A giant bird flaps towards me, and, despite the glass between us, I duck. It swoops onto the roof above my head, and I take a break from the news—war in Ukraine, war in Gaza, another mass shooting—to look at the scene outside my window. I see several other vultures hopping along the grassy easements along the Moncure Pittsboro Road, their black hoods catching the morning light. One perches on the telephone pole that used to hold our metal gate.
Something must have died, but I can’t see it from my desk.
When Bob and I pull out of the driveway an hour later for our trip to the gym, we see a dozen Black vultures and one dead squirrel. “Doesn’t look like much of a meal,” Bob says. We drive over another meaty smear a mile down the road, and I watch him steady the steering wheel, straddling the kill to avoid getting any on the tires.
The squirrels are everywhere these days, poinging around the yard, burying acorns. Bob calls them “Gay rats on acid,” which makes me laugh every time, politically correct or not. I watch the staccato movement of their shoulder blades ripple beneath their thick grey fur and marvel at their long fingers patting the sod back into place over each little stash.
“This one must be a youngster,” I say, and Bob jumps up from his desk to watch a squirrel with no meat on its bones bent over a nut hole outside our big windows. He won’t admit it, but he’s as fascinated as I am.
I’m washing dishes when I see one clinging to a wooden post, snatching at a deep red Oklahoma rose before scrambling to earth to munch down a blood-colored petal. I half expect to see her wipe her mouth. When I tell Bob, he says, “Those fuckers,” voicing my thoughts.
The squirrels are not alone in their quest for calories. We hear rustling through our open bedroom window at night, so Bob places a trail camera next to the fig tree. A couple of days later, we watch the footage: lumbering possums at night and hyped-up squirrels during the day.
That evening, we tuck into our easily-gotten dinner on the porch while the squirrels hop around the lawn, still working for their calories. One perches on a garden tote and stays even after I yell. Bob picks up a frisbee and hurls it to make him jump down. Even though I appreciate how hard they work for food, I can’t stand the idea of them digging up our carrots.
How can they know that although the acorns are theirs, we consider the carrots and the roses ours? Like all life on earth, they are just doing what comes naturally, trying to stay alive through another winter. How lucky Bob and I are that we were born in an era of prosperity and ease. We do not take it for granted that we can eat pretty much anything we want whenever we choose, without tanks rumbling down our street.