“There’s a dead deer in the driveway,” I told my husband over the phone. What could he do really, he was in Texas on business and wouldn’t be back until Friday. Ten college friends had accepted my invitation to visit the house and see the east end in the “off season.” It was unusually hot for Autumn and I knew that the deer would be ripe and just a tad smelly by then.
I walked down the long driveway that led from the flag lot to the road to find help. New to the neighborhood, I hadn’t met my neighbors yet. I knocked on three doors before I realized just how alone I was. There were no “year-longers” here. They had returned to the other side of Labor Day, the land of “Back to School Night” and spelling tests somewhere in Nassau County.
I made some phone calls. “If the animal is on private property you have to call an exterminator,” said a woman at the town hall. “The street crew will pick them up but only if they are ten feet off of a public road.”
I finally got a response from a guy who would come for seven hundred and fifty dollars. “Seven hundred and fifty dollars, my eye!” No way.
I headed to the garage. There was a man’s pair of black rubber, knee high, clamming boots left by the landlord. I put them on as well as a pair of shucking gloves. Manned with a roll of twine and a long metal stake for propping up tomato plants, I headed down the driveway humming in my mind “I am I, Don Quijote.”
The deer was freshly dead. It was large but still quite young. The body lay just off the driveway in the tall grasses of an abandoned property. It had a broken foreleg and my guess is that it got hit by a car near the road and limped all the way down the curve of the driveway until it collapsed.
The animal was magnificent up close, the hooves like black hardened plastic. My good luck, it’s head was turned away from me. I threaded the twine through a hole in the top of my pole and laced a loop around the foreleg and neck of the animal. The head took a bob toward me and I startled back. For a moment, as it nodded with the force of gravity and my tug, I thought there might still be life there. No. It was most certainly dead. I continued the tying and then tried to heave. Surely I could drag this young, dear (deer) soul. The body wouldn’t budge.
Now I was backing the car up, looking this way and that, like a murderer hiding a corpse. I tied the twine to the bumper and got into the driver’s seat. Slowly I drove, feeling the weight of the load. I meandered out the drive and onto the main road where I made sure I was within ten feet. I got out, and again with the guilt of a murderer, cut the rope and quickly jumped back into the car and home.
A call to the public works department to report the dead deer and its whereabouts and the dirty deed was done. Later I walked the dog nonchalantly back to the scene of the dumping. The spot was empty, so very empty. The deer was gone. It was gone as if it had never existed, sort of like a dream about a unicorn. Did it happen? Was there ever such a beautiful creature that I was allowed to come so close to and witness the gleam of a shiny brown eye, jet blackness of hooves, amber fur and whiskers?
My initiation into full time “east-ender-hood” is over. I have since survived the winter months here. I know the hoots of owls on a January evening, barren vegetable stands, empty main streets and shuttered stores, clear beams of Orion from my bed, views of the vineyards when they are not green but a barren field of sticks and gnarly stubs. I have gathered with other east enders for a meal in the dark late afternoons of winter in the only opened place there is, sipping on soup and chatting. Winter on the east end is as mystical as a unicorn, and as real as a dead deer, if you can survive.