One night, when I was eleven or so,
my father and I went to his office
after dark.

I do not remember why.

As we left, I thought of home
and the places my father goes
when he is not there.

His office was full of signs of a life secret to me.

The headlamps played on landscaped
corporate gardens
as we drove home.

I saw two men by the side of the road.

They knelt in the too-bright light
before their pickup truck,
and they held a fawn by its head and legs.

I did not know why.

The fawn was kicking in terrified agony and
the faces of those men were grim
with intent.

And we stopped at a red light.

I rose in my seat to look some more and shivered,
thinking of the fawn and its head and its hooves:
tearing at the pavement.

One of the men brought his arm in an arc over the head of the deer

(like a shaman like a healer)

and crushed its skull with a hammer.
The fawn stopped suddenly.

It did not revel in death.

I was filled with terrible fascination by the spectacle
and I asked my father why they had done
what they had done.

He turned to me and half-smiled through his beard.

they had to because they hit it with their truck
says my father-memory now,
and they could not let it suffer.

It was years before I really learned that compassion
wears masks and
sometimes travels under different names.