The Squirrel Incident by Jenya Doudareva
A dead squirrel was laying in the middle of the sidewalk. Cause of death – unknown. Folks running around on their morning business in sombre palette suits, as per relevant dress codes, for the most part managed avoiding a collision. They weren’t always graceful but pushed one another occasionally, always with an automatic “Oh pardon me, I’m so sorry, sorry, sorry”. Some looked particularly cartoonish breaking their rehearsed exterior with a sense of great inconvenience.
Meanwhile, others simply looked clumsy, confusing, not entirely convincing as human beings – like when you see an actor on TV and they are bad. Really bad. They are so bad that you almost want to help, so you jump up from the couch, lean towards your television, grab it by its shoulders and whisper in frustration:
“This is wrong. How did you ever manage to get paid to be here? Does anyone else realise how ill-fitted you are to perform this task? Why are you even acting right now? You are trying so hard. How about you stop pretending to act and just don’t. Don’t do anything. Just look normal. Just look like a person.”
And voila – your deep concern finally reaches the actor. The actor hears you and solemnly nods. With all his strength, the impressively made-up and costumed individual supposed to be some sort of an Earth dude reaches out of the television screen, his plastic space gun intended to fight space elves still in hand, and motions you to come closer. When you do, the actor leans over – and suggests that you go fuck yourself.
And you say “fair enough”, and move on. You don’t argue with the magic.
Anyway, one of the people faced with the prospect of stepping on the deceased squirrel was some youngish woman, let’s call her Doe. She used to write poems a while back but vaguely hated that fact along with all the poems ever written, and all of the poets ever living. She always wore navy blue. I think she used to dance and play soccer. She definitely still tried to play the piano, keeping a realistic outlook on her skill level and her goals. Doe was an engineer.
Doe stopped abruptly. There was a small body of a rodent in front of her. You see, there are times when curiosity prevails over the bland forces of the mundane. This was one of those times. Doe slowly bent down to take a closer look, seemingly oblivious to the crowd flowing grumpy around her. She studied the squirrel. The squirrel refrained from studying her back because it was dead. Doe couldn’t see it with her eyes but the animal had already begun decaying, and small resourceful organisms have already started using it as fuel, shelter, building materials, and a cool multi-purpose event venue.
The woman thought about death, naturally. She didn’t want to participate in mortality, and that made her fascination with the tiny carcass even stronger. Doe was also enjoying her small act of nine-to-five workforce crowd defiance, blocking the precious sidewalk real estate with her inappropriate curiosity fit for a five-year old.
Doe was fighting a strong urge to pick up the nearest stick and poke the squirrel with it for no particular purpose when the animal suddenly got up and bolted away.
“This is wrong! Does anyone else realize how ill-fitted you are to act as a dead body?”, she thought when a large bird swooped in out of nowhere, punctured the rodent’s eyeball, and in one quick motion scooped the body up and away for a secluded breakfast overlooking some of the best sights of the city.
Doe said to herself “fair enough”, and moved on. She didn’t argue with the magic.
Jenya is an engineer who likes to tinker with technology and with words. This is her fifth Vending Machine Press appearance. Her poems are available on Amazon and have also been featured in Clementine Poetry Journal, and her paper on algorithms for safe irradiation of brain tumours is available in an operations research journal somewhere.