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The Beauty Of The Beast This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I had journeyed this road many times before. But, what happened this dreary winter day would forever cling to the innermost aspects of my soul, that part hidden deeply within man that separates him from beast.

It is a quiet path with nature's scenery painted on both sides. The blackness extends straight then curves to form a hill where sky meets earth. As I travel the short distance, my eyes catch a small form in the center of the road. As I draw nearer it becomes apparent that it is a gray squirrel standing motionless, my nearing of no concern. Slamming on my brakes, I bring the car to a screeching halt just feet from the creature. My eyes quickly grasp the reality of the situation. Three bodies lay strewn across the cold, dark pavement. They are small gray bodies, lifeless, streaked with red. The lone squirrel stands erect, looks toward me then gently bends and with several soft nudges with his nose pushes each of the lifeless forms. The bodies remain frozen, their grayness blending with the darkness of the pavement. Realizing that his efforts are in vain, the small squirrel grasps with trembling mouth the gray soft tail of his fallen comrade and drags him to the dull green carpet. He repeats this until the three lifeless forms lie side by side, their tails softly blowing in the cold January wind. The young squirrel once more stands erect and with piercing emptiness in his coal black eyes, faces me.

I have never felt kindly toward squirrels; they are rodents after all. But, with all my heart, I believe that this small creature had a tear in its eye as it looked toward me, then with pain left his loved ones behind. I felt a warm bead of moisture trickle from my now-bleary eyes.

I could not erase this from my mind. Like a Shakespearean tragedy, it played over and over until my mind fogged with the details, allowing no other acts to follow. Having viewed so much compassion in so far from human a creature made me realize that much of humanity today has lost this deep feeling of sharing the suffering of others and is lacking the inclination to show mercy. There are brothers killing brothers, mothers killing babies, humans hurting humans, no teardrops shed, no guilt felt. Have we come so far from our natural instincts that we can no longer define humane in terms of human kindness and mercy?

Has humanism deteriorated to the point of being more callous and unfeeling than many lower forms of life that have lesser intellectual heights? Must I admit to myself the gray squirrel is more benevolent than many humans who walk far above his small meek form?

I do not know if squirrels cry; I do know they love! I shall step more gently upon this earth for having seen the passion in the distant black eyes of the saddened creature. Is not humanity kindness, mercy, love? Perhaps man has risen above these natural acts, and we need to redefine humane. Let us not use our intellect to destroy our basic instincts but keep the word man an important part of humane.

I now find myself locked somewhere between the reality of humanity and the beauty of the beast. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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