Last night they strapped a four-point rack
to the boy's head with electrical tape,
practiced heart shots with the pellet gun
until the breast of his shirt was spotty with red.
Each place they hit looked like ringworm.
Out in the woods, his heart thumps like prey.
It's the first day of the season,
and he grips the rifle like a monkey bar.
When Dad's not looking, the other boys
point their .22's his way, prodding
the nose against his ribcage.
Their mouths make a pop
each time they fiddle the trigger.
When he hears the true shot, he heaves
to the ground like a swatted wasp;
but it's his father's kill, a big buck
still breathing in a nest of dead leaves.
While Dad digs through his pack for the knife,
the boy strokes the thin skin of its neck,
tucking his thumb in the wound
to see if the blood looks like his.
Erin Jones is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Florida. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Subtropics, Natural Bridge, Tar River Poetry, and The Lyric.