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To Dance in the Shadows

by Richard L. Provencher  
9/04/2010 / Short Stories

Dew lay like a wet blanket on mother deer and her young one, as they drew warmth from each other. Young buck stood, impatiently shook off moisture and stared ahead. He was anxious for his daily snack of young shoots.

It was difficult to penetrate the fog with his stare, and he listened carefully for any outdoor movements. By now both deer stretched to their full and beautiful stance, from pointed black noses to waving white tails.

Their shades of camouflage brown blended with surrounding willows. And a string of thick pine provided a screen for extra protection. Mottled leaves acted as a carpet of comfort, in the dampness of October's chill. Winter's tease of an early snowfall left behind clumps of whiteness.

Mother deer and her young one meandered silently along an ancient trail. Familiar trees were their guideposts. Ahead lay an open space, which was once a continuance of this trail they followed. They did not understand it had been transformed into an area of clear cutting. To them it seemed as if some wild beast had taken a huge bite out of the forest. The sun acted as a warm breath upon mother and son. Absorbing the scent of cedar, there was no warning of danger.

Stepping into the open, a sudden explosion of sound broke the silence. It was followed by another loud rush of air. Young buck stood still as an icicle hanging from a cave entrance. Images of humans with sticks of thunder swirled fearfully in mother deer's brain.

Instinct swung her head quickly to the side, whacking young buck roughly into the protection of the forest. His instinct allowed him to lay silent as a garter snake, awaiting further instructions from mother.

Like a ballet dancer, she hurled away in mighty sprints away from her young son. Her movements used brush as cover, as she detoured back to familiar well-worn trails, further away from her son. A flickering white tail drew her pursuers like a magnet.

Explosions of sound followed her flight, as she disappeared from sight.

Young buck lay where he had fallen. His last view of mother was her rising and falling in mighty leaps, her white tail-waving goodbye for now. And his child-like stare saw his mother as a shadow in the mist, knowing she was being followed by something harmful.

A son lay motionless as a tree, aroused ears listening intently to strange chatter. It was not the "rat-a-tat-tat" of a downy woodpecker. Nor was it the piping sound of a chickadee.

He sensed danger nearby, and his nose prickled from a strange scent. For the first time in his life, he felt fear. Suddenly he lost any desire for food. Browsing on bark and twigs no longer interested him. Where was his mother? Family was part of his makeup, not just skin, bones and heart. He inherited patience and caution. And this saved his life a second time.

An acute sense of smell inherited from the genes of his ancestors reached a new plateau. There again, that new sound, a thudding upon the ground, a vibration. Wary movements became shadows moving through the misty woods. His eyes pierced the gloom. Sounds that were moving in the direction his mother took had turned and approached his hideout.

It was time to move. Young buck stood shakily. The commotion that entered this section of the forest was ominous. His ears were on full alert, tuned to hear even a falling leaf.

Nervous bubbles of air blew through pursed lips. A frantic message whispered to his mother, "I'm coming," a thought carried on a current of wind. His tongue licked at moisture in the air, the sun eagerly evaporating the balance of dawn's signature. The mist was his blanket of protection, and now he knew it was time to leave the shelter and head in the direction his mother took.

After seven months of life, young buck's curved hooves were strong, and attached to long slender legs. Each step followed carefully in a straight line, as he quietly left the protection of his hideaway. His natural senses led him towards a familiar trail. He brushed noiselessly against a poplar. There were few left in the area, since a beaver colony felled many for a dam.

Over the next few ridges was young buck's destination. A memory of succoring from mother waited along with water and lush grass. He knew the place from those first moments life took on meaning. Now his lean body began a forward lope as a symphony of movement. He was determined, through the exercise of young muscles, to flush fear from his brain.

Not so far away, experienced ears picked up the deer's gathering strides. A hungry male coyote drank in young buck's "wild" scent. The vision of freshly chewed meat helped assuage gnawing hunger in his belly.

Tensing, the coyote inched forward, along with three shaggy family members. They awaited a signal to attack knowing from past experiences only through a team effort could their hunt be successful. A short distance separated them from their prey.

Young buck stopped suddenly. He was fearful to even turn and look behind. Both ears expanded to full attention, instinct detecting an overpower presence meaning to cause harm. His eyes, a deep pool of blackness bulged nervously. Plans formulated. Then he sensed something coming quickly as a runaway train, a coyote rushing swiftly to his right side.

An instant jolt of young muscles launched young buck into a sprint for survival. His body went from camouflage and stillness to soaring and a harrowing, narrow escape. Snapping teeth had leaped for his flanks. And a "Whoosh" of air propelled him forward, faster. The chase was on.

During the next while, four meat-hungry coyotes crisscrossed young buck's path. Pausing in wonder, his fleetness surprised them. With determination the coyotes traversed his trail. Tongues lolled, empty bellies aching for a meal. This was a harvest year for the pack. Growing pups demanded much food.

Except this was not meant to be an easy victory; a healthy young son was eager to find his mother. Fear was left far behind as he led his attackers on a hard fought chase.

Young buck discovered worn trails leading to forest retreats carefully selected by his forefathers. Powerful legs allowed him to run easily. His racing rhythm was meant to cover miles of territory. And he did so without undue hesitation.

Fallen clumps of brush tested his sprinting. Like his mother, young Buck's white tail bobbed up and down. "Can't catch me," it teased. He had an appointment to fulfill. And somehow knew it was his destiny to lead a long life. Majestic leaps across narrow brooks annoyed his sluggish pursuers.

Short-legged coyotes could not keep pace with this long-legged jumper. Their heavyset bodies slung low to the ground, and their hindrance added to by clumped raspberry bushes and deadfall.

Tired paws barely scrambled for a toehold in weary scampering up each rising ridge. After an hour's chase dry tongues hung limply. And squinting eyes no longer saw their intended victim.
Nor did they care, anymore. Young buck had simply disappeared.


A blanket of evening shadows ended the celebration of dusk's last sunny fling. Maturing eyes managed to understand the protection of a darkening sky. Indeed, young buck was no longer afraid. He had passed his bravery test with flying hooves. Those sneaky coyotes were abandoned far behind, left in a merge of confusing trails.

In headlong flight, he traveled speeds of up to 40 mph resting often to listen for his dogged pursuers. Instinct brought him to this destination place. It was inbred in his young heart. And the sheltering sanctuary saluted him with a welcome of peace. He sniffed the air carefully. Then heard another deer's blowing sound. It saturated young buck's senses with a familiar scent.

A confident son moved forward in strength and love. It was Mother calling and he knew she had been waiting patiently for him. What tales they would share with each other, as they relaxed in the coolness of evening.

Young buck stepped forward from the shadows. He had a surprise to share. His first set of antlers protruded as short spikes. Yes, it was a special moment. Diamond-like stars had gathered in his honor. They winked approval for his bravery.

The stillness of the forest created a garland of peace, and protection. It surrounded this private place. Young buck was home.

(c) by Richard L. Provencher

Richard enjoys writing poems; many of which have been published in Print and Online. He and his wife, Esther are also co-authors of stories and a print novel. They are "born again" Christians and very busy in their church, Abundant Life Victory International, in Bible Hill, Nova Scotia.

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