Catch a Fallen Star: excerpt

Half a mile down the canyon he caught a glimpse of a coyote running towards him, then cutting away behind a house. Further down his lights picked up something in the road, an overturned garbage can perhaps. When he got closer he saw it was the deer, laying across half the road, bleeding from his nose. His eyes were opened and Layton could see the struggle for breath. He stopped the car and approached the dying animal. There were teeth marks where his face had been partially chewed. The deer was too big for a coyote to take on alone. What must have happened was the buck got hit by a car, then the coyote came to finish him off. He was being eaten alive.

There was nothing Layton could do to save the animal and he didn’t want him to suffer any more than he already had. So he got back into his Jeep and drove forward, then put the car in reverse and attempted to back up over the deer. But the deer was too bulky to run over. Layton thought of trying just the head, only the antlers could cause damage to the Jeep. Frustrated and wanting to help put the deer out of his misery Layton got out of his car and walked back to where the deer lay, his eyes seeming to plead for protection from the coyote who had returned and was watching Layton from the other side of the road. Layton didn’t sense the coyote but he could see the look of terror in the deer’s eyes. He remembered watching a documentary about lions and how they often defeated a larger animal like a water buffalo by getting their mouths around its mouth and nose, closing off the air supply and suffocating it. Layton went to his Jeep and took the duffel bag he kept in the back seat, emptied out the gym clothes in it, and returned to the deer. He placed the bag over the deer’s bloody face and held it tightly. The deer at first didn’t move, then his body jerked in quick spasms. Layton felt the hot rush of tears well up in his own eyes, overwhelmed with sadness by what he was doing. Like the character George in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, he was mercifully killing one of God’s creatures. The deer’s hind legs fluttered but it was obvious that he was too far gone to fight the death that was running through his body. It only took a few minutes until his life was stilled.

The duffel bag was too wet with blood to keep and Layton used it to grab the deer by his antlers and move him to the side of the road. When he looked up he saw the coyote–a hungry, bony animal whose body had been ravaged by other animals, perhaps dogs or raccoons or possums. Its body was mangy, the fur spotted and uneven with patches of raw skin showing. Driven out of its natural habitat and forced to scrounge among garbage cans, picking off rats and the occasional loose cats and small dogs, the deer was too big a feast for the coyote to back away. Layton raised his bag in the air to threaten the scavenger but the coyote stood its ground. There was nothing Layton could do. The deer was dead. The coyote was hungry. Layton got back into his Jeep and drove down the canyon into the city. He didn’t return to Amy’s until morning. She never asked what had happened.

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