The Way of all Flesh

March 13, 2014

It lay below my driveway yesterday at sunset.

I had stepped out of the house, heading for the garage, when I suddenly got the sensation that something was behind me and was going to be attacked. I dropped to my knees and ducked. And felt so much rushing air above me: the enormous dark wings of seven turkey vultures, just as startled as I was, leaping into the air from my roof, and more vultures rose from the ground below me, all with naked, red heads, from off the torn carcass of one of my girl deer. Her head was pulled back, her slack tongue hanging from her mouth, and her eyes seemed to stare at me. Behind the house, toward the west woods came a hail of gunfire. Were the events connected?

A Madison County sheriff came to call this morning. He is an avid hunter. He walked to the carcass of my deer and lifted her front and back legs and rolled her over, looking for wounds. She had been shot. On Sunday, she and her sister stood below my office window and foraged through the tufts of grass. Now she was dead, born in the autumn, and will never know a summer.

Over the winter I found three crossbow arrows—bolts—stuck in the frozen back yard, having been fired from my west hill. The shooter or shooters hadn’t had the courage to trespass and retrieve the bolts. I know the perps—a group of local boys who drive four wheelers across my land, drink beer and throw the bottles down the hill. So now I have to decide whether or not I’m Gary Cooper. The macho among you need not respond how you would wreak revenge, get justice. I am not Gary Cooper. I will not go to jail for shooting stupid twenty-somethings. A Department of Natural Resources officer is coming to investigate. No more leaving my west windows open to the night.

‘Last night I had the strangest dream.’ I was in a warehouse or some large building, in the dark. I and hundreds of people were lying on the concrete floor. We lay flat and whispered to one another. There were human predators, about to enter the room and cull our herd. Four of them, carrying torches and bayonets, walked in, stepping on our bodies, looking for a suitable sacrifice. One of them picked up a young girl by the legs, her mother moaning on the floor but surrendering to the inevitable, the girl’s screaming—her high-pitched wail sounding like a wounded deer—cut short by her head being lopped off.

I awoke and went to the bathroom, careful to do my business in the dark, afraid to turn on the lights because the house was surrounded by the predators. I was terrified. I crept back to bed, afraid to go back to sleep. I heard noise coming from the porch. I wept. I was aware I was dreaming and I wanted out.

I awoke and went to the bathroom. It was five in the morning. This time I peed for real and went back to bed. I couldn’t go back to sleep, for fear the dream would return. This morning, I walked down the hill to my deer, waiting for the deputy sheriff. Coyotes had been there, and crows, and the smell of death, the putrid gag of it, permeated the air.

Animism. I practice it. I talk to animals and the spirits of Indians, fellow Animists long turned to ghosts. Is some death senseless and some in the order of things? I eat but a little meat, but I eat meat so this is not a piece about hunting. This is about the abject cruelty of human beings. My deer wasn’t going to live a long life. But she was going.

And now she’s not.

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