Jesse Jarnow

the animals i saw, no. 4

(Short fiction in shorter increments.)

The Animals I Saw: no. 1, no. 2, no. 3, no. 4, no. 5, no. 6, no. 7, no. 8, no. 9, no. 10

If the deer saw our house come unmoored, they may not have understood what was happening. The deer were dumb, Melch said. At least once every spring, when he resumed his contracting work, he’d have to remove a dead one from a swimming pool. “Why these assholes need pools by a lake,” he shrugged with contempt, not bothering to finish the thought.

My father had brought my older brother and me out into the lake on an inflatable raft several times that last summer, the only season I can recall. We rowed what seemed some ways from the shore. It was probably August. I would skim my palm over the water as we moved, as weightless as the sunlight itself. Once, my father held my legs and let me plunge into the lake. To my surprise, the sun-warmed surface gave way instantly to impenetrable cold, and I came up sputtering.

In my two weeks back, I’d not yet swum. I’d seen plenty of deer, however. They did not seem as dumb as Melch suggested. During the days after the summer residents left, I saw the deer meticulously picking through spilled trash, the stray cats hovering in a scattered perimeter for leftover leftovers. The cats, however, might’ve known better what was happening. Hopefully, none of them were hiding in the house when the hurricane hit.