“This is how we get our name back,” Joe Ondrusek Jr. whispers to his cousin, Donny. “This is it. Right here, right now. You ready?”
Donny’s hand tightens around the handle of his black Ka-Bar knife. “As soon as you shut up,” he whispers back.
Donny and Joe Jr. are lying next to each other in the tall grass near the shore of the Trinity River, armed with knives and compound bows. With their olive-drab tactical wear and faces covered in camouflage paint, the Ondruseks almost perfectly blend in with their surroundings. The only thing out of place is the garish red-and-blue Columbia Packing Co. buttons pinned to their chests, the company name encircling its anthropomorphized cowboy pig mascot. Joe Sr. had insisted they wear them. “People need to know who was responsible,” he said.
Joe Jr. puts a finger up to his mouth. He was right. The cold front had put the pack of feral hogs on the move. They they were, about 50 yards away, walking along the shore. There were a few young ones mixed in, but Joe knew he couldn’t think about that. If they weren’t just as bad as the big ones now, they would be soon. They all had to go.
He taps Donny on the shoulder, motions for him to move further down the shore. It’s almost time.
Joe waits for Donny to get into position — he told him two minutes, but make it three just to be safe. They’d only have one shot at this; if they screwed it up, they might have have to wait another day, maybe two, maybe more to get a setup as good as this. He crouches on the edge of the tall grass, grabbing an arrow from the quiver. Twenty more seconds. He pulls the string back and leans forward, up on his, ready to jump out of the grass. Almost time. Almost –
Joe jumps out of the grass. The entire pack is charging at him, followed by his cousin wildly firing arrows. Of course Donny went early, Joe thinks. He was always a screw-up.
The first few are easy. They’re running straight at him, not even trying to dodge his arrows. The next are harder. He gets a few but the distance between him and the hogs is closing too fast. He runs back into the grass; he’ll have to get them from there. Donny has given up — he’s out of arrows and out of breath. The last three will be up to Joe.
The first shot is lucky: when the hog goes down, it runs into the one next to it, knocking it over. Easy shot. One left.
Joe comes back out of the grass; the other hog is past him but it hasn’t gotten far. He grabs an arrow — his last — and pulls the string back. The hog stops. It’s about 20 yards away, but Joe can see it’s just a baby. He takes aim. The hog stares at him, seemingly wanting to run in his direction, but frozen in place. He’s gripping the bow so tightly it starts to shake. He finally fires, but even Donny can tell he missed on purpose. The arrow harmlessly falls to the ground and the baby hog scurries off.
“What the hell, Joe?” Donny yells, gasping, still out of breath. “We’re supposed to get ‘em all. Dammit. What the hell?”
“We did get ‘em all, didn’t we, Donny?” Joe stares his cousin down. He was always easy to intimidate. Today is no different. Their stare down is interrupted by Donny’s ringtone — “Shook Ones Pt. II,” by Mobb Deep. That means it’s the mayor on the other end of the line.
“Yep. Uh huh. Yes. Yes, sir. We” — he looks at Joe — “yeah, we got ‘em all, sir. What’s that? Really? OK, OK, OK. Jeez. We’ll be there in 30.”
Donny ends the call. “The mayor says he wants one of the heads.” He pulls out his knife. “And some thick-cut peppered bacon.”