Death in the pre-afternoonPosted: Friday, November 27, 2009
My own Black Friday tragedy didn’t include the trampling of a 270-pound temporary worker at a Long Island Wal-Mart, or the more pedestrian fist-fights among shoppers looking for a $10 DVD player or whatever. Shit, I didn’t even need to heed Gawker’s advice. Instead, it included the mauling of a female deer on a winding rural road in the wilds of Vermont as we celebrated our New England country Thanksgiving with relatives and friends. But what the hell, I got two pair of khakis and a pair of dungarees at Old Navy. So I got that going for me. Which is nice.
On our way to partake in the annual American retail orgy that is the day after Thanksgiving, I hit a deer with our Pontiac station wagon. Mrs. Icepick and Icepick Junior, passengers in the car, were fine — Junior, blissfully unaware of the deer now convulsing eight feet in front of our car, asked, “Why did that kitty run in front of the car?” before falling asleep for his afternoon nap.
The deer lay in the middle of the road, practically nesting, while I and a Good Samaritan (a local and a kind man, who pulled over in his pickup truck 30 seconds after the accident and who nonetheless had the look of a man who had seen this before and was somewhat disappointed that this suburban-cum-city-slicker with New York plates had run into the regional wildlife) stood within feet of the shocked-bit-still-breathing animal. She just lay there, as I was on the phone with 911, wondering if the police would come along and put two bullets in its head to end its misery. I’ve seen that done before, in an accident to which I merely witnessed the aftermath. That deer was prone on the shoulder when a man in a vehicle screetched to a halt nearby and hopped out of his car. I remember feeling like it was something out of a Soviet-era assassination as the man walked briskly up to the recently-struck deer before pulling a pistol from behind his waistband, and shooting it once in the head. The deer bucked wildly and tried to get up, jerking its upper body up and down five times, at least, nearly getting to its feet. The man fired again, finishing it off.
This time, I was the cause of the animal’s pain. In the last 15 years, I am ashamed to admit that I twice ran over cats darting into the road. Both times I got out of the car. I remember stroking the fur of the first cat, as she lay dead, one eye open, on the side of the road. I took down the phone number on the tag on its collar, and I remember calling its owner 30 minutes later from home (this, in the days before cell phones) to tell her that Tween the cat was dead. She said something like “oh no,” thanking me, and hanging up. The second time, a patrolman came up not too long after the accident, and he told me it was my responsibility to knock on doors at nearby homes. I found the owner on the first try, and he was amazingly understanding, said it wasn’t the first cat he lost, particularly since he lived within 100 feet of a 45-mph two-land wooded road. I apologized and felt like a shit. That was a week after we brought home our current loving kitten (who was a sweetheart in her first year, really, before becoming Publisher Cat).
Suddenly, while I was on my cell phone speaking with the local police agency on the wooded road in Vermont, the deer stood up, its left eye bloodshot. She just stood there, wide-strided, staring into the woods. Then it ran, limping down the center double-yellow line as I spoke to the cop and gave him the play-by-play unfolding in front of us. She ran off, on three good legs (the fourth appeared to be broken) across someone’s front lawn and into the woods.
I finished up my phone call, said my good-bye to the Samaritan, and got into the Pontiac. Though I couldn’t open the driver’s side door, the car was completely drive-able — even the headlight worked, th0ugh the glass covering was shattered — and we headed off to meet up with my parents for the remained of our day. It was a few minutes before noon.
The worst and most selfish part about the whole experience today is that I didn’t feel a lick bad about it until driving back to my sister’s Vermont home, 7½ hours later. I felt bad about the accident, and about my son and wife seeing a deer in distress, and the car, and having to pay the deductible, and having to be late to meet my parents before shopping, and about needing to take time on the coming Monday to deal with the insurance appraiser, and having to put my wife into a rental car (it’s the car she drives for her commute).
But at the time I felt not a lick bad about maiming a living mammal, perhaps a mama deer, surely subjecting to her to a death to a predator or internal bleeding as I shopped later that afternoon looking for a good cup of coffee and a deal on a blazer for work. Has my boastful cynicism simply desensitized me to the world? Have I lost my humanity? Something that I felt vaguely, minimally, bad about, but damn, now I got me something to exploit and write about in The Blog after two non-productive months? Or was it just a thing that happened? Something that happens countless times on countless country roads? Well, at least I got my khakis.