I am the hunter thought Shadow as he slowly stalked his prey. Across the field there was a duck preening,
either oblivious to the danger of this approaching carnivore or realizing that it could fly off in an instant when
the carnivore got close. Shadow did not care. He moved his right front paw and slowly placed it forward amongst the
leaves so that it it didn't make a sound. Then he repeated the motion with each of his other paws in succession, never
making a sound and all the while closing the distance to his prey.
The master would be happy Shadow had found such a plump duck for dinner. At least it seemed plump and juicy from
across the field. At 300 yards it's not so easy to tell what is feathers and what is meat, but as the duck continued to
ruffle its feathers Shadow thought an awful lot of it looked like meat. I will chew you bones later little duck.
As I enjoy the warmth of the master's fire I will chew your bones. I will crack them open to get out the tasty marrow
you sweet little duck.
Shadow crept slowly into the grass between himself and the duck. The grass waved in the wind and he could feel the seeds
buffeting his jowls. Shadow did not like the grass seed. In the winter when there were no ducks the master would grind
up seeds like these until they were but powder and then mix the powder with water before cooking it. Those were not
Shadow's favorite meals. The master seemed to enjoy them well enough, and Shadow ate what the master gave him, but
the powdered seed did not fill Shadow's belly the same way meat did. He was glad for the spring and the duck to sup
Shadow's left back paw cracked on a twig he hadn't felt beneath the grass. He cringed Foolish, foolish, fool! Hadn't
old Amish told him a thousand times to better mind his back paws? For a moment Shadow thought he could feel a nip
from that old sage hound. Once they had been three, the master, Amish and he. But that was a summer long ago. Amish
had found him in the woods, cold and scared and tired and just a pup missing his mom. Where did she go Shadow never
did find out, but Amish took care of him and taught him. The master didn't care much for Shadow then; didn't give
Shadow food. Not until the bear at least. Old Amish was sleeping by the fire with master and Shadow was at a distance,
sleeping in the shadows when the scent awoke him. It was a foul stench like death and for a moment, just a moment,
Shadow had been afraid that he had awoken as duck and he was being hunted. Well, he was right about the being hunted
part. He and old Amish had driven off the bear sure enough, but the swipe he hit Amish with had wounded the old
hound to his death. Since then Shadow had slept by the fire with the master.
Only 100 yards remained between him and his prey. Behind the duck, just outside the clearing, Shadow knew his master
had taken up position. Now was the time to run. Now was the time to scare the duck into the air. Now was the time to
usher it to its unsuspecting death. Shadow bolted. The duck heard him and stopped preening to look up. Shadow could
smell the fear, the fear of prey at the sight of the hunter. The hunter who had almost reached its prey when the duck
took to the air. And with that Shadow saw the master had given the duck another feather, the sort of feather that
makes ducks fall from the sky rather than carrying them up into it.