Muybridge Buffalo

by Peter Jordan

Just out of range is the white bull buffalo. He has seen this animal before, in dreams.

Cradling his rifle he crawls on his belly through the sweet grass.

With this same rifle he learned to shoot at Cemetery Ridge, taking Confederate soldiers from a distance of two hundred yards. In those three days of slaughter he knows exactly how many men he killed. At night, each pallid face comes to visit.

The warm breeze is in his favor, and it brings with it that peculiar bovine smell, like freshly dug earth and sulfur springs.

Patiently, he waits for the bull to come to him, but the herd changes direction, slowly moving further out of range.

If he takes the shot now, it will be the longest he’s ever made. He presses the curved Kentucky style stock into his shoulder and takes the shot.

Almost immediately, from a full six hundred yards the large bore bullet rips through the bull’s taut white belly. His squat back legs momentarily collapse, and he staggers, confused, quick-stepping now toward his cows and calves, the red already spreading.

The sound of the shot travels far across the sea of grass and into the lands of the Comanche.

Two bulls at the front of the herd break into a hard gallop, the remainder of the herd follows. The white bull is somewhere in the middle.

Gutshot like that he will take a full day to die.

Holding the long rifle in one hand he stands upright in the cool grass watching the herd thunder toward the distant horizon. Their collective movement shakes the ground he stands on.

Cursing his stupidity, he makes his way back to his hobbled pony.

It isn’t the hide that interests him now — he feels sick in his stomach knowing he’s made a terrible mistake — he simply can’t allow the bull to die like that.

Peter Jordan won last year’s Bare Fiction prize, came second in the Fish Flash and was shortlisted for the Bridport. His work has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary magazines, including Thresholds, Litro, and The Nottingham Review. His début short story collection White Goods will be published in April 2018. You will find him on twitter @pm_jordan.

Image from Animal Locomotion by Eadweard Muybridge, Plate 700, 1887, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.