The deer caught Owen completely by surprise. They were not supposed to be straying onto the Garden State Parkway, but there were just too many of them now and they had no place left to wander. Thank God he was in the right lane because he swerved and drove the van right up against the stone bridge abutment before the new exit 132. It was almost seven in the morning, and he was heading to St. Gertrude Cemetery with some really nice bereavement wreathes to pay respects to a recently departed, never-to-be-forgotten local politician.
On Saturday morning the Parkway was empty of commuters, and the few speeding cars didn’t even slow down to check on Owen. He got out of the van to check for damage and walked around the abutment to see if the deer were hurt. Out of sight of the road Owen was amazed at the quiet, and he saw a few deer standing still and dumb in the open scrub watching him. But when he turned around to head back to the van he was shocked again by the figure squatting at the corner of the abutment.
At first he thought it was a homeless man sleeping, but in his approach he could make out that it was a clay figure — like you’d see in a museum — “sculptures of the ancient civilizations.” The figure looked almost square. The legs were basically the stump of the body and head was a blockish affair. It may have been there a long time because the facial features were worn flat and there was blackish mold growing up one side.
Owen put his arms around the golem to feel its heft. It was sturdy and bulky, but not particularly heavy. He lifted it from the spot and carried it back to the van. There was a longish dent in the van’s side and some of the paint had been chipped off, but then again, the paint was already pretty faded. The van was fine. Owen opened the back doors and snuggled the golem in, wrapping the wreathes around him. He looked inscrutable, and Owen began to imagine him as a talisman. Who would have left him there, hidden to all but the empty-headed deer? Owen would take him and his wordless dignity to the cemetery today. Better to bring silent peace to mourners than to watch over slack-jawed deer amid the smog generated by preoccupied, rushing, clueless commuters.
Alone in the cool dark of the van, surrounded by the funeral flowers the clay face of the golem faintly cracked a knowing smile.