On the day Mom died, there was a deer in the garden. It was eating of the blackcurrant bush. The three of us were sitting under the pear tree drinking cherry juice, even Mom, even though she was ill and barely breathing, she was distant and strange and filled with drugs and lacking the hair on her head. She no longer felt any pain, Dad said, as the deer came. Dad leaned across the table almost knocking over the glass and whispered to us, as it was a great and strange moment, for never before had a deer been in our garden in the middle of a bright summer day while we were there. Mom smiled. She smiled and her smile was a thin white butterfly fluttering over her face.
Then, Mom had to lie down in bed. Dad carried her inside, because Dad had strong arms and could carry both me and Mom at the same time. But today he would only carry Mom, he said, because Mom was so sick today, so weak today, and Mom could not bear much today. And the deer was far away and a big long cloud that looked like a tongue lay before the sun, blocking it, and Mom got cold. And that’s why Dad had to carry Mom inside and Mom alone, and I had to go. But I held Mom’s hand. It had become small and thin and cold, but when I squeezed it, it squeezed back, weak as a last kiss on the cheek in the evening, as weak as that.
People came. There was a rush in the hallway. Mom lay on the bed in the living room and was as white as the bed sheets. The doctor was there, and a nurse.
‘She is only sleeping for a while’, Dad said and stroked my hair. And his hand was trembling, and his voice was trembling and that was when I had to hug Dad, and I hugged Dad’s big, long leg. It was like hugging the pear tree in the rain, as Dad poured tears over my hair. He didn’t wipe away his tears, but left them to fall onto my hair, and it was like a soft, gentle rain from the pear tree.
I stood in the window. There was a shadow in the garden and a fuss inside, and I was not allowed to stay in the living room. Dad was there, but not I, for I stood in the window of the first floor and gazed into the shadow. Maybe I would see the deer again. If only I were able to hold my breath and count to a hundred. That I did, and that’s when I saw the deer laying there, bent over the bushes, like a shadow in the shadow. I didn’t know at once that it was there, until the deer straightened its neck, lifted its head and looked straight at me, to where I stood sucking the sleeve of my sweater. It was as if it had nodded at me.
And that’s the way Mom died. The apple slices that were in the bowl on the table next to her bed in the living room had gone brown. I was told I could have them and she stroked my hair and told me she loved me. And her voice was like a leaf falling from the tree, a pear tree leaf falling on the ground. And it was over, and I thought I saw the deer here inside, it was as if the deer were here. And I thought that it was the deer that had to take Mom. That it had come to take her. I told Dad as well and he nodded, but did not say a thing. I knew then that he had no voice at that moment, that his voice was stuck somewhere in his throat. He took me on his lap and held me a little too hard, but I let him hold me like that because he needed it, that I noticed. He hid his face in my hair.
It was not Mom anymore, it was a doll that lay there on the bed resembling Mom. She had such a strange tongue. It was grey and dry and I wanted to touch it but Dad held my hand again. Not hard, but firm.
I felt her forehead with a finger. I pressed my cheek on her cheek and felt how cold it was. Dad took my hand and said it was over now, that we should get a hold on, he and I. Because we should, he said and squeezed my hand hard as if he were not absolutely sure. And when I turned around I saw movement at the door leading to the garden. It had been open all the time, and that is when saw the deer’s shadow disappear.
‘Look at the deer’, I said to Dad, but Dad didn’t see it. And when I looked up at Dad, it wasn’t so strange, for right now his eyes could not see a thing.
I went out into the garden. It was evening, and the sun was chirping in the trees and the house was almost pink even though it was actually white. I went down to the blackcurrant bushes to look for the deer. The grass was pressed down where the deer had lain. And I saw that it had eaten currants and leaves and salad from the garden kitchen. And then I saw the bushes moving in the distance and I knew the deer was around, that it had just been there. It had taken Mom, it took her with it, and now it was on its way. There was nothing I could do but follow it. It was as if I had a thread inside of me that was drawing me into the bushes, because I just had to follow it.
I went through the bushes. It was just a meadow that, in the light of the evening, seemed purple. And it danced in the meadow. It danced in the trees far away. And that’s when I knew it was there that I had to go, there where it danced in the grass and in the leaves. For it was there the deer had taken Mom with it. And I had to take Mom back with me to Dad and to her doll body that lay there, so Dad could be happy again. And the idea was like a telephone pole, so clear and so high.
I went through the trees where the deer had gone. I went into the shadow of the trees, so dark I almost couldn’t see my feet, just the glow of my palms. And I could feel my heart right up in my head. And the deer was right in front of me, and someone was riding it, and it had to be Mom riding it through the darkness.
And I followed it through the dark woods, through black trunks and beyond. And I could not see my house any longer. Not even the light from where my house was, as darkness was everywhere. And I knew I shouldn’t look behind me, just in front of me, as Mom was there in front of me, inside the darkness, in the depths there. And I was afraid, for I now knew it was death. And I thought I saw Mom’s back in front of me, her bright nightgown like a moth.
Then I heard someone breathing in the darkness. I knew my breath was breathing another breath. And I was no longer alone there. I felt it with my fingers, felt it with my body. There were deer all around me. There were deer. And I rested my hand on a soft back, and the other hand on another back and we went like that through the darkness, the deer and I, like a caravan through the woods.