I don’t rush straight back. Once I’ve seen it, the image sits in my head, lays there, unmoving, like a desktop wallpaper while I set about my morning chores. Washing goes on, the dishwasher is emptied, my ironing pile shrinks by tiny increments as I press the kids’ clothes and all the time the image rear projects itself onto the horribly magnolia walls behind me.
I passed it in the car after dropping the kids off. A dead squirrel. A freshly killed squirrel. The russet of its fur looked unbroken, the usual roadkill explosion of guts and blood noticeably absent. It couldn’t have been run over, surely the pressure of tyres and solidity of chassis weight and forward velocity would split it like a sausage. It must have dropped from the trees that line the road, dead from an hereditary heart problem or brain aneurysm or some tragically debilitating illness.
I don’t rush straight back but I do return. I walk there in my stockinged feet, leaving the front door swinging, the washing turning, the iron on, and I listen for cars. It looks just as it did when I passed it, steering the car so that the wheels would pass safely either side. It looks as if it is sleeping and it is only as I notice this that I realise why I have come. I lay down on the road beside it. The tarmac is warm on my cheek from the early summer sun and the dark open eyes of the squirrel question me, so I close my eyes and I listen.