I’ve got my excuses for not blogging more. The fallback one is the book I am rewriting for a client. Still, I know it’s a sham and that all those sentences running through my head should be finding their way to the screen (or the page.) So it is always a good stimulus to get Charli’s flash fiction challenge.
This week’s challenge comes from Charli’s surprise meeting with a deer on a highway in her home country of Idaho. In 99 words, (no more, no less), Charli’s stable of rough writers must tackle the premise: “I ran over a deer (or other animal) and have decided to nurse it back to health.” Not that, apparently, writing about hitting a deer is all that novel. Seems that Charli saw a piece in the Tahoma Literary Review bemoaning the popularity of the theme as a vehicle to play with metaphor: “The idea here (and it’s not a bad one) is to create a metaphor for the protagonist’s desire to rescue his/her life by rescuing another’s.”
I’ll admit that the challenge did not immediately suggest the metaphor of rescuing a wild animal to me. Probably because of the novel I have been slogging through since before I went to San Francisco at the end of July (not that this fascinating book doesn’t deserve better than a slog). That novel, a science fiction classic titled City by Charles Simak, chronicles the ten thousand-year demise of man and the rise of both robots and “Doggish” culture. Against the backdrop of the human abandonment of earth for an evolved existence on Jupiter—and the more hopeful if flawed adoption of a Martian “Peaceable Kingdom” philosophy of brotherhood among beasts—the now dominant Dogs, taught to speak by the last reigning family of Websters, inherit an earth where the ancient blood instinct has been not quenched but stoppered. I won’t reveal what happens (only watch out for the ants!) It’s that bit about dogs being able to talk that dovetailed with Charli’s flash fiction challenge.
That wasn’t the only thing going through my mind though. Like millions of people around the world, I felt my hackles rise over the “murder” of the “beloved” Cecil the Lion. My outrage was mitigated by a counterbalancing op ed piece by Goodwell Nzou, a Zimbabwean doctoral student in biosciences, questioning the skewed values that would place such a disproportionate weight on the death of a dangerous animal, one that for Zimbabweans represents terror and untimely death, not an anthropomorphized, Disneyfied mascot. And this in the face of near total indifference not only to villagers killed or left hungry by wild animals but also by political violence or hunger. Nzou observes: “We Zimbabweans are left shaking our heads, wondering why Americans care more about African animals than about African people.”
The issues raised by this incident require more than a blog post but I think Americans, with our billion dollar pet industry, do need to get more perspective on these issues. We bemoan the fate of one star wildling but, as a recent New York Times article reveals, support with our dollars a booming sea slave trade on high seas fishing boats that trawl the sea bottom for cheap fish to convert into food for pets and livestock.
So, back to the deer. With these threads weaving through my mind this week, I set out to write one simple, little flash fiction piece for Charli’s challenge. Having a number of rural cousins for whom a deer in the road is an ever-present hazard, the scene came easily to mind.Thanks Charli. Here’s my flash.
The deer leaped from the hillside, forelegs outstretched, real pretty, like wheat in the setting prairie sun. The near eye gleamed big as the moon. Then I slammed into her.
Goddammit, I thought, third one this year. I grabbed my old Winchester and kicked the door open.
She was lying on the highway, a gash in her hind haunch, one leg snapped like a dead branch. Not too heavy, I reckoned. Ought to get her loaded up all right.
I aimed, then lowered the gun. That moon eye was looking at me all steady like.
“Help me,” she said.