“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. Eight 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 dead 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 in search of advice. New to the area, 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 a westerly direction.
I made some phone calls. “If the animal is on private property you have to call an exterminator, “ said a woman who seemed to know. “The street crew will pick them up but only if they are no more than ten feet off of a public road.”
I finally got a response from a guy who would come and do the dirty deed for seven hundred and fifty dollars. “Seven hundred and fifty dollars, my eye.”
I headed to the garage. There was a man’s pair of black rubber, knee high, clamming boots left behind by the landlord. I put them on as well as a large lone oyster-shucking glove. 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 Quixote.”
The deer was freshly dead. It was large but still young. The body lay just off the driveway in the tall grasses of an abandoned property, its foreleg cleanly broken above the hoof. My guess is that it was hit by a car near the road and limped all the way down the curve of the driveway until it collapsed.
Something seemed magnificent about the animal up close. The hooves like black hardened plastic and the bristle of fur. Perhaps it was just the proximity of wildness. My good luck, its 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 have been life there. No. It was most certainly dead. Now the face was looking right at me. I continued the tying and then tried to heave the secure load. Surely I could drag this young, dear (deer) soul. It 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 drove home.
A call to the public works department to report the dead deer and its whereabouts was the final step. 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? Did I ever stand so close to a wild beast so as to witness the gleam of a shiny crazed eye, the blackness of hooves, the light amber fur and whiskers?
My initiation into full time “east-ender-hood” is over. I have since survived the winter months here. I have learned that I do in fact have many winter neighbors. Some drop firewood off in my driveway; others deliver homemade soup to my side door. I know the hoots of owls on a January evening, barren vegetable stands, empty main streets and shuttered stores, clear beams of the constellation 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 others who live here for a meal in the dark afternoons of winter. We meet in the only opened places there are, sipping on warm beverages and chatting. Winter on the east end is as mystical as a unicorn, and as real as a dead deer, if you can survive.