- Jonathan Holleran
The calming dew filled the air as Phoebe and her father were sitting in the treestand waiting for an unsuspecting deer to walk by. From a young age, Phoebe’s dad instilled a love for hunting within her. Rick Wellington was what the neighborhood called a Redneck. He wore the same red and black striped flannel with ripped jeans almost every day except if he was hunting, then he wore camouflage. His daily activities consisted of hunting, chopping wood, keeping to the farm, and taxidermy. Sure, Phoebe thought her dad being a taxidermist was strange, but she knew that the business had been passed down from generation to generation for over 200 years, and her father would be devastated without it.
“Dad! I see one.” Phoebe glanced at the sight of the unsuspecting deer 100 feet away.
“Take a shot sweetie, this is what we’ve been training for, you got this.”
Phoebe’s hands were nervously shaking as she pulled back her pink-camo bow she had her father make for her. The feathers of the turkey that once was rest 2 inches from her eyes, ready to be fired at the deer at any second. Finally, she releases, as the arrow flies at 125 mph straight towards the Buck. Suddenly, the Buck takes off, darting towards the closest escape he could find.
“Daddy, Daddy, I got him, I got him!” Phoebe cheered. No answer. Rick sits in quiet, admiring the beauty he created. Phoebe bolts out of the treestand, looking for any reminisce of blood to track the deer down. Rather than finding blood, she finds her arrow. Phoebe burst into tears.
“DADDY!” she cries, “ I missed it—I missed him."
Rick was quick off of his stand to comfort her. Phoebe's mother died from a drug overdose when Phoebe was 6 months old, forcing Rick to take on a comforting role for Phoebe.
“It’s okay sweetie, life isn’t perfect, everyone hits bumps along the road and sometimes things don’t go your way. Keep pushing.” Phoebe and Rick walked home that day laughing and smiling while talking about the chocolate chip pancakes they were going to have for dinner.
This was the last memory Phoebe ever had of her father. 1 day after the missed shot, Rick Wellington died in a car accident, leaving 7-year-old Phoebe alone. That day was 11 years ago. Phoebe is now 18 years old, all alone for the first time. After her father's death, she always felt alone, but there was always someone there to guide her. Now, she is completely alone. Phoebe checked out of foster care 1 day ago to return home.
No one wanted to buy the dump of a house that Phoebe and her father had lived in so ultimately, it landed back in her hands as soon as she checked out. Melinda, an agent at her foster care agency, spared her some change as she walked out the door.
“Keep in touch Phoebe. I don’t know what I am going to do without you.”
“Me either—but it’s time for me to go home, I love you.” And with that Phoebe used the money to hop on a bus back home.
The house was smaller than she remembered, but nothing changed. Her height was still etched on her doorway and the floor still creaked in all the same places. Everything was the same, everything. Yet, there was one thing she hadn’t checked, the taxidermy room. She walked in and the room that once terrified her immediately bought her comfort. All the old memories came back to her. The early morning hunting, the chocolate pancakes, the baseball catches. She sat next to the half-finished deer her father was working on before he died. His desk was just as messy as it ever was. Being home, she realized what she wanted to do—carry on the family's tradition. Yet, she had no animals to start on. So, Phoebe went down to town to ask some old friends for help. She knew exactly where to go: Jiminy Tavern. Her father used to be a regular there in town along with every other dad that lived nearby, and she knew damn well that place hadn't changed.
I don’t know what she expected walking in. I think part of her thought everyone was going to recognize her right away. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. No one even blinked an eye as she opened the beat-up white door that displayed the 16 brown stools at the bar, and every one of them was filled. Phoebe knew that she needed money and she needed it quickly, these people were her only choice. Phoebe whistled, everyone's eyes turned toward her.
“Hi everyone, I don’t know if you guys remember me, but I'm Phoebe Wellington. My father Rick died 11 years ago in this very town from a car accident. This place was his home and I know damn well that if he was still alive, he’d be sitting in one of these very stools right now.”
Phoebe could see the remembrance flowing towards their eyes. A place like this doesn’t get many new customers, and all of them remember everyone who used to sit in those stools. Everyone knew who Rick was and the memories were beginning to flood back.
“My dad used to run a taxidermy business that has been in our family for over 200 years, and the last thing he would want was for it to fail. I’m asking any of you to help me continue his business and to bring me any deer that you want to be mounted. Please. Help keep my business alive.” With that Phoebe went home, hoping someone would help, yet she knew that women weren’t really trusted in this part of Missouri, and that would be hard to change.
1 month later, there was a knock on the door. It was Bill, her father's closest friend before he died.
“Hi Phoebe, I know that no one from the tavern has come down, and quite frankly, I don’t know if that will change. Honestly, I was close to not even coming, which is why I took a month to come down here. But, I know that your father loved you, and said you were the most amazing trustworthy girl. Well, a trustworthy girl deserves some trust, so here you go.” Bill pulled to the side to reveal a huge 12 point Buck right next to him.
“OH MY GOD!'' Phoebe screamed as she burst into tears. “Thank you so much, I won’t let you down, Bill.”
This was all she needed. 2 weeks later, Phoebe returned the deer to Bill.
“Alright, who did you hire to do this, there’s no way a girl like you could do this good of a job”.
"A girl like me did do that good of a job. My dad once told me never to give
up, and I worked on that until it was perfect.”
Phoebe was handed the money and walked away, filled with a mixture of happiness and disgust.
“PHOEBE!” Bill yelled, “Everyone at that god damn tavern will be coming to you after this goddamn job. And I can guarantee they will be coming from a lot farther too.”
He was right. Today, Phoebe has clients worldwide that seek out her business. And they don’t just want deer mounted. Zebras, moose, goats, bears, antelope, you name it. Although she has moved her location, she still owns the house to this day. And when she goes to visit, the house still looks the same.
Same height in the doorway, same creaks, same messy desk. The shot she will never forget, one that will last a lifetime.