For a change, a (very) short story inspired by a real event: a few Christmases ago, a male reindeer called Borneo (one of the pair brought over for our annual Christmas Fayre) got frightened by a dog, jumped over the fence of his pen in Whinlatter Forest, ran into the surrounding thicket and hasn’t been seen since – despite considerable publicity surrounding the case and appeals to the public to be on the lookout. But maybe, just maybe, what happened was this …
The vision of sublime loveliness before him made his stomach perform a somersault. He had no idea such pulchritude even existed. He stood rooted to the spot, staring at her. She appeared not to notice him; at least that’s the impression she gave. That afforded him the opportunity to study her more closely. Wasn’t it delectable – that cute little nose of hers? And that exquisite neck? Oh, and her adorable booty. He was transfixed, his legs nearly buckling under him. Surely, she was way out of his league. But how could he possibly just erase this enchanting picture from his mind and simply turn away? He couldn’t – not without giving it a go. He edged slightly closer, and, finally, she raised her head and looked at him. Oh, those eyes – those magnetic eyes. His head was spinning – and that was before he even noticed that utterly beguiling kink in her tail. But why did she have no antlers?
The conference hall was jam-packed: every single seat was taken, the press corps had their notepads poised, and the photographers were pushing and shoving in the aisles to get the best view of the podium.
At the appointed time, in marched Professor Wiseman, whom the audience greeted with a rousing ovation. Wearing a dignified expression befitting the occasion, he seemed to be lapping up the applause as he looked over the crowded auditorium in the manner of a sovereign surveying his fiefdom. When the uproar died down, he opened the proceedings with due solemnity.
“You will be cognisant of the fact that we have convened this conference to announce an extremely exciting – extremely exciting – discovery that may shake the very foundations – the very foundations – of zoology. We have …”
At that point, he was interrupted by another bout of feverish clapping and cheering. When it finally abated – and it had taken a while before it did – he resumed with the gravity the event fully warranted.
“We have incontrovertible – incontrovertible – evidence of a new animal species, which …”
Once again, his words were drowned out by wild clapping and hooting.
“… a new animal species, which has recently been discovered in the Lake District. Although the new species exhibits some features of red deer and some of reindeer, we have concluded, after a painstaking and rigorous – painstaking and rigorous – scientific analysis, that it is, in fact, neither.”
The pandemonium which ensued confirmed that the audience was simply unable to contain itself.
“Needless to say, we have discounted elaphus, hippelaphus, scoticus, hispanicus, barbarus and all other known subspecies of red deer. We have also eliminated woodland caribou, porcupine caribou, Finnish forest reindeer, Osborn’s caribou, barren-ground caribou, Kamchatka reindeer and all other subspecies of reindeer. In fact, we have scientifically eliminated all known deer species and subspecies and come to the incontestable – incontestable – conclusion that what we have discovered is an entirely – entirely – new species of deer. The observed specimen was young, but our painstaking and rigorous – painstaking and rigorous – scientific scrutiny of the photographic evidence generated by an independent witness walking on Bleaberry Fell has left us in no doubt – in no doubt at all – as to the significance of this ground-breaking discovery.”
At that point, the audience went so wild that Professor Wiseman found himself unable to continue and stood on the podium nodding his head gravely and shielding his eyes from all the photographers’ flashes being torpedoed in his direction.
High up on Bleaberry Fell, the breeze was gentle, the sun’s rays caressing the still surface of Derwentwater below. It was all worth it in the end, he reflected: all the time spent wandering alone round Whinlatter Forest, all those near-misses with motorists tearing along the local roads like demons, all his furtive attempts to befriend the red deer of Central Ridge. And now, finally, he was one of them, with a family of his own. Borneo joyously tossed his magnificently gnarled antlers, undoubtedly the crown jewels of every fully-grown male reindeer, and looked at his first female fawn with unbridled paternal pride. While it was gratifying to observe that she’d inherited her mother’s adorable kink in the tail, he could clearly see that she’d also taken after him, the stumps on her head unmistakenly heralding little ladylike antlers. He’d long since got over his initial astonishment on discovering that, unlike the females of his own species, the native ones grew no antlers. But his female offspring clearly will! Borneo beamed his youngster another delighted look and proceeded feasting contentedly on the lush grass covering the extensive slope.