Lurching from my office in the old convent, my toes jammed in tight pumps, I minced down the hill to my car, checking for a new spot to park as I went. Because the damn parking lot was full, I had to park on the street and jockey the car every three hours to avoid a ticket. Why? Behind the leaded glass windows of the houses in this old, heavily treed neighbourhood, resentment resided. Peeking out from behind sheer drapes the serenity police watched. Parking by-law officers were in their back pockets.
Tossing my purse into the car, something caught my eye poking out from the back tire. A splendid black tail was pasted to the wheel. I looked under the car but nothing was there so I got in and inched forward, wondering what would be revealed. Looking again, I saw the rubber was smeared red with bits of fur and flesh ground between the treads. A slick tire imprint stamped the pavement, showing where I had previously parked. But only the tail remained of whatever I’d killed.
A stench was coming from under the car, a combination of ground nuts and liver mixed with asphalt and oil. I didn’t want to touch the tail but I couldn’t leave it stuck to the tire so I drove around the block looking for a new parking spot, hoping it would fall off. After executing a near perfect parallel parking manoeuvre, I got out and it was gone. I felt such relief at seeing the tailless tire. Still, whatever I had massacred must have been substantial because the route from the first parking spot to the second was clearly mapped in blood.
The matrons of Old Ottawa South seemed to have missed this latest infraction disturbing their peace and defiling their tranquility. On the entire block not one custom curtain fluttered nor a door cracked open to reveal a surveying eye.
Trudging back up the hill to the convent I glanced into the leafy canopy of the neighborhood and gazed at the bright blue sky splattered with orange and red maple leaves to distract myself from my pinched toes. My feet were forgotten when three squirrels jumped through a patch of blue, like manic angels, and landed on a thick branch overhead. Almost in the same moment I saw dozens more leaping from branch to branch, shrieking as they scattered fragile leaves along their invisible path. They ran up trunks and down trunks chattering viciously as they went. Behind me more were jerking up the hill like tiny trucks driven by beginners unsure of how to use a clutch. Spitting and hissing, they stood on their hind legs and ran at me, then backed away, then advanced again. All along the street they lined porch railings and bounced in crab apple trees. They were a demonic river running uphill in a reversing waterfall.
I kept moving. The convent was only half a block away. I would be there in less than two minutes as long as I wasn’t stopped by a wall of black squirrels.
Then I saw it – a small torso-less body at the t-intersection, the black head and shoulders intact and the rest a nauseating mess of squashed viscera. Cars kept coming down the street, passing over top of the carcass while all around the cortege squalled. Squirrel after squirrel darted out to the body, tails erect, screeching like kamikaze pilots. I stood and watched, my feet roaring for me to throw off the painful shoes and run but my body was held down by a rapid, thumping pulse. Car after car passed over the struck and the stricken. The game of dodge-em continued between squirrels and cars, small black daredevils rushing to the victim and then sprinting back to the curb, up a tree and into the leaves.
I looked down the hill and saw a large squirrel scramble across the street, dragging a bloody and frayed tail. He hopped up the stairs of a tidy porch, shimmied up a pillar and disappeared through a small opening under the eaves. A curtain wafted closed.
Gradually the din quietened and soon there was nothing left on the road. The body was gone. City by-law officers wouldn’t be necessary today.