Steven and the Loblolly Pine

gray fox on branch - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Gray Fox on Branch, 2017; Watercolor

The White Oak was as spacious a tree as anyone could hope to be a prisoner in. The branch Steven stood upon was twelve feet above the ground, but the tree itself was one-hundred-twenty feet tall. Its crown of glossy green leaves provided a lot of shade. The thick trunk was white and brown, and its numerous strong branches spread as if offering to embrace. However large the tree; it was an island in a sea of yellow, brown, and green grass. Steven estimated he could not reach the cover of the woods by outrunning the collie, Labrador, and German Shepherd who treed him in the first place. He certainly could not fight them. His only choice appeared to be to wait for them to become bored and leave.

“Hey, how did you do that?” asked the collie. Steven was not expecting a question. Speechless, he looked down at the dog. It continued, “I can’t do that. Can you guys do that?”

“Do what?” asked the Labrador.

“He clearly means to ask us if we can climb trees,” said the German Shepherd.

“He could have meant stand balanced on a branch,” said the Labrador.

“We could all stand and balance on a branch if it were on the ground, but climbing a tree is something we’ve never done,” said the German Shepherd.

“Yes, I meant climb the tree,” said the collie. “How did you do that? I don’t know any dogs that can climb trees.”

“The cat can climb trees,” said the Labrador.

“His point is that dogs, at least any known to us, cannot climb trees,” said the German Shepherd.

“That little dog can,” said the Labrador.

“You’re beginning to catch up,” said the German Shepherd.

“I want to know how he did that,” said the collie.

“Probably fear,” said the German Shepherd. “Have you seen this dog run from a cardboard box? You’d think he’d seen Death in it.”

“You don’t know what’s in every box,” said the Labrador.

“Little dog, I want you to climb that tree over there,” said the collie. He gestured toward a loblolly pine; a very tall tree with a medium sized trunk and gray bark. Steven inspected it. Climbing it presented him with two challenges. The first was that the bark looked as if it could come off when he dug his claws into it. The second was that the nearest branch was more than halfway up the tree: sixty-five feet up. There was one potential advantage: the tree might have lacked branches because there might be trees close enough to give it competition. If they were close enough, it could be a way to escape.

“You may accept the challenge,” said the German Shepherd, “or we can wait for the eagles to return.” Steven searched the branches above him. He saw an exceptionally large nest that looked like someone dropped a pile of sticks on the highest branches. He was familiar with nests, eggs, and birds because the latter two were a part of his diet. By the look of the nest, it belonged to a very large bird. Even small birds could be fierce. An eagle would not ignore a gray fox near its nest.

Steven climbed down backwards with his tail leading the way down. He watched the dogs closely. He made sure to dig his claws into the bark of the White Oak with each step. He was ready to climb back up if they gave any sign they were going to bite him.

The dogs watched in awe as Steven climbed down. They visualized themselves walking up and down the tree, but they could not imagine being able to stop along the way or move backward to get down. They watched him paused on the trunk like a squirrel. He looked in their general direction, and they knew he was afraid. Seeing how his tension slowed him down, the dogs stepped back and gave him more room. He continued to descend slowly. When he reached the ground; he turned around with his head bowed, his ears back and flat, and his tail between his legs.

“You can’t outrun me, little dog,” said the collie. “Just show us how you climb a tree.”

Steven moved slowly toward the loblolly pine as the three dogs escorted him. When he reached the bottom of the tree, he put a little tension in his hind legs and then leapt onto the trunk. He smelled the pine leave the bark as his hooked claws dug in. He felt strong when he began to climb. He climbed fifteen feet and began to feel his muscles pumped. When he reached thirty feet up, he paused until he felt secure about his grip. At forty five feet, he was as high as he had ever climbed before. He saw a branch above him where he could rest. It was another fifteen feet up. He wanted to finish climbing, but could not release his claws from the bark. His muscles trembled. He looked down at the dogs on the ground. His grip on the bark tightened, and his limbs shook noticeably.

“Why are you stopping?” shouted the collie.

“At least make it to the first branch!” shouted the Labrador. Steven was frozen. He felt his muscles weakening. They betrayed him. He felt his claws loosening as some of the weaker muscles failed. Falling became a real possibility in his mind. Then, the German Shepherd barked loudly and ferociously. It frightened him so much, he scrambled the remaining fifteen feet to the safety of the branch. He stood upon it looking down at the ground far below. He panted. His heart pounded.

“Did you see that?” shouted the collie. “Did you see that little dog climb all the way up that tree?”

“I’ve never seen a dog do that,” said the Labrador. “He looks tiny up there.”

“It makes me wonder if he is a dog after all,” said the German Shepherd.

© 2017 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Advertisements

Writing a Longer Short Story 

This week, I am working on the third part of Steven the Gray Fox’s story. I was not planning to spend so much time with this character and his story. I simply wrote an exposition that was way too long – as long as my usual short stories. Therefore, I was compelled to give each subsequent part of the story the same word count. Because writing is a temporal art, I want my visitors to enjoy themselves, and I want them to leave my blog feeling like they got a complete story; I do try to make each part stand alone. 

I am also working on painting a fox for the story. The image in this post is the structural drawing I will use for it. I would have never expected I would draw and paint so many foxes.

Run, Gray Fox

gray fox - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Gray Fox Climbing Tree, 2017; Watercolor

May arrived and filled the field around the burrow with life. When Steven emerged from the den before dawn, he was greeted by the strong fragrance of flowers. It was loud outside as insects whizzed, buzzed, and whirred as they seemed to try to drown each other out. Despite the noise, he could hear water making its way over rocks in the creek nearby. It all made him want to go explore.

As Steven walked about sniffing and studying all of the different smells, the horizon hinted the sun would soon rise. The ambient illumination rose slowly until there was enough light to see the reds and yellows that covered the field. The Earth seemed to celebrate, and he felt the days ahead would be better than the cold and hungry days behind him.

Lisa slept in the den while Steven explored. She had begun sleeping longer than she used to. He estimated he would have enough time to hunt and return with a treat before she woke. He wanted to surprise her with an eastern cottontail. Steven surveyed the field one last time for its beauty. Then, he changed his point of view and began to hunt.

The day became brighter as the sun slowly crawled its way to the top of the sky. The coolness of the morning air was gone and was replaced by a nervous warmth. Steven had not had success. He picked up and lost scents of prey. Tracks led him to nothing. It was as if the rabbits were suddenly disappearing as they hopped along.

Steven suddenly found himself hunting much farther from the den than he had intended. He was in unfamiliar territory. At a distance, he saw buildings from a farm he avoided whenever he could. There was a large unpainted barn made of distressed wood, holes in the roof, and doors that appeared to be unmovable. There were rusted farm machinery and car parts randomly scattered between the barn, house, and shed. Tall grass and weeds surrounded and grew into the insides of the materials. The house was one fourth the size of the barn, but almost equally neglected.

Three dogs who rested on the porch of the farmhouse caught Steven’s scent. One of them began to bark. As soon as Steven heard barking, he searched the distance for the source. He expected to see a dog threatening somewhere far away. However, about a soccer field away, he saw a black German Shepherd and a black, white, and brown collie sprinting toward him and closing in.

Steven turned and ran. He knew he was not faster than the dogs, so he looked for the nearest tree. The first one he saw was a White Oak growing alone in a meadow. It was not a good option, but it was his only one. Its location changed his trajectory so that the dogs actually had less distance to travel to overtake him. With panic shooting through his body, he slowed down as he neared the bottom of the tree. And just as he heard growling and paw beats on the ground beside him, he climbed up and out of reach.

The German Shepherd and the collie stood up against the tree and barked menacingly at Steven. He held on to the tree unable to move further from fear and looked down at them. A black Labrador Retriever joined them and walked around looking for a way up. Steven’s heart raced as he watched the dogs below him trying to figure out how to get to get him.

Long minutes filled with the sounds of menace passed, but Steven was still alive. He became sure the dogs could not reach him. Being less afraid, he was able to move. He found a branch nearby upon which to rest. Once he was on it, his heart began to beat a little slower. The energy from adrenaline retreated from his paws and evaporated from his body. The blood pounding into his head slowed its rhythm, reduced its intensity, and he was able to think.

Steven looked around the perimeter of the tree for a way to escape. He was in the middle of a meadow, and there were no other trees nearby that he could leap to. He searched the ground for holes or abandoned dens he might be able to dash to, but he could not see them if there were any. There were brush and fallen trees that offered cover, but were so far that the collie would most likely catch him halfway to them. The despair that struck him felt all the more intense because he had so much hope for a good life earlier that morning when he had walked out of the den. Steven felt he might never again go home to Lisa.

© 2017 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

When Steven Met Lisa

gray fox running in snow - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Gray Fox Running in Snow, 2017; Watercolor
During a morning last February, Steven dug through snow to exit his den. After his eyes adjusted to the arresting light from the white fields, he saw Lisa for the first time. She was hunting. Her nose and ears were directed downward. She moved gracefully above the ground as lightly as if she were floating. He noticed her fur was mostly gray like his own. There were touches of orange behind her head, along the sides of her belly, and beneath her tail. Her tail had a black stripe along the top like his own.

Lisa froze appearing to hear something beneath the snow. She repositioned her body and put tension in it like a spring. After a moment of calculation, she pounced and poked her face into the snow. By her reaction, she missed her prey. The grace Steven witnessed when Lisa was stalking left. She dug frantically through the snow. As she flung the white powder back, it stuck to her fur like cotton. It also covered her muzzle and gave her the appearance of being rabid.

The vole Lisa hunted made a navigation error during its escape. It popped out of the snow and into plain view. Steven spotted it, but Lisa was too flustered to notice the fur ball in the snow. The vole looked around trying to gain its bearings. While the handful of fur sat in the snow overthinking its next move, Steven sprinted toward it. The vole saw Steven and began to scurry for the cover of a fallen log, but it had reacted too slowly. Steven captured it.

Steven trotted to Lisa with the vole in his snout. He stopped in front of her and offered it, but she did not notice. She continued to dig through the snow to find the same vole. Stephen waited for a minute, then gave a low bark to get her attention. It startled her. She leapt back and glared at him for causing her to jump. As she looked him in the eye, she noticed the wiggling vole in his snout. Her stomach growled loud enough for Steven to hear it.

Steven bowed his head slightly feeling sorry for Lisa, but also amused by her at the same time. He tried to tell her with his facial expression that the vole was for her. She appeared to understand and responded that she would not take it. So, he opened his snout and the vole leapt for the ground. Lisa’s expression changed from pride to panic as she watched it scurry back into the snow. She leapt for it, but it was gone.

Highly irritable from her hunger, she pounced on Steven and bit his shoulder. He yelped at the aggressive bite. Lisa held his body to the ground and waited for him to retaliate, but he did not. After it was clear that he was not going to fight back, she felt badly that she had knocked him to the ground and had bit him. She slowly got off of him and backed away with her head bowed.

Steven stood up and walked out of the impression they had left in the snow. He walked over to Lisa who was not looking him in the eye anymore. When he was next to her face, he shook off the snow that had stuck to him when he was on the ground. She growled, and he ran.

Lisa was disappointed as she looked up and saw him run away from her. He galloped across the field of snow and dove into an evergreen tree. She expected to see a cloud of snow fall as he went into it, but he did not disturb a single needle. A disinterested gray fox would have looked away, but she watched the tree hoping. Then, he jumped out from the upper half of the tree. As he trotted back, she noticed a bird in his snout.

Steven stopped in front of her and told her with his facial expression that the bird was for her. She understood. She stepped forward, took the bird from his snout, and stepped back. She looked at Steven with gratitude. Then, she opened her snout and let the bird fly away.

© 2017 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Paul the Cottontail

eastern cottontail - 2017 - crop
Eduardo Suré; Eastern Cottontail, 2017; Graphite

Paul sits still in the grass, but is not blending in. The tall fescue is a rich green, while he is gray and brown with specks of black here and there. He is an eastern cottontail, and he is the guardian of this and four other front yards. That is, according to him, he is.

Of the five yards, this one is Paul’s favorite. The lawn is poorly maintained; therefore, it provides clover, crabgrass, dandelions, and other delights. There is also a garden in the backyard with salsa plants, carrots, lettuce, strawberries, and cucumbers. The backyard is surrounded by a fence he can easily crawl under in case the dog is let out of the house. Since the dog cannot go to the front yard, he can leave his fecal pellets scattered around the front yard for later snacking and redigestion.

If we look into Paul’s heart, we will find a great desire. That desire is to be a hero. He feels his large ears are meant for super hearing. His large hind legs are meant for super running. His large eyes are meant for super seeing. He knows not the purpose of his short and fluffy white tail, but it must have a super purpose as well.

Paul goes to the backyard to eat his next course of flowers and to think heroic thoughts. With his super bunny ears, he hears the back door of the house open. A toddler sneaks out of the house into the backyard. The child’s eyes are attracted to the flower bed by the bright colors. There, on the mulch, he sees the rabbit sitting still with a petal hanging from its lip. The child screams with delight and begins to toddle toward the rabbit.

Paul must act eventually: the toddler is not very fast. The child walks toward the rabbit with each step rocking side to side. He appears about to fall, but disappoints. The toddler’s chubby little arms are stretched forward like a sleepwalker on television. Paul imagines the fat little hands pulling at his ears. That must not happen, he thinks.

Paul jumps from the mulch of the flower bed into the grass. He zig zags around the yard at an impressive speed. The toddler is delighted by the erratic movement. Paul runs from the child as far as he can in the backyard. Then, he sprints toward the child as fast as he can. At the last moment, he jumps and knocks the child down. The toddler begins to cry. A few seconds pass and the back door is opened by a woman. She does not even catch a glimpse of Paul’s fluffy tail as he goes under the fence into the neighbor’s yard.

It is dusk and the neighborhood is quiet. Parents are home from work, children are inside doing their homework, and mosquitos deter walkers. Paul sits in the front yard of his favorite home eating clover between a hedge and a blue spruce. Both would provide perfect cover should a hero require it. Days have passed since Paul defeated the toddler in the epic backyard showdown. He is anxious to put his super powers to good use again. He is anxious to test his courage. An opportunity arrives.

From three different directions, Paul sees three little girls come together across the street. All three elementary school girls are completely neglected by their parents while the sun is out and shortly after. Karen, a nosy walleyed girl, lives across the street. Nancy, the Insatiable, lives a few houses to the west. Betty, Le Terrible, invades from a couple of blocks to the east.

Tonight, they threaten Paul’s favorite yard with fire. Betty has a large box of matches. She strikes one on the side of the box. A bright yellow flame beside the head of the match appears and consumes the match quickly. The light illuminates the three little witches and casts sinister shadows on their faces. Karen asks for a match to light. She strikes it against the box and becomes scared as it flares in her fingers, so she throws the match into the street. Karen’s eyes open wide as her mind gives birth to an idea. She takes a match and presses it with her index finger against the box. With a quick and nimble stroke, she strikes it and sends it flying in an arc across the street. The girls are delighted.

Paul watches the girls take turns flicking matches. They become better at launching them longer and longer distances. One lands in his yard just a few feet in front of him. He jumps over to it. With his furry back foot, he thump-thump-thumps it out. Another flaming match lands in a mulch bed to his right. A small fire begins to spread, but he jumps to it and thump-thump-thump-thump-thumps it out. Then, a third match lands in the grass.

Paul is so focused on putting out fires that he does not notice the girls approach. After he puts out a tiny fire in the grass, he looks up and sees the three villains around him. He freezes. He evaluates his escape routes. Running by Terrible Betty is foolish. Walleyed Karen may have the worst hand-eye coordination. Portly Nancy may have the slowest reaction time. He bets against Karen and Nancy and loses. Nancy grabs him.

Paul has never been held before. He is a wild animal with ticks, zero healthcare, numerous predators, and at high risk of colliding with automobiles. He stops moving when Nancy’s powerful fingers press against his chest. He cannot breath. Adrenaline shoots through his body as she lifts him off the ground. It feels like a shock. He flails, but Nancy is too strong. He bites one of her hot dog fingers. She screams and drops him on the ground. After a breath, he sprints back into a neighboring backyard.

Paul hides safely under the cover of a bush. His heart beats like a drum roll. He can taste Nancy’s blood in his mouth. He does not like it. He also has a bad sensation weighing down his mind. He tries to think through the reasons he should be relieved. He thinks he prevented a fire in his yard. His bite may have sent the girls home. He left the danger behind him. Perhaps a hero would not have left. His mind is heavy because he did not see the situation through. He needs to go back. He is afraid, but needs to go back.

Paul takes a deep breath and runs out of his cover back to the front yard. He tries to think about what he will do when he gets there, but nothing occurs to him. He does not know what he will do if the girls are still there playing with matches. It takes him less than a minute to arrive. He sees the yard is empty. The girls are gone. There are no fires.

The weight is off Paul’s mind. He is proud to be a hero. With his large ears, he hears the front door across the street open. Karen’s image falls on his eyes. She glares at him. He defiantly picks up a fecal pellet and chews it as he looks back at her. It tastes much better than Nancy.

© 2017 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Carpooling on Sundays

Eduardo Suré; Economy Car Sketch, 2017; Graphite

I’m not a man,” said Margaret, “and I don’t know anything about ties, but I do know they shouldn’t be that wide. Or that short.” Margaret was short brunette. Her hair was naturally curly and it framed her face, which had a look of gentle authority.

“I never noticed,” said Susan. The waitress arrived with the lemonades the two women had ordered and set them on the table. She looked briefly at Susan for any needs. Susan was a thin woman with black hair and a shy demeanor that suggested she might play third chair violin in a symphony orchestra. The small Italian restaurant filled with a lunch crowd. The waitress noticed the hostess had just seated a party of four in her section and left to greet them.

“You never noticed our Pastor’s clown ties?” asked Margaret.

“I only know he wears a suit,” said Susan, “I sit in the back and never see much of him.”

“Well I do,” said Margaret. “His ties are twice the width of normal ties and they never make it past the apex of his big belly. It’s like a giant arrow pointing at his stomach and reminding us we need to pay tithing to feed him.”

“Oh, Margaret!” said Susan, “You are just as bad as Jessica!”

Margaret smiled and sipped her lemonade through a straw. She held it between her right index finger and thumb and picked at the ice in her drink repeatedly. “How is our wild friend?” she asked.

“Still the same,” answered Susan. It was louder in the restaurant than when they first arrived. Susan felt her words masked by the noise and that it gave them a fair amount of privacy. She became bold. “Did I ever tell you what happened with Brother Mark?”

“No,” answered Margaret. She leaned in. “Are we talking about Brother Mark the deacon?”

“Yes,” answered Susan, “that Brother Mark. And Jessica. I never told you anything?”

“No,” replied Margaret. “So tell me.”

“Well,” said Susan, “A couple of Sundays ago, I dropped Brother Mark off at his home after Church like I always do. As he thanked me before opening the door to get out of my car, he put his hand on my leg.”

“He did what!” exclaimed Margaret. “That’s gross! He’s married! And twice your age! And GAG! What did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything,” answered Susan. “I kept my hands on the steering wheel and looked straight ahead out the windshield with my eyes popping out of my head until he got out of the car.”

“You are too nice,” said Margaret. “I would have slapped him on his ear. You called him and told him you wouldn’t give him rides to church anymore, right?” Susan took a sip of her lemonade and inspected the condensation on her glass as a way to avoid eye contact with Margaret. “Susan, you told him didn’t you?”

“Well, no,” answered Susan.

“Susan!” exclaimed Margaret. “Why didn’t you tell him?”

“Because I didn’t know who would open the church,” answered Susan.

“So you were afraid that if you didn’t give the old adulterer a ride to church, the congregation would just gather around the front doors whimpering in the rain?” asked Margaret. “Everyone would be OK, Susan. Besides, how ridiculous is it that an old man like Brother Mark needs a ride. What was Jessica’s role in all of this?” The waitress brought the women’s’ entrees. Susan watched Margaret smile and thank the waitress, but she could tell her smile was forced. Margaret was frustrated with Susan’s meekness.

After the waitress left them, Susan said, “Well, I told Jessica what happened. You know Jessica, she made fun of me. Saying we would have ugly babies and that I was going to hate changing adult diapers.”

“That Jessica,” said Margaret. “Did she tell you anything else? She wouldn’t miss a chance to tell you what to do.”

“She told me to tell Sister Sarah, his wife,” answered Susan.

“And she probably offered to go with you to tell her,” said Margaret.

“You know she did,” said Susan. “Of course, I told her I wasn’t going to cause problems in their marriage.”

You are not the one causing problems in their marriage, Susan,” interrupted Margaret.

“So Jessica said that she wanted a ride to church every Sunday too,” continued Susan. “The following Sunday, I picked her up first and then we went together to pick up Brother Mark. He was not happy to see her. Jessica stepped out of the passenger side – you know I have a two door – and folded the passenger’s seat forward suggesting to Brother Mark to get in the back seat. Realizing what she was asking, he said something about being bigger and having bad knees. Jessica just yelled, ‘Shot Gun!’ as if that settled things.”

“What did he do?” asked Margaret.

“He didn’t know what to make of the situation and Jessica didn’t move, so he had to crawl into the back seat,” answered Susan. “It really was too cramped for him back there.”

“Serves him right,” said Margaret.

“Jessica baited Brother Mark during the entire ride,” said Susan. “She asked him things like how the wonderful Sister Sarah was doing. How he and Sister Sarah went on dates without a car… Asked him if he’d ever learned to drive… She mentioned to me loudly that one of the young single men had asked her about me. Picked a cute one too. I’m sure she was lying.”

“What did Brother Mark say?” asked Margaret.

“He mumbled his answers,” answered Susan, “but Jessica didn’t care what he said. She knew she made him uncomfortable. When we arrived at the Church, she said she was glad we had decided to carpool together from then on.”

“And what did he say to that?” asked Margaret.

“Oh, he complained about his back and his knees as he got out of the car,” replied Susan. “He said they should take turns riding in the passenger seat. Jessica guffawed…”

“Guffawed?” asked Margaret.

“You know with her it’s not a laugh,” said Susan. “She cackles like a witch chasing children. Anyway, she told him he was such a kidder. Then, she grabbed my arm and dragged me toward some sisters that had just arrived and left Brother Mark to unlock the church on his own.”

“She’s a mean girl,” said Margaret.

“She is. And then, she sat by me during church,” said Susan. “When she saw him looking at me, she put her hand on my leg.”

“She didn’t!” exclaimed Margaret.

“She did. I could feel my ears go red and hot,” said Susan. “At one point, she looked him right in the eyes, grinning. I watched her out of the corner of my eye. It wasn’t even a normal human grin: she looked like one of those dogs on the internet that smile after they get caught doing something wrong. You know what I’m talking about?”

“The submissive grin? Ears back, squinting, bared upper teeth…” responded Margaret.

“Like that,” said Susan. “Well, it’s been a while since Brother Mark was in middle school. He didn’t know how to respond to that. After Church, he caught me at a moment when Jessica was off somewhere and briefly told me he found another ride home.”

“Have you heard from him again?” asked Margaret.

“No,” answered Susan, “But Jessica called him to ask if he wanted to ride with us to church on Sunday.”

“What did he say to her?” asked Margaret.

“He said no,” replied Susan.

© 2017 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Running Cybernetic

cybernetic running - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Running Cybernetic, 2017; Watercolor
This is one of the images I was considering for a story I wrote back in March, The Cybernetic . Even though I didn’t use the image, I thought it would be fun to paint it.

I used blue and orange complimentary colors to evoke excitement. The analogous colors in the background are supposed to suggest both an explosion and the forward motion of the character. I omitted the effect of the character’s foot striking the ground, but the pencil marks are slightly visible.

In case you are interested, this is a link to the story https://bedtime-stories.family.blog/?s=cybernetic .

Soldiers at Spangler’s Meadow

soldiers in spanglers meadow - 2017 - 3x2
Eduardo Suré; Soldiers at Spangler’s Meadow, 2017; Watercolor
During a visit to Gettysburg National Military Park, I was fascinated by the story of a disastrous attack that took place just south of Spangler’s Spring during the morning of July 3rd, 1863. This is one of the watercolors that story has inspired me to paint.

I just realized I made a mistake. Between the two regiments who fought for the Union, the painting should give the impression that there are over 600 soldiers on the meadow. I had been thinking about modern fire team concepts, so their small numbers must have been stuck in my head. I’ll add the soldiers and post an updated painting.

Jennifer’s Adventure

watercolor - white tailed deer - 2017 3x2
Eduardo Suré; White-tailed Doe, 2017; Watercolor

Jennifer walked alone quietly through the state park’s woods and ate her favorite leaves. Food for white-tailed deer had been plentiful during the spring. It continued to be so in summer, but cooler days warned her the woods in which she lived were about to become dangerous. Hunting season was about to begin.

Jennifer had learned about hunters years before. It had been early fall. The morning had been cool. She and another doe had gone to enjoy the variety of grasses a meadow nearby offered. They had been out in the open when her companion’s tail went up as a warning that she had sensed danger. Jennifer had heard an odd squishing sound that had come from her companion’s direction. The other doe had been struck by an arrow, had stumbled, and then had fallen. Jennifer had run into the cover of trees knowing her companion would not follow.

Jennifer remembered that morning as she reached a spot behind some bushes that grew where the woods and a meadow met. She smelled the air and analyzed it for signs of danger. She looked around the woods that surrounded the meadow. She saw a sign. Across the meadow, men moved through the woods. They were scouting. They would soon return to hunt. It was time for her to leave.

Jennifer had survived past hunting seasons by taking a long and hazardous trip from the woods in the state park to smaller woods surrounding a golf course. There was a path older deer had worn that helped her find her way there. She found and followed this path soon after seeing the humans in the woods.

Jennifer followed the path through the familiar parts of the woods where she lived. Then, the path took her to denser parts with which she was less familiar. She caught scents other deer had left on the vegetation that formed walls beside the path. The path led her across fields where she stopped to eat. It also led her by a creek where she stopped to drink. The path led through backyards and close to homes. Some of the homes had left out food for deer, and she was happy to eat it.

Predators also used the path to travel. Jennifer had grown large enough to fight off most predators. She was occasionally surprised by a dog. Some just wanted her to leave their territory. Others wanted to play and barked and nipped at her heels. She dealt with dogs easily. However, there was one predator she feared almost as much as humans. Unfortunately, she encountered one on her trip.

As Jennifer walked, she saw a black figure using the path ahead of her. She stopped and looked closely at it. It was a bear. When the bear noticed her, it began to charge. She raised her tail. If the bear knocked her down, it would not try to kill her: it would just begin to eat her. She stomped her feet and let out a grunt as a warning. As the bear came nearer, she stomped again and released a foul smelling fluid onto the ground from the glands in her feet. The bear was undeterred. When the bear was close enough that she could see the glassy surface of its eyes, she leapt off the path and ran. The bear chased her, but she was much faster than the bear. She got away.

Jennifer found a place to hide after her escape and remained hidden. After she calmed down, she found her way back to the path. It was the only way she knew how to get to the woods surrounding the golf course. She felt heavy from the energy she lost taking flight from the bear, but she wanted to keep moving forward. She ate familiar foods offered naturally by the forest as she went. She stored the food in one stomach, but it would not be digested until she was resting in a safe place.

The path led Jennifer to grass cut short along the side of a road. Then, the path ended where it met the asphalt surface of a highway. She knew the path continued on the other side. She also knew automobiles traveled at high speeds on the road. She was poor at judging their velocity and had just barely survived other crossings. She saw a truck coming. She was going to cross in front of it, but its loud horn startled her. She stopped and watched it roar by. The wind from its wake made her take a step back.

Jennifer watched cars approach from the left and go by. After a long while, she did not see cars in the horizon from the direction from which they had approached. She crossed quickly and stopped on the grass at the median between the road going east and the road going west. In her way, was a short steel barrier that prevented vehicles from crossing the median.

Jennifer looked left and saw no cars. Without hesitation, she jumped over the barrier and onto the asphalt. A car made a screeching sound when the driver slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting Jennifer. She looked in the direction of the screeching noise. She saw the car coming toward her on her right. She prepared to leap forward; however, a large truck flew past the car on the other lane. She changed direction and began to run back. She heard a horn. She changed direction again and ran across the road without caution. She was lucky. She made it to the shoulder on the other side.

Jennifer knew the cars would stay on the road and not try to run her down. Once she was on the grass beside the road, she slowed down and eased her way into the thick vegetation at the edge of the woods. She found the path quickly and followed it. The sounds of tires rolling over the highway were faintly audible behind her. She was almost at her destination.

As Jennifer walked through the woods, she caught a scent a buck had left on vegetation. She had been alone since her companion had been killed. She occasionally met other deer and she was friendly, but she preferred to be alone. She did not yet want the company of a buck, but she saw it as she walked further down the path. The buck saw her too. He began to trot toward her. She was familiar enough with the woods and simply walked into brush where she knew he could not follow because of his antlers. As she walked through, she heard him struggling and grunting behind her.

Jennifer walked through the thicker vegetation until the air was free of the scent of bucks. She could not hear the highway. She stopped to rest and digest food she had eaten along the way. When she felt her energy return, she found her way back to the path. She followed it until it faded. She knew then she had arrived. There were no hunters, only golfers. Better still, people living by the golf course would leave out deer food during the winter. She would live there until the end of hunting season. In the spring, she would return using the same path to the woods in the state park.

© 2017 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Anthony Opossum

virginia opossum - 2017 - widescreen
Eduardo Suré; Virginia Opossum, 2017; Watercolor

Anthony is a Virginia opossum. He is almost as large as a cat. Most of his fur is a mix of gray and brown colors, but his face is white. When he is going about his business, his black eyes and long face are pleading. His face and fur invite touch, but his bare tale is creepy. His long snout filled with sharp teeth is unsettling.

Anthony lives inside the hole of an oak tree. The oak tree is in a forest. From the forest, he can hear the sounds of people enjoying their backyards. Children are particularly loud. He can smell barbeques and even some of the uncooked food people place on their tables. He is tempted to investigate. One day, he does.

Anthony pokes his head out of the hole in the tree where he lives. He looks around. He smells the air. There is no danger. He cannot hear people, but he can always smell their food. He climbs out of the hole and down the side of the tree. He walks with a sway on the ground. The legs on one side of his body move forward together at the same time. Then, the legs on the other side of his body move forward together at the same time rustling the leaves on the forest floor beneath his feet.

Anthony arrives at a fence where the woods end and a backyard begins. The fence is wooden. It is built with vertical boards. An empty space as wide as the boards is between them. He easily fits through a gap and feels delightful scratches on his sides as he crawls through it.

Once Anthony is in the yard, the smell of food hits his nose. It places a gentle finger under his chin and leads him across the lawn to the side of the house. There he finds two garbage cans surrounded by loosely filled lawn and leaf bags. The cans are overfilled with white garbage bags that prop their lids open. The smell is so strong he can almost distinguish the food items of the buffet that awaits him.

Anthony looks for a way to climb to the opening of the cans. He sees a way up using the lawn and leaf bags. They create a kind of staircase. As he climbs the bags, he hears barking. He looks in the direction of the sound and sees a dog sprinting from the back of the house toward him.

Anthony is suddenly overwhelmed by fear. His body takes over. He falls on his side as if he has been shot. He lays on top of a lawn and leaf bag with his mouth and eyes wide open. His tongue hangs out the side as if his last wish was to taste the top of the paper bag on which he lays. He emits a putrid green fluid from his anus. The dog is suddenly silent. The smell makes him pause. His eyes water. He throws up a little in his mouth. Someone calls the dog’s name from the back door of the house. The dog is eager to sprint away from the smell.

According to Anthony’s heart and breathing rate, he is in a coma. However, he is fully conscious and mortified. He would have rather been bitten – no, killed – by the dog than witness the look on its face after he soiled himself. He is incredulous that he was capable of putting that awful smell in the air. He feels like a coward.

Anthony stops death feigning once the dog is inside. He pulls his tongue back into his mouth and closes it. He stands. He hates himself for responding the way he did. He feels ashamed. He feels he is worth nothing and should be dead. He tells himself he must never act like a coward again. He needs to be able to live with himself.

Anthony climbs the rest of the way to the opening of a garbage can. He is going to eat his self-loathing. He tears open a bag with his claws. The smell of the food in the garbage bag is strong. It is mouthwatering. He finds a piece of fried chicken and tastes it. Delectable. The outside is crunchy. The meat inside is full of flavor. It makes him forget what happened. He finds bits of scrambled egg. There is a hint of cheese and salt. Appetizing. He tastes a blob of something unidentifiable. It appears as though it may have come from a kitchen sink strainer. Tasty. He is experiencing so much pleasure he does not notice the dog has returned.

The dog barks. It is an angry bark. It says, ‘The only good reason you have to be in my garbage can is that you are dead, and you are clearly not!’ The dog is a little mass of fur, skin folds, and rage.

Anthony must fight, but not against the dog. He is on a garbage bag on the can beyond the Toy dog’s reach. He must fight against the feelings inside of him that lead to involuntary death feigning. He feels his legs begin to fail him. The fight going on inside of him is fierce. His mouth opens. Food that is not completely chewed falls out of his mouth. He refocuses from the dog to relaxing his body. He lies calmly on the garbage bag. The dog is barking. He takes deep breaths. The dog is barking. He is soothed by the delicious smell of garbage. He tenses and relaxes his muscles to the rhythm of the dog’s barking.

A woman comes out of the back of the house to investigate the reason for the barking. She sees Anthony in the garbage. She begins waving her arms. She picks up a river stone from the landscaping by the stairs, throws it at him, and misses. He hisses. She picks up another stone, throws it, and it hits the can he is in. He screeches. She picks up a third stone.

Anthony does not know what happened to that third stone. He jumps off and sprints toward the woods. The dog chases him. Anthony turns around and shows the dog his numerous sharp teeth. The dog stops chasing him, but stands its ground and barks. Anthony turns around and walks toward the fence. He goes through a gap and into the woods.

Anthony does not run the rest of the way home. He walks with a defiant wobble. He took flight, but he does not feel that makes him a coward. He did not soil himself when the dog threatened. He responded to the woman’s attacks. He threatened the dog when it chased him. That was much better than feigning death and stinking up the place. He did what he wanted to do. He did not let fear take over.

As a result, Anthony’s world is larger. There are more places to go. There are more things to see. There is more delicious garbage to eat. That’s a good thing, because the life of a Virginia opossum is short. Anthony is making the most of it.

© 2017 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED