first deer

I had always known I’d kill a deer with my own hands and eat it too, if that became necessary. That’s the kind of vegetarian I was…”


by laine perry



The first time I saw a deer my dad was in the middle of a swerve on an island road. He missed it. I saw the cotton tail disappear off to the side of the road, the deer taking cover in the forest of trees. The second deer I saw was stripped naked and hung upside down in my Uncle’s garage. I didn’t eat meat. I tasted some of my Aunt’s venison stew anyway, because I was curious to know what exactly had become of that deer. It was a bad taste. It tasted sharp and acrid and dirty. I had always known I’d kill a deer with my own hands and eat it too, if that became necessary. That’s the kind of vegetarian I was. I didn’t want to eat meat so I didn’t. There were plenty of options so I took them. Later on when I married a mid westerner who was coming down with a severe case of alcoholism I found myself in Iowa where I almost met my third deer. Lou was a hunter, and proud of his skills. He reminisced frequently about his teenage years when he had hunted often with his best friend Dave on the family’s farm. I kept telling him to go, asking him if that wasn’t the very reason we moved back to the Midwest? I knew Dave lived on that same farm running it as his own. One afternoon Lou came back filthy drunk. He was smiling like a ghoul. My jeep was covered with mud. “I got a deer,” he said proudly. “Where is it?” I asked, not really believing him capable of standing up straight long enough to aim at anything on the move. I looked in the garage, and around the back of the house. I even looked inside the jeep fearing the worst. Lou just stood there glassy-eyed, wavering. “It’s still out there,” he managed. “What in the hell do you mean Lou?” “I haven’t gotten it down yet. I’m going back,” he said. “Why?” I asked. Lou didn’t really have any idea of what to say. “Where is it?” I asked. “Dave’s acreage,” he said. “It’s fine,” he said. “Why would you do that?” I asked but it was like asking a one year old why he peed his pants. He never went to get that deer. I sometimes think of it hanging there in the trees waiting to be spent in some reasonable way. I picture the deer sighing as I sigh, wishing that Lou would behave as a reasonable person. We are both still waiting. It’s only Lou who’s moved on.

Originally published:
Issue Fifty-Three
November 2008


Laine Perry grew up on the road with her mom, making music and telling stories. Many more of these stories from Laine can be found in the Vault of Smoke.

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