I was filling from the keg at a Mardi Gras party when a snide voice erupted from behind. “Well if it ain’t Mr Deerslayer HIMSELF!”
I tried to ignore it. But the voice erupted again, louder this time. No mistaking it now: my old “friend” Wes from LSU. “Doug Neidermeier” we’d nicknamed him. Quite appropriately, the nickname was coined by Pelayo during a Toga party. I flipped the spout, took a hearty gulp (mostly foam, it turned out) and made my way through the party-goers, ducking my head and trying to avoid Wes. I could hear him snickering and noticed him pointing at me as I made my way into the den, where I bumped into a heavily perfumed woman in a LSU sweatshirt and cap. She caught my eyes, I looked down and my stomach froze.
Her eyes and lips narrowed. “The Deerslayer!” she snarled.
“That’s HIM alright!” yelled her husband, still taunting me from behind.
Ye-GAWDS! I thought. Yoko TOO! Pelayo had coined her nickname too, and at the same party. She looked nothing like Yoko Ono, more like Margaret Houlihan, which we instantly dubbed her when Wes first brought her to a party. Shortly her true personality began to manifest. She evolved into a hideous, rumor-mongering, backstabbing witch and broke up the old gang. The moniker was perfect. I guess every gang of chums has their Yoko. Priscilla was ours. For years afterward whenever an old chum would ask “Seen Wes? What happened to ole Wes?” We’d answer: “He got Yoko’ed”
The term clicked instantly. My stomach was in a knot and my mind swirled with ugliness as I turned and made my way back to the pool area. Why these people? And why today? I had no idea they’d be here. My mood was ruined.
The memories of my last confrontation with Neidermeier and Yoko were ugly and fresh. At a New Years’ party Artie invites me to his deer-lease for the last week-end of the deer season.
“We’ll blast everything and ANYTHING!” Artie gasped with a conspiratorial wink and smirk. “Man, I need me some venison. Ain’t shot deer one this season. Gail’s ‘complainin about all the money I poured into this damn lease — and I ain’t got SQUAT to show for it! But this week-end, I hear, I’ll have the lease to myself. No one else is going. None of that “gotta be an 8-point or better” stuff that Wes, the club President…”
“Wes?!” I snorted. “How’d you get mixed up in a deer-club with that a–hole?”
“Gettin hard to get in a club lately, man, especially one close-by. I ain’t into that driving five hours to Alabama or Mississippi, much less the eight hours to Texas, bit anymore. Wes’ club’s only an hour drive for me. Dues are sky-high and the ole lady bitched a bit. But what the hell? No higher than what she pays for that stupid health club! Hell, she don’t go there to exercise, anyway. It’s been eight months and I sure ain’t noticed any change in her bloomer size? She goes there ’cause it’s the place to go now, to meet her friends, to chat, to gossip. That kinda stuff. ‘You got room to talk,’ she tells me. ‘Like you go to the deer-camp to hunt! Hah! Then how come you never bring home any meat? You go to booze and play cards,’ she says. ‘Fair enough’ I sayz. ‘So we’re EVEN, then!’ “
“Thing is, it’s those stupid club rules that deprive me of meat.” Artie continued sourly. “Wes and all his dilettante buddies in this club follow those antler rules where it’s gotta be eight-point or better to shoot. You know how all the hoity-toity clubs are into that stuff now. Me, I just want’ some meat. I guess I coulda joined another club — but I couldn’t find one. There ALL into that big antler BS nowadays. That’s why I’m pumped about next week-end, amigo. None of those jerks will be there to enforce that stuff! Humberto, for us next week: if it’s brown — it’s DOWN! Gail will finally see me bring home some meat!”.
“Yeah you rite!” I accepted instantly, with a whoop and a toast. “Man, I ain’t been ‘huntin since I got busted up. My family’s been starved of venison all season! So let’s go! Let’s whack ‘em ‘n stack ‘em!”
“I know you still ain’t walking well, Humberto. But no problema, I got two ATVs over at the camp. You can use one.”
I hadn’t been on Artie’s deer stand for 45 minutes on a cold drizzly evening the following week when the deer ambled into the food-plot. “Good God!” The shakes started. It even had horns!..”Maybe? …JUST maybe I might be able to follow the rules?” I was thinking as I raised the scope.
Naw, a big-bodied spike. Still I was pumped — even more pumped, in fact. As we all know, breaking rules adds spice to any endeavor. Artie said to blow-away ANYTHING. We’d split the meat. Great. The crosshairs wobbled crazily and the deer was on the very edge of a briar thicket when I finally jerked the trigger, “PE-TAAOOW!!” The spike flipped like a head-shot rabbit. Then he started kicking..kicking…more kicking. Mud and leaves going everywhere. I got nervous and frantically worked the bolt, chambering another round. But when I raised the scope I finally focused my good eye (left one now) through it, I saw he was finally expiring. Another kick..another leg jerking over the briars. Finally the briars were still.
I was a basket case as I clambered down the ladder. My knees were almost knocking as I walked over the muddy food-plot towards the brown that was down. I got to him and let out a crazed whoop. I’d hit him high in the neck, though I was aiming behind the shoulder. No matter. I was seriously pumped. Now we had some scrumptious meat on our hands. I was sitting on a log gathering my wits when I heard the ATV approaching. That’s Artie for ya, I thought. We got some meat now he’s ready to head back to the camp and start boozing it up. Fine with me.
Then it came around the bend — but this ATV was Green? Artie’s is RED!….And the guy now walking across the food-plot was much taller, and dressed in L.L. Bean?! Artie had been wearing his usual Wal-Mart/Army surplus duds?
He was halfway to me when he yelled out, “Got one?” It was Neidermeier himself! The deer-club President!
“NO!” I stood and blurted, shaking my head vigorously.
“Who’s that?” He said as he picked up the pace. “That YOU?….Humberto?….What on earth?”
“Sure is, Wes!” I smiled feebly while my stomach received an icy jolt. “Artie and I just got up. Man, how ya been! Been a long time, amigo!” My smile was rigid and transparently fake as he walked up. “Artie told me you were his club’s president. I told him we’re old friends!” Then I extended a hand, that was shaking a bit.
“Strange,” he said as he walked up, not smiling, and ignored my outstretched hand. “Artie didn’t say ANYTHING about any GUESTS this week-end? He knows we have a policy where any guests have to…..”
“It was a last minute thing,” I stammered. “Ha-ha!” My bent smile remained but my turgid eyes gave it away.
“Well, what-ya got?” Wes asked with his eyes narrowing.
“NOTHING!” I snorted while kicking the ground disgustedly. “Shot at a doggone Coyote and missed.”
“That so?” Wes pursed his lips.
“Yeah man,” I grimaced. “That sucker came BOOKIN’ through here, ‘chasin’ a rabbit. I mean that sucker was SHAGGIN’. I popped off a shot just he cleared the plot. (I pointed in the OPPOSITE direction from where the deer lay) Looked it over but no blood or anything…I’m about ready to head back to the camp anyway. Whadaya say we head back? I brought some dynamite Gumbo ‘fixins. Made the roux at home. Now I just gotta fry up some……”
“Let’s have a look,” Wes said as he walked OPPOSITE from where I’d pointed. He had me pegged. He didn’t believe a word I said.
Neidermeier found my deer. He brought it back to the camp himself, where his wife Priscilla and two other obnoxious couples were playing cards and gabbing. Things got ugly that night. “Well!” Artie finally shot back at Wes. “Nobody told me Yoko was coming EITHER!..I thought…..”
“WHO?!” Wes asked the question with an angry frown and I shot a look at Priscilla in time to see her flinch and grow bug-eyed. She knew about her nickname but had always blamed it on ME, rather than Artie or Pelayo. Now it ignited ugly memories.
Things got uglier and uglier as the night progressed and the booze emptied. More details on the ugliness next week.
Humberto Fontova [send him mail] holds an M.A. in History from Tulane University. He’s the author of the newly-published Fidel; Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant, as well as The Hellpig Hunt: A Hunting Adventure in the Wild Wetlands at the Mouth of the Mississippi River by Middle-Aged Lunatics Who Refuse to Grow Up and Helldiver’s Rodeo described as "Highly entertaining!" by Publisher’s Weekly, as "Terrific!" by Salon.com, and as "Just what the doctor ordered!" by Ted Nugent.