Walking north through the woods, I come upon a deer. From some distance back, he looks as if he could be just another fallen tree. It’s that time of the year when their antlers are falling off. He will be dead come the following morning. I walk some more, still some distance back, not wanting to get too close. His blood is soaked through, a deep dark like that of an old black Cadillac that used to come off the assembly line. There’s exhaustion in the sighing of his dying body.
We are both running on empty.
On his side, the eyes look at me. I recognize he thinks I may have done this. To him, I am man. I want to apologize.
His sleek head is turned on its side in an unnatural way, looking like it has been snapped by some sort of machine, not of another animal’s doing. There is a result to all of this. His eyes close more than they are open. I crouch down now, palms on the ground, watching to imitate his labored breathing. Believing if I can just keep on breathing, that he will too. It will take a long time, but this is how I can save him.
The snow has been coming down steady for hours. It isn’t working. I can’t save him.
I’ve decided I am going to die with him.
Here on our backs we look at each other. Wind blows a colder snow through the woods. From a distance I probably look like a fallen tree as well.
I reach out in the cold, in a manner of touching him. But he doesn’t want to be comforted by me. Suddenly, he gets up, and takes one step away. But he immediately falls over. We sit like that for a little while longer. With more and more snow, I’m starting to lose sight of him. I nudge my body a foot closer. Through my thoughts I’m trying to transfer the last of my energy to him.
In his last strength, he turns his neck the other way. I am now looking at his back. I can now see the bullet entry in the back of his shoulder. It looks a day or two old.
I rise to my knees and yell out to him. He raises one ear, but the rest of him doesn’t move. He is still alive. He can’t stand me. In small puffs I see the hot air from his breathing. Go on, you don’t need to explain your reasoning.
He does not want to die here with me.