By Gordon Pinckheard
Jack thought he was going—had gone—crazy. A talking deer! He had hunted plenty of deer, but never before met one that spoke.
He lived alone, far from any neighbours, could do what he liked. He found that he liked drink and drugs, and wasn’t too bothered about sleeping. The world was drifting away from him; he was clinging on by his fingernails. To try and pull it back in, he took a drive to the country park, to embrace Nature in peace, the real world, everlasting, the foundation of All from which Man—he—had grown. And then, this deer.
He parked his pickup, took a seat at a nearby picnic table, focused his attention on the moving leaves, and let his mind wander. He would become one with the world, the real world, the world before Man. Then he heard a voice. At last! Connected to the Force! He blinked, looked around.
“Get me out of here. Free me!”
From behind a tree, a small buck regarded him. It looked tense, nervous. Well, that was reasonable; it must be hard to start a chat when you are an animal. Jack corrected himself: of course, we’re all animals, part of the vast spectrum of living things. He had meant that it must be difficult to begin a conversation when you are a lower species. Oops, maybe—better—a prey animal. But that seemed unkind.
“Can you hear me?”
“Yes,” said Jack.
“I want to be free. Help me!”
“How? Shall I take you home? Do you want to come away with me?”
“Yes! Get me out of here.”
Jack tried to understand. Maybe even a tame deer would feel trapped in a park—fenced in. And it might be nice to have some companionship at home.
A car pulled into the parking lot.
“Quiet! No more talking if you want my help. We connected; somehow I understood you. You can’t go blabbing to just anyone.”
The voice in his head didn’t reply—silence. Good!
A family climbed out of the car and wandered off into the park.
Jack dropped the tailboard of the pickup. He couldn’t drive home with a deer standing up in the back. Taking some ropes, he approached the buck, projecting a peaceful vibe. He flipped the deer over, tied its legs. It struggled. Well, maybe it hadn’t thought through how he’d get it home. Jack understood that being tied up was unpleasant. Here he was thinking like a deer! Cool! At least it was keeping quiet. He backed his truck closer and heaved the deer over the tailgate and onto the bed. He would free it from the confines of the park.
At home, the deer never spoke.
Not knowing what it wanted, Jack put a harness on it and tied it to a stake in his back yard. It would have to adjust to its new home.
Jack searched for the sweet spot again. Drink, drugs, sleeplessness. Nothing. The world drifted away from him, the buck with it, their connection broken. He spent evenings in his rocker behind his house, trying to commune, to communicate. But it never spoke.
Jack shot it, cleaned it, aged it, butchered it. It joined the great circle of life. Jack smiled at the thought, got his keys.
In the park, Jack headed for one of the park’s barbeque grills. They started here, and they would finish here; close the circle.
As the meat cooked, Jack got started drinking.
“You’re back,” came the voice.
Jack was startled. “Shut up! You’re dead!”
“No, I’m not. I’m still here. Where would I go? How could I get there?”
“Where are you? Who are you? What do you want?”
“I’m over here. I’m a Douglas fir. I already told you, the time you stole a deer, I want to be free. Get me out of here!”
Jack looked around. A tree’s branches were waving.
“Okay, okay. Let me finish this, and then I’ll sort you out.”
He ate his meat, finished his beers, and stumbled over to the pickup for his chainsaw.