Summer Writing Retreat Submission: John Doherty

Koen's Class at the Summer Writing Retreat

Koen's Class at the Summer Writing Retreat

John Doherty has been writing fiction off and on since he was a kid (lately more “off” than “on,” unfortunately). John attended Karleen Koen’s Something Novel workshop at the 2009 Summer Writing Retreat in Alpine. This character sketch is based on a rather curmudgeonly fellow John spotted while having dinner one evening at the Gulf Station Café in Alpine. John lives in Austin with his wife and two young children. He can be reached by email at or through twitter @jtdoherty.

Character Sketch-Doherty

by John Doherty

In 1953, when Vernon Hicks was 11 years old, he’d been out a bird hunt in southern Kansas with his daddy and younger brother, Will.  All of seven years old, it was Will’s first hunt and his daddy intended to make sure the boy knew how to properly carry and fire a shotgun.

On the second day of the hunt and with dusk quickly approaching, Vernon caught site of a mess of birds lighting in the trees on the far side of the tank. Vernon raised his shotgun and let go with a blast of buckshot toward the top of the tree line.  This did nothing more than send the birds flying across the tank, shotguns flinging into the air to try and get ahead of them.  Unskilled as he was, and in the excitement of potentially getting the first dove of his young life, Will swung his shotgun rapidly to the left and fired.  The shotgun blast never made it more than a few feet, hitting Will’s daddy in the neck and killing him instantly.

Will and Vernon had stayed there near that tank with their daddy, sobbing over his dead body for hours, their clothes turning from shades of olive and beige to blackish crimson.  Vernon couldn’t bring himself to say anything at all to his younger brother, his heart Continue reading