I had a relationship with a dying animal once. It was late. I was 17- or 18-years old, driving home from a friend’s house. Because he lived in the foothills of Stevens Creek, the road was narrow and winding in places. There were a few straightaways. I was accelerating on one of them. Up ahead beyond a rise, a nimbus of headlights grew brighter. Suddenly the lights dimmed, their intensity cut by half. The car crested and giddily swerved past me. A headlight was smashed. The car disappeared in my rear view mirror. In the middle of the road, lay a large writhing something. I stopped and turned my high beams on. A deer desperately struggled to stand and run. But its back legs weren’t working. A paraplegic with too much weight to bear. I lowered my lights and aimed my left tire over the deer’s head. I gassed the car forward but lurched to a stop. My foot was hard on the brake. I couldn’t do it, like a patient unable to set his own broken bone. I got out of the truck and moved slowly toward the deer. He smelled of fear and confusion. Again he tried to rise. His hooves struck the asphalt; his tongue licked at the stars as if straining with every muscle to get up. At last he lay down, gasping. His breath was white on the air. Blood bubbled from his nose and pooled on the road. I knelt beside him and put my hand on his rib cage. His chest rose and fell, erratic at first, then shallow and finally nothing at all. His eye was upturned to the moon. I looked into it. There, embossed on a sightless black marble, was my silhouette, wavering.
last rites in the middle of the road