Gandy Pollup's holy place was as sacred as a church. Its creation occurred one September Saturday as he tracked a fawn through a tinder dry forest. He didn't usually hunt fawns. Not enough meat. But he'd killed the mother four days earlier and she now rested in forty-seven pressure canned jars lining the plank shelves in his larder. He woke up the following morning with a hankering for steak or a roast, something tender and tasty. Immediately, he thought of the fawn. By that time, hunger and inexperience should render it easy prey.
Twice while tracking, he thought he heard that high pitched keening common to young animals. Whether coyote, deer or rabbit, they all screamed to live. He'd never understood why they cared. They were simply critters. They lacked the wisdom to know humans were in charge. Good Book laid that out long ago. Animals were designed as food for man.
More than food. Bones could be sharpened into needles. Skins could be used for coats, blankets and foot coverings. Gandy adhered to the old ways, using every scrap of the things he killed. He rendered the fat and made soap. Stitched pelts into useable items.
He could not abide fools who made pets out of critters. He'd done it once as a child, tamed a young coon that followed him everywhere. That thing even climbed in his bedroom window at night and curled up at his feet. Came home one winter day and ate a hot stew. Asked his mother where the coon was and she said, "You just ate him."
He broke through to a clearing, fully expecting to find the young deer. That's when he saw the woman. She sat on a felled log rocking the fawn and feeding it from a baby bottle. The animal, all perverse and confused, rested its head against her shoulder.
He hated things that fell outside the natural order. Humans were in charge. They were meant to make the world a better and more convenient place by using critters. God intended it that way.
The woman saw him just as he raised his gun. She didn't make a sound.
He left her against a tree, all tweed coat and open arms. She would draw prey like a fly to honey, he decided, as he threw the fawn over his shoulders and headed home.
As months passed by, he festooned the woman's felt hat with feathers and even wrapped her skeletal feet with fur. Her hands reached to embrace nature…eternally.
Gandy never failed to genuflect when he visited, thanking her for the plethora of animals he found around her grotto.