A couple of weeks ago, Leila caught her first chipmunk. A sudden dart into some undergrowth while we're walking on Milton Road and there's something brown between her jaws, protesting squeakily. I make her drop it, and an unscathed chipmunk scurries back to its loved ones with a tale to tell that rivals Beowulf. But the white devil has tasted victory.
Today, she is rooting among the hydrangeas in the back yard when she emerges suddenly, mouthing a clump of gray fur, like a dull purse. It takes three "drop it" commands for her to release her booty, and I drag her into the house, leaving the children to surround the still-squirming rodent. By the time I come back, they inform me that it's dead. A mouse or a shrew, perhaps a baby mole, something vaguely verminous, folded paws in the air, bright blood on the head.
Those of you with cats must deal with this all the time. This is a new experience for the Beechey boys. Their puppy has murdered Mickey.
Primus slopes off, uninterested. I tip the body into an open container and prepare to dispose of it in the garbage, the same way I dealt with its dead cousin found in the basement a week or two earlier. Secundus protests -- we have to bury "Soldier," as the ex-mouse has been rather belatedly named. (I didn't know he'd seen Key Largo). He will be the gravedigger and immediately starts chopping at the turf beside the body with a small hammer he'd already been using for backyard excavation. I suggest that we try to keep the lawn intact. He chooses another location for the grave, also under grass. I gently redirect him and Tertius to an earthy spot under a pine tree.
Secundus fetches a spade from the garage, and I try to dig a hole deep enough, between the rocks and stringy tree roots. Secundus speaks comforting words to Soldier, telling him that he'll have a grave as large as an apartment, with big closets. I smile. Tertius instantly scolds me for not taking the event seriously.
Soldier's body is tipped into the the dirt. We refill the hole. I haven't checked yet, but I think Secundus has made him a gravestone out of paper. He is sad this evening. I hope it doesn't rain tonight.