animal identification team.

so, yeah, there is some kind of dead animal there, maybe an armadillo, anyway, who cares what it is. this declaration, delivered abruptly and dispassionately, was an attempt to leaven the enthusiasm i displayed while telling the story, but, of course, her interest was further piqued. she answered, you have to go back — and i’m coming with you.

we drove together as the events i had just finished describing to her repeated in my head. namely, while knocking on the front door loudly i was startled by movement behind and above me. wrens had built a nest in the porch’s overhang, and the mother bird had moved swiftly to an adjacent tree to chastise me. next her young tumbled to the ground near my feet and tried to hide itself, awkwardly fluttering into the patchy bushes that lined the house.

i weighed that which had transpired, determining that i was responsible for the baby bird. after all, it was forced into this world, before it was prepared, due to my error. however, before i could act as a surrogate — teaching it how to fly, passing nourishment from my beak to its darting tongue, keeping it warm when the temperature dropped — i had to find it. on hand and knees i pulled back tiny branches to get a glimpse within and beneath. i combed the area gingerly, nothing escaping my sight, until something stopped me and i jumped to my feet. just beyond where i was patting the ground sat a large oval mass of fur.

it was too large to be a rat; it’s posture was inconsistent with a sleeping cat curled into a ball. my best guess was that it was a furry armadillo. i was convinced that it had consumed the bird i was charged with protecting, which left me reeling with paroxysms of sadness broken only when my friend arrived home. she suggested that we follow the protocol pertaining to these situations. that is, we poke the unknown creature (she had summarily struck down my armadillo-judgment) with a stick. she, being braver than me, leaned toward the dead animal, nudging it. she jumped back, insisting that the carcass released a foul odor, and i was inclined to believe her as my own sense of smell is not well developed. we parted, she going to work and i to lunch, hoping that the scent wouldn’t linger and, moreover, something larger would carry the source away.

on the return trip, i was scared. not only had i failed at mothering a bird but i had further alienated myself from the spirit world by disrupting one’s final resting place. at this point, i thought, i may as well build a house on an indian burial ground. i imagined an eagle pecking out my liver for all of eternity. on the other hand, i had gone this far, so, upon arrival, i grabbed a stick and walked with purpose, hand covering my nose, toward the spot. i prodded the animal, finding it tougher than expected, as if it were in the process of turning to stone from the inside.

as my courage peaked, i noticed something peculiar and threw the stick aside. i gasped, reaching to grasp the object and retrieve it. the peculiarity i had spotted was a small white tag attached to the leg of a stuffed hedgehog, muddy and water-logged.

i sent my friend a text telling her i’d gone back to her house to find that the animal was a large hedgehog. i told her i had set it on her porch for her. for the next few hours i received messages berating my actions. of course i’m angry; you left a corpse on my steps. why can’t you call someone to pick it up?

later she phoned from home to call me a fucking asshole. she had approached cautiously and then laughed while again wedging the stuffed animal between the house and bushes where it belonged.

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