For the Love of Deer

by Diane Gottlieb


In the deep, quiet woods that live behind her home, pine branches sag heavy with snow. Matchstick trees lean left in the wind, as she looks out her window with worry. What will become of the deer?
She knows little of wildlife in the woods in the back, but this winter, it won’t treat them kindly. Already her long narrow driveway bears eight inches of snow. Romantics would call that a blanket. She sees only a coffin, sealing in all signs of life.
No one could blame her.
One morning last November the driveway shone bright. Red, orange and gold swirled on tar. But by mid-afternoon, when the rain came to visit, the leaves’ promise turned deep, muddy brown. That night, the brass lanterns stood tall on the drive. Light fixtures, six to each row. They waited and waited to answer their cue, but her husband had not turned them on. Currents remained still underground.
Now, in the snow on the other side of town, commuters step off their trains. Workmen outside of their small cozy homes double check their plows are secure. Later, inside, they’ll set their alarms and wake at an ungodly hour. They’ll make good money clearing long, narrow drives before the sun lifts its head from its pillow.
What will become of the deer? she asks, as she checks the mudroom for salt. Two shovels, they stand in the corner, although she will only need one. Red plastic scoops attached to pale wood, the colors of sleds in her youth. Flexible Flyers, red blades, pale wood slats. There was a time, once, she liked snow.
But not rain. Not rain. She never liked rain. November rains fall cold and bite hard.
The driveway. It had been so cheerful that morning, singing rich red and burnt gold. How quickly a mood can turn like the weather. How quickly a car veer into a tree. An oak. A sturdy, broad trunk. Head on.
What will become of the deer?
“It’s going to be a doozey of a storm,” the forecaster’s words, while men across town sort their clothes. They lay flannel shirts on the backs of wood chairs, set out wool socks for the morning.
That last November, at around 7 P.M., her husband stepped off a train. He ran fast to his car in the heavy downpour. He hadn’t with him an umbrella. On the drive home, a strong, six-pointed buck bounded reckless onto the road.
And now there is snow. And more and more snow. Relentless. Heavy and thick. But it lightens the woods. The dark driveway too. No need for lanterns tonight. She will see tracks. Upside-down hearts. She’ll see the hoofprints of deer.



Diane Gottlieb’s essays, stories, and reviews have appeared in About Place JournalThe VIDA ReviewThe RumpusHippocampus MagazineBrevity blogand Entropy, among others. She is a nonfiction finalist in Tiferet’s 2021Writing Contest and is the 2021 Dancing in the Rain fellow at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. Diane has an MSW, an MEd, and received her MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles where she served as lead editor of creative nonfiction for Lunch Ticket. Since her acceptance for Issue 20, she has joined the Masthead of Emerge Literary Journal as the Prose/CNF Editor. You can find her at and on Twitter @DianeGotAuthor.


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