“I think the wolves are gonna be a bother this winter,” Papa said as he locked up the barn one evening. “I was thinking about seeing that hunter fella in town. See if he might know a thing or two.” Surprising no one more than me, Mama not only agreed to that, but to me going with Papa, too.
After paying his respects at the drug store and the saloon, Papa led us through to the back end of town, toward a lodge where the logs gave off the impression that they’d been chopped without any regard for the way they would someday look, stacked into a structure. Inside, though, was another picture.
With the epitome of care, specimens from the hunter’s various kills had been preserved, then mounted or posed. There were dozens of deer and elk. A few boars’ heads. At the end of the bears was what I guessed was a wendigo. I couldn’t name half the snakes or fish, but I knew a hippocampus when I saw one. There was a beautiful manticore stinger in a case across from a teacup griffin poised in a midair plunge toward an empty space that I figured would be filled with the trophy the hunter was stuffing as we entered.
“’Scuse me, sir, but is that a real jackelope?”
“I’m very proud to say it is. Had to camp out for two weeks, three territories over, just to get one in my sights. Your boy’s got a keen eye, farmer.”
Papa nodded. “He’s a sharp one, alright. But even his big brain ain’t gonna be enough to see us through these two blue moons coming up. Not rightly sure we’re prepared.”
The hunter stroked his thick beard. “You got a werewolf problem? Must be north of town. Reckon I can fix you up with something.”
The two older men sorted through traps and payment in the back, while I stared at some live critters in glass cases. One of the pixies was making cow eyes at me. I thumped her glass. We stuck our tongues out at each other. These things were always tearing up Mama’s garden. They were nuisances, all of them. Pests.