Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Animals, part 3

The vet put an IV in Fran's arm and injected him with a lethal dose of barbiturate. Fran's head folded over his paws, and he slept.

Because he died twice, once at home and once at the vet, his eyes and mind first, his body second, there were a series of visions after that. He appeared to me as a ghost, growing ever woolier and wilder, until he looked in the passage like a wolverine.

In the winter Francis sat in the utility room downstairs, in the corner of the room called the sump area, a dugout rough and rusty looking, where the pipes all meet in vertical poles. His winter hunting was limited mostly to indoors, since he disliked snow on his feet and left the outdoor animals alone during the cold months. He captured about three mice indoors per year by staking out the sump area of the utility room. This hunting of his reminded me of ice fishing. He sat there in the dark in the middle of the night, concentrating steadily, staring straight forward. I would come upon him doing his night ritual if I went into the utility room to do something -- throw away something in the large wastebasket or get a hammer or screwdriver or change the litter box. There he might be, staring straight ahead, prepared to kill mice, or mice in theory. The number of times he managed to do that -- catch mice indoors -- reminds me of publishing, the number of times writers manage to do that, though they hunt indoors and fish for it.

The day after he died a mouse ran at me, where I stood in the middle of the office; I was in fact trying to think of a beginning of a life without Fran, without Lucy. The mouse ran directly down the center of the hallway, veered into the office, and charged almost at my feet then turned away and ran to the utility room. Aghast, I thought we might be infested now with mice. Fortunately, that is not what happened. There was one mouse only, and when it died of starvation in the utility room, it smelled.

Immediately following upon Fran's death, rabbits, among his favorites for hunting, gathered in the back yard under the birdfeeder and stood there. They were not hopping, not running, and not hiding; they were standing about and lingering, loitering. I had never seen rabbits loitering before, regarding their cousins.

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