Rigor mortis usually contorts their furry little bodies in Picasso-esque poses. The body is lying flat on the ground, all except for that one limb that juts skyward as if in its last desperate reach for heaven.
If it’s been long enough, there’s not much left of it but some bloody tufts of fur pasted to the road, and then you can play games in the car guessing what it was. I saw one today, which inspired this post, of a completely flattened squirrel. I knew it was a squirrel, because the only part left of it was the one thing that makes it identifiable: its fluffy tail was standing straight up off the road like a flagpole, waving at passersby. True story.
At certain times of the year, there always seems to be lots of roadkill… invoking a sense of what mass suicide in the animal kingdom would look like if one maniacal squirrel fed them all bad nuts and sent them to the promised land of tarmac.
My kids, instead of being grossed out by it, actually look for it. They don’t play car games like “I Spy,” or search for the alphabet on license plates – they count dead animals on the highway. They were actually asking one day what happened to that possum that was there? Opens up a whole new can of worms - err - speculations.
Sometimes the smell, to borrow a quote from my mother, is enough to “gag a maggot.” And it’s not just the skunks that smell bad. Those possums aren’t too sweet either. Okay, so there’s nothing funny about the smell. Forget the smell. If you can.
And finally, the funniest roadkill story of all is one that began with a live animal. We have a dumpster behind the restaurant, where apparently a pair of raccoons decided to dine on the scrapings from dinner plates and remnants of food. One night Andy carried down the night’s trash and heard the dumpster’s lid close before he got to it. He tried to be all cool about it, but I know he must’ve freaked because he warned me not to go down there, his eyes bulging like Marty Feldman’s. I asked, why? He said, there’s coons down there. A week later, on my way home from work, I passed a “coon” that had a recent altercation with a motor vehicle…so recent, in fact, its eyes were still glimmering. I quickly texted Andy to tell him, “one down, one to go.” (And no – I was not texting while driving. I was texting while Todd was driving.) I then had to clarify that we didn’t do it. Some time went by, and I was again driving to the restaurant. There, by the side of the road, was another very dead raccoon. It was so stiff all four legs were stretched out like it was tied to a spit. I mentioned it to Andy, who said he knew already, and that it has been there for days, and that every time he drives past it it has moved. Never in the same position twice. Andy’s coon, once facing the road, had rolled over – like the cold shoulder of a spouse – and was now facing away from the road. So … there it is. If it doesn’t decompose right away, and it doesn’t get run over again and again, and you’re lucky enough to pass it every day – you’ve got entertainment for a week. It’s like the rednecks’ version of Elf on a Shelf. Every day it’s up to something different.
I guess you had to be there.