In memoriam

It was quite a good day. We were walking home along Mass Ave. Suddenly, I saw him. A skunk. Lying dead on the sidewalk.

From the looks of him, he had been young and healthy. His stripes were a clean white color. His body was intact, and his soft, fluffy fur blew gently in the afternoon breeze. He was utterly still, and clearly very dead, his tail straight and his paws limp. The only sign of injury was a slight trickle of blood from his mouth.

My guess is that someone hit him with their car, stopped, picked him up by the tail, and laid him out on the sidewalk. He was only very slightly stinky, so I’m guessing that he died instantly and didn’t even have time to spray in panic. A few ants were just starting to explore his corpse.

We stood and looked at him for a while. I considered what, if anything, I should do. It seemed like petting him wouldn’t be a good idea, no matter how appealingly fluffy and safely dead he looked. I briefly considered giving him an illegal burial—Massachusetts state law makes it illegal to move skunks, and I expect that applies to dead ones as well as living ones. I decided the benefits didn’t really outweigh the risks.

Then I thought about taking a picture. Somehow it seemed like a rude thing to do. Besides, I want pictures of live skunks, not dead ones.

A passing car slowed down for the traffic lights, and the passengers saw the body. I confirmed to them that yes, it was a skunk. One of them made a surprised comment about how cute it was.

I realized there was nothing to do, really, except leave him there for the city to clean up. Just another dead skunk. Dozens must die on the roads every day, yet still it was a shock, seeing a cute animal lying dead on the sidewalk.

I think the saddest thing, for me, is that that’s the closest I’ve been to a skunk: a dead one.

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