Two days of snow, then ice and the deer peer from the ragged curtain of trees. Hunger wills them, hunger pulls them to the compass of light spilling from the farmyard pole. They dip their heads, hold forked hooves above snow, turn furred ears to scoop from the wind the sounds of hounds, or men. They lap at a sprinkling of grain, pull timid mouthfuls from a stray bale. The smallest is lame, with a leg healed at angles, and a fused knob where a joint once bent. It picks, stiff, skidding its sickening limb across the ice's dark platter. Their fear is thick as they break a trail to the center of their predator's range. To know the winter is to ginger forth from a bed in the pines, to search for a scant meal gleaned from the carelessness of a killer.
Copyright © 2012 by Mark Wunderlich. Used with permission of the author.