Short Fiction: Coming of Age

It was a bright, frosty morning. The sun decorated the hills with streaming golden beams, while birds sang their chorus of chirps and whistles. In the emerald glen a pair of furry brown antennae popped up from the grass, followed by a twitching nose. A look left, then right, and the hare darted off for an early romp. By the trees, a long, thin trail cut through the dew-encrusted grass behind a strolling badger. A gentle breeze rustled the foliage. Butterflies circled. Cool, sweet air. Horses huffed and whinnied, bit and bridle clinked; the dogs sniffed around, tails wagging. Jovial gentlemen greeted one another and readied their firearms. It was a lovely morning to track and kill something.

Wilfred Barrington-Pox was filled with pride. Fox-hunting was a rite of passage in his family, with the young males celebrating their coming of age by joining the older men in a hunt. Wilfred was something of late bloomer, finally taking part in his first hunt at age forty-one, but the tarrying of his official entrance into manhood only heightened its thrill. He looked every part the noble warrior as he solemnly loaded his weapon, a junior-sized air rifle (he was not yet trusted with anything more high-calibre). The horns sounded; Wilfred gave a mighty war whoop (earning the disapproval of all). The hunt began.

Fifteen minutes in, one of the hounds became agitated, whimpering and growling in the undergrowth.

“He’s picked up a scent!” said Wilfred, in his loudest possible shriek (earning the disapproval of all).

After noticing the dog limping, Wilfred’s uncle examined the creature and found a trickle of blood on its hip, from the entry wound of an air rifle pellet. When all eyes turned on Wilfred, he at first denied shooting the dog, then claimed he mistook it for a fox, and then finally turned and rode all the way back to the stables and hid behind a water tank. Later he confessed to shooting the animal out of boredom (justifying his father’s refusal to arm him more potently).

Though Wilfred’s first fox hunt was a failure by even the most lax standards, his father announced at dinner that evening that his son was now a man, and one worthy of the Barrington-Pox name. Perhaps Wilfred Sr was getting soft in his advancing years. Wilfred Jr didn’t mind; he was a man and that was all that mattered. He told his fellow MPs all about it when parliament resumed the following week.



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