“Amory, you would have to see this to believe it. Last night Vernardo and I ventured out to a farm, about 50 clicks from Brasilia. Our trek started before dark and -”
“Before dark? I hope that was a quick hunt. Last time we hunted in the dark at the compound you couldn’t navigate back -”
“Never mind that damnit. You’re always afraid of a little adventure. And to refuse would have disrespected Vernardo!”
In Brazil we hunt at niiight hombre.
“I guess you’re right…”
“In the jungle it’s shoot on sound. Light up bait area, and kill. Back home we thought Woodcock drive was a bitch, try this lady on for size.”
“How big of a step is it?”
“Go about 400 yards into the jungle and we hit the swamp. Cross a crick, then climb up to a platform. Sitting in coal black dark surrounded by the echoing menace of the jungle. Then there was the rain, every time it rains my god damn hearing aid cuts out.”
“So much for shoot on sound.”
“God damnit Amory.”
“Finish the story already.”
“Vernardo thought he heard something below and lit up the bait area. Saw two ‘paca’. A rodent that is very good eating, if that’s your thing. The paca took off like a bat out of hell. Only got one shot off.”
“And then sat for another hour or more. My impression of this South American night hunt was not strong at this point. I was cold and sore from sitting on wet, slippery wood.”
“Sounds like an interesting story, but I have to admit you’re getting too old for all these adventures.”
“And you’re getting too old to have none of your own stories to tell.”
“I told you once I finish school and pay off these loans i’m going to leave – “
“Quit giving that exasperating spiel and make something happen. Anyways, Vernardo called his friend to lead us out. When he got there we looked around and guess what? A heart, lung shot.”
“The standard weight of a paca is 10 to 12 pounds, my slay was 25.”
“Jesus – “
“That better be a praise and not another act of vain from you boy.”
“All praise the most high.” Pap couldn’t see my eyes rolling from 2,500 miles away.
“You’re damn right. We got home and Vernardo fired up the grill. A victory feast of six steaks, gaucho style. You’ve GOT to see how they clean the thing. First pour boiling water over part of animal and remove fur with the edge of knife. Never seen anything like it. Takes about 45 minutes to completely dress it. Vernardo wasn’t prepared to clean the paca ’cause he didn’t think I would be successful. WRONG. By the way, all hunting is prohibited in Brazil. I am now officially an international violator.”
The day after Christmas, his great Jesus’ birthday. After violating his last law, his masterful slaying of the paca, they rushed him to the hospital. FUCK. Was it the gaucho steaks? All Grandma told us was that she was sorry. The family had been against their long travels for years. Pap’s thirst for experience and controversy failed to descend and he became Don Pap. Don Pap lays down the law. He used to tell me, “you’re either a wolf or a sheep”. Pap choose the former. Despite this, the universe does not care whether you’re a wolf or a sheep or a paca. When death knocks there is nowhere to hide, the reaper holds the key.
The doctors gave word that it was Leukemia. It didn’t make any sense. No one knew he was that sick. Now we’re sitting in the annex of The Compound overlooking his bed. They all said that he would have to sell it, that he couldn’t maintain the upkeep on his own. 74 year old retired video production mogul living with all these acres. A magnificent gazebo, staring into the heart of the deep Wisconsin wilderness. Of course he wasn’t going to sell it, “and by God if it comes to it i’ll leave with the house”. That he did.
It’s difficult to leave your life in the correct perspective. It seems the only escape from our own is the demise of another. I wasn’t ready for that other being to be Pap. It happened so subtle, like the collapse of Vito Corleone in the garden. After all the enemies Vito encountered. On his way from a lowly immigrant to the King of Kings. He was whacked by his own body. Even as a boy in that hospital room, the window gave him a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. Signifying the American Dream that everyone was to pursue. Now we live in the American Nightmare. Where we are all so connected, that many find no sense in living their own lives. Souls that would rather live vicariously through another. I’m going to find it on my own, but it won’t be by stepping in as head of this family. Pap said I had to find it elsewhere, where that would be? As consolation for Pap’s death I was left his Bible. What am I supposed to do with this? I grew up in a Christian Church, but I never found much use for it in my life. All I can think about in this moment is not averaged named beings or long books. Right now what is on my mind is what’s in front of me, the corpse of the man I most love in this world. One minute all the lessons and fears and sins sit collected in one’s conscious self. Locked down with the jaw softened on the orange peel. Those mourning the departed weep. Death smiles back.
These walls breathe in tune with the rest of the room. Scanning around the green garnered edges I can see my own evolution, along with the rest of our family. Frame by frame my previous identities stare into my soul. I stare right back. Is that still me? Where along these frames did I misstep and fall into an inescapable dimension of treason. Treason against my own nature, against what Pap wanted for me. I could give a damn about the others. Except for my brother, DNA plagued inside a body eerily like my own. Our greatest gift in life is one of words. Allowing us to express concerns to a piece of paper, or a laptop screen, or a loved one. Coop is not given that luxury. His thoughts bounce around in the pits of his brain. A brain still developing. Does he know what we know? Or do we not know what he knows? That we are the ones who struggle to understand, while he holds the great knowledge of the other side. Shouldering this heavy burden to relay the secrets of life. The secrets that Pap was unable to pass to me, due to the unexplainable phenomenon of time. Now I must form my own.