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At the Firing Range

from The Reeducation of a Turd Peddler
by John Henry Peabody

THE AFTER DAY THE HEART was stolen, after the cops had come and written their report, I went up to the range to shoot the rifle and get away.
  August is deer season in California and I had tags for Zone D-13, two weeks left. I figured that a trip to the range might assist the sighting in of my scope and afford a bit of Sherlock Holmes-style thinking.
  Like I knew what I was doing.
  Before I left town, I picked up some White Flyer clay pigeons at the Big 5 just off of Junipero Serra Boulevard.
  I liked to put them on the earthen berm set at the one-hundred-yard mark from the firing line. While the clays, are shaped like disks and colored bright orange—readymade to be thrown for skeet—I put them on the berm in rows of five to take shots at them through the scop of my 30.06. At a hundred yards, the 30-ought is just getting going and completely accurate if the sight is properly dialed.
  At that caliber, the rifle is like a cannon, no doubt designed to kill large mammals, but there’s something comforting about disappearing into the site of all that power. It’s no different than hitting golf balls or reading sonnets. It allows me to focus hundreds of years of machination, politics and learning into a single body motion—squeezing my finger.
  My breathing and heart rate are matched up to the cross hairs in the scope as they fall upon the orange spot in the dirt. I hold the wooden butt of the rifle into my shoulder, my elbows are on each of my knees as I sit in the hunting position, on my ass, legs up and spread. It seems awkward to the uninitiated, but really this is one of the best ways to keep aim on a target at a distance.
  While the shell is in the chamber, I keep the safety on and my finger away from the trigger. I always like to say to students: keep your finger off of the trigger unless you think you want to pull it within the next few seconds . . . Then the safety is slipped off, the index finger gingerly set upon the trigger. The orange clay in the dirt floats in the cross hairs. It jiggers a moment—I’m not ready. I steady myself. Breathe in, lightly breathe out—wait. The hairs descend just below the pigeon. I raise them up gently and land upon the orange target with a squeeze.
  It’s like a twelve foot rubber balloon exploding in front of my face. Then, just as quickly, there’s nothing.
  I look to see if I hit the pigeon, but who knows. One is blinded by the pop of the shell. It’s as if the accomplishment of hitting the target, at the moment the shell is discharged and the rifle racked back, is only alluded to. Sometimes it takes a moment to figure out if you really hit the thing you were aiming for.

More at the range—Hank realizes
why he's really there.



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