Flash Fiction: Deer Struck

Blessedly far from the highway.

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.”

Memorial light show for Cecil at the Empire State Building

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.

Deer Struck

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.

12 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: Deer Struck

  1. Jeanne, thanks for your comments in the blog that so perfectly lay out the current skew and shallowness of our sympathies. One of the most troubling developments in recent years is trend in advertising that appeals to “Pet Parents”…our pets are our “children”. I want to shout, “No, our pets are our PETS!” Enough said on that.

    As for Deer Struck…you again struck me to the heart…”Help me.”

    1. Oh Twinkie, we really do see eye to eye on more than meets the eye. Coming from you, a woman who never hesitated to drag a bleeding cat into the van and who would cry over any animals pain, well, let’s just say I credit you with having a balanced view on this. I could say more but I owe you a phone call! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Dr. Doolittle comes to mind. If we could talk to the animals. Could we, would we, should we alter nature. Especially when we are the cause of some unnatural adjustments.

    Insightful write. – Thanks for stopping by my post on the prompt.

    1. Hi Jules and thanks for both your comments. Was intrigued about that first one 🙂 First this though. The idea of talking animals is intriguing indeed. Another science fiction book on my to-read list is at least one of David Brin’s Uplift series which presents the scenario of a more advanced “patron” species genetically modifying a Pre-sapient “client” species until it is sapient and can communicate. In the book i mentioned, humans have come to believe (at least the dominant Webster family) that the dogs deserve a chance given the flaws of our own species. And yes, now we can look at what many may take as “unnatural adjustments” in our own species. If you are not familiar with the transhumanist movement, google it. Those folks think we are on the verge of attaining immortality either through direct enhancements to our bodies or through uploading our consciousness to a synthetic substrate of some sort. At any rate, very good to communicate with you here and thanks for commenting. will look for you on your site and at Carrot Ranch 🙂

  3. How interesting that we had such similar thoughts, though I refrained from sharing mine in my own post. I’ll step up to my soapbox and proclaim them here. 🙂

    The Cecil the Lion popularity disturbed me on many levels. Like most, I found it a blatant disregard of life. As someone who gratefully stocks her freezer with gifts from family and friends who hunt, I do not understand any kind of hunting beyond sustenance. Trophy hunting exotic animals is so far out of the economic means of most people, I also wondered at the so-called sport’s elitism and the offender’s ability to buy his way out of trouble. But ultimately, I decided to not involve myself in the Cecil frenzy that hit social media because the frenzy itself was most disturbing. Like Goodwell Nzou, my former Kenyan pastor in Minnesota, and a Kenyan-American journalist who I know all spoke up the skewed messaging of the viral media outrage. And I watched that bizarre misplaced outrage play out in heated arguments between family and friends on Facebook. People began counter-posting memes that accused others of caring more for a lion than for a veteran (or fill in the blank___). In the height of the newsfeed frenzy, I posted a Kickstarter for a cousin whose family member was in a devastating accident and needed help. And not one of those vocal lion-supporters acted on their self-proclaimed greater compassion. It made me wonder if faced with a real-life scenario, would these people act at all? It’s so easy to voice criticism, to be an armchair judge or a smart-phone vigilante.

    And your flash conveys some of that. When we hit the deer, we didn’t want it to suffer. We were close to home so we continued. Before calling my insurance company, I called the Sheriff’s Department. They were more concerned over the deer blocking traffic, and sent a deputy. Todd quietly grabbed a rifle and drove back without speaking to me. I knew he had the resolve to do what I couldn’t do…what your flash’s character was about to do. Action is often soft-spoken, and does what is needed. Popular judgement is a clanging gong that does nothing.

    Oh, then your deer spoke! How unnerving would that be! But I have enough of an imagination to think I can understand the look in a suffering animal’s eyes and that is what I’d see — a plea. The crux is, does an animal suffer the same way I do? What is it to remove the suffering — mercy killing, or rescue? “City” sounds like a great read to discuss. Do we really know what dogs would say if they could talk? We project much onto animals, especially our pets. Sad to hear about yet another slave industry. I once gave up chocolate until I discovered Fair Trade chocolate.

    In our case, the deer was no where to be found. I’d like to think it didn’t suffer injuries beyond soreness, bruising and a new-found wariness for the black ribbon of death. Thank you for the thought-provoking post. Now get back to work! 😉

    1. So much to respond to here Charli. You voiced many of my own feeling about the various situations that fed into my post. Certainly the way Cecil died was disturbing in a way that a hunted deer’s death might not be, in that the deer (in most cases I hope) has not died in vain. I have many relatives who hunt and display the heads in their homes. The heads offend my citified sensibilities, but I eat meat and therefore feel I have less of a right to condemn the practice..at least of hunting. In Cecil’s case, the thought of the carcass rotting in the sun was disgusting, and not just for the obvious visceral reasons. As for the “viral media outrage” over Cecil or some other flamboyantly victimized or unlucky creature, yeah, people love a sensation. I too tried a kickstarter campaign for a friend in Kenya who works with a group of volunteers serving poor children cancer victims. I used to be able to rake in about 400$ from coworkers at Xmas each year, but now that I am not in the office it is harder to twist arms. I got all of two donations, totaling 50$. Wow. And this even though I have been raising money for this cause for over ten years, and had posted the most moving photographs. Still, I get it…people get overwhelmed I supposed at all the requests that social media only intensifies. Anyway, sounds like a happy ending for your deer! Thanks for the thought-provoking comments!

      1. Being raised buckaroo, we used more than the meat. I learned how to dry, scrape and cut rawhide strings which could then be braided into the reins. Mountain men and Native Americans knew how to use every part of an animal. So where did this head-mounting, trophy-hunting idea ever originate? It feels far removed from the roots of survival and sustenance. Many people around here use antler sheds to decorate with, but not heads. Kate had a terrific head mounted: a stuffed animal. It was a statement piece!

        As to your fundraiser, that is a sad social commentary and only makes me believe people will shout over sensational news but snooze through any call to help others. Keep twisting arms, nonetheless. It reminds me of Mothers Teresa’s call to “do it anyways.” A thought-provoking post!

        1. Very impressive your education in the arts of the frontier Charli! Why am I not surprised? The head mounting thing must have deep roots and I expect the ritual has “religious” or spiritual meaning. On a related theme, if you get a chance, take a look at the current issue of National Geographic, (cover story on the Pope). Great article on the tradition on taxidermy, which before photography and film provided a real educational service. It includes an outrageous two-page photo spread on a Dallas couple surrounded by dozens of their stuffed and mounted creatures-a macabre display indeed considering the sensibilities that have been inflamed. (Was thinking how awesome–or depending on your viewpoint–catastrophic the timing was on that, considering that the dentist in the Cecil affair has had to go into hiding. And yes, on your other point, we’ve got to do what needs to be done regardless of the headline value… Thanks for carrying on the conversation!

          1. I learned some old arts that seem rather outdated! 🙂 If I was better at braiding I could make them, but I only mastered two braids. Thanks for the head’s up on the National Geographic article. Todd’s great grandmother was a taxidermist and she stuffed most of the collection at the Carson City Museum. His Dad remembers how macabre her house was! She learned it from her brother Vernon Bailey who learned it in order to key western regions for the USGS, the Smithsonian and National Geographic, of all things!

  4. Great description. I could see her leap and the moon eye said it all. I am always staggered that carrying guns around in cars is not unusual in the States. Glad it didn’t get the bullet.
    Yes I agree re Cecil the lion and our lack of similar outrage at the conditions suffered by so many in Africa due to both conflict and poverty. I think that people feel they can’t deal with the overwhelming numbers of humans and don’t know how they can alleviate their suffering whereas one animal can symbolise all the horror they feel in a way they can cope with and may have some effect.

    1. You are very kind in your comment. I am waiting for a real country dweller to point out that one probably wouldn’t take in all that detail in a real situation. I think Charli referred to that in her post. It is probably more a blur followed by a big thud. But I did have that image in my head. As regards the AFrica and other business, you make a great point, too, Irene, that it is the sheer magnitude of the problems in our world that defeats us from the outset.And it wasn’t just the death of Cecil but the whole practice of killing for sport that has enraged so many. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

  5. I like that you have shared the comments of the Zimbabwean bio-scientist re skewed values. I often think of similar things myself. Sometimes it seems we place too much value upon life, and other times not enough. Cecil was a celebrity and so hits the headlines. The desperate lives of millions of people gain little attention. It’s a strange world we live in.
    Your flash is interesting. How to treat an animal humanely is always difficult. Well done on throwing out a challenge to our thinking.

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