Brand new screen door. All white. Glass on the bottom half. Wire mesh on the top half, through which neighbors and animals share their playful sounds, filling the house. Suburban nature. A bird, loudest of all. A crow perhaps. Its caw unfurling in the living room—a presumption sustained until I step outside and meet a squirrel standing between my car’s back tire and the curb. Huddled over a dead squirrel, half its size. The squirrel gazed at me, its little mouth open, crying for half a minute before dashing off with what I hoped wasn’t its child. Now driving, my motions automatic, I’m taken back to my childhood, when, from the backseat of my grandfather’s Chrysler, I watched, shocked, as an approaching car ran over a squirrel and the poor thing repeatedly hurled itself into the air. What else to do with pain? Swear. Cry. Scream. Curse. Write. While the childhood squirrel wasn’t dead and neither was this morning’s bereaved squirrel, I won’t—can’t—forget them, who in their pain, one physical, the other visceral, a live creature lamenting a dead one, made visible the threat of mortality. Had the dead squirrel been alone, I wouldn’t write about it.
Bernard Grant is an MFA candidate at the Rainier Writing Workshop, Pacific Lutheran University. His work appears in Barely South Review, Blue Lyra Review, The Nervous Breakdown, The Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review, among others. Originally from South Texas, he lives in Washington State.