Heroes in the Woods

Short fiction by Will Blair

G-Man and I are waiting for our enemy, the nefarious buck, to reveal himself in the dewy woods. It’s the first time our dads have allowed us to hunt by ourselves, even though they’re not too far away, and we’re loaded with 30/30s, plenty of Gatorade, five sandwiches, chips, and about 20 or so comic books.

Our dads have taken us hunting before, but G-Man and I have never shot at a live deer. We have practiced on plenty of Coke cans and Dr. Doom action figures.

Perched high in our deer stand on Uncle Stan’s property, there’s only one thing to talk about.

“Hey, Luke Skywalker, you think Thor could whip the Hulk?” G-Man asks. “I don’t think so. Gamma rays beat a hammer any day.”

My name is Lucas, but G-Man calls me Luke Skywalker for short. His secret identity is George.

“Maybe, G-Man, but have you ever been hit by a hammer? It hurts.”

“Yeah, but Hulk must weigh a ton. That’s a lot of muscle mass.”

I really don’t like either hero — one has a sissy hairdo and the other wears purple pants. Besides, Captain American could beat up both.

“Well, I know one thing,” G-Man begins, reading my mind. “They can both whip Captain America. Heck, even the Invisible Girl can.”

Those are fighting words. Captain America will not be insulted on my family’s property.

“Shut up,’” I respond angrily. “He represents all that is good in the world.”

Dressed in our camouflage, but secretly wearing our decoder rings on necklaces around our necks because our dads think we’re getting too old to be reading comics and wearing girly decoder rings, and perched in an old oak tree about 15 feet off the ground, we thumb through our favorite reads.

“Who would you rather kiss — Scarlet Witch or Wonder Woman?” G-man asks.

“Scarlet Witch,” I answer without hesitation.

“Man, you always go with Marvel,” G-Man says. “The chicks are all hotter in DC.”

“Like who?”

“I’d take Wonder Woman, Starfire, and the Black Canary well before Marvel Girl,” G-Man says.

“The Scarlet Witch, Elektra, and Ms. Marvel are all hotter than those three.”

“What about the Huntress, young Luke?” G-Man shoots back.

Oops. The Huntress has got it going on. “Okay, you got me … how long do you think our dads are gonna be gone?”

“I don’t know, but I’m hungry.”

Bored, I pick up my rifle and aim at an imaginary alien Skrull in the distance.

“Pow! I just shot a Skrull in the head!”

G-Man struggles to pick up his gun, and takes aim outside our wooden Hall of Justice.

“Bang! I just shot one of the Mole people!” he exclaims.

“Pow! I just shot a mutant!”

“Bang! I just shot a criminal from the negative zone!”

“Pow! I just shot Galactus!”

“Bang! I just shot that wimp Captain America!”

I drop my gun and shove G-Man against the tree and get in his face. “I’m not telling you again, lay off!”

“OK!” G-man says, pushing me off him. “Don’t get all Bruce Banner.”

Sometimes, fat George really pisses me off.

But I love the woods, whether I assassinate innocent wild animals or not. Pretending I’m DC’s favorite underwater hero, I calm down, close my eyes and emit Aquaman signals into the woods, warning all creatures to say away so I don’t have to shoot them.

“What are you doing?” G-Man asks.

“Sending out Aquaman signals to warn all creatures to stay away so I don’t have to shoot them.”

“Aquaman can only speak to sea creatures, dummy, that’s why he’s called ‘Aquaman.’”

“I know. I’m just having fun.”

But someone must have shot me with Lex Luther’s reverse ray, because just as I’m about to resume transmissions, a buck approaches us about 100 yards away from our stand. Holy bad luck, Batman.

“I know you don’t want to shoot it, young Luke Skywalker, but this is the moment we’ve been waiting for,” G-Man whispers. “We’re only gonna get one shot and you should take it.”

He’s right. He’s pretty good with shotguns, but I’m quite the shot with a 30/30. We’re sort of like Hawkeye and the Swordsman — one’s better with a bow and arrow, the other is a specialist with a sword.

I raise my 30/30 and aim. I can see the buck through my scope, his wide breast a perfect target. But how do you kill a harmless animal that isn’t under mind control by Thor’s evil brother, Loki?

Think Wolverine.

Think Dark Night.

Think Daredevil.

But I can only think of Captain America.

I’m no hunter. I shoot high, and the startled deer bolts away.

I look sheepishly at G-Man and he nods. “I couldn’t have done it, either.”

We sit quietly and stare at the clearing where the beast had been, the point of our failure. If the Watchers are watching from the outer world, they must be laughing. I look much farther out and see my dad and G-Man’s dad approaching, rifles slung over their shoulders. G-Man and I don’t say a word as they trek in our direction; we simply gather our stuff and descend the deer stand.

“I missed,” I tell our dads moments later.

G-Man’s dad pats his son on the head as my dad puts his arm around me. “That’s fine, boys, we’ll try again next time.”

The sun shines through the canopy of trees as we walk toward the truck. Our dads take the lead and talk about the one that got away. G-man leans closer to me, sucks his teeth, and asks in a whisper,

“Hey, who would win in a fight, Mr. Fantastic or Plastic Man?”

 

Will Blair holds a master’s in English from the University of West Georgia. He’s the editor of Newnan/Coweta Magazine, a supplement of The Newnan Times-Herald newspaper, and a longtime community journalist and local writer.