The Wildlife Center creaked up soon enough in a gray pickup truck, with a single officer who loudly slammed shut her car door. Officer Shandy gestured towards Zach, and her hard blue eyes took him in. She was stout and red-cheeked young woman with a hard voice, and the first thing she told him was,
“I’ll need you to move away so I can take a look at the injury.”
Zach did so without comment, moving to stand next to Gentry, who had instinctively pulled away on his own. Close, but not too close. They both watched her: Zach with curiosity and Gentry with skepticism, until Officer Shandy piped up, “I’ll drive you guys home. Where do you live?”
“Don’t tell me, write it down.” he said, handing Zach a notepad and a pen. While Zach scribbled down the location, his powder-blue jacket landed at Gentry’s feet. After a few minutes, the woman spoke up.
“Well,” she said brightly, “I don’t see any way this animal can return to the wild with its current injuries.”
Zach abruptly stopped scrawling unreadable letters on the notepad.
“Will it be okay?”
“It won’t be able to return to the wild.” She stressed, firmly.
A sick feeling settled in the pit of Gentry’s stomach, but he kept silent. This was not going to end well. He had that feeling.
“The wildlife shelter only accepts animals that can return to the wild.” Said the woman, “That’s our policy. I had to put it down.”
Gentry instinctively held Zach back, but his grip wasn’t strong enough to keep him from storming up to her, and glancing down at the deer carcass. The woman gawked up at him blankly as she said:
“I know this must be hard for you.”
Zach remained speechless as he looked down at the animal, which still had its glazed eyes wide open. Eyes which were ridid with death, glazed over and foggy. It still looked warm, like it might raise its head again. Yet now the flies were swarming around in those gelled yellow orbs, eating away at them with a low buzz. He stifled back the stinging feeling in the back of his throat. There was a lump building there, a sickness that woudn't go away anytime soon. Gentry moved next to him, cast her an angry look he knew wouldn’t bring anything, and gently said, “Come on Zach, let’s go.”
“No.” he looked to the wildlife official, “You think it’s hard for me? That deer’s dead because you killed it. That deer’s dead because it didn’t have a pack to defend it. You killed it! You didn’t have to, but you did--- and that's murder— you're a murder, even if there’s no law against it!”
“I know this must be hard for you—”
“Shut up!" Zach ground out, but didn't yell. He added quietly, "Just shut the fuck up— I know you. You people ask for donations from my parents to save Bald Eagles. You save the Eagles and put them in your brochure!”
“Bald Eagles are an endangered species. Deer are not. I’m sorry, this must be hard for you.”
Officer Shandy piped up, “That deer wouldn’t have survived in nature. It’s natural to kill it.”
“It’s natural to survive.”
Gentry pulled Zach towards the police car by his wrist, but Zach pulled his hand back and got in himself.