Jared likes to hunt and you mock-complain with the other girls who call themselves hunting widows. You marvel at all the gear: the camouflage clothes, the orange vests, the bullets. Jared likes to show you the guns: the Winchester SX3 Cantilever Buck, the Browning A Bolt, the Mossberg 930 Slugster. When he goes to the woods with his father, you stay behind and drink apple cider with his mother. The deer heads on the living room wall stare at you with vacant eyes. She tells you this is what it’s like to be a Baker woman and you want to be a Baker woman. Your own mother wouldn’t sit around and wait for anyone, not even you. But you like it: how the light outside changes as your mug cools, how Mrs. Baker deftly assembles a casserole, the way she stacks wood in the fireplace. Even though you are only sixteen, you imagine getting married in this backyard, the lace veil that will trail behind you, the bouquet of sunflowers in your hands.
Jared and his father return, an eight-point buck slung in the back of the red pickup truck. You and Jared have fucked in the cab of this truck, parked in the cemetery and behind the Legion and sometimes, when your curfew is near, on the side of the road. He turns you over, pressing your face into the vinyl seat. He drives you home, one hand on the wheel, the other hand holding yours.
Jared and his father flip the tailgate down and pull the deer out and you stare at its glorious antlers, its smooth coat of fur and the small hole in its shoulder. Blood is matted to its body and smeared inside the truck bed. You expected more. Jared’s mother gets her camera and the men pose with the deer, holding it up by the antlers. She hands the camera to you and says it’s your turn. You hold the camera close to your eye. The deer’s tongue hangs out the side of its mouth. Jared and his father pose it like some kind of doll, cocking its head and limbs.
His mother steps into the frame. She tucks the deer’s tongue inside its mouth and wraps her arms around each of her men. Jared makes a thumbs-up sign and you take the shot, slightly out of focus. Then Jared and his father drag the buck to the garage where they hang it upside down by its feet. The deer has been cut and gutted, the area that used to safely house its heart and lungs and stomach now hollowed out. Jared says you should call it field dressing. You wonder what will happen to those organs they left out in the woods.
You think maybe the deer will blink its eyes and thrash its body, loosen itself from the hook. Jared tells you to stop being such a spoilsport and you say you’re sorry. Can’t you see how much this moment means to Jared and his parents? Don’t you want to be a Baker woman? One day you will make the casserole and build the fire. One day you will wrap venison in butcher paper and stock the freezer. One day you will say to a girl: this is how it’s done. You will go to the woods to find the missing organs, scoop them up in your hands and eat them raw. You will emerge from the woods bloodied and victorious.