Housesitting

3/19/19

I’m housesitting, and a Carolina Wren lies by the window of the screen door on my grandparents’ porch. Its eyes either closed or slurped out by insects that fit through the screening. A minute pang follows that consideration; they’re closed.

I water plants, check the thermostat, make sure I didn’t track in dirt. I retrieve a newspaper bag from my grandmother’s quintessential grandmother-bag-stash. I go to the porch, my hand in the bag, a sanitary glove. Death is messy.

A shovel is in the shed, and then a hole is in their backyard. A root is severed, and it wasn’t a metaphoric umbilical cord. The wren is placed in the hole, sprinkled with birdseed and flowers from a traveling grandmother’s garden. The hole is filled in, a brick placed on top, more senselessly sentimental birdseed, more flowers, placed in each of the brick’s three holes.

A week later, when the plants need watering, the grave has been robbed. The brick lies like a desolate bridge across the grave, the hole beneath riddled with claw marks. I don’t dare search for the corpse, for its eyes were closed.

Drew Lanham killed a sparrow and I killed a dead wren. I think of blogging and take an unnotable photograph.

Later, a red ant drowns in a small, flooded pit in the woods, a sinkhole maybe. A friend and I watch it, remorselessly call it a spider. I take a video, my mind again swimming with thoughts of blogging, and rescue it in return for its performance. Do ants have actor’s guilds?

Drew Lanham killed a sparrow, Johnny Cash killed a lone rider, I killed a dead wren, and I recorded a then-dying ant. Would Lanham have filmed the sparrow’s death, if given the chance?

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