When I looked up, there she was – right in my face.
We stood nose to nose for a moment, so close I could see my reflection in her eyes. She held my gaze for a while – then stepped back so I could take a good look at her.
Let me repeat that. She stepped back so I could admire at her.
For good reason. She was an exceptionally tall doe, almost as tall as me, with a graceful neck, long slender legs and a coat glistening in full summer color – deep red with pure white trim.
What a magnificent creature!
I was mesmerized, so she broke the ice. “What are you building?” she asked.
At the end of the path, I was laying down the foundation for a hut, a place where I could write. I told her that.
“A hut, huh?”
She stepped close enough to feel the warmth of her breath. It smelled of leaves, of sap and of living wild.
“Let me guess the décor,” she said, “faux-hunting lodge, complete with log furniture, Navaho rugs, and… antler incidentals.”
Gulp. I stepped back hoping to put an ash tree between us. She countered the move.
“Hey, I haven’t even laid the floor,” I explained, “much less thought about decorating.”
The fur on her neck darkened as she bristled, then she curled her upper lip. “I wouldn’t mind if you did.”
“Nailed a pair of antlers above your door.”
She let the thought sink in.
“Uh, any particular pair come to mind?” I asked, relieved that her hostility was not directed toward me.
Behind her, a dappled fawn wobbled on legs several sizes too big. It stepped gingerly onto the gravel and nosed toward her flanks. She flicked it away with a side kick. Undeterred it came at her again. This time, the kick struck with a good firm whack that sent the fawn sprawling into the weeds.
“It wouldn’t kill him to watch the twins for a day,” she said.
“Probably not,” I agreed, hoping to calm her down.
“It’s not like he is doing anything,” she said.
“I suppose not,” I said, trying to sympathize, then I added, “Exactly what does a buck do anyway?”
She gave me a look that said, “I’ll tell you one thing he does.” I blushed and she snickered. We enjoyed a moment of silence.
“He’s been avoiding me since November.”
“He hangs out with his buddies by the river,” she complained. “All they do is eat fermented berries, fight and sleep.”
“I can hear them carrying on, especially in late summer, ” I said, “They do get rowdy.”
“It wouldn’t hurt him to stop by once in a while – at least for the fawns sake. I need a break.”
With that her left ear flicked up on alert. It rotated toward a rustle of leaves, a short distance away.
“DUDDERS!!” She bleated, “LEAVES OF THREE – LET THEM BE!!”
Another fawn peaked out between the bushes.
“Meet Dudders,” she said, “he’s been eating poison ivy again.”
I laughed. “Maybe, you should let him learn the hard way.”
She bristled with annoyance. “Yeah, right,” she said, “he’s still nursing. Think about it.”
That was not a thought I was willing to entertain.
“His father never calls, never stops by. He only thinks of himself, but come November we all know what he wants – and what do I get?”
“Gosh,” I said.
“Another year of this,” she said, then without looking toward the bushes, she bleated, “DUDDERS!! GET OUT OF THERE! Come up on the path.”
The fawn took a wide arc around me to join his sister. A moment later, he head-butted her and the two of them tussled into the brush and scampered off.
The doe slowly shook her head in exasperation.
I should have left it be. I was in a good place and I know full well that it is best to just listen – but knowing what to do is a long way from doing what you know you should.
Already regretting what I was going to say, I said, “Come November, maybe you should stay clear of the rut.”
Her dark eyes grew large and her ears flattened like an angry cat. She snorted. Apparently, I had deeply offended her. She gathered her fawns and stalked off.
As they faded into the green of the woods, I couldn’t help but admire how beautiful she was. But then, that was the point. She was beautiful but what is the good of that if you can’t enjoy the attention?