Wexler studied the terrain through the cracks between the boulders
behind which he sat, propped against a flat slab of granite. His tan
polo shirt was plastered with sweat; a stray oak leaf stuck in his
short gray hair.
The late afternoon sun dappled the scene in a deceptively peaceful
pattern. Somewhere out there was the shooter who had barely missed a
few short minutes ago. Wexler saw nothing out of the ordinary.
Undergrowth disturbed only by the slight movement of the wind, trees
likewise gently and naturally moving. A sparrow landed in a bush 50
feet away and noisily burst into conversation.
Wexler carefully levered himself up and through a slightly larger gap
between the rock and moved quickly another 30 feet behind a clump of
chokecherries. Just that short burst brought more sweat and hastened
his breathing – damn, he was more out of shape than he thought.
Peering through the chokecherries he saw a cardinal’s brilliant red
plumage suddenly burst out of hiding in a stately elm and two smaller,
more nondescript birds at the same time from the same tree. Tracing
the line of the trunk to the ground he saw what he hoped: a human
figure clad head-to-toe in a camouflage jumper.
Wexler crawled to a clump of new maples and drew up onto his knees in
a small depression behind them, bringing his gun up to his shoulder.
Just one mistake, he breathed to himself. The figure in camo was on
the move, cautiously edging from one tree to the next, a few long
strides at a time, forty feet away, thirty.
The figure suddenly halted and swung its gun up. Wexler fired, center,
left, right, and rolled to his left, came up to a crouch, and raced 15
feet to another clump of maple saplings. Shots spattered his hiding
place and peppered the undergrowth in his trail. He fired another pair
of shots blindly and went to ground, counting slow five before raising
his head ever so slightly.
His antagonist was barely visible behind a full-grown maple not ten
feet from Wexler’s previous position. Wexler dropped his head and
counted another five before peeking once more above the leaf litter
The figure in camo was inching along Wexler’s back trail, gun at the
ready in a deep crouch, carefully placing one foot forward making sure
to make no sound. Wexler eased his gun to a firing position just as
the other figure loosed three shots. Wexler dropped the gun and
raised both hands over his head as he stood up slowly, then dropped
his right hand to clean the paint from his visor.
The figure in camo reached one hand to pull the helmet off, revealing
a pretty, strawberry blonde of probably half Wexler’s 35 years. She
smiled. “Too slow, Dad!”
Wexler laughed and took his daughter’s hand as they walked together
back to the staging area to go home.
He just made a spectacular play
Determination and skill on display
From deep inside the pride swells over
But the impact! He’s hurt his shoulder.
The striker’s still down, his knee
The keeper waves off assistance, see.
He won the battle and despite the bruise
There’s a lot of game left so he’ll refuse
To show even a smidgen of weakness
It’s that macho, leadership toughness.
Now they’re carrying off the striker
While the keeper stretches out his shoulder
And what of me, what to do?
The pride of the play but concern too.
How hurt is he really, behind the motion?
Is it a drop or the whole ocean?
Play resumes and I watch closely
Fortunately it seems to be mostly
A discomfort not an agony
Not like the striker’s knee.
Oh, the dichotomy of a dad
Loving the good but dreading the bad.
So proud he’s growing up.
So sad he’s growing up.