The Stranger: Generation

In the fifth story about the Stranger, our hero is getting old. It is time to hand the herd off to younger and more capable deer. Only who is more capable? After a series of disasters and personal tragedies, the Stranger is left hurt both physically and mentally. He plans are left in ruins, and he finds he has to begin all over again. How he can adapt to these calamities will test the strength and resolve of the Stranger.

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1. SATISFACTION AND AGONY

THE STRANGER:GENERATIONS

By

Wilber Arron

 

 

Year 8

It was early spring. Another season had come. Another winter had passed them. This one had been mild. There had been no hunger. Even the meadow grass had not been covered by snow. He was glad. The snow and cold brought increasing aching to his legs and hoofs; the sure sign of a deer getting old. He always knew he was would get old, assuming some Man did not use a killing stick on him. In was only in the last year that he really felt his age in his breath, his muscles, and his strength. All were diminishing. No doubt his first son Stabo, and some of the older deer could beat him now if they wanted. So far no one else had shown an interest in being herd leader. Regardless, very soon he knew he have to give up the herd leadership. Balo was more than ready, and a season of training had resulted in having several deer ready to help out. One of them would take over the forest one day. He and Bambi had done the best they could. He only hoped it was enough.

He had gone away after Carie told him the time of giving birth to their fawn was near. Doe did not like to be watched as they gave birth to their fawns. He hoped things would work themselves out as they did last year when Stelar had been born. He could not believe that little fawn was now a yearling and already taking on the looks of a beautiful doe. He was watching her and the other new yearlings playing in the meadow. Nearby was his son Stuben, now a two years old and still growing. He was practicing fighting with Delon, the child of Stena, his first daughter and her mate Balo. Near Stuben stood Karlene one of the twin daughters of his son Stabo and Gena, Bambi’s second daughter. Near Delon stood Young Faline, Veron and Alana’s first and sadly last daughter. Neither doe had mated the previous Season, but he knew that would change this Season.

He decided he climb the hill on the other side of the meadow and lay facing the herd partly concealed from view. He did not want any of the herd seeing him meet with his old friend. This position also allowed him to view the entire meadow and watch for danger. He found a soft  patch of grass, lay down, and rested his increasing tired body.

“Looking at you family from afar,” the growling noise came from behind. A huge black bear came out of the woods and lay down next to him. He did not even moved which would normally mean any deer being killed and eaten by such an huge animal. Instead he remained still and allowed the bear to approach him. The bear had been his friend and companion for many seasons since he came to this forest.

“I am afraid soon enough I will be looking at them from even further away, if at all. I am starting to feel my age, my friend,  and I am starting to feel my body fail me on the inside. Maybe not this season or the next, but soon my place will be taken by others as it is in the Way of All Things.”

“I am the same way,” the bear growled. “Even though I found a mate last season, I will not be able to hold her much longer. Some of the younger bears are starting to push their weight around. They are getting bigger and stronger than me. At least one of them is a Son of mine. At least your sons will not attack you. My son will attack me. Soon I will have to step aside or be pushed aside to make room for him like you will have to soon step aside.  That is if Man does not kill us both first."

“If Man does kill me, he will not be getting much,” he answered. “ I am old and most likely tough on the inside. I doubt if I would even make a good meal for a bear. It really does not matter anymore how I die. I have others that will follow me no matter what happens to this old deer. It is good to have children to follow you after you are gone. When my time comes, however it will come, I will not mind much. I will have left my sons and daughters behind me. They will take over after me. The herd will be lead well. I have done about all that I can do.”

He then stopped and looked up at the bear's huge face. “I have not told his to anyone, but soon I will call a gathering of the herd and give up being herd leader. I will ask the herd to accept Balo as the new leader. He is ready for it. Bambi and I will still be here a while longer to help if he needs it, but I think Balo is ready to lead. Besides, I rather give up the herd that way instead of one of these young know-nothing males beating me in a fight.”

“I doubt that will happen,” the bear grunted. “Sometime I watch you deer practice fighting on the meadow at night. You still seem to be able to take care of yourself as I can. Yes we are old, but we are far from dead. We both have pregnant females that can answer to that.”

He had to smile. “Yes you are correct, and do not worry my friend, I am not ready to go yet.”

“I will be going soon. I will be leaving to go over the hill for the spring and summer,’ the bear told him.

“Things may not be as easy for you there now. Young Claris, Stabo’s eldest daughter mated with Felon from that forest. I understand Felon is now herd leader there.”

“He is the one you trained?” the bear asked.

“Yes, we trained him until last Season. He and Young Claris mated and he went back to live in his home forest. Now that Razor and his males are dead, it should not be as hard on the deer. Felon will lead the herd well and Young Claris will help him. I fear it will be hard on you bears.”

“I will manage,” the bear said. “As I have said before, they have never been as careful as you are. What are your plans for this season?”

“Much the same; continue training my children and the children of my children and friends. As you said, try and make the forest a better place to live in. Then try and survive the hunts and Man. I have not seen any more Men and Man fawns. I really like to meet some of their smaller fawns, they remind me of my own.”

“I do not want to meet any of them,” the bear growled loudly. "Unless it is to eat them."

“I understand,” he went on. “One of the things I always wanted to know is what turns the Man fawn into Man killers. They start out as playful as my own fawn, and then something changes them. That is the one thing I would want to know before I die. If I knew that, perhaps I could be of more use to my herd in staying away from Man. In any case, I do not think it I have much longer to find out. If I am lucky, I will die of old age like Bambi’s Father. If I am not lucky, either some Man will take my body back to his cave to eat, or perhaps another bear will run me down and eat me. Like I said, it doesn't really matter either way. The only thing I hope for is, no matter if it is Man or a bear, or coyote that kills me, I hope they choke on my flesh.”

The bear laughed. “Stanger you are different from any deer I have ever seen. Do not change, I like you too much.”

He smiled openly. "I like you also, my friend. I just wish that Son of your would see the forest like his father does."

"Small chance of that happening," the bear said with a moan. "To him deer are meat to eat and little else."

He continued to watch his herd when something caught his attention from the edge of the forest.  Claris darted out of the forest near where the small stream that led to the pond and small clearing. She was running and looked frighten. She ran up to Stuben and Delon and was talking to them. Stuben pointed to where he was at and then let out with a loud call. “

“COME HERE NOW!” his voice echoed through the hills.

He got up quickly. “Something is wrong,” he told the bear. “I need to go.”

With that he broke into a run down the hill and out onto the meadow. He ran as fast as he could, but by the time he got to the meadow he was tired. He was losing his breath. He used to run this far for exercise. By the time he got to his son and Claris he could hardly speak. The others were also there.

“What happened?” he said gasping for air.

“You need to get to Carie,” Claris said excitedly. “There is something wrong with her fawn.”

He nodded and continued to move quickly toward the small stream and then up the hill all the while breathing heavily. His legs were aching and his chest felt like it would burst open. He finally got to their clearing and he saw Carie standing there. Below her was a quivering brown spotted male fawn, only something was wrong. It was struggling to get to its feet, but it could not. He watched it try and stand to feed many times without success. Every time it try and get to its feet, it fell over onto its side. It did not seem as if it could stand.

He walked over and put his nose under the little brown fawn to try and lift him. As he did, he caught the scent of the fawn. If was like no new born he had ever smelled. This is fawn smelled almost decayed. He backed away and looked at Carie.

“The fawn is not right. There is something wrong with him,” he told her.

“The smell is wrong,” she said. “If he cannot feed, he will not live,” Carie told him with fear in her eyes.

He went back to look at his son. He went over and looked at the little fawn’s face. The eyes looked blurred; it was like they did not see properly.  The fawn held his head strangely as if it was not straight. The rest of his small body looked as if it was crooked.  His little legs were not straight, but seemed to curve. One front leg was longer than the other. He came to the realization that this fawn, his son, was not going to survive, was not even going to able to feed.

He looked up at Carie his black eyes were misty. “Carie, I think this fawn was born deformed on the inside. I do not think it will survive.”

Carie looked stunned and came up and smelled the fawn again. "No," was all she could say with her own brown eyes running. "He is going to die if I cannot feed him," she said."It will die in pain."

 In a moment, he realized he could not allow that to happen. This was his son, and he was not going to live. He was going to die slowly and painfully, or be torn to pieces by the scavengers. He would not allow that to happen.

He walked over to Carie and rubbed her head. His eyes were already tearing. “Listen, I want you to leave here. I want you to go away and not ever come back.”

“But the fawn. . .” she started to say,

“The fawn will not live. It cannot stand. It is deformed for some reason.”

“Stranger, if we leave our son, he will be torn to pieces by the scavengers,” she said her own eyes tearing.

“No he will not be,” he said. “I will make sure of that. He will die in as little pain as possible. That I promise you.”

She looked confused at him for a second before her eyes went wide when she realized what he was saying. “That is our son,” she gasped.

“Yes,” he sobbed. “That is why I must do this myself.”

Carie looked past him as the small mound of still wet fur. She walked over and nuzzled the fawn, and taking in its scent. She then stood up and looked directly at him. “I understand, Stranger, please do it quickly. I am going to go alone into the forest. Please do not follow me," she sobbed.”

With that she walked off toward the top of the hill. He waited until he was sure she was far enough away. He then went over and looked down at the fawn. He took several deep breaths. This had to be done right the first time.

"My, Son," he said through his tears. "Please forgive me."

He took his right front hoof and then kicked the little mound of fur in the side of the head as hard as he could.

“EEEEE,” was the sound it made and then it lay still. He had knocked it senseless, but it was not dead. He raised his body and came down and stomped his right front hoof onto the side of the fawn’s head. He felt the bone crack and give way. He felt the fawn jerked its legs once and then did not move. He did not look down. He could not. Instead he walked out of the clearing toward the Man path forest. He managed to get barely out of the clearing before he felt a burning sensation in his throat. A mass of cud came up and he threw up on the ground. He walked away and found an oak tree he could lean against, and sobbed uncontrollably for he did not know how long. That was two sons he had killed. At least this one had not gone bad. It never had a chance to do anything wrong. He loathed himself for what he had done.

It was after dark when he lay down next to the oaks. In that moment he felt wearier than he could ever remember feeling before. He felt an emptiness inside of him that only made the memory what he had done even worse. No matter what he did, he could not get the feeling of his son’s head giving way under his blow, out of his mind. He felt like a murderer. How could anyone stand to look at him now? He had killed male deer who did less than what he had just done. Did he deserve any better? The wind blew in the trees that night and it rained heavily. Normally he would seek shelter to get out of the storm. He did not do that this night. He lay soaking wet and alone. He got no sleep at all that night. It was toward first light when he heard someone behind him. He smelled Claris and she was alone. She came up and quietly lay down next to him.

“You should go,” he told her. “I am not fit company for anyone.”

“I will be the judge of that,” she said softly.

“Carie told us what happened about the fawn,” Claris told him with her smooth voice. “There was nothing else you could have done except let the scavengers have the fawn. At least he did not suffer much. I do not think anyone blames you; not even Carie. I certainly do not.”

He leaned over and nuzzled her on the side of the neck. “I am getting too old for any of this,” he said still with a tight lump in his throat. “Maybe it would be best if I just left and turned the herd over to Balo. I am starting to feel old and useless here.”

“No, Stranger, you are not useless. You have trained the children to follow you, and they will. They will train the others that will come after them. You have done good things in the forest. Everyone can see that except you. I have seen you look sad lately. I know you feel you are getting old, but old does not mean useless.”

“I wish I could believe that,” he said. He put his head on the ground and closed his eyes.

“For now sleep,” Claris told him. “You will feel better. Later we can go to the meadow and feed.”

“I could not do that,” he said cringing. “How can the herd look at me after they know what I have done?”

Claris nuzzled his neck “The herd will look at you as the herd leader who had to do a hard thing, yet still did it even through it hurt him badly. Now sleep and know I still care deeply for you.”

He relaxed as Claris put her body close to him. It still made him feel warm inside. He slowly drifted off to sleep.

They woke as the greater light was setting. After empting themselves in the forest they ate and then walked toward the Man path forest. As he looked out at the short distance between his forest and the Man path forest as he thought about what he should do next. He looked at Claris standing silently behind him.

“You know I could just walk out of this forest and into that forest and just keep walking. No one would ever hear from me again. Balo would be herd leader, and I would not have to look at my herd and try to explain what I have done. Perhaps it would be better for everyone.”

“No it would not,” Caris said harshly. “Your children and Bambi would wonder what happened to you and would come after you. Despite what you think, they still care for you as I do. That is one reason why you will not go. The other and greater reason is because you are herd leader, and you will continue to be herd leader until you give it up, or die doing it. You cannot stop. You are like Bambi in this way. I have known that since the time we met. In all that time you have always tried to do the right thing, just like today.”

He looked  back over his body at the collection of scars caused by Man , dogs, and other deer. Doing the right thing has a high cost. A cost he knew he would continue to pay. He nodded to  Claris. She was right as usual. No matter how much he wanted to lose himself in the wide forests; he could not lose himself from himself.  He would stay.

“So what then shall I do?” he asked.

“You come with me and we walk back into the meadow. There is no Man around. We will walk over to the herd and they will still follow you.”

Claris slowly walked over to him and nipped his tale like she would in the old days when they were still young. She then walked past him and walked into the forest for a short way. He still did not move not wanting to follow her back to the herd She stopped and looked back to him.

“You are coming,” she told him almost as an order.

He followed her, more by habit than anything else. They both slowly walked through the forest until they came to the end of the trees directly across from the Man cave, It was still dark and empty. There was no sign of Man on the meadow. There he stopped. He looked out onto the meadow. His herd was feeding peacefully. Mostly there were the doe all showing one to three new fawns. He saw his daughter Stena and Balo with a new fawn. It looked healthy. Bambi and Faline were talking to them and the rest of his family. The herd males and few senior males were all in close groups. Only the yearlings seem unconcerned except for those he had trained. He was reluctant to go on. He did not know how the others would treat him.

"You are coming," Claris told him again. She then walked slowly over to him and lifted his head with hers. She then looked into his face with those sparkling green eyes. "Please, you need to come," she pleaded. She then nudged him forward with her body.

He walked into the open with Claris. They went closer to the Man cave than they usually get and ate by themselves. It did not take much to fill him and afterwards he drank in the small stream running through the meadow. After he was done he saw several members of his family walking toward him.  When they got several lengths away Bambi motioned for the others to stop and he and Faline came forward alone. He really did not feel like talking to anyone. They stopped and both Bambi and Faline looked at him with sympathy and compassion.

“Carie has told us all what has happened,” Bambi said in a low respectful voice. “ I cannot guess how you feel right now. I am only thankful I never had to make that decision."

Bambi then walked up to him and rubbed his forehead on his in a sign of affection. Faline rubbed the side of his neck. Claris rubbed his smooth flank against his. "This may not mean much to you now, but no one blames you for this," Bambi went on in a barely audible tone. "The herd understands and so does your family. You were faced with choice no deer should have to make and you chose the best you could. I admire that you had the courage to do that. I can only hope I would have had the courage to do something like that if I would had to.”

He did not feel very courageous, only sick to his stomach. “I only hope that you, my family, or anyone else in this herd never has to make that decision,” he told him in a low voice.

“Your family would speak to you,” Bambi said. “They see how this has torn at you and they want to help. They also understand why you have done this. Stranger, they still care about you as do I and Faline.”

He did not want any help right now. He did not want to talk to anyone. He looked up at the herd all staring at him like the day he came to this forest. He was strange then, and he was strange now.  Despite all those around him, he felt alone. He wanted no reminder of what had happened. He wanted to speak to no one about this. The hurt on the inside still tore at him. He needed to be alone for awhile.

He raised his head and looked Bambi in the face. “No, my friend, I do not want to speak with them about this,” he said. “If you wish to help, tell my family and the others I never want to speak about this to anyone again. He felt the glare of the herd on him, and it only added to the emptiness he still felt. He felt the urge to move away from all of them. He had to get away. He walked alone away from the others.  He slowly moved back to the edge of the forest and disappeared silently into the trees. Only then did he feel better.

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