THE HUNTING PARTY
Copyright © 2001
All Rights Reserved
It was nearly done. Just a little more salt, a pinch would do, Carl Van Olstien admitted as he stood poised over the pot of steaming hot chili, his dark brown eyes glaring with extreme reverie into the bubbly mixture. And so, with that thought, Carl Van Olstien tossed a pinch of salt into the bubbling pot of chili--chili just isn't chili without the extra salt to give it that mildly saliferous flavor. Lifting the tablespoon off the counter, Carl plunged it into the chili powder bag, dug out some more of that hellish spice, and tossed it into the pot. Sparks sprang upward as spice and bubbling liquid made contact. He dug into the bag again, this time the tablespoon was heaping with spice, and tossed it into the pot. Sparks flew upward again. There that should do it...
Wait! He had almost forgotten the secret ingredient. The chili just wouldn't be right without it. Frantically, Carl spun around and opened the cabinet above the sink; however, he discovered it missing. Where the hell did I put it?
Suddenly a grand look of revelation emerged on his wrinkled face. Grinning sinfully, Carl bent down (his bones creaking) to open the cabinet under the sink, and found the bottle of his secret ingredient next to the Comet. I knew it was somewhere round the sink, He thought happily. He reached for it. The bottle was hot but nonetheless tangible.
"Ah," Carl sighed. "Won't be a hunting trip without this hot stuff." He dumped a quarter of the bottle into the pot of bubbling brown chili. More sparks flew as smoke rising from the pot seemed to form a simulative face of an animal.
"Good...good," Carl happily commented, stirring the pot slowly with a long wooden spoon.
The hunting party would arrive tomorrow, which meant everything must be just right; everything ready for them. The chili would, should be, ready by the time they get here. And the drinks he had promised them in the advertisement too, a batch of his best home brew.
The hunting trip was something Carl did yearly, around mid-October. He'd organize a party of five, novice to experienced hunters; he'd promise them food (the chili) and free drink (the home brew) and a five day trek through the Montana Great Plains, everything free of charge. He'd promise the hunters the greatest and most fantastic hunting experience they would ever experience. The only thing he'd ask in return was the companionship of the hunting party, and that was all--he was a very lonely and a very rich old man.
And so, every October they would come.
Carl placed the heavy lid on the pot, then shut the fire below it off. He guzzled down the rest of his home brew, pulled the string hanging directly above his head; the once brightly lit kitchen turned black.
Yawning in the darkness, Carl turned toward his bedroom. "Time for this old man to get some sleep."
The party arrived in a black mini-van; behind them descending gradually into the thickness of the Great Plains was the setting sun.
Rocking in his old oak chair outside his cabin on the porch, Carl waited patiently for the party to start disembarking before he got his lazy bones up off the rocker.
The first one off the van, Carl noted, eyes squinting, was an elderly man, very tall, husky figure of a man: the retired army colonel, Lt. Colonel Jason K. Alstate, one of the experienced hunters.
Carl strode up to the van, a breath of giddiness in his step, and reached out for The Colonel's hand. The Colonel looked at him, happily, the wrinkles in his face forming as he smiled, and took Carl's hand.
"Welcome to the Great Plains, Colonel. I hope the trip here was to your liking?"
"Yes," the old soldier replied. "Very."
"I'd have my porter escort you and your baggage to your room, but I haven't one to do so," Carl said, chuckling.
"That's alright," The Colonel replied. "I think I can handle my own."
"Room 3, to the right of the bar, down the hallway," Carl explained.
Carl watched as the old man hobbled up to the cabin.
Kathy Sunderland, a super model, was next to disembark. Carl's eyes nearly popped out as they caught hold of her upper body pressed beneath her blue cotton blouse.
"Miss Sunderland, I must say, you look wonderful."
She seemed a little embarrassed by his remark, smiling demurely. "Thank you," she replied. She was toting a heavy nylon bag over her shoulder.
Feeling he should, that it would be the gentleman thing to do, Carl asked for her luggage. "Here," he said taking hold of the strap, "let me help you with that bag, Miss Sunderland."
"Thank you Mr. Olstien," she replied graciously, her shoulder dropping as Carl took hold of the bag.
"I've assigned you room number 4, it faces the lake. A beautiful scene of the surrounding, for such a beautiful thing as you." Carl told her as he brought the bag over his shoulder.
"It's past the bar, on the left, down the hall," he said softly.
She smiled back at him and started for the cabin.
The two Hemmingway brothers were next to exit, Mr. Stan and Mr. Randy Hemmingway, partners in a