Deer Woman Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Two beautiful deer women, Linda and Junella, arrive at a “stomp dance”—a traditional Sioux ceremony that is conducted with certain modifications on an Oklahoma reservation. The dance ground is ringed by a motley assortment of Cadillacs and pickup trucks, whose headlights provide illumination. Two “’skins,” Ray and Jackie, arrive at the dance hoping to “snag,” that is, to score with, women. Pretending to want to go to the nearby town of Anadarko, the women accept a lift from the men, who cannot believe their good luck, and pile into Ray’s pickup.

As the women climb into the truck, Ray thinks that he sees their feet look like deer hooves. After the women ask to stop by a river in order to refresh themselves, they lead the men up a path to their “old house,” where their ancient Uncle Thunder is sitting. “I see you’ve snagged two strong men,” the old man says, punning on the term “snag” and commenting sarcastically on the word “strong.” Leading the men by their hands, the women then take them to a second ceremonial site—a field where a baseball game is being played.

In the midst of the game, the deer women vanish, leaving Ray and Jackie to search for them futilely. Ray awakens from a deep sleep to find himself lying by a river at midday. Jackie is nowhere to be found, but Junella is beside him. She tells him that “Jackie is staying there,” and gives him Jackie’s wristwatch as proof. Ray then becomes dizzy. He takes a step toward the woman, but the rock on which she has been sitting is empty.

Fifteen months later Jackie’s fate is revealed: A sudden move to Seattle with Linda, the birth of a child, alcoholism, and a premature death for revealing things that he learned inside a mountain that he was not supposed to tell.

The story concludes with an ambiguous image of Ray rushing to catch a subway in San Francisco. On his way to a meeting, he is firmly entrenched in the modern wristwatch world.