He settled onto the bench
and placed his rifle on the table.
This always brought the judges to bare.
Black robes and powdered wigs
steeped in the tradition of their fathers.
To give their rulings
on matters no one asked.

The rifles first sin was length.
Much shorter than the rest of the litter.
The runt was quick and agile
in the slow progress around trees
and, he much preferred to be among them.
Walking in their stories.
Making a stranger of convention to sit
and wait.

The second sin sat on top.
To low and far forward, a black cat draped
lazily on the sunlit windowsill where barrel meets receiver.
A foot from his face
allowing him quick access to reticle
no time needed for eyes to adjust
remain open to drink in the surroundings.
Far weaker than its brothers
this runt is fostered by the other.
Accuracy will come from ritual
not magnification.

A sigh from his brother, as he starts
stacking hunting loads in square black silos
to await their departure.
A glance, eyes over glasses say
the conversation is over.
He would not be shooting bulk today.
Variables lead to pain
and he would have none of that.
Ten silos sit perfectly in a row
a map of the day’s events.
Every other Saturday has made ritual
of their placement.

After standing the bench would be a stranger to him.
A Stranger who would not comfort him
on the long walks among the trees.
There was a small joy he took
in the weight of his rifle.
Great care in its balance and lightness
would grow heavy as the day went by.
What was a babe in the morning
now a child one struggles to lift.
Taking great reassurance as the rifle grows
heavy in the age of the day against sore shoulder
the holes in the paper remained the same.
Deviation leads to pain.

Walking through the brush with Scout,
the last of his runts named from the first.
To small and slow to be worthy
the love of those before him.
Brought as companion and nose
there would be no need of running today.
Haste lead to pain.
Careful of the wind, both traitor and trickster,
that cools his face.
Shadows dance in the distance.
Betrayed by kin and royal crown of age.
Birds fly shouting warning to others
as machine fulfills purpose.

The ride back a journey in quiet contemplation.
Scout looks on a murderer
without concern for the morals of man.
Wagging tail in the knowledge of a new bone.

Staring into his plate replays the memory.
The three of them.
How quickly the slowness of his action made it two.
With slow release the weight of remorse expelled
with the solace of the great care taken
in front of him was no pain.