The deer’s eyes were staring at me. He was hanging upside down from the big tree outside, the big hunting sacrificial tree. If I turned my head upside down I could see him more clearly. It was easier looking at them when they hadn’t been gutted yet. His throat was slit, a clean cut, and the blood was dripping into a big bucket so it wouldn’t run over the dusty gravel of the driveway. I suppose even though a deer was hanging by a rope from a tree in the front yard in town was less odd than having blood running down the smokey dust filled stones to the ditch.
This was not the first deer that hung on the sacrificial tree. He wasn’t even our deer, as we were not hunters and we would not feast on this deer… just as we had not feasted on the deer before him. His horns were not so mature as others I had seen hanging there. A buck he was, but young. Sometimes on rare occasion I would see a doe hang from that tree, but that was taboo and bad for the hunters.
I looked into the deer’s eyes, this young buck, his tongue lopping out from the side of his mouth unknowingly. I told him, while he hung outside my window, that I was quite alone and thank you for the company. He was quite incapable of nodding but I knew somewhere he understood. This dead buck hanging on the sacrificial tree understood more so than the hunters and the rest of their modern tribe.
The buck understood because he was hanging outside of my window on the sacrificial tree waiting to be gutted in the morning. You could tell he was still surprised, as dead as he was, from his eyes that were wide open and awake. I didn’t know the song to let his spirit fly back to the earth, though I had seen there were songs like that on the T.V. I was filled with regret at not knowing one. So I sat there, with my dead hanging companion, and I told him not to be afraid when the men came with their sticks to poke at him or their knives to skin him. I would watch it to the end, when they wrestled him back off the tree to the truck to butcher. And I would ask my grandfather, who was the eldest of the hunters and who must have caught this young buck, for a piece of the jerky they would make of him. And so I told the deer that that way he was never forgotten.
The deer hung there by my window with his eyes wide open, his tongue puffed and falling, swinging idly by in the wind. And he sat with me as my Father left and as my Mother screamed and he sat with me and listened. The dead could hear me, as far as I understood on that night, and I slept by my window near the mornings sacrificial deer. I slept there and dreamed the dreams of the dead.
In the morning the Water Tower would crack and when the water rushed in small stream-lets to our driveway, the hunters began their dance around the buck. And I watched…. and I waited.