Friday, April 9, 2010

Lost Hunting

The sign—made of dusky orange oak tag, large enough to catch the eye, sturdy enough to keep its shape in spite of the wind—was attached to the utility pole directly across from the intersection.

“Lost: One gray plastic bin, filled with hunting clothes.”

Not what one expects of a handmade sign displayed in this neighborhood, a residential area in a small Connecticut city 50 miles from Manhattan. The public notices around here are usually about missing pets or tag sales or offerings of firewood. Which is probably why I wondered about the story behind that sign all day.

Did the hunter meet up with his buddies— wait,why do I assume it is a “he?” Didn’t my great aunt Thelma love hunting, wasn’t she considered an ace shot? Have I bought in to the stereotype of hunter/gatherer roles so deeply that even in my imagination, those hunting clothes have been lost by a man? Perhaps. To be given ongoing consideration, but now, back to the hunter. Let us assume he was a man.

Did the hunter meet up with his buddies at the commuter lot around the corner, gathering before dawn to make the drive (north? upstate? further afield?) in one large vehicle, an SUV probably, or one of those pickup trucks with extended cab. They would have stowed the guns first, setting them into the cargo space carefully, practicing an abundance of caution in completing this task. Then they piled in, balancing their styrofoam vats of steaming hot coffee, one of them managing the bag of egg-cheese-meat-on-a-hard-roll sandwiches damp with steam and grease. They would wait just until they were pulling out of the commuter lot before distributing those sandwiches.

“Didn’t you want the sausage, Frank?”

“No, I’m ham.”

“Damn, there’s two sausage, one bacon, no ham.”

"I’ll take the sausage, but don’t tell my wife.”

"What happens in hunting, stays in hunting.”

“Hahahahaha, yeah.”

And the sandwich with the taboo sausage was passed over. In the confusion none of them would have cast a look back, noticed the gray plastic box left at the side of the now-empty parking space. (This is what makes me think the hunter was not a woman. A woman would have looked back. Of course, there’s a new layer of stereotype to consider.) On the damp morning pavement, the specific grayness melting into all the gray surrounding it.

Of course he would realize that his hunting clothes had been left behind when they got to the pulloff on the side of the road, just wide enough for two pickups. “Damn it!”

But why wasn’t he wearing his gear already?

Maybe that gray plastic bin, filled with hunting clothes, was lost during a move. One could imagine that it had been forgotten somehow in the turmoil of his moving out of the home he shared with his wife, on that last Saturday when they put asunder what God had made whole.

Or there’s a more benign explanation—it happened in one of the parking lots that line Route 1, as the purchases from one big box store or another was being loaded into the trunk of the car. He moved the bin (or she did) to make room, stowed the groceries, or new sheets and towels, or pet food; then he got into the car while she rolled the shopping cart to the corral, making her way back to the car through the narrow path between the rows of parking spaces. There was no car in the space before them, so he pulled ahead instead of backing out and the bin remained, obstructing access to the space until the some shopper with the patience (or desperate need to park) came long and moved the bin out of the way.

Perhaps he had put it on the roof of the car while he installed the child seat securely in the back seat then drove off. At some point—on a curve, as he made a turn, at a stop sign—the bin slid off, but he was distracted by a cranky child, or something on the radio, or a pretty young girl driving in the other direction.

There are so many ways to lose things.


Donna said...

There are so many ways to lose things -- not paying attention, not making an effort. Time passes and sometimes, things just slip away. Lost before you even realize they are missing.

James M. Chesbro said...

What a beautiful metaphor for memoir writing: the hunt, desire to understand, the delivery of the quest as an inherent aspect of tension and compelling prose, the vivid concrete images that help us feel grounded in a specific landscape, the capacity for wondering, and the acceptance that we will never really know.