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The deer died in the sewers and I watched it rot. I think it was tomato season.

DEER DIED SUNDAY I wrote in my green notebook.

I heard the accident from the treehouse. The tires skidding and the spongy thump, the scrabbling of hooves on asphalt, then the quiet that followed. I climbed up the nailed slat ladder to the Safe Branch, so I could see over the fence by the road. The truck was still there but the deer was gone.

The treehouse wasn’t really a treehouse. Just a pallet lodged firmly in the low branches of the cottonwood behind the Baumgartners’ fence. I’d added some ropes and boards scavenged from the ditch, secured in place with the hammer and nails I stole from the Kitchen’s garage.

The deer couldn’t have gone far. I slid down the High Rope to the ground and crabwalked into the open culvert at the base of the fence. The place where the sewer stopped and the ditch started.

The deer was still breathing when I found her, a few feet off the main tunnel at the first intersection. Glassy-eyed and bleeding out of her open stomach. Smaller than I’d expected. Which made me sad. I sat indian-style on the floor of the concrete tunnel and sang a song I knew from a tape in my Dad’s car over and over until she died.

At school the next day, I didn’t draw on the back of my math worksheets like I usually did. We played soccer in gym and both times at recess. I got in trouble for stealing an extra milk at lunch. I tried to be nice to Billy Coker on the bus. When I got home, I stood on my bed and watched my Mom through the window, working in her garden on the berm above the ditch.

After dinner I went to play in the treehouse. I sat in the middle of the platform and worked on my stick carvings with the razor blade I’d stolen from the Burgess’ bathroom. Before it got dark, I crabwalked into the culvert and went to look at the deer. Skin was falling off the edges of her open stomach and there were flies in her mouth. I closed my nose with my fingers and sang the song.

BLOOD TURNS BLACK I wrote in my green notebook.

On the third day, something ate the deer’s eyes in the night. I stole a board from the lumber pile in the Jackas’ dog run and stuck it into the wet ground at the place where the sewer stopped and the ditch began like a headstone.

On the fourth day, half of her body disappeared, putrefied drag marks and paw prints on the tunnel floor. I crabwalked out of the culvert and came back with the razor blade and a long stick I had carved into a spear.

On the fifth day, I stole a pad of graph paper from my Dad’s office. I sat indian-style between my spear and her body, drawing maps of the tunnels and the road, the treehouse and the ditch. Marking the paths of the truck and the deer with dotted lines, like I saw in Family Circus.

On the sixth day, it started to rain, so I sang to her but didn’t stay.

It rained steadily all night and into the next day. In the morning, the ditch was swollen, water creeping up to the edge of my mother’s garden on the berm. I stood on my bed and looked out the window, waiting.

The ditch became a stream, and eventually a river. It flooded the backyards of our neighborhood, carrying away sticks and trash and bits of our lives.

WILD WILD HORSES I wrote in my green notebook.

Eventually, I saw it. Her brown half body against the gray of the water.

Floating away. Floating west.

Zach Straus

Zach Straus peaked at 15 and is mostly held together by masking tape.

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