Skeleton Creature —Ghost Deer by Nina Vivian Huryn; for more information, visit
http://www.ninahuryn.com

Buck Passing

by William Garnett

She looked out the window of the kitchen and saw the white tail buck under the pine tree in the backyard.  He was a two-point, very young, and he was panting and miserable.  He tried to get up, but is right front leg was broken at the knee.

Having lost her husband five years ago, and her daughter gone to cancer last year, and coming onto the age 70 years herself, she had gained some perspective regarding needless suffering, so she called the Fish and Game department and said she had a miserable deer in the back yard. The person on the other end asked her where it was. “In the backyard,” she said.

“No, ma’am. I mean where do you live?”

“Missoula.”

There was a pause on the end of the line. “City or county?”

“Both.”

“Ma’am, is your house in the city limits?”

She thought for moment. “It is now, yes. Incorporated about 20 years ago.”

“I’m sorry, but we can’t do anything about wild animals in the city limits. It’s out of our jurisdiction,” the person on the other end said and hung up.

Weren’t deer game, wherever they were? Wildlife to be managed? She grabbed the phonebook, or what was left it after the internet had taken over, and found the number for Animal Control. She called and explained the deer in the backyard and the person on the other end said they didn’t have the equipment to handle that kind of situation. The person suggested calling the police and then hung up.

So, she called the police.

The officer arrived and went into the backyard to look at the deer. She came outside and watched the officer looking at the deer. The officer turned to her and said it was a buck, two-point, broken front right leg—right at the knee.

“Yes, that’s what I’ve been saying,” she said.

“Must’ve been hit by a car up the hill and made it down here.”

She glanced up the hill. How many things had come down it and into the yard? A cow, a Chevy truck, and a number of wild animals,injured or not. The deer was just another link in the chain of things that came, of things that would come.

The officer went back to his patrol car and opened the trunk.  He pulled out a high-powered rifle and loaded one bullet into the chamber. She looked at him and asked if that was all there was to do. He said that this is all he knew to do, and went over to the deer and shot it in the head.

But the deer didn’t die.

The office swore and loaded another bullet into the gun. He leveled the barrel at the deer’s head and pulled the trigger. The deer jerked his head back and she covered her mouth and shook her head. The officer turned and began to walk back to the patrol car. She looked at the deer. He turned his head and his eyes tracked the officer as the officer walked back to the patrol car. “Wait!” she yelled. “He’s not dead!”

The officer stopped and sighed. His arms went slack and the barrel of the gun dropped and dinged the curb. He reached into the trunk and pulled out another bullet. “This better do it,” he said.

She went into the garage and waited. After the blast, she went outside and saw the officer looking over the deer. “It’s dead, now,” the officer said and walked back to the patrol car. He put the rifle in the trunk and pulled out a sheet of black plastic used to cover bodies and went back to the deer.

“What now?” she said.

“Put it out for the trash, guys. They’ll take it to the dump.”

She looked at the form the deer made in the black plastic. The officer walked back to his patrol car, got in, and drove away. She stood for a moment, the gunfire still ringing through her head, and then realized it was only Monday, and the trash wouldn’t be picked up until Friday.  She wondered how she would get him down as she looked around herself and realized it was only the dead deer and her. She thought how impossible it would be to get the deer to the curb out front.  How impossible it is to do all the things a body in the act of falling apart can ever do.

She called her son-in-law. He said she would have to pick him up and the kids if he were going to come over and help move the deer. “That’s fine. We’ll do that,” she told him.

Her son-in-law moved the deer to the curb and rearranged the plastic sheet. He went into the backyard and found some cinder blocks and used them for anchors. “No trash until Friday?” he said.

“Yes, Friday.”

“It’s gonna smell.”

“Thank you.”

By Tuesday evening, with the weather turned too warm for April in Montana, the deer began to bloat and rot. She went and cut lilac from the bush in the backyard and placed the lilac on the deer and said little prayers. She saw other deer walk slowly along the hillside near where the deer had been shot three times. She saw two deer stop and smell the plastic sheet. Other deer came by and paused, bent their heads down and sniffed along the ground like some kind of deer vigil.

On Wednesday, the flies began to arrive, and by Thursday, all the lilacs had been cut and the delicate scent they had given was consumed by the rotten stench of dead deer.

On Friday morning, she got out of bed and went to the curb to meet the trash truck.  “What’s under the plastic—my god, what’s that smell?” the driver said.

She pointed at the plastic sheet and said it was a dead deer.

The driver said he couldn’t take it.

She said the police officer had said the garbage truck would.

The driver said, “Lady, that thing is a biohazard for us. I put that in my truck and it’s gonna pop when everything gets squeezed.”

“So, you’re not going to take it?”

“Sorry,” he said, and hiked up into the garbage truck and drove way.

The flies continued to arrive in biblical fashion. Great large black clusters of them glistening in the sun as they buzzed around the bloated corpse of the deer. She went across the street to her neighbor and asked him what she should do. He said he knew some folks who rehabilitate raptors and they could use the meat to feed the birds. She waited while he called them. “No one picked up,” he said.

Later, as the sun began its slow decent toward the soft mountaintops west of town, two flatbed trucks emblazoned with the garbage company’s logo pulled up near the deer. The drivers in each truck stepped out and grabbed a large container from one of the flatbed trucks and loaded the dead, bloated deer onto it.  “I thought you couldn’t take him,” she said to one of the drivers.

He shrugged.  “Someone called 9-1-1,” he said and stepped up into the truck and drove away.

About William Garnett

William Garnett is the proud parent of a Basset Hound named Phynnagain, a Newfoundland/Retriever named Carl, an American Pitbull named Jelly, and two cantankerous orange and white cats named Mr. Boo and Her. When not attending to the needs of his furkids, family in Montana, or playing the roll of an assistant professor of special education at Fresno State, he indulges his writing behavior. His work has appeared in places like 101 Words, DiddleDog, and 365Tomorrows. He currently has no Twitter handle.