The Ears of a Stranger

Danny McDonald was an avid shooter.  Aside from his weekly visits to the firing range, he hunted both locally and abroad.  He never killed anything he didn’t split at least three-ways, but the strangest occurrence had recently befallen the trusty marksman.  He distinctly heard the name of someone he had never met.  Then again.  The voice always came to him at the exact moment when he had reached optimal target-crosshair conformity. 

Danny was sure he was hallucinating, but as the days and weeks went by his curiosity got the best of him.  Sure enough, each name he heard belonged to an innocent gun victim.  Some were local, others were from national news, but none of their deaths occurred until after he had the opportunity to cancel at least one ordered headstone before week’s end.

Danny racked his brain for days, wondering if a disgruntled employee from his favorite outdoor store was pulling a Snowden.  Surely, the nanotechnology necessary to pull off an anti-NRA ruse of this magnitude already existed, but he had no friends in the NSA.  Most of the men he encountered on a daily basis would kill for his jaw line, not his dinner pickings outside of treetop bow-hunting range.  What gave?

Before Danny even considered giving up shooting altogether, both his ears turned up missing.  Of course, being an lifelong outdoorsman he had a litany of reasons to explain away such an unusual occurrence.  A single fishing accident and two poor surgical hands.  A skiing debacle that kept him concussed under fresh snow long enough for frostbite to set in.  Or his favorite: a crazy ex-gardener who claimed that he had never listened to a word that she said between dusk and dawn.  Danny had claimed “language barrier” after the fact; she went on to inherit the same useless cartilage he’d never miss as long as the B.S.-insulated ear plugs Sportsman & Ski sold in town remained cammo color-handy.

Kalispell, Montana was a terrible place to pass judgment on another human being, especially when excessive danger was a recurring day of the week.  Man-made constructs in well-policed urban settings aside, Danny cared about his fellow man. He also lived for the chase.  That moment when beast met refined marksman and neither one blinked. 

Nothing had changed.  If God wanted a messenger, he should’ve cosmetically maimed a bigger social icon than Springsteen.  Ol’ Danny Mick-D had already taken to ice water to see what living ghosts the end of a harpoon could rouse.

Overpopulation was not a myth; pre-patterned premonitions were.  If Danny really was in the habit of naming things he loved, he’d start at the top of his own head and end on Hawaii’s Big Island.  A place where he couldn’t legally kill enough in a calendar year to protect the environment from foreign hostiles. 

They were just deer to most.  To Danny Mick-D, they were a good enough reason to lose both sides of his head but not his million dollar smile. 

Come again, darlin’?

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