A note: This is a segment of a larger work that has been consuming my time lately. Tread lightly—though this work is fiction, it nestles in a space close to my heart.
The day after my mother died, I walked through the unclaimed property behind our house. The heavy snow was up to my ankles. I bent over and tucked the bottom of my jeans into the worn leather of my boots. The trees were completely bare and tangled in one another, their rough limbs splintering against the gray sky. The pond was frozen all the way through. I could see soft tracks of something that braved the edge of the ice. Small paws in a straight line out onto the barren white. As I walked along the edge of the pond, my eyes looked for a flash of russet fur or the stark black stockings of a fox, but the creature was long gone.
I walked for an hour without stopping, until the woods grew so dense I couldn’t walk in a straight line. Ahead, the sounds of movement drew me to quiet my breath. It was a doe with dark, dewdrop eyes. Behind her, a herd of five moved methodically between the trees—three females, one younger buck with his antlers just bursting from his forehead, and a brilliantly tined male. Their tails flicked as they moved. Their mouths scuffed across the ground as they made their way through the wet foliage.
I imagined my mother died like a green plant caught in the first frost of the year, curling in on itself gradually, then flattening. Absorbed by the rot of decomposing autumn leaves, she would become fertile again. It was all circle of life bullshit, but she would have liked that. The deer would go past, pressing their hooves gently into her earth, shifting it apart with their black noses, snorting into the winter air in ghostly tendrils.
Image credit – Nathan Lemon on Unsplash