J. G. McClure
[dropcap]G[/dropcap]lass. Glass and blood not his own. His own mistake—the drinks, the brakes too late. Too late for the deer sprawled in the dark, slick road. Slick roads, he thought, it’s these slick fucking roads. Not the drinks. The man stood in the road and watched the woman watch the deer.
“It’s dead,” she said.
Christ, did she think he was a kid? He knew damn well when a deer was dead. He thought of gunpowder, the crumpled stag. The smell of bourbon and his father calling him a “damn good shot, son, a real damn good shot.”
“Oh god it’s moving,” she said.
The legs were twitching now, sharp but rhythmic jerks—a dog dreaming of running. Each kick spread flecks of blood. “Do something,” she said.
Why didn’t he carry a knife? When they’d shot that stag his dad had slit its throat. “That’s mercy,” he’d said, wiping the blood from his hands. The man got back in the car. The engine sputtered, hacked, at last turned over. The woman stood in the headlights.
“Get out of the way,” he said.
“The car’s already fucked.”
“You’re not going to hit it again.”
“What am I supposed to do?”
Glass crunched beneath the tires as he backed up, shifted gears and floored the pedal. When it was done, the woman got in the passenger seat. The man sat in the grass, looking away from the mangled deer. He was shaking now. What he needed was a drink.
Though neither the man nor the woman could see it, what happened next was the ghost of the deer rose up from its body. It walked around the car, paused, looked at its own corpse in mute wonder. At last it spoke (the ghosts of deer can speak) and uttered the blackest curses known to deer.
It shouted in the man’s ear, damned him to a life of misery, of longings never to be quenched. To watch his every joy crushed beneath the weight of more desire. To want and want and be drunk on wanting, to know at last that nothing, nothing could ever be enough. One day the man will drive his car into a garage and leave the motor running.
All this the deer foretells. What the man hears is wind in the trees, the steaming engine, this living heart still pounding.
J. G. McClure received an MFA from the University of California-Irvine: My poems and prose appear in Best New Poets 2015, Gettysburg Review, Green Mountains Review, and The Pinch, among others. I am the Craft Essay Editor and Assistant Poetry Editor of Cleaver, and am at work on my first collection.