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A Lap Death

One time a baby squirrel died in my lap. It is was breathing, feeding, suckling from an eye dropper, then in some infinitesimal instant, it stopped living. It inhaled atmosphere, expeled what couldn’t save it, then ceased to be. 

And it doesn’t matter. 

This baby squirrel was one of a nest of baby squirrels that were being reared in a tree in my mom’s yard. Until my stepfather cut that tree down. The babies’ mother was driven from her branch home. Our front yard was suddenly saddled with soon-to-be-furry little rodents.

My mother looked up how to raise baby squirrels on the internet, and it turns out, it’s not very different from how you keep newborn kittens alive. She got formula from a veterinarian, the same one who left an ovary in the cat, and set to saving these wriggly beings that she’d inadvertently made orphans.

One night when I was visiting, home from college, I fed one. I took its fragile body, so wispy you could end it with a false start, and nestled it between my knees. I drew formula into the dropper and placed it at its mouth. It was weak, but there was drinking. I remember feeling so nurturing and gentle.

Then it died. It died because my mother is not a squirrel, and neither am I, and without a mom a baby squirrel has a rotten chance in this cruel world.

But it doesn’t matter.

It’s an odd thing to watch the life fade from something as you hold it. You feel responsible, even if you were trying to help. Because that is what we do, we make that baby squirrel into the hero of its own story, and if the shoe fits, ourselves into the evil, murderous queen.

Fact is, a baby squirrel died in my lap.

It is no matter.

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