It’s early, foggy, and the sun’s working its way up. I’m running as I do every morning on the long dirt road that shoots off the main drag and goes way back into the woods behind our house. Dew is everywhere, glistening, and the damp dirt gives, feels good under my feet. I’m coming up on the brook that goes under the road around the second bend, and I hear a rustling over the rushing of the water. Then I hear a great breaking out of running, jumping, and branches snapping and cracking hard in the woods. I look left, toward the sounds, just in time to see the white tail of a deer bouncing away from me through the barely lit trees. The racket goes diagonally ahead of me quickly, fades in a few minutes to no sound.
I shake my head and smile. And I think about deer hunting, what an unequal match deer and hunters are. In my car on the back roads especially, I’ve had many a stand-off with a deer all locked up, dead-on in my headlights and staring at me, incapable of making a decision. And countless times I’ve watched deer come into clearings during the day so nervous they can’t eat the grass they came out to eat in the first place. They end up having to high-tail it back into the woods and I end up wondering why they bothered. So it’s not as if hunting deer is like hunting something particularly cunning, like a wolf, say, so that if you manage to kill it, you’ve accomplished quite some thing.
I finally come around to supposing it’s a Paleolithic thing—a primeval desire to hunt and fish and bring one’s kill proudly home—when again the deer startles me, at least I think it’s the same deer. It’s a nice-sized buck, real pretty. He busts out of the woods just up ahead in front of me and runs all unnerved and majestic across the road to the right side now. He crashes into the woods and I see him jumping over downed and new trees, through ferns, and into the thickness. And then I can only hear him, sounding like he’s running southeast up the hill toward the Greeleys’ place.
Now I begin to think something’s not right with this buck. Even if deer aren’t the sharpest of creatures, they’re aware of human presence and have base instincts to stay clear. The fact that this one has exposed itself to me twice makes me nervous and I begin to think about what I’d do if it’s screwed up and gets it in its head to mess with me. But then, concern for the buck rises up in me just as quickly as the fear did. Then I start thinking about the buck heading toward Greeleys’ place and that’s not a good place to head to. It’s a long way off from deer season, but Mr. Greeley and his people go way back to this land and they give and take from it as they please in the old way of things.
About then I hear what sounds like a rifle shot. I don’t even know if that’s what it is, don’t even know if it’s Mr. Greeley doing the shooting, but I feel bad either way, and suddenly deeply sad. I think about what if it was the buck and how maybe he wouldn’t have gotten shot if I hadn’t come along and scared him, rattled his brains. But that’s absurd. I’m just trying to live my life, that’s all, and that’s all the buck’s doing. I feel better thinking that way and the run feels good, too. I’ve hit that good place where my heart rate’s just right and even and I’m feeling strong, like I could go on and on.
Right when I reach the old, falling-down sugar shack, I hear more crashing in the woods and I’ll be darned if it’s not that buck again way ahead of me busting back out of the woods from the right. I see him start across the road, blood streaming from his side and my heart breaks, and in that instant of breaking I’m acutely aware of an otherworldly feeling that I could trade places with him. It could be me going to run until I can’t anymore, until I fall to the ground and bleed the rest of the way to death. Strangely, I feel myself not only willing to do that but yearning to. It’d be the last living thing Mr. Greeley shot for awhile once they found me and found out where that bullet came from. And that’s all it took.
It was a surreal moment or moments, I couldn’t tell which, of running toward the deer up ahead of me as he crashed unharmed and spotless into the woods on the left now, snapping branches, rustling up underbrush with his pounding hooves, pounding and leaping, until I can’t hear him anymore. Until my eye catches a glimpse of red and I look down and realize blood is flowing down my left leg from a blasted-out place in my left side. I keep running, not believing what I’m seeing is real. It’s too absurd. Things like this don’t happen these days when we leave the house. We go about our business. We run, go to work, go to the store, go back home, have dinner.
“Foggy Morning” by RoyJr found here: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3030/2935787357_a67042d6d3.jpg?v=0
Visit RoyJr’s flickr photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/roy/ for more good shots.
The above was spun off the Sunday Scribblings prompt “#167 – absurd.” Click here for more on prompt #167 from other Sunday Scribblings participants.