gunner spread his wings wide, circling back around to where they started and guided to the ground. Marybell twisted the fabric to keep the beetle secure as she rushed to her jar, plopping the fussy bug into the glass container with a hefty thud. Once the lid was secured, they took a moment to marvel at their prisoner.
“That,” Gunner tapped the jar with his claw. “Is a big damn bug.”
“It’s perfect!” She held the jar up triumphantly. “We got him!”
Gunner smirked and pulled her into a hug as he lifted her up. “C’mon. Let’s go show Daddy.”
To be continued