Descent

*I read a wonderful blog based in the UK called The Hermitage. Those of you who like nature and art will really enjoy it.

I feel a bit cheeky linking to this blog because I have never actually commented on it but Rima, the blog’s author, wrote a post the other day about how she had seen a poor, baby deer dead on the side of the road. I was struck by the sadness of that and by the phrase she used to describe the deer – the shy, trembling thing.

This story was inspired by that little baby deer.

I’m on top of the world. On top of my game. I’m on four hundred thousand a year for convincing people to buy products they don’t actually want or need. I make things happen. I am a mover and a shaker.

Sure, there is an element of stress about doing what I do. 24/7 Tom, that’s what they call me. And it means exactly what you think it means. I am available for matters to do with work 24/7. It’s the only way to get ahead. My Blackberry is a Crackberry, but that’s just the way I like it.

I work hard. I play hard. Everything happens in a rush. If you were to look at me through a lens you would see that everything is blurred. It is difficult to find me caught in a moment of stillness. Every second is accounted for. I move from beginning to end in one breath.

It was Lydia who convinced me to buy the house in the country. Everybody’s doing it, she said. It occurred to me briefly that I didn’t have time for another pursuit, that having to leave the city every weekend would add to my tendency to rush and not focus on anything but my destination; but she wanted it, so I got it.

We call the new house The Nook. It’s not much more than a four bedroom cabin on a couple of acres, but it’s near the Country Club, so it’s on the right side of town.

We like it when we drive down to The Nook on Friday evenings. We make commonplace remarks that we wouldn’t normally make like : Did you see how big that tree was? or The sky looks dark this evening. Usually our conversation consists of gossip and weekly plans. We have no idea about flora or fauna. We couldn’t name even one of the trees on our property. We call the birds that come to the pond big birds and little birds because we have no idea what type they are. It is embarrassing when friends come to stay and ask us the name of the little birds that sing like flutes and gather in the trees with the pink blossoms. We make a joke of our ignorance, but secretly find ourselves peeved.

Lydia went down to The Nook early this week. She was tired after a tough month at work and has fallen in love with the little flute birds. She had bought a new camera and was going to attempt to photograph them.

She has changed since I bought The Nook. There is a quiet self-assurance that was never there before. She doesn’t like to go out as much. Wants to keep herself fresh for the weekends so she can get up early and go bird watching. She has bought binoculars and a canteen which she fills with water from our very own spring.

I’m not sure about the new Lydia. I know where I stand with her after she has had a bottle of Moet and two lines of coke. I am ill-prepared to deal with her when she is pondering the meaning of life and the glory of a sunrise.

Something happened on the way down to The Nook. I was tired, unsettled. I think it’s the splitting of the time between city and country. It could also be my new Mercedes SL 65 AMG. It’s a silver two-door and runs like a dream. I told Lydia about it and she was more interested in how she’d seen a cow in the meadow eating clover. I don’t know how you could even compare the beauty of the two. Normally, as soon as I’d say: twin exhausts V12, she’d be all over it and me like the proverbial rash. But not this time.

So I was distracted. And I’d left things a bit late, having drinks with the boys before setting off. As usual, I was rushing.

My mood plummeted as the city highways segued to country lanes. The trees were leaning forward, blocking out the sky. I had the window down and I could hear rustlings in the hedgerows. God only knows what was lurking there. The woods were alive.

I texted some people from work to distract myself and there was a thud. It felt like something had gone under the car. I was worried about scratches to the finish.

The car was untouched but there was a thick smudge of blood on the fender. I had hit something. Something alive. I turned the headlights to full beam and saw it lying on the side of the road.

It was a baby deer on its side, struggling for breath. There was blood pouring from its head. It’s little eyes looked at me, pleading. It wanted my help.

Shit, shit, shit, I cried. What do I do? What do I do? I dialed Emergency, then Lydia, then my brother. Hanging up before each call was answered. I was probably over the limit and I didn’t know if hitting a deer was illegal or not. I had to keep this to myself.

The deer was shaking, making little moans.

Oh God, Oh God, Oh God. I had to take it somewhere. The thought of putting it in the car horrified me. I would never get the bloodstains off the upholstery. What to do? What to do?

It was probably going to die anyway. There was nothing to be done. I got back in the car, not looking at it again and drove off.

Just before I turned into the driveway of The Nook, I got out and used an entire bottle of Evian to clean the fender. The deer’s blood smelled like rust.

That night I couldn’t sleep. I kept imagining someone was walking up the pathway ready to charge me with driving in a reckless manner.

The next morning when Lydia was out with her fellow birdwatchers I went back to the spot where I hit the deer. It’d be dead by now for sure.

It was still alive. It was gasping. A thin trail of foam lined its mouth. A pool of blood surrounded its head. How could it still be alive? How long did it take these things to die anyway?

I got back in the car. I would come back tomorrow when it was definitely dead and bury it. Then no one would know.

The next morning Lydia caught me putting a spade and rope in the boot of the car.

What are you doing? she asked.

I-I- hit something with the car. I just have to go back and see if it’s dead.

What do you mean you just have to go back and see if it’s dead? Are you telling me you hit an animal and left it there while it was still alive?

In the car I felt like I was taking note of all I had lost. Lydia’s face was white. When we got to the place where I’d hit it, she jumped out of the car.

It’s only a baby, she said. Her eyes and voice were dull. She fell on her knees, reaching out her hand. The poor, shy trembling thing was trying to make her way through the woods. She didn’t know about the road yet, she was only a baby.

Lydia got to her feet. Everything around me went silent.

How long did you leave her here on her own? How long did she suffer?

I hit it on Friday evening. I went back the next night but it was still alive. So I waited until today.

Lydia’s mouth was held in an unfathomable line.

You are a fucking monster, she said.

Lydia dug a grave beside a big tree. I wish I knew the name of it, but I don’t. She wouldn’t let me come near her or the deer.

I was surprised at her strength. Everything we’d ever had was being erased the deeper she dug. After about half an hour she stopped, covered in dirt. She picked up the deer, cradling it for a moment like it was a child. ‘She’s as light as a feather, the little darling,’ she said, before placing her in the earth.

Lydia wouldn’t let me take her back to the house. She walked the entire way, dragging the spade behind her. She spent the night in one of the guest bedrooms. At four in the morning I could hear her weeping.

The next morning I had to leave early. I had a meeting at ten. Lydia nursed a full cup of coffee for over an hour. Her fingernails still had dirt under them.

I’ll call you when I get there, I said.

Don’t bother. She got up and went into the bathroom, locking the door.

As I neared the spot where I had hit the baby deer I saw the same tree with the pink blossoms that we had at The Nook. The one the little flute birds liked so much. I got out of the car and picked a handful of blossoms, laying them on the baby deer’s grave.

I’m sorry, I said. For taking away your life.

I sat in the car for a moment afterwards, shocked to find that I was crying. As the miles flew behind me and country roads segued back into city ones I thought of The Nook and all it had come to mean. And I knew I could never return.

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8 thoughts on “Descent

  1. my area is loaded with deer and they are forever lying on the side of the road.. i have never hit one myself but that doesnt mean i havent worried about doing so every time i drive, especially in the early morning hours…

    you did an excellent job obn this story,, and i wonder if this is not exactly what is going thru the poor peoples minds that do hit a deer…

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  2. Well, I’m crying. When I lived in Colorado, and would drive through the mountains, I would often see fawns w/their mothers. I was always so excited when I noticed their presence. It was like the first time every time.

    As I read your story, I kept thinking about how the momma deer is never far away from her baby.

    Very well written, Sel.

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  3. I have to admit I couldn’t read the whole thing, but what I did read was excellent. (FYI, I cannot watch movies about animals. I can’t even listen to the theme song of the old Lassie show without bursting into tears. Gah! I’m pathetic!)

    I’m also glad he’ll never return to the beautiful Nook. He doesn’t deserve such a place. (I may be pathetic, but I’m also a bit on the mean side).

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  4. I know this was a bit of a gruelling tale, guys. Sometimes a story comes and I just have to get it out. The blog post at The Hermitage reminded me of when I was a teenager and one of my friends who had just learned to drive, hit a wallaby. He just drove off and left it because he was afraid he would lose his licence. I was angry at him for about a year because of it. Let’s face it, no one really wants an injured animal in their car, but you have to do something. Sobering stuff.

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  5. PAISLEY:
    I think it would put anyone into a mild case of panic. It would be such an awful thing to have happen. We don’t have any deer wandering about in our part of Sydney. The creatures I am most in danger of hitting are the office boys crossing the road without looking while texting and listening to an iPod, I wonder if I’d call for help if i hit one of them? 😉

    STEPH:
    You read my mind. I meant to put a part in where the momma deer kept appearing at the house, but I thought the story was getting too long.

    To see a deer and a fawn together would be just magical. I wouldn’t be able to believe it!

    KAREN:
    My mean streak comes out too. For very little effort we could be more considerate of animals and our fellow humans too.

    I know it was hard to read and I really thank you for giving it a go. I don’t like anything to do with animals being hurt, either.

    DAVID:
    I have rung WIRES on a number of occasions (Wildlife rescue service for non Aussies) and they are excellent. They helped me save a little baby possum, a wombat and a kookaburra that had fallen out of a tree. They tell you what to feed them and things like that. I like to think those animals are still alive today.

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  6. MELEAH:
    The real danger here is the kangaroo. They can jump so high that they do incredible damage to cars. And they are really strong. I really prefer to drive in the city!

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