|Wayne T. Allison|
“What the #%&@’s that?” I asked Griffin, interrupting our walk and our philosophizing.
“What the #%&@’s what?” he answered, but his voice went quiet on the last word, because he’d seen the two figures in the ditch, one stepping back into a shadowed alley to avoid us, the other raising its head to stare us down.
It was past dusk. We were walking in the small town of New Richmond, human population about 8000, and Knowles Avenue, with its neon signs and its traffic, lay only a few yards away. It wasn’t the most likely spot to meet a couple of deer. They’d apparently been feeding, or maybe drinking, in the grassy ditch. A row of trees stood nearby, but mostly we were among pavement and plenty of houses.
“Why doesn’t she run?” I said. Partly it was a rhetorical question. Partly I wanted her to hear my voice and know what I was.
She heard. She didn’t seem impressed.
I’m used to getting some respect from white-tailed deer. I meet them often in my walks, and often I’ve wished they’d pause a little longer before they go bounding away. They’re graceful even when still. This one wasn’t moving. I knew what that meant. She’d become habituated to people, maybe even purposely fed. She wouldn’t fear me, might expect to be fed, might even make a point of asserting her sense that I was crowding her.
“You know what to do around deer, right?” I said to Griffin.
“No, actually,” he said.
“Don’t bend over,” I said. “It’ll think you’re charging. And give it plenty of room.” We did, making a big loop to avoid her. She watched us the whole time. I kept giving more room, more room.
She wasn’t very big. “I can probably whip her if she tries anything,” I said.
“That doesn’t sound wise,” Griffin said.
“You’ve got my back, right?”
“I’ll let her kill you, then inherit all your stuff.”
“I’m changing my will tomorrow.”
However, we’d passed her by and were in the parking lot of Snap Fitness. Inside, some brightly-lit yutz was fiddling with dumbbells. Outside, we stood in the glare of red neon, sweaty from our walk in the humid air. Thirty feet away, the deer gazed at us from the dark.
The sequel happened a few days later. No violence went down, but a guy was threated a bit more forcefully than we were.
Fred, who works at Table 65, a restaurant just down Knowles from the gym, was walking home along the same dark alley when he met a deer. Like me, he expected it to give way. Unlike me, he was tired from work and didn’t feel like going around. He advanced. So did the deer. It crowded toward him with a sort of repressed charge, as if falling up a hill. He paused. It paused. He advanced. It charged again, sort of. I wish Fred were here to act out its charges for you. His impression is spot on. He bunches up his shoulder and whinnies and bobs. I’m taking Parker’s word for that; it was he who told me Fred’s story and re-enacted it.
In the end, Fred skirted the deer, giving a little ground but getting home safe. I haven’t heard a word about the deer since. Griffin and I have walked the alley several times since.
“You know what to do in case of a deer, right?” I say.
“Sure,” he says. “Shove you under its hooves and run away.”