The Deer and the Nursing Home
The deer had been struck and killed by a car. A passing motorist on the narrow mountain road saw a slight movement and stopped. Huddled beside the dead deer was a fawn1） with the umbilical cord2) still attached. “I don’t suppose you have a chance, ”the motorist told the tiny creature as he tied off the cord, “but at least I’ll take you where it’s warm. ”
The nearest place was the powerhouse of New Jersey’s Glen Gardner Center for Geriatrics, a state institution. Maintenance men there quickly produced rags to make a bed behind the boiler for the fawn. Then they took a rubber glove, pricked pinholes3) in a finger, diluted4) some milk and offered it to the fawn, who drank eagerly.
With the men taking turns feeding the fawn, the little deer’s wobbly legs and curiosity soon grew strong enough to bring it out from its bed behind the boiler. On their breaks, the men petted and played with the baby. “If it’s a female, we’ll call her Jane Doe, ”they laughed. But it was a male, so they taught him to answer to“Frankie, ”short for Frank Buck.
Frankie became especially attached to one of the men, an electrician named Jean. On nice days, Frankie stepped outside with his new friend, enjoying the fresh air and scratches behind the ears. Sometimes other deer came out of the woods to graze. When Frankie caught their scent, his head came up.
“You’d better tie him or we’ll lose him, ”someone commented.
Jean shook his head. “He’ll know when it’s time to go, ”he said.
Frankie began following Jean on his rounds, and the slight, white-haired man followed by the delicate golden fawn soon became a familiar sight.
One day a resident, noticing Frankie waiting by a door for Jean, invited the deer in. Glen Gardner housed old people who had been in state mental hospitals and needed special care. When Frankie was discovered in side, the staff rushed to put him outside. But when they saw how eagerly one resident after another reached out to touch him, they let him stay. When Frankie appeared, smiles spread and people who seldom spoke asked the deer’s name.
Discovering a line in front of the payroll5) clerk’s window one day, Frankie companionably joined it. When his turn came , the clerk peered out at him. “Well, Frankie, ”she said, “I wouldn’t mind giving you a paycheck. You’re our best social worker.”
The deer had the run of Glen Gardner until late fall, when the superintendent noticed he was growing antlers6). Fearful he might accidentally injure a resident, the supervisor decreed banishment. Frankie continued to frequent the grounds, but as the months passed he explored farther a field. When he was a year old, the evening came when he didn’t return to the powerhouse；now he was on his own.
Still, every morning he was there to greet Jean, exploring the pocket for the treat Jean always brought, and in the afternoon he would reappear. Residents who had refused to go outside before would join him on the front lawn to scratch his ears. George, a solitary7) resident with a speech defect who didn’t seem to care if people understood him or not, taught Frankie to respond to his voice, and they often walked together.
When Frankie was two years old――a sleek creature with six-point antlers and a shiny coat――he failed to show up one April morning. Nor did he answer anyone’s calls. It was late the next day before Jean and George found him lying on a sheltered patch of ground. His right front leg was shattered, jagged splinters8) of bone jutted through the skin.
“Oh, you old donkey, ”Jean whispered. “What happened？”The deer’s eyes were clouded with pain, but he knew Jean’s voice and tried to lick his hand.
“There’s no way to set a break like that without an operation, ”said the veterinarian who examined Frankie. They would have to haul Frankie out of the woods on an improvised litter and drive him to Round Valley Veterinary Hospital, five miles away.
On the day of Frankie’s surgery, the surgeon, Dr. Gregory Zolton, told Jean, “You’ll have to stay with me while I operate. I’ll need help. ”Jean’s stomach did a flip-flop, but he swallowed hard and nodded. During the two-hour procedure, Dr. Zolton took bone from Frankie’s shoulder to make a graft between the broken bones and then screwed a steel plate across it.
“He said a leg that wasn’t strong enough to run on wasn’t any good to a deer, ”recalls Jean.
After the surgery, they took Frankie to an unused horse stable on Glen Gardner’s grounds, and Jean sat in the straw beside the recovering deer. He stroked Frankie’s head and held him whenever the deer tried to struggle to his feet. Finally, as the sun was coming up, Jean took his own stiff bones home, cleaned up and went to work.
By the seventh day, Jean called Dr. Zolton to say it was impossible to hold Frankie still for his antibiotic9) injections. The surgeon laughed. “If he’s that lively, he doesn’t need antibiotics. ”But he warned that Frankie must be kept inside for eight weeks. If he ran on the leg before it knitted, it would shatter.
“Whenever anyone went to visit him, Frankie showed how eager he was to get out,”recalls Jean. “He‘d stand there with his nose pressed against a crack in the door. He smelled spring coming. ”
When word had come that Frankie had survived the operation, the residents’ council at Glen Gardner had called a meeting. Mary, the president, told the group, “There’s no operation without a big bill. Now, Frankie’s our deer, right？”The residents all nodded. “So we’ve got to pay his bill. ”They decided to take up a collection and hold a bake sale.
The day Dr. Zolton’s bill arrived, Mary called a meeting. The others watched silently as she opened the envelope. “Oh, dear, ”she murmured bleakly, “we owe ＄392. ”They had managed to collect only ＄135. Not until she shifted her bifocals10) did she notice the handwriting, which read：“Paid in Full――Gregory Zolton, D. V. M. ”
When Frankie’s confinement was over, Frankie’s friends gathered by the stable door. It was mid-June and grass was knee-deep in the meadow. The buck’s wound was beautifully healed――but would the leg hold？
Jean opened the barn door. “Come on, Frankie, ”he said softly. “You can go now. ”Frankie took a step and looked up at Jean.
“It’s all right, ”Jean urged him. “You’re free. ”Suddenly Frankie understood. He exploded into a run, flying over the field like a greyhound, his hooves barely touching the ground.
“He‘s so glad to be out, ”Mary said wistfully, “I don’t think we’ll ever see him again. ”
At the edge of the woods, Frankie swerved. He was coming back. Near the stable he wheeled again. Six times he crossed the meadow. Then, flanks heaving, tongue lolling, he pulled up beside them. Frankie had tested his leg to its limits. It was perfect. “Good.”said George distinctly. Everyone cheered.
Soon Frankie was again waiting for Jean by the electric shop every morning. In the fall Jean put a yellow collar around Frankie’s neck to warn off hunters. The mountain was a nature preserve, with no hunting allowed, but poachers frequently sneaked in.
One day a pickup truck filled with hunters drove up to the powerhouse. When the tailgate11) was lowered, Frankie jumped down. The hunters had read about him and, spotting the yellow collar, figured it must be Frankie.
Every hunting season, George and the other people at Glen Gardner debate whether to lock Frankie in the stable for his own safety――and their peace of mind. But each fall, the vote always goes against it. Frankie symbolizes the philosophy of Glen Gardner, which is to provide care but not to undermine independence.
“A deer and a person, they each have their dignity, ”Jean says. “You mustn’t take their choices away. ”
So Frank Buck, the wonderful deer of Glen Gardner, remains free. He runs risks, of course, but life is risk, and Frankie knows he has friends he can count on.
□by Jo Coudert
那鹿被车撞死了。一个在狭窄山路上开车经过的人看见有东西微微一动, 就停下了车。蜷缩在死鹿旁的是头脐带未断的初生幼鹿。“我想你活的希望不大, ”开车人一边扯断脐带一边对这个小生灵说道, “但至少我要把你带到一个暖和的地方。”
最近的地方是新泽西州州立格伦加德纳老年医学中心的电工室。那里的工作人员立即拿出碎布, 在锅炉后面给小鹿铺了张床。然后, 他们找来一只橡胶手套, 在一个指头上扎了几个洞眼, 灌上稀释的牛奶喂小鹿。它急不可耐地喝着。
工作人员轮流喂奶, 小鹿晃晃悠悠的腿很快长得有劲, 好奇心也随之增长, 开始从锅炉后面的床出来。工作人员一休息, 就摸摸它, 逗它玩。他们笑着说, “它要是母的, 就叫它简•多伊。”但是, 它是头公鹿。他们教它熟悉“弗兰基”这个名字, 这是雄鹿弗兰克的简称。
弗兰基尤其喜欢他们当中一个叫琼的电工。天气好的时候, 弗兰基和它的新朋友一起出来, 享受清新的空气并搔搔耳背。有时, 别的鹿从树林里出来吃草, 弗兰基闻见它们的气味时, 就抬起头来。
有人建议说, “最好拴上它, 要不然会丢的。”
琼摇头表示不同意。他说, “到该走的时候, 他会知道的。”
有一天, 格伦加德纳疗养中心的一位老人看见弗兰基在门旁等琼, 就请小鹿进去。中心住着在州立精神病院接受过治疗、需要特别照顾的老年人。工作人员一发现小鹿, 就急忙要把它轰走。但是当他们看到人们都迫切地伸出手去摸它, 就让小鹿留下了。从此每当弗兰基一出现, 到处可见到微笑, 连那些平常极少说话的老人也打听小鹿叫什么名字。 一天, 弗兰基发现发工资的窗口前面有人排着队, 它也跟着人们排队。轮到它时, 负责发工资的工作人员盯着它说道, “是啊, 弗兰基, 我真想给你张支票, 你是我们最好的社会工作者。”
暮秋前, 弗兰基在疗养中心一直行动自由。直到有一天, 中心的主管注意到它开始长角了。中心负责人担心它会意外伤着住宿的老人, 决定禁止它出入。弗兰基仍常去附近的场地。随着时光流逝, 它去更远的田野探索。年满１岁后的一天傍晚, 它没有回到老年中心的电工室, 它开始独立生活了。
每天早上, 弗兰基依旧来和琼打招呼, 把嘴伸到他口袋里找为他准备的好吃的东西。午后它再次出现。疗养中心那些原来不愿意出来的老人们也开始来到楼前草地搔它的耳朵。乔治是个有语言障碍、不合群的老人, 他从不在乎别人是否理解他, 但他教会弗兰基对他的语声作出反应。他们俩经常在一起散步。
弗兰基两岁时, 毛色油亮, 长着６叉茸角。４月的一个早晨, 它没有露面。谁叫它都没有回应。第二天晚些时候, 琼和乔治发现它躺在有遮掩的一处地面上, 右前腿折断, 露出锯齿状的碎骨。
“啊, 你这个家伙, ”琼喃喃自语。“出了什么事？”弗兰基的目光因痛苦而混浊。但它听出琼的声音, 尽力去舔他的手。
给弗兰基做检查的兽医说, “这样的骨折, 不动手术没法接骨。”他们得把弗兰基用临时做的担架从树林里抬出来, 开车把它送到５英里外圆谷地方的兽医院去。
动手术那天, 主刀的格雷戈里•佐尔顿医生对琼说, “我给它开刀的时候, 你得待在这儿。我需要帮助。”琼听了这话, 心里一阵捣腾, 但是他使劲往下咽, 点头表示同意。佐尔顿医生从弗兰基的肩膀取骨移接在断骨之间, 然后用一块钢板固定, 用了两个小时。
事后琼回忆说, “医生当时说, 鹿要是靠一条吃不住劲的腿跑的话可不行。”
手术之后, 他们把弗兰基带到疗养中心场地上一处弃置不用的马厩里, 琼坐在麦杆上, 陪着恢复中的鹿。每当它想站起来, 他就摸摸它的头把它按下去。待到天亮, 琼才拖着僵硬的身子回家, 洗漱后去上班。
到了第７天, 琼打电话告诉佐尔顿医生说, 给弗兰基打抗菌素针时没法按住它, 医生听了就笑。“如果它有那么大的劲, 就不需要抗菌素针了。”但是他警告说弗兰基必须在户内呆８个星期, 如果骨头没愈合, 出去跑会断的。
“每当有人来看弗兰基时, 它总是表现得急于外出, ”琼回忆说。“它站在那儿把鼻子贴在门缝上。它闻到了春天的气息。”
弗兰基手术成功的消息传来后, 疗养中心病人理事会召开了会议。主席玛丽告诉与会者说, “手术费总是很贵的。弗兰基是咱们的鹿, 对吧？”大家都点头同意。“所以得由我们支付这笔费用。”他们决定举办一次烘烤食品义卖进行募捐。
佐尔顿医生账单来的那天, 玛丽又召开了一次会。她撕开信封的时候, 大家都不出声地瞧着。“我的天啊。”她忧郁地低声说道, “我们得付３９２块钱。”但是他们只募集到１３５块钱。直到她推动双光眼镜的时候才注意到一行字：已全额付清---兽医学博士格雷戈里•佐尔顿。
弗兰基幽禁期结束时, 它的朋友们聚集在马厩门旁。那时是６月中旬, 草已经长到跟人的膝盖一般高。雄鹿的伤口愈合得非常好, 但是它的腿能支撑它的身体吗？“琼把马厩的门打开。“出来吧, 弗兰基, ”他轻声细语地说道。“你可以走了。”那鹿向前迈了一步, 抬头瞧着琼。“没事了, ”
琼鼓励它。“你自由了。”突然间, 弗兰基明白了。它猛地奔跑起来, 像头身细腿长的灵飞越过旷野, 四蹄几乎腾空。
“它非常高兴能出来了, ”玛丽若有所思地说, “我想我们再也见不到它了。”
在树林边上, 弗兰基突然转过身来。它回来了。到了马厩, 又回头再飞跑, 连续６次横穿草地。然后, 喘着气, 伸着舌头, 慢慢地走进人群。弗兰基测试了伤腿的最大承受能力, 证明它完全正常。“好。”乔治语气肯定地说道。在场的人无不喝采欢呼。
不久, 每天早上弗兰基又在电工室等着琼。秋天时, 琼给弗兰基套上个黄脖圈, 告诫猎人不要猎杀它。那个山区是个自然保护区, 不准捕猎, 但是总有非法盗猎者偷偷潜入。
一天, 一辆小货车满载着猎人来到电工室。后挡板打开后, 弗兰基跳了下来。猎人们读过有关它的报道, 看到黄脖圈, 断定它就是弗兰基。
每到捕猎季节, 乔治和其他在格伦加德纳疗养中心的人就要辩论, 为了弗兰基的安全, 是否该把它关在马厩里, 这样他们自己也放心。但是每次表决结果都不赞同这么做。弗兰基象征着格伦加德纳疗养中心的创办思想---提供照看服务, 但不限制自由。
“鹿和人一样, 它们有自己的尊严, ”琼说道。“我们决不能夺走它们自己的选择。”
因此, 雄鹿弗兰基, 这只深受格伦加德纳中心人们钟爱的鹿, 一直自由自在。当然, 它有风险, 但是生活本身就是风险。而且弗兰基知道它有可以依赖的朋友。
1. fawn n. (未满一岁的)小鹿, 小山羊, 小动物
2. umbilical cord n. 脐带
3. pinhole n. 针孔, 小孔
4. dilute v. 冲淡, 变淡
5. payroll n. 薪水册
6. antler n. 鹿角, 茸角
7. solitary adj. 孤独的
8. splinter n. 裂片, 尖片，碎片
9. antibiotic n. 抗生素
10. bifocal adj. 双光眼镜
11. tailgate n. (卡车等的)后挡板