The Deer Effect<br/>

Author: Susan Wingate
Publisher: Eye of the Needle Press
Published: 2014-12-12
ISBN(s) 978-1505517316
Editor: Jim Thomsen
Illustrator: Deranged Doctor Design
Language(s): English
Category: Fiction
Audience: Youth (13 to 17)
Genre(s): Inspirational, Suspense, Fantasy Read Excerpt >

For Robert

For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts, even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?


“When you reach Heaven, you're given three memories. Just three. One for the past, one for the present and one for the future.

My memories? Of my mother, my husband and my dog.”

Part I


ONE BRITTLE LEAF FOUND ALONG our usual path proved the days had gone wintry. Papery thin as onion skin—blanched from frosty temperatures and yellowing like the pages of an old Bible, the leaf’s long slender shafts, crooked and dry, painted my world.

The blue sky dragged me out that Sunday in December—December 5, 2010, if you must know—when the temperature rose to only forty-two Fahrenheit. What was I thinking?


Hold on. Wait a second. Let me back up just a tad.

For your information, I'm dead. Although I speak of myself, make no mistakes. I died this day.

This story will tell you a tale about my dog and my husband and the two going on a journey in order to come to terms with my death. It's their story. Through my eyes, ears, nose, fingers, tongue and mind you'll get a sense of me, of course—an infusion of me, but I'm just the storyteller here. Make no mistakes.


It looked like a good day to take the dog for a walk. A good day to walk, to let off steam from a nonstop fight about money between me and my husband.

Bobby, to anyone who knew us, was my dog. He slept with me on my side of the bed at Rod’s request. Although Rod liked animals, at least the concept of them, he’s not exactly what I would call an animal person.

I held that distinction in our small family pack.

The photo of Bobby and his litter mates showed each of them, cream-filled bellies, shocking white with piglet-pink skin peeking through their fur, up on the bed on a blue thermal blanket trimmed in satin. There were five in all—females and males—some playing with each other, others looking askance, but not Bobby. His button eyes and black nose peered into the camera lens. And, when all the other ears spiked up at attention, Bobby's flapped over as if someone had missed him in the proper ear assembly line. Perhaps the dog-ear quality controller had taken the day off when he rolled through.

“That one.” I pointed. “I want him.” It was instant, the falling in love.

In eight years, he never got much bigger than when he was as a pup. In those same eight years, things had started to shrink between me and Rod.

I'd gotten a term life insurance policy and used it against him, as a joke, to threaten him.

“If anything should happen to me, the police will automatically suspect you. They always suspect the husband first. Especially when this kind of money is involved.”

Or, when I was feeling particularly morose, I'd say, “You'll just love cuddling up with half a mil when I'm gone.”

You know. The typical guilt trips we play on people who we just wish would stop yelling and see our worth.

I'd heard self-worth rated a close second in importance to the average person's survival instincts.

I suppose it did with me, for sure.

Lately, a waning income brought on by a flagging economy had handed us an extra wallop. We had a big house built on a large parcel of land, on an expensive island off the coast, close to British Columbia. The Santa Maria Islands were known as the Martha's Vineyards of the west.

We had moved here to retire, but after paying triple for everything, our retirement plan seemed weak at best. Our lifestyle hadn't changed, just the means to support it.

The fights had grown in intensity too—raging, blaming, threats of divorce. I needed to get away. If only for a little while.

“I'm taking Bobby for a walk.” The words somehow soothed me as if pulling on a cashmere sweater, protecting me, as I walked Bobby toward the street and didn’t look back. The fog my words created looked like a dying cloud of cigarette smoke as it fell to the ground.

Rod didn't even grunt. He had decided, for his break in our constant battle, to rake out the mucky fallen leaves in the circular driveway.

“Come on, Bobby.” I said, as we turned, right, down the road, the way that took us toward the water.

“Hannah!” Rod yelled.


“I'm moving out.”

I looked away from him. We were miles apart standing there, out in the front yard, only a hundred feet from one another.

His exact, sure words weren't what I'd expected.

I had expected an apology.

My legs felt numb, like they'd lost all their blood. I couldn't move. It felt as though my feet had become cemented to the ground. A rush of heat rose quickly up my back, covering my chest and face, as if someone had thrown hot alcohol over me.

Bobby yanked forward on his leash. Yanked me out of my trance.

I didn't answer Rod. What would it change? I couldn't let him see how hurt I was. I didn't want him to see my face crumple. I didn't want him to know I was crying. 

I just walked away.



WHAT SOUNDED LIKE A BUZZ saw turned out to be two gunning engines roaring in the distance, around the corner just over the hill, out of sight.

I wiped at my face. Whoever was coming, I didn't want them to see my tear-streaked skin.

Motorcyclists use our tiny island, where the law is lax and the people scattered, as a racetrack. They use the island like it’s theirs to rape. I felt blind, only hearing them, and stepped back off onto a ragged trim of damp decaying road. Slick black rocks fell off where the frayed edge of the tar road disappeared into matted clumps of melting dandelions under brown wet leaves, fallen from a recent wind storm. A misty breeze, full of wood smoke, caressed my face. It made me think of childhood campfires and spooky tales.

The sound of one motorcycle engine cut out, fast, with a set of short bursts and screeching brakes. The noise lasted only for the briefest of seconds with both motorcyclists slowing, then roaring their engines again as if to make up for lost time.

I pulled Bobby's leash in close, wrapping the black twist of braid around my red chafed knuckles. I noticed how old they looked. Not like when I was twenty, or even thirty. It was, as if, my hands had turned old overnight.

I swore to myself right then and there to take better care of these old-woman hands.

The buzzing grew louder as the cyclists neared the corner, from where I stood, just below the top of the hill. It irked me like crazy. This was a 25-mile-per-hour zone, and they scoffed at the speed signs, speeding by each one at no less than 50 mph.

By the sound of it, they were speeding up like they were racing each other.

Again, I pulled Bobby closer into the gully.

It was at that moment they appeared. One in black, the other in chartreuse. Both in helmets, both wearing heavy boots and gloves, completely cloaked, looking like creatures from outer space. Their bikes weren't wimpy thin racing bikes, no, these were fatboys—wide-girthed, wide-tired, meant to stay up against anything thrown in their way.

I stepped out, one foot into the road.

“Slow down!” I pumped a red fist at them.

One flipped me off as he whizzed by.

“Screw you too!” I gave them the finger as well, arm high, pressing it for added effect.

They both leaned forward, almost laying their stomachs onto the cradle of their bikes and sped out of sight racing even faster than before.



WE DIDN'T SEE IT RIGHT away. I mean, it was like we saw but couldn't make out the form until we were closer. Bobby spotted it first.

Even as we cornered the bend, the same bend the bikers had appeared from just minutes before, we still heard them. It was like bees swarming a hive.

But then I shook my head, trying to ignore everything that seemed to be bombarding my brain—the run-in with the bikers and the looming separation from Rod. It didn’t work. A tree alongside the road looked like a woman's torso, with appendages sawed off at the thighs and just above her breasts. For whatever reason, the log captivated me, with its bark making it appear like a woman's charred body. I shuddered at the thought.

Tears burned hot out of my eyes. I smeared a wet hand across my face and my snotty nose. I got angrier and cried more.

We quickened our pace, Bobby and I, coming off the slight hill from the turn. Small puffs of steam blurred my vision as each breath escaped my mouth, my nose. I looked down at Bobby. He too had vapor escaping from his glistening, hot snout. It was as though we were in some macabre stage show with the clicking of his nails catching on the tar pavement, making him sound like a tap dancer. Our breathing caught every eighth-count in unison, Bobby syncopating his beat with mine.

“Bobby. I love you. Thanks for always being there, for always walking with me.” I’d said the same words to him countless times. It was a mantra.

Though blue skies played peek-a-boo behind a bank of scudding billowy clouds, the air felt moist. Bobby stopped and shook his coat out hard. A halo of silvery mist jettisoned off him in all directions. And when he stopped, he didn't continue forward but, instead, he dug in his feet, anchoring himself to the ground.

I walked past, assuming he'd catch up.

When he didn't, I had to stop.

“Come on.” I pumped my arm at the words. But he wouldn't move. His snout remained forward, popping up, sniffing the air. The hum of the motorcycle engines seemed to be growing louder but I figured it was my mind still playing tricks on me.

But, Bobby remained frozen. Locked his legs and wouldn't budge.

“Come on.” Still he refused. I pulled harder at his leash. “Come on, Bobby. Now.”

Then he bolted, jarring my arm forward with him.

“Bobby. Good Lord. Stop!”

I finally got close enough to make him stop and see what he had seen, to smell what he had smelled. Bobby continued to pull hard.

My focus locked onto the object.

It was still breathing.

Mist around its nose formed delicate clouds of rapid fire vapor.

I didn't feel my legs jump into a lope but there I was, there we were, running toward a deer that had been hit.

Nearing it, I saw it was no more than six months old, with fading spots in a series of lines on its side.

Someone had hit a fawn.


Those bastards. The motorcyclists, when the engines cut.

As I got closer, it struggled to get up. As if it had fallen on ice it flailed.

The jagged formation of its hip told me they'd busted its spine.

The energy the fawn expended dealt its final blow. The animal fell back, resting its head, straining to breathe. Seeming to understand its fate.

Blood pooled out from under the fawn, forming a widening circle. I put my hands onto the ground, then my elbows, trying to form a boom around it, as though surrounding the blood, capturing its outflow would help.

“Oh. God. Please. No.”

Garnet continued to flow from somewhere near its head.

The fawn tried to scramble up one last time. It bayed like a calf, making a sound like “maa,” and settled its head onto the ground.

Her breathing sounded raspy. The distinct smell of fired iron filled the air as blood continued to leach out of her body. The baby deer was going to die. There was no turning this around.

My heart cramped at the knowledge.

I believe it was then I should have heard the engines gunning too close but nothing else mattered except for this dying fawn. My eyes, my heart, my soul, my total energy was riveted by this animal.

Half on, half off the road, head slumped into the ditch, her eyes began glazing over, fast.

Bobby ran into the street next to the fawn. I pointed and yelled to him to move off the road and to go down into the ditch where he stood with his face toward hers. He whiffled his snout around hers and then, once, licked her. Gently.

She continued to pant but more quietly now.

I laid my hand on her.

“Oh baby,” I said.

That’s when it happened. A flash, blazing around the corner. The same two bikers. Startling me once again back to the world around me, the world outside this small dying deer, to the living world.

But I didn't react fast enough.

My hands flew off the fawn as if surrendering.

The pain came next.

My head flipped back as a handlebar cracked me square in the forehead. Behind it, the second motorcycle appeared, landing a death blow to the fawn. The bike bumped up onto my pelvis and over my chest, crushing my ribcage and snapping my neck as it rolled on and off and over my head.

When my neck broke, it spun my head to the right, toward the deer. My hand fell limp landing over the fawn's spots, across its rib cage.

Our eyes locked.

bobby go home.

It was no more than a thought, but perhaps I spoke the words to him. I couldn't tell from the noise of the fleeing motorcycles.

After that, all my energy seemed connected to the deer lying next to me. And, as our stayed eyes connected, its breathing slowed with mine.

Hazy clouds of fog ghosting from our mouths slackened, then dissipated, and, finally came to a stop.



THE DEER AND I ROSE TOGETHER slowly and stood by our bodies as we watched Bobby bark.

go home, bobby. I said to him.

My voice sounded younger, reminding me of my days in the school playground, in sandboxes, on monkey bars.


The Deer Effect   by   Susan Wingate   |   See Bio >
WINNER OF THREE BOOK AWARDS IN 2015! If "The Lovely Bones" got all mashed together with "Bambi," you'd get THE DEER EFFECT by Susan Wingate. The Deer Effect is a story of loss and redemption.

Once in a while a story comes along that resonates with the very essence of what we call “humanity,” and speaks to readers of every age. THE DEER EFFECT is that story – a phenomenal #1 Amazon bestseller lauded for its artistic touch, its tender tapping at emotion, and its mesmerizing ability to speak to the hearts of readers around the world.

"Circumstances unfold like an origami crane with exquisite details laid bare until at last the entire pattern is on the table." ~D Donovan, eBook reviewer (MBR)

When his wife, Hannah, is found dead on the road near the carcass of a fawn, Rod Demsey sets out on a journey to find her killer (with his dog who seems to be able to communicate with spirits). His grief causes his faith to wither until an unexpected turn brings Rod face-to-face with the only person who can tell him what really happened to his wife. THE DEER EFFECT is a story of loss, redemption and forgiveness.

THE DEER EFFECT will be a great read for fans of Mitch Albom and Garth Stein.

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