TURKEY SHOOT • by Jackie Jernigan

Chet lost his job on Saturday. Mickey called him in to the office and handed him a check for $217. He said times were hard, people were putting off brake jobs, and Chet was too slow.

Chet put the check into his shirt pocket.

“Two weeks before Thanksgiving,” he said. “Thanks, Mickey.”

“Hey,” said Mickey. “It’s not personal.”

Chet shrugged. “Gotta tell Linda,” he said. The bells on the office door jingled as he left.

***

Linda didn’t take it well. She quit folding towels and sat down on the sofa.

“Now what, Chet,” she said, without a question mark, continuing their usual conversation: I knew this would happen, and now what.

Chet shrugged. Words never helped with Linda; she could slip around them like a lawyer.

“We have rent next week,” she said.

Chet folded his arms across his chest and thought: What if you looked for work for once?

He knew what Linda would say: “What about Stevie?”

Stevie was two. After work and supper, when Linda was in the kitchen, Chet let Stevie climb onto his chest and bounce and laugh.

“Something will work out,” Chet said. Linda frowned and picked up a towel.

“Sure it will,” she said, and threw the towel back onto the laundry pile.

“I bet you can’t wait to whine to your mother about how I got fired,” said Chet.

“Just shut up,” said Linda. She stared at him.

Chet got the hell out of the house, slamming the front door.

He backed the truck out of the driveway, tires skidding on the gravel.

***

What if he just kept going? He had a full tank of gas and a $217 check in his pocket.

He thought about Linda, her five-year-old Chevy that needed work. He thought about Stevie bouncing on his chest.

He drove along the highway through the countryside.

While stopped at a red light by the John Deere tractor dealership, he saw a big sign for a turkey shoot: “Hit a target, win a turkey! Four shots for a dollar!” Behind the sign was a row of targets in a field.

Chet had a couple of dollars in his wallet. He could shoot eight times and maybe get Linda a turkey for Thanksgiving. He’d put it in the refrigerator and tell her to go see his surprise.

Chet parked by a BBQ stand and paid two dollars. He could miss seven times.

When his first turn came, he felt the trigger under his finger and flinched. He made himself pull hard, and the bang made him jump.

A man two lanes over won the turkey. Chet hadn’t even hit his target.

He remembered a friend of Linda’s who’d told him she’d won a turkey and never shot a gun in her life before. She said she’d shut her eyes, pulled the trigger, and hit the target dead center.

At his next turn he shut his eyes. The bang made him jump.

He heard a yelp from out on the field. “Shit! I’m shot!”

Chet opened his eyes and saw a man lying on the ground next to Chet’s target.

“Didn’t you hear me say HOLD?” said a man wearing a Lions Club vest, tapping Chet hard on his shoulder. “What’d you do, shut your eyes? You maybe just killed a man!”

People were running out onto the field. The Lions Club man took Chet’s rifle.

“Evidence,” he said. He pulled out his cell phone. “I’m calling the cops,” he told Chet.

Two men dragged the bleeding man over to a picnic table near the BBQ stand. “Lucky for you he’s not dead,” said the Lions Club man. “Don’t leave. The police are coming.”

Chet watched them lay the man down on the table. He was groaning. Blood was spreading down the left leg of his jeans.

“Man, oh man, oh man,” the man said, over and over.

Chet leaned heavily against his truck. Another Lions Club man walked over to him, an old bald guy.

“You try to shoot Marv, Buddy? You got some kind of problem?”

“I don’t know him,” Chet said, looking over at the writhing man on the picnic table.

He could hear a siren off in the distance, coming toward them down the highway.

Shit.

“Don’t go anywhere,” said the man.

***

The policeman wrote down what happened.

“You say you don’t know Marvin Sullivan?”

Chet shook his head.

“I just aimed wrong,” he said.

“You’re gonna have to pay for his ambulance,” said the Lions Club man. “And the hospital. Hope you’ve got insurance.”

“I’ve got $217,” said Chet. He pulled Mickey’s check out of his pocket.

“That won’t get the ambulance to Lake City,” said the Lions Club man.

“It’s all I’ve got,” said Chet.

“You’ll have to work something out,” said the policeman. He wrote more on his report.

***

The ambulance driver put Marv onto a stretcher and took him away.

“I got your address and your phone number,” said the policeman. “You gotta go to court, pay a fine, pay the doctor, pay for the ambulance, see?”

“Yes, sir,” said Chet.

He took the paper the policeman gave him and turned his truck around in the parking lot.

When he got home, Linda was putting Stevie into the car seat in the back of her Chevy.

“Where’ve you been?” she asked. Stevie was fretting; he didn’t like his car seat.

“I accidentally shot a guy at a turkey shoot,” Chet said. He pulled his check out of his pocket, held it out to her.

“Now what,” said Linda.


Jackie Jernigan sings second soprano in her church choir and is very good at Bubble Shooter.


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