On a February afternoon, overcast and promising but lying about snow, we pull into the long driveway, slow past the patch going natural with volunteer cedar and white pine, slow along the wide frosty lawn dotted with Norway and spruce, down the driveway, so happy to be here, snowless winter or not, since crackly woods, big sky and a morning walk alone on the beach await. But wait, hitting the brakes, pointing, look over there, someone stands in the yard, by the fence. Stop—I don’t see it. There, someone at the fence in the back, not moving. Too low to be a grown up, except by crouching down. Most important, not moving. Why would a child in a tan Carhartt jumpsuit stand at the fence in the backyard? Never mind. Let’s go in. We park, go inside, turn up the heat and let in the water, hear the loud rushing of it coming from the well to fill all the pipes, feel the furnace’s hot breath up our pantlegs, light the fireplace in all its gas-log glory and then, finally, we go calmly out back. So happy to be here. Down the steps to the fenced-in yard, woods and pond just on the other side. Look, it’s a deer. Walk closer. A deer crucified on the fence. Walk even closer. A deer hanging by one horribly broken leg, white bone exposed at the elbow, or is it the knee. A young, hubristic deer whose leap did not clear. Walk closer, see a curved trough of agony dug out with powerful front hooves, eviscerating a hydrangea, scraping, pulling the dirt closer, hoping to climb free and drag itself away on three legs, but no. Cold embraced the deer slowly and death, even slower. Right rear leg fixed, cracked in half, left rear leg free to kick at nothing, bucking to heaven, front legs digging down, pain ignored, madly mauling frozen February dirt. Now, his head rests peacefully, one eye open but sleepy. A beautiful creature, its fur the color of the fallen oak leaves, the ones that don’t turn; wounds the color of suffering, February cold freezing the exposed flesh of its flank scarlet, where after exposure slayed, others came to feed. Praying it was after. Across the front left leg, splayed over the clawed-out cavity in the dirt, tufts of rabbit-white fur from the underbelly of the young button buck’s flank, maybe torn away by opportunistic coyote, lay as if draped. Apology, eulogy, lamentation. We gawk as we never would at roadside carnage.
Michelle Geoga is a writer and visual artist from Illinois. She received an MFA in Writing in 2017 and a BFA in studio art in 2015 from The School of the Art Institute. She has visual work in New American Paintings #135 and the Center for Fine Art Photography, and writing in the Ekphrastic Review and forthcoming in Five on the Fifth. In between shorter prose and larger paintings, she is working on a novel.