I didn’t mean to kill him.
I first saw him standing there by the side of the road. Young, but thin, hairy, and unwashed, it was clear he had seen better days. I could tell he was going to jaywalk before he took the first step into the road. I probably would have too. It was a clear, sunny morning, full of promise. Traffic was light this early; in fact I was the only car on this stretch of road.
I usually would have been home watching the news over breakfast at that hour, but I had gone to yoga class that morning and was on my way home. I was feeling peaceful and calm from the class and from the music I was listening to on the radio. I was in no hurry to get home so I was moving at a conservative speed.
I saw him begin to cross; he didn’t even look. He suddenly paused when he reached the center-line, apparently racked with indecision. I slowed to a crawl, wondering what his next move would be. He seemed oblivious to my presence. As I drew up alongside him, he turned toward me as if to return in the direction he had come from. Suddenly seeing me, he backed up, startled, into the oncoming lane. There was a car approaching from behind me, but the oncoming lane was still clear of traffic.
Just as I accelerated to continue on my way, he either decided he could make it back if he hurried or else realized that this could be his opportunity to end it all. His life on the streets, scrounging for food, couldn’t have been an easy one. I’ll never know the reason for that tragic choice because the next thing I felt was my tire thumping over the body and what I imagined to be the snapping of bones.
I immediately hit the brakes as I checked the side mirror. Horrified, I watched as his scrawny body writhed in agony in the middle of the road. His slow, tortured circles continuing until he faded from sight in my mirror. A hard death preceded by a hard life. Poor squirrel. Rest in peace, little guy.
This is the story that began it all. The event happened just as I’ve described it. I got home and went to work as usual, but I just couldn’t stop thinking about that last image. I decided to write about it as therapy.
I submitted it to Writer’s Digest on 11/14/15 for a Short Short Story Contest, under the title Bloodshed. If it wins, you can find it on the Published page of this site. If not, I’ll try it again with a different contest.
I think it turned out pretty well. What do you think?
2/1/16 Update – I also submitted this for the 12th Annual Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest from Geist. Winners from the Writer’s Digest contest are to be announced at the end of February. The Geist contest winners will be announced in the Summer issue.