Most writers were surprised to discover that the “I ran over a deer (or other animal) and have decided to nurse it back to health” is a common theme; a literary cliche showing up en masse to the Tohoma Literary Review.
Thus we applied imagination to what is considered common. How could we challenge the common theme and create something compelling? Each writer took on the challenge, settled into a state of imagining and the results are in — not one story is alike.
Using twists, tension, imagery and dialog, these are uncommon tales based on the August 5, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write the common premise: “I ran over a deer (or other animal) and have decided to nurse it back to health.”
Sweet Rocky…by Christina Rose
I almost stepped on him, frightened squeaks his only salvation. Fell from the tree, wobbling around, not a parent in sight.
Two days of regular feedings, researched recommendations followed, cuddles and compassion unlimited. Even the dog knew. A baby, hurt, he sniffed and sat in anxious curiosity.
Curled in a ball, variegated shades of brown resting against my sternum, warm and safe.
2am feeding. Greedily sucking Pedialite from a tiny syringe. Smacking lips, then nothing. Body still.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Rocky died…” Uncontrollable sobbing into fitful sleep.
Knowing he passed safe and warm, the only consolation.
I’m Going to Save the Kangaroo I Ran Over by Irene Waters
The kangaroo ran. It turned. The thud followed by a tumbling sound under the car left me fearful that it was dead. It lay very still on the road. Our earlier gaiety gone as we made our way to the stricken animal. It was alive but barely. Blood ran from one nostril. We rolled it onto a blanket and lifted it into the car. The vet lived over the hill. There may be a chance.
The stunned kangaroo panicked and stood on the back seat towering over us. Afraid, we vowed never again if there was a next time.
A Mixed Bag by Ruchira Khanna
Every morning seeds are poured into the bird feeder. There is an assortment of seeds thus, attracting birds of all sizes.
Through their constant chirps, I can get a feel of their happiness, and good spirits as a result pigeons, sparrows, blue jays and crows are pecking upon at the same time. Contentment is never in their charts. Thus, they continue to feast upon and not get frenzied by the human company until I tripped over a sparrow, thus making the flock fly away.
I carefully picked up that feeble bird and decided to nurse it back to health.
Offering a Hand by Geoff Le Pard
Penny pointed to what seemed like a heap of leaves.
Gradually Mary’s eyes saw what her daughter saw. A small bird, sat still but not lifeless.
‘It’s fallen. Can we help it?’
Mary checked; the nest was empty. ‘I think it’s been abandoned. Best..’
‘No! We must do something.’
Summers peeled away and she was ten again; her father picked up the blackbird they hit with their car. She sat with it, nursing it. It was hopeless but her father had understood she had to try.
‘Of course.’ She thought of her missing twin; had someone picked her up?
Almost by Paula Moyer
Jean and Mike wanted to do right by the deer. Buzzing up I-35 just north of Kansas City, they came out of nowhere. Seemed to. The buck and first doe made it past the car. The second smacked the grill, flipped in the air.
Mike gripped the wheel, steered forward, remembering: hang on. Don’t steer away. Don’t brake.
Afterward, he guided the car onto the shoulder. Then they looked for the deer. Nurse its wounds – why not?
The deer was not there. Three miles of ditch. Then they saw the round, brown bump. Not breathing. Poor deer. Almost rescued.
It’s a Girl! by A. R. Amore
By the time I showed up he was kneeling over the body attempting CPR. His car mangled, the deer looking only slightly better. He hollered, “Hold her head.” I did.
I wondered if he knew what he was doing; he read my face. “I’m a vet,” he answered before blowing into the doe’s nostrils. She wheezed. Someone appeared with a large canvas duffle bag. A Environmental cop blocked traffic.
“She can’t be saved,” he said. “But we can save her baby.”
Donning blue surgical gloves, he removed instruments from the bag. Someone spread a blanket. We held our breath.
The Birdie by Larry LaForge
Ed sized up the shot, grabbed his seven iron and struck the ball. Small branches shook as the errant golf ball grazed the tree line on the right side of the fairway.
A tiny robin fluttered to the ground.
Ed’s playing partners teased him about finally making a birdie. Not funny, he thought.
Arriving home, Ed unzipped the large compartment of his golf bag. Edna watched curiously as Ed gently used both hands to scoop out and cradle what appeared to be twigs and leaves.
“Bring the golf course home with you?” Edna kidded.
Ed smiled sheepishly. “Sort of.”
Orphan by Ann Edall-Robson
“Dad is going to have a fit when he finds out what we did and what we are planning.”
“I’m the after the fact accomplice in this.”
“I couldn’t leave the baby to its own devices? I saw fresh bear tracks.”
“Did you look for its mother?”
“Some, until I found blood.”
“I know you would have done the same thing.”
“Go warm some milk. I’ll wash the bottles.”
“Will you help me come up with a persuading story to tell Dad why there’s a deer in the barn?”
Barking by Sheri Matthews
“Mrs Barker?” enquired the policeman as Ethel’s bulk blocked the doorway.
“There’s been an accident. The driver thinks he might have hit a deer, but before he could check– he’s a vet – he thought he saw ‘something’ run into the woods. An abandoned car nearby is registered to your husband. Is he home?”
“Something…what do you mean?”
The policeman coughed, then stuttered. “A man, but like a wolf, saw teeth…he said…”
“Gawd! It’s High Wycombe, not the bleedin’ Wild West.”
Later, Ethel heard howling. “Pipe down Fred,” she hissed from the bedroom window, “you’ll wake the neighbours.”
Like a Deer in the Headlights by Norah Colvin
Like a deer in the headlights she was immobile. She’d dreaded this moment. Although she’d tried to fade into the background, she knew she couldn’t hide forever. The room suddenly fell silent, all eyes on her. Would she fail?
“Marnie?” prompted the teacher.
Her chair scraped as she stood. She grasped the table with trembling hands attempting to still her wobbly legs. They waited.
Marnie squeaked. Some looked down, or away. Some sniggered. Jasmine smiled encouragingly. Marnie cleared her throat, then blurted the answer.
“That’s right!” congratulated the teacher.
The class erupted. Marnie smiled. Their efforts had paid off.
Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin
The deer doesn’t stir as Harry strokes her cheek. “We’re fucked!”
I want to reassure the boy, but fear wipes the smile from my face.
How right it felt initially. Save the animals and we save ourselves. Suddenly it was cool to be Green. Or Jain, strips of gauze across our mouths lest we inadvertently swallow a fly.
New laws brought the laggards into line. A life for a life and hang the hunters to save the planet. No leniency for plain bad luck.
Yet the doe’s still breathing. “Come on, son, we’re gonna nurse her back to health.”
Raze the Dead by Sarah Brentyn
“Aren’t you going to say something? Try to stop me?”
Chloe looked through the smudged window, pressing her fingers against the glass. She squinted for a moment. “No, I don’t think so.”
“But we’re not supposed to do this,” Emma slammed down the knife, her sleeve falling over raised, white scars. “I could get in trouble.”
“You could get a lot worse,” Chloe chuckled, “you could get dead.”
“This is funny? It’s your fault!”
“I know.” Chloe picked up the knife, handing it back to Emma. “You know my room assignment. I’ll be there if you want to talk.”
The Bambi Effect by Tally Pendragon
Sea breezes blew the woman’s hair as the open-top Merc glided into the shadows. Twilight made the man appear handsome. Post-coital bliss clouded his vision, dulled his wits.
She was out of the car in seconds, once the screeching of tyres and the thud had stopped. “It’s ok, you haven’t killed him. His leg’s broken. We have to get him to an emergency vet!”
“Are you kidding? Look at my car! Get back in, we’re going!”
“I so do not want to be having an affair with the man who’d leave Bambi by the roadside to die!”
The Newest Member of the Class by Dave Madden
The first morning drive on the first day of a new school year; my mind raced faster than the car, though an unexpected speed bump decelerated my brainstorming.
“Boys and girls,” my opening more rattled than welcoming, and I drew the students’ attention to the Toto-like Cairn I ran over, who rested injured in a box.
Inquisitive hands shot up with wonderings, and every answer led to us nursing the dog back to health.
We rallied around the thirty-sixth member on the roster, and it was the greatest form of team building that I never want to experience again.
Deer Struck by Jeanne Lombardo
The deer leaped from the hillside, forelegs outstretched, real pretty, like wheat in the setting prairie sun. The near eye gleamed big as the moon. Then I slammed into her.
Goddammit, I thought, third one this year. I grabbed my old Winchester and kicked the door open.
She was lying on the highway, a gash in her hind haunch, one leg snapped like a dead branch. Not too heavy, I reckoned. Ought to get her loaded up all right.
I aimed, then lowered the gun. That moon eye was looking at me all steady like.
“Help me,” she said.
Last Flight by Jules Paige
Too young to know any better – maybe. Thud. I heard it. Now where’d the bird go. I pulled over. It’s a myth they say that you shouldn’t handle birds and other wild living things. I had a rag in the car and used it to pick up the stunned chick. Couldn’t leave it in the middle of the road. I could only hope that after the initial shock she’d fly away. So I placed ‘er under a bush.
Checked back the next day. Flies and feathers equals a frown face. Local cat had lunch or dinner.
Good With Animals by Charli Mills
“Sylvia, darling, off to the store.” Mae pumped the gas pedal with her worn slipper until the truck engine rumbled. Lights on, she drove the backroads, carefully.
The store was closed. She had no money, anyhow. Mae drove back, watchful for deer. One smashed the front grill and lay panting on the pavement.
“Hush, now. I’m good with animals.” With a winch, Mae loaded the deer and returned home, dragging it to a barn stall of soft hay. She flicked on the light, illuminating hundreds of eyes.
Returning to the house, Sylvia asked Mae, “Did you get cat food?”
The One That Got Away by Charli Mills
Humidity and wildfire smoke veil the valley. Mountains stand gunmetal-blue; skies drip cotton-candy pink. Striding past my crumple hooded car, I worry about making the deductible. Unexpected deer strike followed by an unexpected lay-off. I want to yell at the overhead carnival of colors, “It’s not fair!” I sound like a distraught toddler tossing a tantrum in the candy aisle. Is life ever as sweet as the wrapper promises? When did jobs, cars and best friends live forever?
Then he steps away from the apple tree. The buck. Whole and healed, eating summer sugared apples like a living miracle.
What a great compilation, Charli. I didn’t get back to read them all on the challenge post, so I’m pleased to read them here. What a wonderful assortment. I love the imagery in “The One That Got Away”. I definitely didn’t see it on the other post. “skies drip cotton-candy pink” is especially beautiful. You create magic with your words. I love the ending you give to the story (but not the deer) with the deer a living miracle. Well done. And thank you for another fabulous prompt. 🙂
It is another great collection! Someone posted on Twitter that they love it when the new stories come out! 🙂 After I posted the compilation, I stepped outside feeling down. I started to walk to the apple tree where I recharge my batteries (an often my attitude) by watching the evening birds. That’s when I saw the buck and the story bubbled up and I quickly edited to add it (and the photo). He’s a beautiful buck! So, yes, it is a new addition to the line up and I thought it was an appropriate symbol after all the animals hit and rescued. This one lives!
I’m pleased you added it and that it helped to revive your spirits. Makes me think I’ll have to try to be more positive in my stories. I can understand how compiling a number of stories with a darker message could get your down. Here’s to life and living! 🙂
I once read somewhere that sometimes we write to add more light to the world, and other times we write to get the dark out of us so we can let more light in!
I just saw that last one of yours Charli, too. Really beautiful. The way you moved from “quiet desperation” to a kind of deliverance, to new hope, really touched me. Just love your writing….
I wasn’t sure how the Rough Writers were going to pull this one off. Yet we did. Look at the wildly different responses. Never ceases to amaze…
I think the editor at the Tahoma Literary Review might think this a common theme, but the Rough Writers showed that uncommon stories can unfold with imagination. I think it’s a waste of mind energy to think of original themes. Instead, take the common themes and apply imagination! Good job by all this week!