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Jay Halsey

Predator and Prey

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Seven a.m.
and clouds hang as soiled blankets dripping in rain. The sun has no glory and no reflection in puddles dirty from decades past.
Feral cats. Drunks ejected from church shelters carrying morning withdrawals like grand anchors.
Stray dogs warring over broken bottles and wet cigarette butts in the alley
where a whitetail doe and two fawns step with caution over shoes without pairs toward a quiet freeway.
At birth, a fawn’s coat is reddish-brown with 30 to 40 white spots that run from the neck down the back flanking each side of the spinal column. These white spots mingle
with up to 100 more white spots of various size and shape.
Those spots start at the shoulders, march across the ribs
and then fall over the haunches. The markings make for a near-perfect camouflage when living in the forest as sunlight filters through foliage
casting dappled patterns over the young coats.
The fawns remain concealed in natural devices
and protected from predators.

But this city is not the forest. There is no sunlight—only overcast—and the patterns here offer no protection to young deer.

A boy with white spots for eyes arrives behind a boarded-up gas station. He wades through vegetation reclaiming its land in search of dry cigarettes stashed inside a Cheetos bag
disguised amongst the other litter.
In the distance, smokestacks are nails piercing an ashen sky. The city washes away.
A whitetail buck watches from beside a dumpster
keeping careful eye over the doe and two fawns. His full antlers imply his experience.
Antlers are composed mostly of calcium and phosphorus, and used as weapons against predators and other male deer in order to exert domination,
and to kill.
At 16 months old, a young buck will leave its female group to seek a male group of his own. He will prove his worth by fighting and defeating other bucks. Only by rising in rank is a buck insured that he will mate
and ultimately produce offspring.

The boy does not care to dominate. There are no males, nor male groups he seeks. The boy does not desire more production.

The boy’s mother wakes upon the kitchen floor in the house opposite to the boarded-up gas station.
Her hangover is familiar territory.
She stands upright, supports herself against the sink, drinks water from the faucet.
Outside, the doe and two fawns nestle into the gold grass at a thicket near the water runoff below the highway.
Mother does will live and raise their fawns in the same territory, and leave only when harsh conditions force them to relocate. Like humans, does will stay in a safe area spanning many generations.

Does choose not to live amongst predators.

Unlike whitetail deer,
humans will raise their young in harsh conditions where there is no escape from predators.

Unlike humans,
whitetail deer do not eat their young.

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