Headed home


Desperate clouds of exhalation from the creature were the only suggestions that life remained within at all. White puffs of chalk dumped and expanded on cold asphalt. The deer, beautiful, young and strong and like no animal I had seen before, was crouched in the center of bright orange bulbs of light. Stale and weak in the cold, the joyous king laid in between two times – the forest at his back and the fields and the hills at his head. White puffs of chalk again.

I looked at my wife and saw in her fear for this animal. She bit her lip, fingers tightening around the door. Her fair skin stood out in the darkness as she went.

Its head turned neither toward my headlights in surprise nor away from them in despair. Deep and black, endless it seemed, his eyes were somewhere distant, somewhere I could not see. Searching for a fleece in the backseat and finding the door handle, my hands worked on their own. My eyes never shifted – white puffs of chalk again.

– Honey. I said, fleece around my shoulders. The voice echoing from my chest was one that I did not know, one which I would not have said belonged to me at all.

I watched as she touched her white hand to the creature’s back. Like a sole spot of moonlight pooling through a window, changing with the waning night, her hand moved, weightless with care, down the animal’s tense spine.

The air was cold with silence. My wife, the deer, and I, surrounded by fog. It pushed over the hills to our left, it swam through the trees to our right.

Amid the quiet, white puffs of chalk poured from the deer’s nostrils, swirling in the stillness of the air. My own breath rose before my face.

Buckled legs straightened. A graceful and long back arched, coiling and extending, turning and rising into a large and beautiful creature. My wife’s hand, previously still on the animal’s back, settled to her side.

– Ready? I said. I was cold. The wind was cracking at dead trees and nipping at my ears. It served only to make my want for the warmth of the car stronger.

For an instant, my wife was mesmerized. The eyes of the deer, deep and black and endless, had met her own. They met together, gazes entwining, for a short time before the deer turned away. Trotting, running, and bounding, it’s shadow blended into the night. Over the stone fence and through the field, the deer’s structure drained out into the fog.

I walked to my wife and put the fleece around her shoulders. She was colder than I.

The headlights shone brightly into our eyes as we walked back to the car, our hands clasped as one. Warmth padded every inch of our skin as we buckled our seat belts again, and as I started the engine once more I felt lighter. I looked at my wife, and ease in her smile said that she felt the same. We – both the deer and my wife and I – were headed home.


Two Old Men


“And that is precisely what I’ve been saying for years!” said the man with the beard. “What a wonderful connection!” His voice was warm as the corners of his eyes curled with appreciation.

There was a silence after he spoke, one which at first was heavy, made comfortable with the resounding gladness of his voice. Time passed coldly. The comfort between the two men, as the wrinkles at the corners of the bearded man’s eyes, seemed to fade away.

Lips near shrouded by wiry grey beard scowled. His glance shifted out the window, away from me. I could not see on what his eyes laid.

For the first time since I sat down, the smaller man spoke.

“And it is a shame. I know that it is, believe me. To celebrate what we have within the walls or to tear them down altogether is something many people fail to truly recognize as an issue which must be addressed. And I see the value in both sides, I really do.” The younger man paused, moving his drink he held in both hands to his mouth. “But my heart tells me that you’re right, I think. If we are to lift ourselves out of these bogs of society – hostility and difference – we must reach, with open, outstretched hands, to the other side of our walls.” His voice was worn. His intonations were not new. He had said this many times, in many coffee shops before.

The bearded man had not moved. It was as if he had not heard the smaller man at all. The smaller man’s words had dissolved, like the warmth of February breath, before they ever had the chance to pad the bearded man’s ears.

A heartfelt suspiration.

Unscrew the locks from their doors …..

Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs…. 

There was a shared sobriety between the two men. The smaller man’s eyes looked away from me now: somehow I had not noticed the change. His eyes took in the same portrait as the glance of the bearded man – an airy and unobtainable scene, somewhere 1000 miles away.

Before the third bite of my muffin, the two men stood up and left, their eyes still fogged by what they had both seen.

I watched them go. The smaller man waited for the bearded man to go first, and the bearded man held the door for the smaller man as the exited. They stepped out onto the sidewalk together. I watched them for as long as I could, but as people with more immediate things to do than listen to old men squabble enveloped them, I could follow their path no longer.

The bearded man and the smaller man were swallowed up – a pale end to a means in a heedless world.