Ant’s Hospital

When I was little, I used to take injured animals into my playhouse to help them. I wasn’t in any position to be helping anything, but, any poor little thing that I saw lying near the outskirts of the woods leading to my backyard with any sort injury would fall victim to whatever “surgery”, as I called them, I claimed to be doing when I found one or two.

I called my playhouse, which sat next to the swings and monkey bars that my brothers and sisters liked, the Ant Hospital, because the bugs were my nurses, whenever I couldn’t save an animal (which was basically every time) I would take it to the bushes and the ants would gather to keep them.

I thought I was helping… I loved animals, and, they loved me. I thought.

One time, though. I remember I was about ten years old. I didn’t know if… I. Don’t. Know.

This one day. My mom and dad were on a weekend trip. My grandmother was coming at about 5:30 in the evening to watch us, three hours after my parents left. Before then, my oldest brother, four years my elder, was told to watch the rest of us. But, when my parents left, he went directly to sleep and said, “Don’t do anything stupid,” to my two older sisters, my twin brother and me, before falling onto the couch. The rest of my brothers and sisters went upstairs to watch TV.

My mom had given us a snack before she left that the rest of my brothers and sisters finished, but not me. So I sat at the table, right next to the balcony door, and looked out the window at the forest. I just looked, and observed, and admired the fading effect of the forest, the trees fading into bushes, into grass. And when I was getting up to go upstairs, I stopped mid step, to see a limping baby deer.

Now, if I were to see a hobbling baby deer today, I would probably say, “Aw, poor thing” and go to bed. In this case, though, I said, “Aw, poor thing” and ran out the door with a rag and a knife. I went into the backyard, grabbed the deer, and took it to my playhouse.

The deer was in no way phased. It just sat on the table patiently, like an actual patient, which is weird now that I think about it. It’s legs just stuck out like twigs, with the deer’s backwards looking legs normal, and the other obviously broken. It was like an extra kneecap was on it. I had seen on a movie my brother had watched once, someone wrapped a piece of their shirt around another guy’s leg to stop him from bleeding. I dropped the knife on the floor and wrapped the rag I got from the kitchen around the deer’s thigh.

Maybe if I had just done that, I might have actually saved one animal for the first time in my entire life, at least for a few days if it caught an infection.

But that’s not what happened. I looked up, out of the four square open window, and I saw another deer, older, and with a broken antler, staring at me.

I smiled at it, knowing that maybe the two were related. The deer seemed to smile back, but with its eyes, they wrinkled at the corners in front of its ears. Everything right then, in that moment, truly would have been completely fine, but, I tried to walk out of the playhouse to beckon the deer in to see. And I fell, over both of the deer’s legs. I must have been heavy because, all I heard after that, was a crunch and a wail. A tumultuous, guttural, horrible sound that made me cover my ears before I did anything else. I screamed. I heard the door to the house open and jumped up to see my brother running out of the house with bare feet. He squinted his eyes, I’m guessing to search for me through the tiny playhouse window.

There was blood on my shirt when I looked down. I refrained from looking back at the deer, who was still howling in pain. I started to cry. I ran out the door of the playhouse and looked at the deer. It’s eyes squinted again, but this time it was different, they were narrowed, and it’s head was shaking, so much that it looked as if it would accelerate to the point of combustion.

My brother runs up to me, looks in the playhouse, then back at me. I see him from the corner of my eye with a worried look on his face, but I can’t stop looking at the deer. It’s entire body is quacking now, with anger I believe. Can deer get angry?

I don’t know. All I do know is that while the baby deer is hollering, a whole family of deer appear out of the forest, actually, the entire forest appears out of the forest. Ranging from the tiniest ant, to the largest bear, squeezing into my backyard, and the deer’s family in the center of it, squinting their empty black eyes at me.

My brother whispers, “Run” and it takes me a second to figure out what he said, I wasn’t listening, just staring at the animals staring back at me. I run up to my house, and down the sidewalk, with no place in mind to be going but my house, but that was dangerous. My neighbors were coming out of their houses now. Their front doors, wrong place to be looking. I heard my brother yell, “Run” once more, probably to the rest of my siblings, who were still in the house, but must have been at least looking out of the window by now, to see what was going on like the rest of the neighborhood.

Soon, my brother’s voice was gone, but the wails of that one deer seemed to stretch for miles in my head, they still do.

I went to the gas station near my house, my twin brother and my sisters followed about thirty minutes after I got there, probably looking for me. My oldest sister thought up the idea we should call the police, and we did. When we went back to the house in a police car, our brother was nowhere to be found, he was gone.

“A trail of blood led off into the woods and stopped at some point, no leads from there for now,” one of the policeman had said.

There were no leads from there, and no leads at all forever after that. At some point the case closed, and our brother’s justice was never done, for whoever, or whatever took him. But I already know who was to be receiving the justice.

A few times I thought it was me, I had started whatever I was in, still in. That I earned, and still earn the looks and stares and the feeling of never being alone whenever I visit my parents, or come to water their plants for them while their on trips. That I deserve the unnerving feeling of watching the entire forest jump out of the woods to spit rocks at my tires whenever I go the short way downtown.

But I what really gets me… is when every once in while, I have to double take.

When I think I see a limping baby deer, standing beside me… with a weepy face and narrowed eyes.