Forest Rendez-vous

Keep shining the light, and I’ll go outside, said her mother, yell if something happens. Ariel nodded. She took the flashlight and steadied it on the baby deer—folded and cramped below. It moved slightly, craning its neck to escape the window well. The aluminum walls were not high but the newborn deer seemed too stuck and exhausted to make any progress. Ariel saw her mother now in the circle of light, carefully leaning over, trying to pull out the baby deer with her hands. She yelled up to Ariel, I’ll need a shovel. Ariel couldn’t believe she and her mom were now a team, the first time in a long while. Was she supposed to find a shovel?

In an instant her mother vanished, returning a few minutes later with a shovel wrapped in a cloth. She nudged the little deer and it began to move frantically. I’m trying to help you, baby, she said, Ariel sensing the desperation in her mother’s voice. Her mom, usually so measured and often distant, driven by an invisible force. Her mom slid the shovel under the fawn, raised it, and the its skinny new legs shot out and cleared the well’s wall. The fawn landed on the grass in a bundle. It tried again and again to stand up. Ariel heard a rustle and her mom said, shine the light around the yard. At the edge of the trees, Ariel saw the mother deer. Somehow the mother deer knew they were helping her baby and edged forward.

Ariel heard a strange noise rising up, and she shined the light on her own mother, who hid her face and sat on the damp, green lawn weeping. The air shifted—could it be more moist because her mom was crying? She couldn’t remember having seen her mother cry. Mom, are you okay, Ariel called down. Keep shining the light on the mother, Ari, she said in a muffled voice. From the porch, Ariel could see the mother deer slowly approaching her fawn and her own mother sitting motionlessly. The fawn was standing now and took a step to its mother. Ariel and her mom watched as the mother deer licked and nuzzled her fawn. The two tawny creatures began to walk together towards the trees. Ariel turned off the flashlight. The early sun was slowly spreading from the sky to the lawn.

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