When the sky was green and the grass was blue, my mother used to read me Aesop's Fables. She'd sink into a deep velvet armchair and then unfold her glasses. Once bespectacled, she slowly turned the golden pages of her age-old tome so I could admire all the illustrations. I learned about the lion and the mouse, the fox and the crow, the frog and the ox...and many others.
But after hearing “The Sportsman and the Squirrel,” I never imagined I would become the Sportsman.
I did not immediately understand that you were dying. One second, you were hopping across the road and the radio was playing Patti Smith's “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” The next second, you were lying on that same road, the whole right side of your body crushed. Patti was finishing the line, 'There's a room where the light won't find you,' when you blinked your final blink.
As your paws twitched toward an invisible tree branch, I thought I could end your suffering. So I rolled my tire over you once more, that time intentionally.
Instead of seeing your bones crunch, I pictured myself running after you with a thorny stake. My frock whipped in the autumn breeze. The feather in my cap jumped up and down, as if riding a horse. It could have been the year 1097, and I could have been a character in my mother's dusty book.
Then the medieval reverie passed and I froze.
I wanted you to be a stick, a stone, a nail, even if you would have punctured my tire. I wanted you to be alive. You, of the beady eyes and sweet chittering sounds, did not deserve to die.
I removed myself the moment I realized what I had done. Though it meant killing you, I had only aimed to put you out of your misery. Yet I had still murdered. In that moment I was a criminal, with more evil hissing in my heart than Satan has flowing from his horns to his talons.
Sunshine on my back, I floated in the clouds, too far up to touch the roofs of even the tallest houses. From that height, your corpse was just a speck, Squirrel. And yet I knew you no longer flicked your furry tail or wondered where you had buried your last stash of acorns.
A second or an eternity later, I fell back into the driver's seat with MGMT's “Kids” blasting through the car speakers. Then I turned off the radio and gulped. I needed proof of my action.
I adjusted my side mirror so I could study the smeared clusters of your little intestines. You were not meant to be separated into so many pieces. Your ears belonged attached to your head. Your belly should have been one long, clean white strip of fur covering your ribs.
I stared at your puddle of blood until it became silver. Gradually, the rest of you followed suit. Your whole body shone like a knife blade. Your legs fused back into place, along with your head and tail. In the process, you had acquired wings, as well. Softly, gracefully, you flapped them but once, as if to awaken them.
In an instant, I recognized you as something other than a pile of organs. You were an angel. And I had released your spirit.