Last winter, my family had an encounter with a great big antlery buck standing in the middle of the road when driving home from Pat and Angie's house on a dark and snowy night. This must be the Year of the Deer for us because the girls and I made the acquaintance of a fleet-footed doe when we were driving to the optometrist's office the other day.
Fortunately, when I say "made the acquaintance of" I do NOT mean "ran into her so that her sharp hooves crashed through the windshield and severed my head." Living in Indiana, where the deer spend the summers gorging themselves on all the corn and greet the crisp fall days with a gleam in the eye and an excess of sexual energy, you hear ALL KINDS of gruesome stories about deer hooves cutting people's heads off and deer antlers goring people through the stomach so that their intestines fall out all over County Road 250 North, which was not a very nice thing for it to do because all the person was doing was checking to see if the deer was really dead after it callously maimed the front quarter panel of the person's car.
Good times. Gooooood times.
So anyway, we're driving to New Castle to pick up Aisling's new glasses. I was behind the wheel because it was a rainy afternoon for one thing, and for another thing, Meelyn was studying history. We were rolling along down the hill that leads into my home town when my peripheral vision picked up movement to my left. I cast a glance in that direction and noted that a fat doe was keeping pace with the van, bounding along in a manner that suggested that she was running late for an appointment of her own.
Uneasily, I mentally went through all the facts I know about deer:
1. I do not like it when I eat sloppy joes at someone's house and after I have polished off my sandwich, they say smugly to me, "Hey, that sloppy joe was made out of VENISON. Good, wasn't it?"
2. Before the deer become sloppy joes (or chili, or jerky, or summer sausage or whatever), if you see one deer running alongside your van, you can pretty much count on seeing about a hundred others. And you should do some split-second planning on how best to keep your head on your shoulders and your intestines neatly packaged where God put them.
3. Deer are an awful nuisance and yeah, they're pretty and all naturey and everything, but they will sneak into your yard at night and eat EVERY SINGLE BEDDING PLANT you set out after spending more money than you should have at the nursery.
It was too late in the year for annuals and this deer definitely was not sandwich material -- yet -- so I began looking quickly around for all the deer's girlfriends, who were probably getting ready to run across the road in front of the van. I started to slow down, and it was raining pretty hard and the one deer I could see decided not to wait for her friends after all; she suddenly cut to her right, which took her right in front of us.
"HOLY CRAP ON A CRACKER!!!" I yelled. Which, I think I should get a medal for that, you know? To not blurt out a vulgar word in a moment of such stress shows the sterling nature of my character in a way that you might not instantly perceive if you happened upon me two seconds after I stubbed my big toe on the leg of the bed.
In that brief moment when the deer was in front of the van, I met eyes with her and darned if she wasn't saying "HOLY CRAP ON A CRACKER!!!" herself. I could tell. Her eyes were wide and her ears were straight up and she didn't look like she was much interested in severing my head or spilling my intestines; she looked like she wanted nothing more than to get safely across the road and into the field of corn to my right, where she could slump down to the ground and demand that someone bring her a cup of coffee with a healing splash of Johnnie Walker in it, or maybe just some moonshine.
The van was kind of fish-tailing and the deer was kind of darting and leaping and I had a white-knuckled grip on the wheel and the rain was not making things any easier. It all seemed to be happening in slow motion.
"Look, Mom! A deer!" Aisling squealed from behind me.
"MOMMY, DON'T HURT IT AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!" Meelyn shrieked.
"I SEE IT! I'M TRYING NOT TO!" I bellowed, swinging the steering wheel wildly from side to side like Captain Ahab on the deck of the Pequod. I felt like I'd been trying to miss that deer for at least three hours.
Suddenly, it was over. The deer lunged into the cover of the cornfield. The van juddered to a halt. I attempted to unclench my hands from the wheel, finger by finger, and congratulated myself on my mad skills in Extreme Defensive Driving. The girls chattered excitedly about seeing a deer -- a real! live! deer! -- up close and personal.
Suddenly Aisling said, "Mom, can I have your phone?"
I picked it up from the seat next to me, noting that my hand seemed fairly steady, and handed it back to her. "Why?" I asked as she took it from my hand and flipped it open.
"I want to call Daddy and tell him how close you came to wrecking the van!"
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