‘Hunters in the Forest’ by Tim Pears

Ben is eighteen. The story opens with him cleaning and greasing his rifle and leaving his house late one night to go hunting in the forest with Phil and Jimmy. In a conifer forest somewhere near Exmoor, they shoot, cook, and eat some rabbit, then drink whisky. Ben is soon off to university, Jimmy about to join the army to train as a mechanic. In the forest, in between bouts of drinking, they try to shoot a deer. An animal is hit, but it takes time to figure out what’s going on, and the hunting trip ends in an undignified exit. The final few paragraphs form one of the most striking endings of a story that I’ve read, leaving the reader absolutely suspended in possibility – something only the short story, perhaps, can do, and breathtakingly done here. 

First published in Chemistry and Other Stories, Bloomsbury, 2021

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