The Curious Incident of the Deer in the Nighttime

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Memorable musings

By Gae-Lynn Woods

Do personal memories ever find their way into my writing? Indeed they do. It’s a hazard of the job, cataloging every noteworthy occurrence and trying to find a home for it in a novel. (If you’re a friend or relative of a writer, rest assured, your personal life is constantly under scrutiny for future use.) In fairness, everyone defines “noteworthy” in different ways.

But take a gander at the following elements of an actual event, and tell me if you don’t also find them noteworthy:

  • a hand-me-down 1977 burnt orange Chevy Vega
  • two sixteen year old boys who share the privilege of squeezing behind the wheel of the Vega, and
  • one deer with a very bad sense of timing.
1977 Chevy Vega
1977 Chevy Vega

Maybe not so exciting when taken on their own, but when you combine them on a lonely country road after dark, things get a little more interesting.

The boys are my twin brothers, who at 6′ 4″ barely fit into that Vega. Even with the driver’s seat pushed all the way back, their knees still cradled the steering wheel. They were coming home from basketball practice one evening, minding their own business, when a deer dashed out of the brush and smacked into the side of the car. The poor thing hit the car hard enough to knock itself out and leave a dent in a fender. My brothers, good Samaritans and smart enough to know that there was no way our mom would believe that they weren’t responsible for denting the car, hoisted the unconscious deer into the Vega’s hatch area, and then one of my 6′ 4″ brothers folded himself in half, climbed into the tiny hatch area with the deer, and held its feet just in case it woke up on the drive home.

Alas, Mom did not believe them despite the presence of an unconscious deer in her car and reassurance from her husband and her Sheriff’s deputy brother that yes indeed, deer do occasionally get the timing wrong and run into a car instead of in front of it. My brothers suffered mightily for the damage that deer did to the poor little Vega.

Until, that is, the same thing happened to my mom in her big ol’ honkin’ brown Oldsmobile.

Same road. Same time of day. Same spot on the fender. Different deer, one hopes.

Mom did not bring the deer home as proof of how the big ol’ Olds got dented, but she forgave my brothers. Grudgingly.

Did I use all this in a story? Oh yes. In The Devil of Light, after my fictitious Grove twins hit the deer, they got distracted by a glow off in the forest and go to investigate. That leads them to a fire pit where a human foot has just been burned. Toward the end of the book, their mother gets hit by a deer (on a different road), and ends up being held captive by a cult.

I’m not sure it’s possible to keep our memories and our writing separate. And I think that’s a good thing. A touch of reality adds flavor and more often than not a little hilarity. Who couldn’t do with more of that?

Gae-Lynn Woods

is a Texan who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Gae-Lynn writes the Cass Elliot Crime Series. When she’s not playing the roadie, tending to cows, fixing fences, or digging post holes, Gae-Lynn is working on the next Cass Elliot novel and the next Companion Novel featuring Maxine Leverman, Cass’ best friend, who makes her debut in Avengers of Blood.

Gae-Lynn can be found:

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