Fictionalizing the News is a writing exercise that I set for myself where I write a short story based on a news article. Though the following story has its basis in a news article it does not depict reality in any way, and with it I do not purport to tell the truth, it is entirely fictional. The following story is based on this article. I call it Through the Hedge.
Bertrand Herriot woke up early on October 15, it was only his second time to go hunting this season, his boss had kept him busy at work lately, and he wanted to get out as soon as possible to make the most of the day. He got dressed, ate a hearty breakfast of buttered farmhouse bread and black coffee, wolfing it down two bites at a time, then started preparing his equipment. The ground in the forest was bound to be wet after several days of rain so he brought out his rain boots and packed a pair of water tight trousers in his back pack just in case. He packed the hunting knife, the small first aid kit and a box of ammunition as well as a thermos of coffee, a small lunch consisting of half a baguette, a piece of cheese and an apple, and as a last afterthought, a small hip flask of cognac; he knew the rules said you couldn’t drink but he felt a sip now and then to warm you up couldn’t hurt.
Though the sun was shining he knew it could get chilly to stay outside all day so he put on his heavy autumn jacket of brown green waterproof material. Some of the younger guys dressed in bright colors like red or orange, they said the deer were color blind anyway and it would prevent other hunters from shooting you by accident, but Bertrand preferred a more natural color. He grabbed his rifle, a Remington Model 700, checked it to make sure it was empty and the action was smooth, then packed it in the case. He grabbed the backpack and the gun case then stepped out on to the porch to wait for his two friends Geroux and Perrault who would bring their dogs for the hunt.
A few hours later Francoise Beaufort awoke with the sun shining in her face through a gap between the bedroom curtains. It had been overcast and rainy for almost a week and she felt happy to finally get some sun. She got up, opened the curtains and looked out. The trees were still green with a few spots of yellow and orange here and there, a couple of leaves dotting the lawn outside her window, and she could hear some birds chirping. After getting dressed, she walked out in the cool autumn air, sauntered down the street to the village bakery and bought two freshly baked croissants. Once back home, she had her breakfast in the kitchen, serving the pastries with her home-made jam and a cup of cafe au lait.
Having spent the major part of the last few days cooped up inside, she made good use of the opportunity offered by the sunny weather. She pulled on her old rubber boots and canvas gloves, grabbed her secateurs and a small trowel, and went out into the garden. She stood on the lawn for a few minutes, breathing deeply of the cool autumn air, then set to work pruning the roses that grew along the eastern wall of the house.
By mid morning Bertrand was starting to feel impatient; he had been trudging along behind Perrault and his two dogs for hours now and hadn’t seen so much as a squirrel. Sure, the dogs had stopped to sniff things several times but there was never anything there. Normally it wouldn’t bother him that much but with his new position at work he just knew he wouldn’t get many more chances for hunting this season – he was determined to shoot a deer today. He dipped his hand into the inside pocket jacket, he found himself doing it more and more frequently as his frustration mounted, grabbed the hip flask which he had transferred there, and took a swig of cognac. He replaced the bottle in his pocket, checked his rifle for the umpteenth time, and walked on behind Perrault.
After an hour or so of cutting off dried leaves and branches, Francoise started to feel stiff in her back and legs from constantly bending over to get close to the roses. She put the secateurs down on the ground, pulled off her gloves and straightened out her body. This wasn’t going to do, she wasn’t exactly young anymore, so she decided to take a break. She went into the house, brewed her second cup of coffee for the day, brought a chair out onto the lawn and sat down, cup in hand, to relax in the sun for a bit before continuing her work.
Only a couple of minutes after Bertrand took his last drink of cognac, things started looking up. The dogs had caught the scent of some animal, hopefully a deer, and were moving faster through the under brush. Perrault and Bertrand followed as closely as they could, rifles at the ready, taking care to make as little noise as possible. Both dogs came to a halt almost simultaneously, indicating that there was something in a thick Hornbeam hedgerow. Unthinkingly, his though processes hampered by the cognac, Bertrand swung around, trained his rifle at a spot in the hedge where he thought he saw some movement, and fired. Francoise was just about to take a sip of coffee when the cup in her hand, raised half way to her mouth, exploded in a shower of porcelain shards and black liquid. The bullet thudded into her chest, she felt a sharp pain shoot through her body and managed to squeeze out a weak little whimper before the world turned black.
Bertrand and Perrault both heard the sound of the shattering cup, something none of them had expected when Bertrand fired, and ran up to the hedgerow to see what was going on. The hedge was too high and thick to see anything so Bertrand jogged around to the front of the house, all the while thinking “what the hell was that?”. He entered the garden and went around to the back side. As soon as he saw Ms. Beaufort slumped down in her chair with a large red spot spreading out over the front of her knitted sweater, he stopped dead in his tracks. In a daze he picked up his phone and dialed 112, telling the dispatcher to send an ambulance even though he instinctively knew that it was far too late for that. He mechanically answered the dispatchers questions about who he was and where to send the ambulance to. When the call was over he let his hand drop limply to his side then just stood there – staring at nothing.