The Keeper of the Squirrels | Teen Ink

The Keeper of the Squirrels MAG

March 11, 2019
By ClaraMarieMcDonald BRONZE, Farmington, New Hampshire
ClaraMarieMcDonald BRONZE, Farmington, New Hampshire
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

We pedaled furiously as we rode the coming dusk. I didn’t need to look ahead to know where I was going, and neither did my three fellow heathens. Quickly we navigated our bikes around the soft curve and then continued straight. Straight over the drainage rut, until we met the bottom of the gravelly hill. At which point we pedaled even faster so that we could ascend the rocky knoll. At the top awaited the campsite where we made home in the summer months when the weather permitted. It was a rather shady area, which was great in high August when the sun was at its most merciless peak. But no grass would grow there. Only rocks seemed to spontaneously spout from the ground with their one purpose being to get stuck between unsuspecting toes. But we hooligans didn’t have time to worry about pestilential pebbles, for we had far more dire things to attend to. Well – as dire as things could be for four children, with the eldest being barely 13 years old.

My brother was quick, running inside our trailer before emerging, brandishing the pellet gun we needed for our latest venture. While still holding the gun, he again mounted his bike and off we went, as quickly as we had come. We sped down the hill, went oven the drainage rut with little resistance, and then continued straight until we rounded the soft curve. On we went, with a clear purpose in mind. We slowed down only when we neared our destination, so as not to scare our target. We steered our bikes into the vacant campsite as silently as possible, noting that our prey was still present. It nimbly hopped from branch to branch, taking no leisure in its lengthy bounds. I guess it was frightened. My brother, undeterred by the creature’s feeble attempt to escape, aimed the pellet gun into the trees. With one quiet shot, the squirrel’s red body fell to the ground. Only we and the trees looked upon its broken body.

Trenton jogged over and retrieved the quickly fading squirrel. The limp carcass hung by his side as we began to walk our bikes home. It had been a cloudless day, one where the sun dominated the sky and left you cowering from the heat in the cool confines of the trailer. We inhaled the familiar scents of pine and evening campfires as we made our way along the dusty road. Silence enveloped us. Though we soon stopped, for the squirrel’s story needed an end. So, in another empty campsite with our bikes lying idle on the grass, we four knelt to the ground and put our hands to use. For a good 10 minutes, we hacked at the moist earth with grubby little fingers. Gradually we deepened that hole beneath a silent tree of the deciduous variety. The end product was a yawning grave that was quite shallow but accommodated the squirrel’s small body all the same. As its corpse was placed into the ground, I noted that it had a beautiful ginger pelt; though it had by then been caked with dry crimson dust. I watched my siblings push dirt over the furry little body and head, its eyes still open. They covered it until there was no more carroty-fur visible.

Once it was buried, we all stood. Our dirty hands and knees were the only remnants of our brief employment as gravediggers. We four heathens watched as the dark encroached on our heels. After a short moment of solace, we continued on, homeward bound. On the way, maybe we returned to laughing and continued earlier conversations. The campfire in our yard drew nearer and nearer, until we were home, and I could finally see the fire’s golden embers. I was so close to them that they were blinding.


The author's comments:

This is a short memoir which captures one of my most vivid memories from my youth. The events detailed in this piece are my first "close encounter" with death.


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