So I said to the deer, in my backyard, “You OK?”
It was only a courtesy, on my part. She looked entirely OK to me. Like all the other deer who frequent my backyard. Well fed. They eat the hostas in my garden. There seem to be enough hostas in my garden to supply the entire outer Linebrook deer population on an annual basis. The hostas keep coming up, the deer keep eating them, and I have yet to find a deer dead of malnutrition in my backyard.
This deer seemed comfortable. Not nervous at all. I think they know by now that I won’t take action against them, even though they don’t legally have any claim to my property. (At one point I tried to take a doe to court to share a portion of my tax burden, but her clever lawyer used that weepy “Bambi defense,” and I didn’t have a chance with the jury.)
So I tried to be casual, and friendly, to this deer. She was lounging at my backyard pub table, under my umbrella. Sitting on one of my bar stools, with one of her hooves propped up on the next stool. Her fat, hosta-stuffed belly was protruding unpleasantly. But was I going to comment on this? No. I’m trying to be a good neighbor.
“You OK?” I asked her.
She looked at me with that look. You know, that look that deer give you. I don’t mean that “deer in the headlights” look, because this was about 5 p.m. so it wasn’t even dark. No. She was giving me that other look. It’s the look that deer give you when you encounter them in broad daylight. They sort of lower their eyelids and seem to give you a sneer. They look at you as if to say, “What are you doing here? You’re a nuisance. Your very presence forces me to put my annoying hair-trigger nervous system on alert. Why don’t you just go away?”
You know this look. If you have a teenage daughter, you certainly know this look.
“You OK?” I asked the deer.
She leaned back sullenly on the bar stool, tapping her cigarette into an ashtray on my pub table.
“Don’t like that sign,” she muttered.
“What sign?” I asked.
She cocked her head toward Lillian Drive.
“Deer Crossing,” she rasped, and took a drag on her Virginia Slim.
I know the sign well. Yellow, diamond-shaped. Silhouette of a deer jumping across Linebrook Road.
“You have a problem with the sign?” I asked her.
She sighed heavily and took another swig of her Budweiser.
“I don’t like where they make us cross,” she finally grumbled.
I didn’t know what to say.
“Why do you think cars keep hitting deer?” she demanded. “Because they make us cross at the worst possible places.” She crushed her butt. “I’ve lost three cousins on Linebrook Road alone. Every one of them was crossing legally, right at the sign.”
She looked away.
I took a breath. “I think they put the signs up where the deer want to cross,” I ventured weakly.
The doe snorted. “Sure they do,” she grunted. “You think I don’t want to cross at the light? But no. Ipswich has me crossing in the kill zone. Thanks.” She drained her Bud. “Thanks a lot.”
“This town is hell for deer,” she murmured.
She swung her leg down and stood up from the chair. “Gotta go,” she said, heading toward the road without looking back. “Rush hour. Wish me luck.”