The deer keep coming. They bend their legs and knuckle down onto the grass, the dirt and even the bottom of the porch steps. One of them sits atop the picnic table with its front legs hanging off the side and another one sits awkwardly on a patio chair. All across the yard, bucks and does and fawn are curled up against one another.
We try to shoo them away, but they don’t budge. We wave our arms at them, but they don’t blink or flinch. I pet them until my hands smell like wet dog.
“We gotta do something,” he says.
“Do what?” I ask.
Ben tries again to shoo them again. “Get,” he says. He runs at one and jumps over it when it doesn’t move.
It looks at me and then back at the house.
Ben brings home a shotgun.
“No,” I say.
He takes the gun into his room. His room.
“The whole rest of the house is yours,” he once told me. “With your stuff in it. Can’t I have my room?”
“Why a secret room?” I asked. “Why drawers I can’t go through and cabinets with locks on them? Why boxes taped shut, piled in the closet?
“My room,” he said.
The next day every deer in the backyard is dead. Bullet holes and blood caked in fur. Some are sitting upright and some are slumped over. One has fallen into a tree so its antlers pierce the trunk. Its back is bowed up, almost like a camel’s hump and its rear is beneath its shoulders. The posture, strangely humanoid. I look out into the backyard and I get the feeling of waiting. The feeling of not yet.
I can’t clean the carcasses up myself. No way to do it. I call the county but they tell me it’s a hunter’s job. They question me, asking how many dead deer there are. They ask if I know the regulations in this county.
I hang up.
When Ben gets home from work, I ask him to move them. “Drag them away,” I say. “At least into the woods.”
“No,” he says.
“You killed them,” I say.
“No,” he says.
I go out back and sit between the largest buck and a couple fawns. I lean forward, trying to mimic the angle from which they view the house.
The next day there are more deer, sitting beside the dead deer and on top of them. They face our house, watching.
Ben watches television. A fishing show. Some man in camouflage holds up a fish he caught. It squirms and water drips down the man’s arm. He smiles and holds the fish up higher, further from his face.
A commercial comes on and Ben turns and says, “They wouldn’t be hard to butcher.”
I look out the kitchen window at the deer, dead and alive, all staring at our house.
I can’t sleep. I get up every twenty minutes and shine a flashlight into the backyard. Their eyes shine back at me. One sits at the bottom of the steps. Its antlers are close enough to touch. I read that antlers are bones that die and are shed at the end of each mating season. By the next season the deer will grow a new set of antlers that will soon be dead bone and also shed.
Somehow the deer get into our house. I don’t know how. Maybe they ran up the back stairs. Maybe the backdoor was open. Somehow they get in and they come into our bedroom and watch us sleep. I wake, but I don’t
move. They look over me, at Ben. They drag him off the bed, pulling him with their mouths. Whatever part of him they can grasp. His clothes, his hair, the loose skin on his arms.
“Help,” he says, but I don’t move. I lie under the covers and watch them drag him out the bedroom and down the hall until I can’t see him. I hear him yelling and I hear hooves sliding across the kitchen tile.
I wake and get out of bed, careful not to disturb Ben who is still sleeping, not torn apart by deer. Not disrupted at all. I pull on a robe and go outside.
“Hello,” I say.
The deer don’t move.
“He’ll shoot you too.”
They don’t even blink.
“Plans to butcher you. And eat you. Grind you up for chili and spaghetti and burgers.”
I try to shoo them again.
The yard is quiet. Not a rustle, no sound of breath, no gurgling of stomachs.
I pick up the smallest fawn I can find. It’s heavier than I thought. I lean back and try to position some of its weight on my hip. I look around to see if I’ve disturbed any of the others but I haven’t. They’re all staring at the house.
I climb the stairs, set the deer down and pull open the door. I drag the deer across the threshold. It tries to lean back, bear its weight away from me, but I am stronger than a fawn. I am stronger than a fawn.