More Peeks Into Issue 2

An excerpt from the short story, Love hanged like bunting in Hyde Park, by Philip Walford:

It begins with two dead squirrels and a coincidence.

Dead squirrel #1 appears outside their office. Nathan sees it while he and Julie are walking to Starbucks for their semi-regular afternoon coffee, and the fact that he would point it out to her rather than try to keep Julie’s life as free from the grimness of death as possible, does probably tell you most of what you need to know about him.

While he might, in fact, if the circumstances were right, have even pointed out an entirely ordinary dead squirrel to Julie, this dead squirrel is its own right circumstance. The particulars of its demise are unusual, to say the least. It has been decapitated for a start. And has a toothbrush tucked under its left front paw. And its feet have been slid into a child’s single Thomas the Tank Engine sock. Nathan doesn’t even hesitate before drawing Julie’s attention to the corpse. This is not because of any certainty on his part that Julie will be anything other than repulsed by the sight of it (and frankly, a mildly freaked-out outpouring of cute from Julie would probably make him warm to her even more than usual). Fortunately for Nathan, despite an initial wave of disgust at the mottling of exposed underbelly fur, Julie finds the weirdness of the animal’s funereal pose fascinating, and it is she that initiates a closer look and a photo with her iPhone.

And while there is a whole other dead squirrel to go before Nathan properly embarks upon his xenocidal rampage, it is probably this first response from Julie that sets him on a course that leads inexorably towards his symphony of rodent death. Because he did worry. And he certainly didn’t anticipate delight. Really, within the range of gestures both purposeful and accidental that Nathan has made to put a smile on Julie’s face over the past eight months, the dead squirrel response ranks easily within the top three (the other two being an unusually witty joke about coffee stirrers, and a DVD of Sideways). The fact that the squirrel appears to have been fiddled with post mortem does occur to both of them, but like an optical illusion (say, an Escher drawing, though surely there are other examples, but none that they mutually know of) their brains, acting alone and without direct guidance, sort of gloss over just how potentially unsettling that possibility is, and so they almost look through the toothbrush and the sock and the missing head. They remark on the strangeness of finding a squirrel out here too, more than half a mile from Hyde Park and the nearest appropriate habitat, but after maybe thirty seconds to a minute of standing over it (not touching it of course), they continue on their way to Starbucks and don’t think about squirrels at all for several days.

Read the rest of Love hanged like bunting in Hyde Park in Issue 2 of Petrichor Machine, coming in May 2012.

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