To the deer that took her last breath on my property, then collapsed in the corner of the yard I never get to:
I’m sorry. I wish I had seen your body earlier, before it was stiff, your eyes still seeming awkwardly alive, staring at my bedroom window. Wish I could have saved you, though I have no idea how you died, or why. Only that your cold hoof rests on the bottom of the gate, as if begging for entrance.
To the woman who answers animal rescue calls for the County of Sonoma:
No, I did not kill the deer, nor did my dogs. And yes, I understand that it is my responsibility to have it disposed of, unless the deer happens to find its way to the street, in which case this is no longer my problem. No, I can’t lift the dead doe and toss in her in the street. Or I won’t.
To Frank, who advertises his animal abatement services on Google:
Thank you for saying your nephew would be right over. No, I agree, I shouldn’t let the dogs gnaw on her, she might be diseased. Do people actually toss the dead deer to their dogs while waiting for you?
To the dogs, a mother and her puppy, recently rescued by me and my persuasive children in a moment of insanity:
Get away from that gate. Get your nose off the poor dead girl’s paw. Do not gnaw.
To the deer who still lies on her side:
Frank’s nephew is coming.
I’m sorry about your nephew. They can be unreliable at that age, I know. No problem, I can wait. I’m just sitting on the back deck watching her. No, I know I don’t have to. Yes, it is windy today, I can feel the chill right through the blanket I threw over my shoulders before I came out to yell at the dogs.
To the puppy:
Where is my other shoe?
To the deer:
I don’t know why I’m standing on the grass, ten feet from you, watching you like you might spring up at any moment. Why I am ignoring the dogs whining from inside the house where I’ve locked them, and not doing the chores that I listed on the back of an envelope. It feels decent, to be here with you. A witness. And I’m sad. You look so young to die, like a doe just getting started. In the prime of her life.
Did you eat the ripe blackberries on Kenleigh Road last summer? Run unfettered in the fields that surround us? Tell me you at least had some sweetness in your short life, before coming to this unremarkable end. And how did you die? Why did you choose here, outside my window, on a very high hill, with views across the valley.
Then again, what a good spot you chose to die on. I’ll be back. I need to get a cup of tea.
It’s Ok. I’ll wait. Yes, traffic on 37 is always a bitch this time of day. Thanks for coming since your nephew is hung over. No, I don’t know the Wilsons. I don’t really know the neighbors here .It’s a second home. A sheep? Mountain lions ate their sheep? Right down my street. Huh.
Well, I’m glad you know just where to go. See you soon.
To my husband, on the cell phone between meetings:
I forgot why we have a house in the country. Since we bought it we have had: a dead bird in the pool, an erupting septic tank, a broken dishwasher, clogged toilets, an enormous tree fall down on the deck, a lost tortoise, a gas leak, and, apparently, mountain lions. Yes, you can call me back later.
To my husband’s voice mail:
To be fair, we’ve also had a lot of fun. Fifty late dinners on warm summer nights, a party that ended with dancing so vigorous I threw out my hip, and many glasses of wine near the pool. A hundred hot tub moments. And four Christmas Eve’s. Sorry I was cranky. These mountain lion scares are real though. We have to keep an eye on the puppy.
To the deer who appears frozen and alone:
I’m sorry I can’t bury you. I tried to bury an animal here, just last winter. I wanted my old dog’s body here with us. I wanted her spirit to breathe through the grass, her bones to feed the yellow flowers that bloom in late March. I wanted to know my girl, my fuzzy dog-almost-a-bear with the enormous golden eyes, was still with me. But we found out, after four hours of fruitless digging, that you can’t dig a hole in rock. The acres of land that surround us are deceiving, appearing to be fertile earth. They are actually rocks in disguise. The hole, our attempt to dig a grave, is still there, the shovels abandoned on both sides. We took turns digging, then sitting and crying with our old girl, knowing she was about to die. Fuck, it’s cold out here.
To Frank, whose tattoos are so large and intricate that I am distracted for a minute from the purpose of your visit:
Thank you for coming. I’m glad to meet your surly nephew as well. I wish you hadn’t pointed out the “obvious” cause of the deer’s death, nor insisted I see the tiny fawn that was pushing its way from the mother womb when they apparently both succumbed to death. Thank you for explaining that most fawns are born in March, so this one was late, being almost May, which led to the untimely death of mother and baby.
I too am glad there are no maggots. An occupational hazard, I gather. Thanks for mentioning that.
No, I don’t have $125 in cash.
Really? You’re a retired San Francisco cop. Thirty five years on the force. I guess that fits. No, I never walk alone in that neighborhood at night. I hope to not need to call you again, but sure. I’ll take your card.
Yeah, I really don’t have cash like that in my pocket.
To the deer:
I wish Frank had been more gentle with you. I wish I’d buried you, even in a shallow grave, on the hill, where your ghost could emerge at night and run with the other ghost deer. Flirt with a translucent buck, raise your gossamer baby fawn. I feel I have done you a disservice, sweet, dead, doe.
To my dogs, the German Shephard mother and puppy who watch uneasily as the truck pulls away, the deer’s legs sticking out of the top of the flatbed:
I’m so glad you both survived the harrowing process of birth outside, in the wild. And that someone put you in their barn, for shelter. And that we came by a few weeks later and saw Cora, the skinny frightened Mama, nursing eight ravenous pups. And that I thought– we need to get you out of here, Mama.
Stop licking my face. I don’t know why I’m crying.
To the puppy:
Drop it. That’s my damn shoe.
Sounds stressful, all that country living! Go back to the burbs for some R & R. 🙂