The Deer

by Jose L Recio

I wish somebody would tell these people I’m not crazy. I keep repeating my story over and over, but nobody believes me. A couple of hours ago, the police brought me to this mental institution on a seventy-two-hour-hold under the suspicion of my being a danger to others.

I come from Montana and, in my family, we are all hunters, even my two older sisters. Last year, I got my license for the Big Game, and my father bought me this rifle.

‘You’ll be a good hunter, Son,’ he said.

I love my rifle.

My father put me in touch with a hunting guide here in New Mexico, where I’m in college.

Before I got the rifle, my dream was to excel in basketball. I’m eighteen and 6' 4'' but weigh 170. Some of my friends think I’m too skinny for the sport, so I go to the gym to strengthen my muscles. Since I got the rifle, though, I dream of killing a trophy deer. I wake up with this vivid image in my mind, and I get excited about the real possibility. So, yesterday, I called the guide. We agreed I would meet him at his camp high above Taos.

Early today, I dressed in my hunting clothes, put my rifle and backpack in my car and drove to meet the guide. I arrived around mid-morning. A thin layer of fresh snow covered the ground. The sky looked clear. A cool breeze held the smell of the pines. We began hiking south, and by noon we entered a zone filled with clusters of aspens scattered among big rocks, their leaves tinted an enchanting yellow. Wow! I suggested taking a break to enjoy the panorama.  My guide disagreed.

“If you want to be a good Big Game Hunter, we should start scouting and going towards the valley.” We continued.

Some four miles later, I noticed the vegetation was greener than before. ‘A stream flows nearby,’ my guide said. I looked about, and it was then that I spotted a line of hoof prints on the trail. ‘A thirsty lone elk is probably ambling to the stream,’ the guide surmised. My heart skipped a beat. We tracked the row of prints until the trail split, and from there, each of us followed one of the trails. I moved slowly, kept my breathing shallow and my rifle steady, ready to shoot as soon as my target made itself visible. The trouble was, however, many objects looked like a deer: a dark boulder, a fallen branch, a beam of light over the grass…Then, not farther than forty yards from me, standing among shrubs, this magnificent specimen of a heavily antlered deer appeared and quickly disappeared like a vision. I was in heaven.

Worried that it would turn around and head uphill, I kept my eyes on its footprints and focused on the smell of its fur. At a certain point, the lone deer took a sharp change of direction, and in my quest, I found myself stepping into a gully. I heard the noise of flowing water, perhaps the stream the guide had talked about. I then climbed the wall of the ditch, so I could position myself on the more even ground and catch sight of my target again. I raised my eyes over the upper edge and was astonished at the view of this spectacular, almost surreal head-and-neck figure of a deer that stood a few feet in front of me, a silhouette superimposed over the background of a vast horizon.  The sky appeared loaded with dark clouds whirling in space. What a magnificent creature! Is it real? From my position, I didn’t see anything else, except for a few treetops in the distance. I was not thinking, but I managed to aim the rifle where I guessed the deer´s heart would be, and I pulled the trigger. ‘Ahhhh!’ I heard. Oh, my God, I’ve shot somebody. I froze.  I pulled myself up out the gully. A middle-aged man lay on the grass, his hands tightly held around his left thigh. Anticipating the worst, I ran to him. Blood was oozing through the fabric of his jeans, and tears sliding down his cheeks. With my hunting knife, I tore the area of his pants that covered the wound, which looked superficial, and began helping him.

“I’ll call an ambulance,” I said.

“And I’ll call the police,” he replied.

We remained there, unable to properly communicate with each other. I sensed his anger. I said that I hadn´t seen him, that I thought I was shooting at a deer, not him. He said I was crazy. I didn’t like his assessment. Suddenly, I felt an urge to leave him and continue hunting. The noise of sirens, though, made me think twice about running away. The police and the ambulance arrived at the same time. The officers asked a few questions. I heard the man was a photographer on assignment. He was taking a picture of the totem with the icon of a deer´s head, the thing I had taken for a real one when I shot him. Then one of the officers turned to me. I told him my story, but from the start, I’d the impression the officer did not believe me. Then things went fast: the ambulance took the photographer to an emergency room, and the patrol car brought me to this mental institution under the suspicion of being mentally disturbed and a danger to others. I wish somebody would tell these people I’m not crazy before my folks, my teachers, and my friends find out, and my life is over.

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Writers Bio

Bio for ‘With Painted Words’ magazine:

Jose L Recio is a physician and a writer. He is particularly interested in short fiction and poetic prose. His work is published in The Acentos Review, Cecile’s Writers Magazine, The Literary Nest, Aether and Ichor, and Adelaide, among others. He is originally from Spain but now lives in L.A. with his wife. 

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