As we drove from preschool to dance class, a gentle snowfall blurred the more distant houses and cars like a thin fog. Jack Johnson was quietly serenading us when up ahead, without warning, two white-tailed deer appeared from a treeline on the right and darted into the street, their hooves skidding slightly on the slick pavement.
“Oh, look, sweetie! Do you see the deer?”
“Deer!? Where?” I could hear her leaning out of her booster seat to peer through the front windshield. Within moments, the does made it off the pavement and bounded across the half-shoveled sidewalk to vanish into the subdivision. Brake lights winked off and cars sped up to reclaim the precious, precious seconds lost to this sudden intrusion of nature into late-afternoon suburban routines.
“Did you see them?”
“Yeah”, she said distantly, still craning to look. “Where did they go, Daddy?”
“They ran between those two houses”, I said, gesturing toward the driver’s side window as we passed the spot.
“Do they live there in those houses?”
“No, sweetie, deer live in the woods.”
“Then what are they doing in between the houses?”
“They’re probably looking for food in people’s yards.”
Silence fell for a moment. I spared a half-glance toward the back seat and caught a glimpse of her in my peripheral vision, a half-formed vision of intense concentration. In my head, I quickly ran through everything I knew about deer from my years of rural living, preparing for the expected questions about what deer eat and when they sleep and where their houses were.
“Why did the deer cross the road?”