My home is just outside of Boston. I work in the city, take the train every day, escape all of it when I can. It’s a great life. But it’s not where I live.
I live in Maine at the end of October, as fall’s great show winds down. The maple trees are bare, but some stubborn poplars are still holding onto clusters of their golden leaves. I have a week of hunting ahead of me. Puck’s in the truck, along with my 110-year old L.C. Smith and enough Pop Tarts for a week.
At night, there’s a book in my hand, a rocks glass of bourbon beside me. I make room on my lap for Puck’s head. The next morning there’s frost on my truck’s windshield and no one in my covert when we pull up.
I strap a bell onto Puck and send her off into the woods. She heads down a logging trail grown over with stubbly grass and then casts to the right. I follow. Pretty soon the clang of Puck’s bell is missing and I notice she has stopped. I rush through the woods, left arm up, while branches tug at my frayed old pants. I spot her on point, tail long and straight like than the barrels on my double. The grouse goes up to my left, my Smith touches my shoulder–bang…bang. “Dead bird,” I holler and Puck’s off where the grouse fell. I break the Smith and the lavender shells kick into my hand as smoke rises from the chambers.
Puck fetches to hand. I scratch her ear. “Good girl,” but she has tasted blood now and she’s anxious to move on. With a tap to the head, I send her off again. Her bell clanks as she rushes ahead. I follow, and for a moment some grinding gears at the very center of me finally slip into place and catch. The dissonance I live with most of the year disappears and the force that drives me north every October goes quiet and smooth.