The Death of Feather Fluff
The stink of roadkill slaps you hard on a Southern summer day. It, like the worms feeding on the corpse, crawls and twitches and squirms. The air bears a red welt for hours and days after the animal met its demise.
A magnolia-scented climate is honest about death. As soon as something crosses from one life to the other, you smell its footsteps. Someplace much colder—like New England or the Midwest—can conceal death for months. There, spring is not a season of trilling birds and awakening azaleas. It is a season of confessions as the Great Melt arrives:
This is the opossum the ice storm killed.
This is the skunk the snow buried and froze.
This is the fox slaughtered by the sleet.
The news of death among little animals—particularly fledglings—spreads fast in Richmond as spring sheds her buds and fades into summer. I walk the streets of Carver and Jackson Ward to a singular tune: the buzzing of flies. Sometimes these dreadful insects seem louder than the cars zipping down Belvidere. They feast on the fledglings who, unlike their brothers and sisters, never learned to fly. Instead these fledglings tumbled from their nests, forgetting or perhaps never knowing to flap their teeny wings.
I no longer wonder what the pinkish-purple splotches on the sidewalk are. One too many observations taught me that hidden within those fleshy stamps are the outlines of squashed eyeballs and feather fluff.
At least they are an easy meal for the Carver cats.