In the time it took for the bird to fall Jake reloaded. ‘Get it fella,’ he called above the noise. Then he traced an imaginary line across the sky before dropping the muzzle. Bang!. The unexpected recoil jarred his hand. A hundred metres out Buster stopped, spun and dropped.


Mona watched as Jake pulled up and leapt from the ute, the dog limp in his arms. ‘Bandages,’ he shouted. ‘Quick.’

She grabbed towels and wrapped Buster’s leg, then cradled him as they drove to town. While the vet operated they walked laps of the block. ‘Accident,’ Jake kept muttering, and, ‘bloody cowboys.’

When the procedure was finished Mona spoke her mind. ‘It could have been you, Jake. You’re getting too old for this game.’

He turned on her. ‘You never liked it. You believe all that animal rights bulldust.’

‘That’s not fair, Jake. I never tried to stop you. I just don’t want to be taking you to hospital next time.’

He was silent. What would she say if he told her?

They said little until the next morning when he brought her coffee. ‘Maybe just a camping trip next year, then? Less to worry about.’

‘Lovely,’ she said. In the distance guns rang out—Pff, pff, pff. A once splendid bird tumbled from the sky.


2011—Richard Holt / small stories about love (