The school bell rang. The school was over for the weekend. The children shouted with delight, throw their books and pencil cases into the brown school-cases where they joined the rest of the school lunches and assorted collectables, that were exchanged during recess. Jack dropped his case and the content spilled all over the floor. Other children did
not stop and stepped on his belongings.
“Stupid Jack,” he heard Charlie Walters scream and stomping on Jack’s sandwich box, squashing it totally. Only Mary Henderson stopped for a second after she broke his HB pencil and said under her breath, ”Sorry. Jack” and then she was out of the door too.
The teacher, Miss Jones, gathered her things and observed how Jack was coping.
“You had some bad luck., Jack?”
“I’m all right, Miss. I’m out of here in a sec,” Jack said, shut his case and run towards the door nearly running into Miss Jones. She only shook her head.
“I hope,” Jack thought, ”nobody will see me with teacher alone in the classroom. They would think I want to be teacher’s pet.” But nobody saw him. Everyone was gone and the school yard was empty.
Outside the gate Jack slowed down and as he looked across the road he saw Charlie pushing another boy from Year 4 around. Jack did not want to know and headed home, where Mum always had a glass of milk and a cookie waiting for him. He ran along the footpath and then across the road towards a large undeveloped parcel of land, which all the children called ‘The Forest’, because they could play there and pretend to be in the bush, Sherwood Forest, or in Africa as big game hunters. Once he had seen a Green Tree Snake. There were rabbits and even a Goanna had been sighted. And there were Lorikeets‚, Cockatoos and Kookaburras. In September the children had to watch out for diving Magpies. The undergrowth was cinder dry after a long, dry spell. Dry leaves and sticks were thick on the ground. Older people always warned of the danger of bush fires as the council had no money for controlled burning.
Jack picked up a short stick and started to run again, still trying to find a purpose for the stick. He saw a Peewee prepare to land nearby. Before it had time to fold away its wings Jack throw the stick, like a Mexican knife, towards the unsuspecting bird. For the first time in his life he did not miss his target.
“Yes,” Jack called out and raised his fist in triumph. The stick hit the bird on the wing. It tried to lift off again; but couldn’t. It hopped away with the injured wing still partly outstretched. The instinct told the Peewee to hide under some bushes. Jacks eyes were now fixed on the unlucky bird. The white patches in its feathers could easily be spotted.
Jack ran into bushes, dropped his school case and bent down to crawl under some
branches. He noticed that the ground was alive with ants and other creepy crawlies. He was not afraid, not now. Something unknown spurned him on.
“I must catch up with the Peewee and kill it,” he said to himself. Grandpa had told him, that a good hunter never lets a wounded animal get away. It will die a horrible death unless the hunter gives it the death blow. That is what he had to do, he thought. As he came closer, the bird hopped further but got tangled up with some branches. It slowed down
and Jack was able to get closer. Jack picked up another stick and hit out at the bird. He missed and the frightened
bird jumped up. The stretched out wing was a real nuisance and got caught in the dry undergrowth. It was exhausted and turned its head towards Jack who had reached it within striking distance. Jack lashed out as hard as he could and caught the bird on its back, breaking it. Jack struck it again, this time near the head.
The Peewee who only minutes ago swooped down to pick up a large bug was now dead and some hungry nestlings were waiting for their mother.
Jack straightened himself up and took a deep breath. He was hot and when he wiped sweat off his forehead he noticed some blood on his hand. The hands and arms had scratches too. He looked at the dead bird, did not know what to do next. Ants were crawling already over the body. Slowly, Jack pushed some dead leaves with his feet over it.
With his handkerchief he tried to stop the bleeding above his brow. In his rush he had not noticed how he got those scratches. Now they started to burn. The sun seemed especially hot now. He was very thirsty.
Jack found his way back where he had left his school case. At first he walked but then he started to run. He wanted to get home and tell his Mum. He raced around the house to the back door and pulled open the screen door, shouting, “Mum, Mum, I did something terrible!”
“Again?” his Mum asked. “What is it this time, Jack?”
“Mum I killed a bird.; a Peewee!”
“How did you do that?”
“I didn’t mean to, Mum. How did I know that I’d hit it with that stick?”
“I told you many times not to linger on the way home. Go and wash your hands.”
Only then did she see the mess he was in. Blood was trickling from his forehead.
“Did you have to fight the poor bird?” she asked but did not wait for an answer.
“Get ready for tea. Dad will be home soon and we’ll have chicken tonight.”
“Chicken?” Jack called out from the bathroom, “I won’t eat any dead bird tonight,
Despite being under the hot shower he started to shiver. He did not eat much that
evening, only the desert. Later, when he was in bed he swore to himself never to go
hunting again. Never, ever.
“It is so stupid to kill an animal,” he thought before he fell asleep for a restless night.
He was fighting off giant birds in his dreams.