The unthinkable has happened.
I was lounging on some big cement blocks, stretching and trying to tan my pasty white thighs in preparation for my race. Tona was sniffing around, as usual, near me. All of a sudden, I hear the frantic squeeeeak! of a running squirrel. Or chipmunk. Small woodland creature.
Why they choose to advertise their terror and location with a loud squeal, while running from their hunters, I’ll never understand.
Anyway, as usual, Tona took off after him. He zigged, he zagged. He paused hidden under rocks, while she searched, then he bolted again. He made it to the rocky ditch, and I thought “ah, he’s safe now. Too many places to hide.” Then I saw Tona lunge, and smash her the top of her skull into a big boulder, nose to the dirt. She lifter her head… triumphant. She had caught him.
His tiny little body held in her front teeth, she seemed unsure of what to do. So was I. He sure seemed dead, from where I sat. I told her “Kill!” and she did her little death shake. I figured at least she should learn what to do with a dead rodent.
Well anyway, then she started playing with him and debating on crunching him, and I though, perhaps I shouldn’t let her eat this gross, parasite, rabies infested fellow. I don’t need a blood and guts covered dog-snout waking me up in the morning.
So I told her “Leave it!” and walked over… and the poor little guy was on his back, feet in the air, mouth agape… panting furiously. Was he dying? Was his back broken? I took a big rock, placed him carefully… and … crushed his tiny little skull. The dog seemed not too interested anymore, and watched as I buried the little guy under a pile of rocks. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…
The rest of the day went by really slowly. I snoozed. I read. (So, so much reading.) … but my thoughts always returned to the dead squirrel. I kept looking for him. Expecting to see him scampering around, squeaking. I kept berating Tona. “You killed him. You killed our friend.” She kept her lookout, but I reminded her “He’s dead. And he’s not coming back. You killed him.”
But the image of the little squirrel panting haunted me. I wondered… what if he was fine? What if I crushed his little tiny skull and brains unnecessarily!? What if he was really just paralyzed with fear? I tried to convince myself that he’d been a goner… But the image haunted me. I couldn’t read. I kept looking out of the van for the damned squirrel. I knew there had been two of them. Had I killed his friend? Or his girlfriend!? I should have called the dog off. It was my fault…
I had killed the squirrel.
I put out a little pile of crumbs from my container of walnuts… I kept seeing if it would get eaten. It never did. I’d killed him. Tona was the weapon, but I’d pulled the trigger. And he wasn’t coming back.
Our campground was cursed. I wouldn’t be able to come back here. It was too quiet. Too lonely.
So I had to make amends. I had to try to set things right. I would give the squirrel a proper burial.
First, I found a good spot on the hill, looking out down the valley, towards the sunset. I pulled up a big rock and dug the hole deeper with a chunk of wood from the old mining camp ruins. I then returned to the makeshift burial mound, and dug him up, throwing the rocks away angrily. He was dead, soaked in dog drool still. Dead eyes boring into my soul.
I scooped him into a rusty tin can, and brought him to his final resting place. I dumped him in the hole. I should have placed him more … comfortably, in retrospect. His final resting position still haunts me. I filled the hole in with dirt and a chunk of sod. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…
I needed to mark his tomb. I began scouring the entire mountain for stark white chunks of Quartz. I think it’s quartz, anyway. Up and down and around the mountain I hiked, sweating, despite being in my underwear only. I worried about hurting my sore knee, but then the image of the murdered squirrel would remind me of my duty.
I ended up lugging what must be over 200 lbs of quartz. I was lucky to find lots of it, though it took a long time. I then went back to the old mining shack, and found a long steel wire and some planks of wood. I broke a length of the wire off, and fashioned a fine cross out of the old wood, wrapping the two pieces together with the rusty wire. It took me a while to arrange the rocks into a suitable position, but finally, it was done.
I am sorry, tiny squirrel. You were our friend and like assholes we invaded your home, and killed you. I’m sorry. Rest in piece. I will never forget you. I am sorry.
“I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”