DC leans against the shovel. His flannel shirt, inherited from my dad, is cleaner than it should be but his basketball shorts are filthy. He points to a spot in the garden between two freshly planted blueberry bushes
“This good? I need to dig it deep enough for several.”
He is tired. An afternoon of digging holes between plants and trees.
I look to the spot, to my dirty UGG boots, my scratched legs, the embroidered red rose that rests above my heart on my Mickey Mouse hoodie.
I nod to DC. Yes, that space is good.
Behind him, the moon isn’t as present as it should be. It is full but muted. Looking away from the grief in the garden, from the pile of bodies at my feet; the reaching roots of scaled feet, soft stumps of breast and feathers. Boughs of hushed wings.
I gather surface weeds and grass clippings while DC digs. I rake dirt over graves. We are running out of places in the garden.
The children made me promise that I would let them know when it was time to bury Rocky, the ‘boof-head’ chicken with the Rockstar fringe. A chicken version of Animal from the Muppets.
They made me promise. So I call out. It is time.
SC walks with purpose. He wants to see the body of Rocky.
ZC stands at the edge of the garden. She had been determined to say goodbye to the big grey chicken she’d chased and wrangled and loved in her fierce way. But now, she says, “I just feel like dead chickens give me excusement.”
She waves her hands in the air. Takes a step away from her grey feathered goodbye.
“What do you mean by excusement, sweets?”
“They give me the feeling of excusement.” She points to the bodies at my feet but her eyes are with my eyes. “It feels yucky, that’s what I mean.”
“Makes me feel yuck too.”
This morning, the children raced out to say hello to the chickens. They’d been imagining names for this temporary inheritance from a dear friend in a life transition. We planned to love them while we found homes for all but a few.
The morning’s plan was to buy building material for nesting boxes. I was a focus of coffee, calculations and getting dressed. And then the focus shifted, I became a point of listening, of a hairbrush paused.
There was a silence, and then a sound, and then the hairbrush was in the sink, and I was half-dressed at the aviary door. And there was our dog, Pepita, a paused action, a change in plans.
A chicken in her mouth, bodies at her feet. Bodies thrown to each of the four corners of the aviary. We looked at one another. Assessed. And then action.
SC convicted himself with tears and harsh justice. He had forgotten to lock the aviary. He banned himself from the chickens and told me that both him and Pepita needed to be taken away. ZC cried at the loss of the chickens, the loss of trust in Pepita. JC ran around making loud clucking noises and telling his imaginary friend, Bomb Shooter, about the troubles.
I moved between garden and child, choosing spots to bury bodies, looking for words for my family’s broken heart. Words gathered like wildflower offerings.
Tonight I stand in the garden and feel death stretching with new definition.
The silhouette of a small finger pointing to feathers and scaled skin. An excusement of eyes looking away, hands waving at the air.
Excusement as the state of standing in dirty boots, a pen in tangled hair, an embroider red rose against my heart. Excusement for a mind full of wildflower petal words, bruised and torn.
The excusement of grief in a garden for the things we can not control.
A shadow of excusement against the light of a muted, turning-away-moon.