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 For a while, Emma and Jason sit on the stairs with their arms around each other, petting Luna, staring
at the doe and her reddish-brown fawn. The mother’s soft mews and grunts are the only sounds. Even Luna is quiet. The deer are never completely still—lots of nuzzling, licking, shifting of weights, and nose-caress- ing. It is all silently elegant and achingly familiar.
“How will we get them to leave?” Jason asks.
“I have no idea,” Emma says, “but at least let’s give them a better chance.” Holding her breath, she tiptoes into the living room, opens the door wide, and tiptoes back.
Emma goes to the kitchen and looks up the phone number of the Maine State Game Warden’s Office. After she is put on hold, a man introducing himself
as Sergeant Stephen Morgan answers, and listens to Emma’s story.
“Close all the interior doors,” the warden directs. “Leave one exterior door open and move anything that’s between the deer and the door. Maybe leave the house for an hour or so. They’ll leave on their own.” His advice makes perfect sense. She thanks him and feels calmer already.
“Jason, get ready for school,” Emma orders. “You’re already late.”
She grabs her phone, snaps several photos of the mother and fawn and turns her attention to packing lunch and getting Jason out the door. She follows the warden’s instructions. “Luna, come, you’re going with us today!” It’s like having a bird in the house, she tells herself. When she gets home, they’ll be gone.
When Emma and Luna return, the deer are
gone. Wow, she tells herself, that was one for the
books. Perhaps this is a good time to return to her long-neglected journal. She kneels on the floor
where they had been, puts her nose on the rug, and breathes deeply. The lingering scent reminds her of her mother’s nursing home: a stale yet evocative smell, musky, unbridled, a smell of longing and fear.
Before she begins her work, Emma climbs into her cramped attic to look for a small figurine that belonged to her mother: a doe and fawn snuggling
in a patch of ceramic grass, chipped on one side. She remembers dusting it when she was a child, fascinated by the tiny white dots on the fawn’s back. The trinket sat in the same spot in the knotty pine den for her entire childhood, and after her mother died, it was the thing she most wanted to keep. Somehow it landed here on an attic shelf, and Emma moves it to her living room in honor of the day’s strange visitation.
In the afternoon, the Cub Scout den comes and goes, spending most of their “meeting” at the river,
splashing and wading and skipping rocks. Jake, the most curious Scout, catches an enormous toad. Jason doesn’t mention the deer to his friends, and neither does Emma, as if it were their private and secret dream.
That night, after Jason is asleep and Luna goes out for her last pee, Emma makes sure the back door is closed tight. She dreams of dusting furniture and knotty pine.
Day 2
Even before she opens her
eyes, Emma senses that the deer have returned, although she doesn’t fully be- lieve it until she sees them—curled in the same spot they were in the day before. The outside door
is still shut tight. She stares for a long time as the sunlight plays on their ruddy hides, making the fawn’s white spots glow. They look
so content, as if
the room were a bramble of sumac, wild blackberries, and moss, instead of pillows, toys, and books. She puts the teakettle on and thinks about what to do, her hands trembling.
Jason appears as
she sips her coffee,
throwing his arms around her shoulders in a bear hug. “I want to stay home from school,” he says in a voice that sounds like the teenager he is becoming. “I think this is serious.” His protective nature makes her smile in spite of her own fear. Luna hardly takes notice. She gobbles her kibble and curls up on the kitchen rug.
Emma dials Sergeant Morgan’s number. He
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