Daryl had been out hunting again. The vegetable path that Hershel and Rick had planted once they were sure the soil was free of walker guts had provided plenty of greenery for the group, but without some meat meals weren’t the same. Glenn had found a few wild piglets on a run one day and had brought them back to the prison to raise, hoping they’d procreate and give the group plenty of potential for bacon. Beth had mentioned once or twice how much she loved bacon, and just how much she missed it.
Rick and Carl were there to open the fence the moment Daryl approached carrying the plump doe over his broad shoulders, his trusty crossbow slung over one shoulder and pinned under the doe, making it difficult for him to fight back should he have been attacked by hungry walkers. Sweat covered his brow and his clothes were filthy from spending the day tracking the animal, blood splatters mixing with the dirt to create a foul blend and rotten stench.
Carl was quick to shut the gate behind Daryl, ensuring it was firmly locked before he ran ahead, up to yard outside the cell block to alert the others that Daryl was back with an animal that would need dressing. Rick walked beside the hunter, his hand on Daryl’s crossbow, lifting it off his back a little so he didn’t have to heft the extra weight. Rick would’ve offered to help carry the doe but he knew just how stubborn Daryl was.
Dropping the doe down onto the concrete floor of the yard the group surrounded Daryl, clapping him on the back, cheering his latest catch. He shuffled awkwardly, bobbing his head every now and then, turning on the spot a few times to shy away from the attention. “Go get cleaned up, ya covered in blood and muck.” Rick ordered Daryl, jutting his chin out in the direction of the cellblock and the showers. “We’ll take care a this.”
Debating the offer for a moment, Daryl gave Rick a small nod, accepting the chance to bathe in peace and escape from the hordes of survivors all clamouring to congratulate and thank him. He didn’t do it for the thanks but ‘cause they needed to eat, and if he didn’t go out hunting then no one would.
As Daryl retreated towards the cellblock, his crossbow never leaving his side, Rick turned back to the group, all of whom were looking at the doe in contemplation. “Anyone ever prepped one ‘fore?” He looked around at the gathered group. Maggie and Beth didn’t look too keen on cutting up the doe, and Hershel was more familiar with cows, pigs, and sheep than any game. Carl was tending to Judith, ruling him out from offering a helping hand. That left Rick, Glenn, and Carol.
“Never had t’. Used to be able to go down t’ the store and buy my meat pre-packed.” Carol offered.
“I used to deliver pizza, so don’t look at me.” Glenn held his hands up while shrugging. “I woulda thought Daryl would’ve dressed it while out there.” He jerked a thumb in the direction of the fences.
Maggie rolled her eyes. “Yes, because cutting open a doe and dumping its innards wouldn’t attract a couple of walkers.” Glenn scowled in his girlfriend’s direction, not keen on her retort.
“We can dress the doe and use its innards to lure the walkers away from the fences, lead them back out to the woods, maybe even find a few sinkholes or some mud for them to get stuck in. Not gonna make much difference given how many walkers there are out there, but even a few less is a start.” Hershel offered, having taken a seat on one of the few picnic benches Beth and Carl had dragged over from another yard a week after the group had taken over the prison.
Beth grimaced as her father spoke of the doe’s internal organs. “Looks like it’s just us three preparin’ this thing.” Rick spoke to Carol and Glenn. Carol was already armed with a kitchen knife that she’d found in the canteen when she’d gone searching for cooking supplies with Maggie, and Glenn scooped up the hunting knife that was kept on one of the benches, just in case whoever was outside was attacked by a couple of walkers that had somehow managed to slip out of one of the other cell blocks.
“Come on Carl, we don’t wanna watch this.” Beth instructed, placing an arm around Carl before she led him, carrying Judith, back into the cellblock. Carl went with her happily, enjoying that he would get to spend some time alone with the pretty girl who was the closest to his own age. Maggie helped Hershel up, walking him back into the cellblock so he could rest. He was still adjusting to life on crutches.
“Well then.” Rick sighed, looking down at the doe as he removed the blade he kept tucked in his boot. Daryl had told him to always keep a blade on him, just in case he ran out of bullets or didn’t have a blunt object to fight with. Rick figured that Daryl just fancied himself as the next Rambo.
“Don’t we gotta cut a circle ‘round its butt so it’s free and can be removed from within?” Carol was the first to offer up the way to prep the animal. “I think Ed once said some folks tie it off with string to prevent its contents from tainting the meat.” She mused.
Daryl had taught Rick to hunt over the winter months when they’d been running after the farm, away from the safety that the walls of the prison offered them. Rick was nowhere near as good as the redneck, but he could catch a few squirrels and rabbits if needed. Whenever Daryl had gone to prepare the meat though Rick had disappeared, not having the stomach to do it. He could face off walkers, put blades and bullets through their skulls, but the prospect of carving up a buck or a squirrel had Rick squirming.
“Didn’t Daryl say that you’re supposed t’ start cutting close to the pelvis?” Glenn offered as the three of them crouched down to examine the doe a little better.
“I thought you were supposed t’ start at the neck.” Rick offered, blade poised to make the first cut close to the animals throat. “We can peel the hide off that way, turn it inta a blanket ready for winter.”
Carol nodded in agreement, the use of the animal’s hide as a blanket for the winter would be in everyone’s best interest and would ensure that as much of the animal as possible would be used. “Aren’t you supposed to gut it first though?” Glenn asked, lifting one of the animals’ hind legs to expose the animal’s pelvis, where he was adamant the first cut was supposed to happen.
“The guts would dirty the fur, not to mention all the blood. I don’t think Daryl bled it out.” Rick offered, examining the creature for any cuts Daryl might have put in the critter to bleed it out before he hefted it back to the prison. Rick found no such marks.
Carol sighed heavily, putting her face in her free hand. “It is times like this I miss the internet. We coulda just googled how to prepare this stupid thing, instead of relying on what tidbits of information we’ve gathered ova’ the months.”
“We coulda just googled how to survive in an apocalypse too.” Glenn grimaced. “Didn’t realise how much I took the internet for granted ‘fore we lost it.”
“I took a lot for granted ‘fore the world went t’ shit.” Rick rubbed at his face, thinking of Lori and their relationship before the accident, before he’d ended up in a coma, waking up in today’s world without a clue as to what was happening. He’d tried to show Lori how much he loved her, he took her out on dates, brought her flowers, remembered her birthday and their anniversary. They’d still fought though, Lori raising her voice and yelling at him with Rick unable to yell back at her, not wanting to emotionally hurt her. He’d wanted to try and fix their relationship after he’d killed Shane, wanted to try and return to some form of normalcy, but it was difficult to do so when all he could see was his old best friend and his wife going at it every time he looked at her. There was also the fact she often blamed him for doing what she’d asked. Shane was a threat, he was getting out of hand. He hadn’t wanted to kill his best friend but he’d been left with no choice, and Lori had resented him for it the moment she’d found out.
“I thought ya pansies were gonna prep the damn doe?” Daryl’s rough voice cut through the prison yard as he emerged from the cellblock, dark hair plastered to his face and dressed in his other pair of jeans – the freshly cleaned ones – along with one of Rick’s shirts. Rick had raided a clothing store a few weeks back, fed up of having only his service shirt to hand, and Daryl had taken to borrowing his clothing. The hunter could never be bothered to go out and scrounge clothing for himself, and Rick was as close to him in build as possible. It was just easier for Daryl if he borrowed Rick’s clothing, not that the deputy minded. He actually enjoyed seeing the hunter clean and in his clothing. Daryl’s crossbow was slung over his shoulder in its usual place.
“We would’ve if we could figure out where t’ start!” Glenn protested, taking umbrage with being called a pansy.
“Ya didn’t bleed it out either.” Rick pointed out as Daryl reached the group, taking his usual spot at the deputy’s right-hand side, placing his crossbow down on the picnic bench beside them.
“No need ta. Once a deer is dead the heart no longer pumps blood. If the blood ain’t circulating then cuttin’ the throat won’t bleed any blood from the deer. It jus’ messes up the cape – the bit ‘round its neck an’ shoulders.” Daryl moved to the Hyundai, pulling out a length of rope. He loved his stupid fuckin’ rope. When he’d first found it in a hardware store Rick had been at a loss as to what they’d need it for. Daryl had told him rope was always needed and Rick had challenged him, asking him to name one thing he would need it for, but the hunter had been right anyway. Maggie had used it when Glenn had fallen into a sinkhole over the winter, and Rick had used it to tie Daryl to him when they’d been scouting out a dark hospital for medicine and they hadn’t wanted to risk being parted. “Help me heft this thing up. Can slit its throat now and bleed it out inta a bucket, use it to lead a group o’ walkers away from the fences.” Daryl instructed.
Rick helped him tie up the animals’ hind legs and lift the doe off the floor. Carol and Glenn located a hook wedged into the crumbling wall of the prison and all four worked together to lift the animal and string it up, head down. Glenn slid a bucket under the doe’s head and in one fluid movement Daryl cut its throat, the blood flowing downwards and over the animals’ face, into the bucket. The cape was safe from any blood this way.
“Why did it take ya so long?” Daryl asked, leaning against the wall beside the doe as it bled out beside him. Glenn was a little pale, and Carol was paying more attention to cleaning her knife with a rag from her pocket than watching the doe bleed.
“We couldn’t decide how t’ start. Was wishing we had the internet so we could Google it.” Rick explained with a shrug, looking to Glenn and Carol who nodded in agreement.
Shaking his head Daryl snorted. “The internet? I’m better than any internet search when it comes t’ this.” A lop-sided smile painted his slightly chapped lips as he looked at Carol, Glenn, and then Rick, his eyes finding the leaders. He enjoyed teasing the deputy for his cozy lifestyle pre-apocalypse. “Ya damn city folk, ya wouldn’ta lasted a second where I’m from.”