The next morning I came down the stairs, Janus was sitting on the coach in the living room smoking a cigarette, I had one of my computer magazines with me.
“Where’s your father?” I asked.
“He left early this morning, he didn’t even say goodbye.”
“It’s really cool that your parents let us stay at their cabin.”
“Yeah, my father is a very giving man. You really read those magazines?” He asked nodding towards the computer magazine.
“What do you think I do with them?”
“I thought maybe you just used them to make people think you’re smarter than you really are, or to carry around those centerfolds in decadent American magazines.”
“The only decadent American magazine I ever had was the one you gave me when I broke my leg.”
“So, why computers?”
“Computers are machines of the future, we’ll be able to run everything with them, we’ll have access to information and whoever knows how to run them will have the most power.”
“What about shooting?”
“No, guns are machines of the past, gunpowder, gases, grease and bolt action, straight from the 19th century, they’re history. Just like the old men with old ideas you talked about last night.”
“We’ll always need guns, they’ll probably even have them with your computers in them.”
“No, I don‘t think a computer will ever be that small.” Obviously my prescience wasn’t present that day.
Janus put out his cigarette and went over to the gun cabinet, as he fished around on the top of the cabinet looking for the key he said, “I’m going hunting, want to come along?”
“No,” I said, “I’ll stay here and read my magazine, maybe look for that centerfold.” Janus took a rifle out of the cabinet, found some shells for the gun, and in the bottom drawer pulled out a silver flask, shook it to see if anything was in it, opened it and drank what was left in it, and then went over to the bar to fill it.
“You want any?” He asked.
“I’ll be back in a few hours, and if you’re really interested in finding that centerfold they’re in the bottom drawer of the gun cabinet.” He said, with that sly smile of his.
Later that afternoon, I was sitting on the front porch of the cabin reading and smoking, enjoying the afternoon. The cabin was really out in the woods, there was no road to speak of just two worn tire tracks in the dirt. It was early fall there was just a little chill in the breeze, the trees were all burnt with gold and red, the grasses brown, and the woods only about a hundred feet from the stone and wood cabin. When Janus came back, walking up the dirt path towards the cabin holding up two pheasants by their limp necks, he smiled and yelled, “dinner!”
“How did you catch so many?” I asked, as he walked up the stone steps of the porch.
“The smart hunter let’s his come to him. You should hunt, you’ll enjoy it walking around in the fresh air.”
“And kill living things.”
“Come on, we have to kill to live, we’re both marksmen, man is a predator, we have the right to hunt, we’re at the top of the food chain.”
“Who say’s we’re at the top of the food chain?”
“No other creatures hunt us.”
“But it’s not on equal terms, you go out into the woods with a rifle and a scope, and your prey doesn’t even see you. Maybe if you approached nature on its own terms. If you went out into the wild with only a knife or a spear, on natures own terms then you’d discover who is at the top of the food chain.”
“You mean like hanging from a tree limb in a loincloth with a knife clenched between my teeth.”
“Come on be serious,” I said.
“You should hunt, you’ll enjoy it.”
“I don’t like to kill.”
“What do you shoot for?”
“For the art of it, the sport, as a challenge.”
“The sport of it is hunting.”
“It’s something I do well, I like being the best.”
“I’m the best.” Janus chided, laughing, “besides, I do not expect the hunted to understand the hunter. Everything kills, it is the natural order of things, there is no innocence.”
“Animals kill for survival, to eat, to protect their young, to live, only man kills for sport, and once you justify the killing of one creature, no matter how small and insignificant, you can justify the killing of any other creature. It‘s an illusion.”
“What’s the illusion?”
“Your imagined power over life and death.”
“What are you a bleeding heart? Janus looked towards the woods and saw a rabbit hoping along the tree line, “here, watch.” He pointed his rifle at the rabbit, he shot in front of the animal. Panicked it turned and ran in the opposite direction. Janus jerked the rifle fast and shot in front of the rabbit again, the bullet kicking up dirt right in front of the rabbit’s nose. The animal froze in fear not knowing where it’s attacker was.
“Jesus, leave the poor creature alone.” I said, Janus tired of playing with the animal, he took his time sighting it, and with one fluid stroke of a finger ended the rabbit’s life.
“I’ll make a hunter of you yet.” He left the rabbit where it died. Thereafter Janus and I agreed to disagree. Although, thinking back maybe it was a trait I shouldn’t have tolerated in a friend. Maybe it would have made a difference, maybe it wouldn’t have. But that’s not the way kids think. I was his friend and that’s all I understood. Over the years Janus and I would debate it many times over, neither of us conceding or conceiving an argument to convert the other.