The deck off the kitchen door behind the garage in the back of my house is about large enough to accommodate six chairs – four of them around a small, square deck table with a blue umbrella, and a grill.
I was downstairs, in the basement, watching a soccer game I’d recorded – I like watching the games in the dark and the quiet of the basement, which is carpeted and painted and has a nice old couch and lamp and table for the lamp to stand on. It was dark, about 10 p.m., which, in late August, is not like 10 p.m. in late July.
Before I continue, I think it is important to add that I have had to dispose of at least two small mammals found dead in my backyard, since moving there, in late August of 2002. One was a squirrel, which I mistakenly put in a plastic bag and threw in the plastic garbage bin that was left outside. I scrubbed it after discovering maggots.
The other was an opossum, which is one of the silliest names for an animal. That was in an often neglected back corner of the yard, and I let it sit there – I think it was late winter – for it to decompose.
My wife and I have often considered what was murdering these animals. We have a dog and a cat, but, while the dog I’ve seen attack a chipmunk, I’m not sure it has the taste for killing squirrel – or opossum, which is larger. And the cat would get killed by an opossum.
I walk into the kitchen from the basement and it’s dark and I’m tiptoeing to the bathroom because my wife and young daughter and younger son are sleeping, but I trip a bit as I walk from the kitchen to the dining room and I hear something, not too large, scatter from the deck. I hear the footsteps. And I at first think, could that have been human feet, but I’m pretty sure I got a good listen to those steps and they were too light and too quick and too many to have come from a human.
Still, I turn on the light that lights the deck, tentatively, and then I go to the back den and turn on the lights that light the backyard. I’m thinking what to do, because I want to go to the bathroom and go back downstairs and watch the soccer game but kind of want to know what was going on on my deck, if anything at all. Maybe I was hearing things. That happens when it’s dark and quiet; our imagination gets the best of us. How best to determine if this was my imagination or not, or if it’s anything I should be a bit scared of. It did sound like something ran off my deck, steps from my kitchen door, after hearing me in the kitchen.
Like I said, I have a dog, Kobi, who is a girl and medium sized and has mostly white fur but dark spots around her eyes and where her tail meets her body, and black speckles around her nose and around her body. She’s a pointer mix, we figure. But no one is sure. I’ve seen her point.
It’s about time for her to go outside to pee before retiring to our bedroom. So I motion for her to go out on the deck but she’s not too psyched about it – but, to be fair, she hasn’t been lately and that’s probably due to the fact that she has Lyme disease. (She’s been given medicine and should be fine.) So I get her to go outside but she takes a few steps, very tentative – my light is off at this point – and she stops and I can see that she’s investigating something, very slowly. I think it could be the towel that was hanging over the chair which is right next to the spot where Kobi is sniffing. I turn on the light. A shape. Grey. It’s a squirrel. And it’s not moving. Something killed it. I open the door and Kobi walks back in, like she doesn’t want to be any part of this scene. She walks in. I turn the light back on to look and, yes, the squirrel’s head is moving just slightly, in small counterclockwise circles, but it’s the only part of her body that is moving. It seems like the rest of her is glued to the wooden deck.
I turn the light off, and go downstairs. I figure I’ll check again after the game. Hopefully, whatever attacked it will, once the lights are out for awhile, return and snatch up its game and take it away because I really don’t want to handle the disposal of yet another animal. I check later in the night. The squirrel has moved a few feet to the right, but is not moving anymore. There is blood, streaks of it from its former position, on the deck. I’m going to have to throw some hot, soapy water on that. And, if that whatever is out there does not come back and take this poor thing away, then I will take a long stick, place it under its belly, try not to look too much but will probably look much closer than I originally intended, and walk it, balancing it, because I don’t want to pick it up, to the front yard, and drop it in the road. Most will think it was done, like most, by a car. But I’ll know something a little closer to the truth. But not all of it.