When I walk at night, I usually go out sometime after nine o’clock and head up toward the hills. If I have time, there are a couple fairly long, steep routes I’ll take. It’s quiet in most of the neighborhoods around here, and even moreso as you head uphill. Every once in a while you’ll see something in the local paper about some street robberies up there at night, and occasionally that’s made me nervous. The only untoward thing I’ve ever encountered myself is the kind of stuff that would hardly be noticed in a really big city — kids goofing off in some park or other, drinking, maybe breaking bottles if they’re really obstreperous. So, not too much excitement. Often, if I walk down one midblock path late at night, I’ll see the very same guy sitting in the very same spot at the foot of it, wearing a parka, with his backpack beside him. I’ve never seen him during the day; he’s always there at night, sitting up. I’m tempted to go out there at three or four in the morning and see if he’s there.
Another regular but startling occurrence, and it just happened when I was out about an hour ago, is meeting up with large four-legged creatures. It’s the damnedest thing to turn a corner and run into a couple full-size deer, facing you in the middle of the street, maybe 20 or 30 feet away. I remember when seeing a deer, back in Illinois, out near Crete, was like a visitation from the wild. You’d see them at a graceful distance, and they always seemed to be at a full run or clearing a fence in one bound the moment you saw them. It was probably that way here 30 or 40 years ago, too. But now, they’re everywhere, and I’ve even run into them down here around our house, which has got lots of nice flowers to eat, probably, but is a long way from any place a deer could go to get away from us humans. What seems odd, and unwild, is how unperturbed they seem to be when you meet them. The pair I ran into tonight took a long look at me before they started to trot, slowly, right down the middle of the street. They stopped to look back and only kept moving when they saw I was still coming. This went on for a block. I could see one of them as a silhouette, a small set of antlers outlined against kitchen lights down the way. Finally, they got to a corner and split up, the buck going into a garden between two houses.
These deer — they’re just getting to know us a little too well.