The Squirrel

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I don't know how it died. It must have tried to leap from the branches of that big bischofia to the roof of our house and just missed.

It lay there on its back, its fur still wet with rain, as flies with pretty green iridescent wings kissed the last moisture from its mouth and industriously probed the slits of its eyes.

I had to bury it. Little brother was too squeamish and wanted to call someone else, but I insisted on doing it myself. The earth was soft as clay but full of stones. I dug a hole not one foot deep by the corner of the house. (It didn't occur to me that rainwater from the roof might later pour down on just that spot.) The shovel finally hit bottom and would go no further.

The dog had to be let out soon. I didn't want him to dig it up. The sight and smell of it had already set him to shaking. I told my brother he'd have to watch the dog.

It fit easily on the shovel, whose concave surface received the body like the outstretched palm of a beggar getting an unexpected and unusually generous gift. Once the shovel was in the hole, the blade slid out easily from under it.

When I had filled the hole and compacted the earth with my feet, I came inside, thinking how I might write a poem about a squirrel. But the rain had already begun.

—Joseph D. Ford

21 September 1990

Miami, Florida

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Last updated October 24, 2003
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© Copyright 2001 by Joseph Dillon Ford