Deer Season

by Tomi Shaw Read author interview March 15, 2005

My cousin Sherry will fall in love with this black man, she’ll take him home and there will be war. On the sidelines of this dance floor, I watch her back her hips into his, meet his thrust with her parry. One of his pink palmed hands rests comfortably in the curve of her waist. I see his long finger trace the line of her spine, his hand stop in the small of her back and from there I can’t tell if it’s guiding or riding. Either way, these two fit—her all tiny and him larger than life—these two were made to dance together. The techno fades into a love song, a wrap yourself in each other and make love with your clothes on song, and her black man puts his hands on her waist, encircles it, turns her around and into his arms. Their eyes are talking, their lips waiting. The floor is packed with sweating, writhing bodies, but these two, these two are all alone. Sherry closes her eyes when his hand leaves her waist to wander down the outside of her thigh, to the inside, where he opens her legs and slides his left leg between hers. He keeps his hand at her knee. I can’t look at them anymore.

Like this morning. The deer hung from the rafters of Uncle Rex’s sagging barn, Randolph beside him spitting chaw into the frozen grass, newly spilled guts steaming. Rex is telling us how he stole it right from under Persley’s nose. “Serves him right, too!” Rex said. Randolph nodded and spit his agreement. When I looked at my brother, I didn’t recognize him. I don’t like this country he’s moved to, taken root in with our father. Our father stepped up then, his boot tip in the deer’s entrails. “Off Persley’s?” he asked. More nodding, more good ol’ boys getting even, more spitting. I had to leave, to get away from them, to put time and space between me and this deer’s eyes, eyes that have lost their life, eyes that are going opaque. Because it’s tradition, I hugged and kissed each one of them before I left: Uncle, Father, Brother. Because I always do, I tooted my horn as I pulled out of the gravel drive.

Living, the buck had eight points and pretty eyes.

The black guy at the end of the bar is going to talk to me, he’s got that look in his warm brown eyes, the one asking me to look up, look into. I order a Kamikaze. When the bartender serves me, I stare at the air pockets frozen—suspended—in the ice. As loud as the music is, I can’t hear it.

On the drive here to meet my cousin for this girl’s night out, she rang my cell. She had to call from work where her mom couldn’t eavesdrop, she said. She said, there will be a man there tonight. A friend, she said. She said, I couldn’t tell anyone. They wouldn’t understand, she said. She said, he’s good to her. I say I’m happy for her. I say I won’t tell.

I look over my shoulder. The Cha Cha Slide, a group dance, but Sherry and her man have their pinkies linked together. She’s laughing up at him. He’s goofing up the steps, on purpose. You can tell the only reason he’s dancing this dance is because she wants him to. Their teeth are brilliant in their wide open smiles. Yes, Sherry will fall in love with this man, and she’ll take him home and she will fight for him. It’s already written in her eyes. And when the news travels from my Aunt to her brothers, there will be good ol’ boy justice served up. It will be subtle, but it will be.

All Persley had done was dare to take down Uncle Rex’s deer stand, the stand on the property Persley bought. Rex had asked if he could hunt there still, but Persley—kind as you please—didn’t like the thought of a deer being killed on his land. Persley said he liked looking out of his window in the morning or evening and watching the deer chomp on his grass, watching the fawns’ eyes startle then look for safety, watching them live.

The buck had eight points and pretty eyes.

The guy from the end of the bar is right beside me. I sip my drink. Do you know them, he asks. I nod and we watch them stumble off the dance floor, chuckling, trying to catch their breath. Her white hand wraps around his bicep. She stops for an instant, catches my eye and winks. We, me and my black guy, watch them go into the Karaoke bar. She’ll sing, throaty country; he will too, bluesy hip-hop. They’ll laugh and clap for each other. My drink is empty. Want another, he asks. His eyes are so pretty, his skin warm coffee. He’s smiling. And regardless how much I want to, I—I can’t look at him anymore.

About the Author:

Tomi Shaw lives in Kentucky, late of the woods but now in the big city lights. She loves the sound of rain tat-tattering on a tin roof. Summer weekends finds her at the drag strip in a bittersweet-colored Mustang, cutting killer reaction times and putting guys on the trailer home. Her work has appeared in Absinthe Literary Review, Flashquake, Snow Monkey, Wild Violet, Penthouse and elsewhere. Coming soon to Outsider Ink, Clean Sheets and Literary Mama.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.