The crew stood there with their shovels and rakes and the big guy walked up to the foreman and the foreman spoke first.
“That,” said the big guy.
He pointed to a dead deer on the side of the road they were building, on the other side of a concrete barrier to keep them from being killed while they worked on the road from passing motorists who tended not to slow down or give much of a good goddamn about road construction crews unless warned and threatened with massive fines or the presence of a state trooper in a marked car with flashing lights and lots of radios and radar.
“What about it?” asked the foreman.
The big guy looked at him. The big guy had a wife and three kids and he needed this job. He could do the work of two or three, but right now something in his heart made it impossible for him to work at all. He needed to tell the foreman what he thought. He needed to tell someone. That made him different. No one else seemed to care.
“We should get rid of it.”
“What do you mean, ‘Get rid of it’,” replied the foreman.
“I mean I don’t think its right for us to let that dead animal lay there while we’re working on this road and people are driving by with women and kids and old folks and they see it and it’s like it doesn’t matter.”
“Go home,” said the foreman. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but I don’t want you on this job today. Go home. Take a sick day. Come back tomorrow when you feel like working.”
“I’m not sick.
“I’m telling you to go home. Take off.”
Then the foreman walked away. He didn’t want to talk about dead animals any more. He didn’t want to talk at all. He could see the dead deer alright for himself. It didn’t bother him. Animals got killed. They got killed, that’s all. It didn’t mean anything. It didn’t matter and it didn’t bother him. He walked up to the operator of a twenty-six ton Caterpillar tractor and started talking about the grade of the overpass they were building. They didn’t talk about the dead deer or the big guy.
That night the big guy talked to his wife.
“What kind of a country are we living in anyway?” he asked as they lay there in bed. “I don’t know. I see the pavement and the barbed wire and chain link we put up to keep people out of the construction zone or the materials yard and I wonder. We keep building roads, but then we let dead animals lay there dead right there in the middle of the right of way and we don’t even throw a tarp over it. We just let it rot there in the sun and the rain and we act like nothing’s wrong. We just keep working. I wonder if we’d do the same thing if we saw a person laying there. We’d just work around it because we can’t do anything? Is that what we’d do? Is that what we’re supposed to do, just keep working like nothing’s wrong when something is wrong and things get so ugly and become so inhuman? I mean, shouldn’t we try to make things better, not just bigger with more lanes and concrete?”
“You’re tired,” said his wife. “Go to sleep.”
“I don’t feel tired,” said the big guy. “I don’t feel tired,” he repeated when she didn’t reply.
His wife didn’t want to prolong the conversation. She’d heard him like this before. She wondered if maybe he needed to see a doctor. She’d think about it.
Then she fell asleep.