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Death of a Pheasant

johns@calvin.UUCP (John Sahr)
(original, funny)

(The story below is of my own telling; it is based upon a true story told me by my uncle, but I have invented the name "Howard," inserted some opinions about "hunting shows," and changed the course of events slightly.)

My uncle told me about one of his friends, Howard, who was hired to participate in one of those "Saturday Sportsman" shows. His job was to hide in the bushes, holding a pheasant, and release it at the appropriate moment, so that it could be promptly shot down for the pleasure of the viewing audience.

Howard's first brush with Hollywood was very exciting. Granted, no one would ever see him, his name wouldn't be in the credits, but, at least it was "Show Business!" Provided with a pheasant, and installed in a certain stand of corn stalks, Howard waited for his cue to hurl the bird into the air.

You, the viewer, don't see Howard, of course. You do see two Serious Hunters stalking around, making Especially Wise Hunting Remarks. You are admiring the perfect hunting dogs. And, just before the commercials, magically, there is a flurry, a pheasant rises, accelerating, bright wings beating furiously. This pheasant is an eager flier, having been mysteriously held by normally lethal humans for about 40 minutes. So, the pheasant, making his escape, meets his Maker instead, in the form of a wall of buckshot. Pheasant drops, dogs expertly retrieve, hunters unctuously auto-congratulate.

Howard's turn to release his pheasant is approaching. He is very nervous; this brush with Broadway is thrilling. He waits, determined to expertly send this bird into the path of many little lead pellets: so perfectly, that a Hollywood producer will see that bird, and think, "my God, that bird was very skillfully launched." "Phone call for Howard, it's Spielberg!" The fantasy is delicious.

And now, the Moment! It's the signal! Every muscle in Howard's body surges in the orbital delivery of this winged target. The pheasant arcs up, up, up..... It's not flapping its wings very hard, though. In fact, it's not flying at all. Now the pheasant-projectile has passed its apogee, and is streaking down for reentry with the cornfield. Howard's pheasant looks more like a rock disguised as a pheasant than a real live pheasant. With a sickening thud, the pheasant slams into the solid planet. The dogs wince and look away. The hunters congratulate themselves on another superb display of hunting prowess, made more remarkable by the absence of any shooting.

The camera swings away. Howard is crushed, his chance for pheasant-slinging glory gone. The pheasant is crushed as well. Upon post-mortem, it develops that Howard, in his anticipatory excitement, has strangled the pheasant. It was horribly massaged to death, in Howard's nervous hands.

John Sahr, School of Elect. Eng., Upson Hall
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853

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