Jack:  I haven’t seen you in a while.  How have you been?
Schmoe:  Well, you know, with gas prices up over $5 a gallon again, I cannot afford to come to town very often.  And with my 401-K almost worthless, I couldn’t stay retired.  It is not much of a job, just the minimum wage, $3.60 an hour.  How about you?  Doing any hunting or fishing?
Jack:  I tried for some gobblers this spring.  I hiked way up that hollow, where the natural salt lick used to be . . .
Schmoe:  Used to be?
Jack:  Yep, frack pad in there now.  And remember that beautiful hardwood ridge above that?  Gone.  The coal has been pulled out, and the waste dumped onto that stretch where we used to catch those brownies.
Schmoe:  I hear you.  You recall that buck I have been fattening up for the last five years?  I think I showed you my trail cam photos of him.  Well, I found him dead and rotting the other day.  At first, I assumed it was poachers again.  I mean, I understand, people have to eat in these hard times, but still.  But, then I looked more closely and I think it was that chronic wasting disease.  You may remember that the guv’ment scientists were just starting to get that under control back in 2016. 
Jack:  Yep, times have changed.  I’ve been itching go duck hunting this season, but it doesn’t look like it is going to happen.  Who’d have thunk that removing wetland protections might affect duck and goose breeding grounds?  Even if there are a few ducks around, so much of the former public land has been privatized, strip-mined, or clear-cut that it is hard to find a place to hunt. 
Schmoe:  Yes-sirree.  I took out the canoe last week for a little solo hunting, and I got excited because I thought I saw a coot ahead.  But, shit, it was just an old decoy covered in oil from that pipeline explosion.  They say a lot of hunters just left their decoys and walked away the day that pipe burst.  I guess once they decide whether the company or the guv’ment is going to pay for it, then somebody’ll get around to starting the clean-up.
Jack:  You said “solo,” but I am sure you meant you and Red Dog, hey?
Schmoe:  Nope, old Red died of rabies.  Some Congressman decided that demanding rabies vaccinations was Big Guv’ment and might be causing autism in dogs and cats (remember, the internet told us that), so they have waived that requirement.  You’ve probably seen all the bite incidents on TV.  Been doing any fishing?
Jack:  No, I am scared to wade in that river since they brought the factory jobs back and loosened undue environmental regulations.  That stuff burns your skin, and I was running through hips boots like crazy.    They were just sort of melting.  And all the paint peeled off my boat.  I am also a bit scared that the river will start on fire, again.
Schmoe:  Well, in hindsight, maybe Trump hasn’t been perfect.  But, hey, at least we’ve got our guns.
Jack:  Amen to that!
Schmoe:  Say, how is that daughter of yours down in Texas?
Jack:  Oh, don’t get me started...
A professional archaeologist, Chris Espenshade branched into creative writing in 2017. He’s had works accepted by Poached Hare, Fewer Than 500, The Cabinet of Heed, Thrice Fiction, 81 Words, Agora Journal, Brilliant Flash Fiction, The Write Launch, The Paragon Journal, National Pasquinade, The RavensPerch, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature (four times), The Raven Chronicles’ Journal (twice), Life in the Finger Lakes on-line (three times), and Georgia Outdoor News. He lives with his wife, Linda, in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania.
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