“I said leave it alone!” Olivia pleaded. “It didn’t do anything to you!” Her fingers twisted around a fold in her shirt.
“It’s already dead. It doesn’t care,” argued Billy, the eldest of the Crandall children. His lanky figure squatted by the road, elbows propped on his outturned knees. A stick dangled loosely in his right hand.
Olivia’s brothers continued to inspect the opossum. A strong jab with the knotty end of the stick made the bloated carcass moan in protest.
“Gross! Did you hear that?”
“Stop it, Billy! I’m gonna tell,” Olivia threatened.
“Come on, Olivia. If you don’t like it, go away,” advised Garret, pulling his faded, red hat lower on his freckled forehead. He leaned closer to the body.
Olivia’s stomach churned watching the boys poke the dead opossum.
“Turn it over.”
Billy pushed the stick under the body. With a quick and careless flick of his wrist, the opossum flipped. Flies scattered.
Olivia gasped. The opossum’s skull was crushed. Blood, dried and crusty, matted its fur. Bubbles of intestine popped through the stomach wall. In the heat, they stuck to the cement. Some pieces detached from the rest, others pulled more of the dead animal’s innards out from the force of being turned. Small parasites wriggled and squirmed within the open wounds.
Olivia closed her eyes. “Make it stop.”
“Olivia, GO AWAY!” shouted Garret.
“No. Just stop. We should bury it and leave it be.” She grasped the hem of her shorts, eyes fixed on the opossum’s stiff, dirt-caked tongue. She gritted her teeth.
“If you don’t leave, I’m going to poke you with this stick!” Billy warned.
Olivia didn’t hear him. Her gaze turned to the pale, clouded eyes of the opossum. Dull, lifeless eyes. A fly landed, walking over the sticky surface of the once iridescent orb.
Billy prodded the eye with a sharp splinter. The fly evacuated the opossum’s head, opting for the safety of severed scraps lying farther down the road.
A car whirred by blowing road debris toward the children. Dust settled over the fur of the opossum like morning dew on grass.
Olivia coughed. The stench of death filled the air.
“You kids get away from the road! I mean it!” The stern voice of their mother muffled in the buzz of another passing car.
The screen door made a popping noise as it slammed against the wooden frame. Attentive eyes no longer watched them.
“See if you can find a board or something we can use to take this in the back yard,” instructed Billy.
“Don’t you dare. Mom will be so mad at you!”
Garret’s thick figure closed in on Olivia. “We told you to go.”
“It’s my yard, too,” she defended.
“Garret go get a board before mom comes out here again!” Billy commanded. “And you,” he glared at Olivia, “get in the house.”
“But,” she squeaked.
“Now!” Billy thrust the blood-stained stick in her direction.
Olivia back away, tears in her eyes.
“Stupid girl,” Garret mumbled with a smirk as he shuffled toward the shed.
Olivia perched on the porch in a corner behind the chipped, white railing. Grasping the decorative posts like they were prison bars, she peered out to the road.
Billy stood, stretching his weary legs. Keeping a lazy gaze on the corpse lying at the edge of the road, he wiped his nose with his arm, sniffing.
“I found one!” Garret announced, racing back to the roadside with a thin plank that likely fell loose from an old fort or rickety doghouse.
“Lay it down here. I’ll use the stick to roll it on.”
Olivia watched as Garret dropped the board, creating a small cloud of dust, which scattered and settled, adding another layer to the poor opossum’s shallow grave.
Billy moved to the opposite side of the opossum. Squatting, he forced the stick under, lifted the body and guided it to roll onto the flimsy board.
“You take that end,” he instructed Garret as he tossed the stick to the ground, “and I’ll get this end. Don’t drop it!”
“I’m not retarded.”
The boys laughed as they maneuvered the lift through the driveway, into the backyard. Olivia watched their every move, wishing they were taking the body to be buried, knowing they were only going to desecrate it further.
Sadness flooded her insides.
“Why do they have to be so mean? It deserves to be buried,” she whimpered.
Another car zoomed past.
Olivia stared at the vacant place along the road where the body once laid. A crow landed, pecking at the small bits that remained, cawing discourteously at the thieves who stole its next meal.
“You better move unless you want to get hit and have stupid Billy and Garret dissect you, too,” she warned the bird.
She pressed her face against the posts until her forehead ached from the pressure.
Billy’s voice sounded from the back yard.
“That’s disgusting!” Echoes of laughter followed.
Sickened, Olivia stood to go into the house, her gaze falling one last time to the spot where the opossum had been struck.
Movement from the other side of the road caught her eye. A small, striped cat crept close in search of the decaying flesh it could smell. The cat was thin, hungry and willing to eat anything it could find.
It nosed over to a chunk of intestine left in the road. Olivia could hear it gurgle and growl as it supped on its pitiful meal.
“Oh, yuk,” Olivia grumbled, feeling sorry for the poor creature.
She eased her way down the porch steps.
“Here kitty, kitty,” she called. “I’ll give you some real food. Just come to me, kitty, kitty.”
The cat eyed her. Unwilling to leave the scraps, it hissed as a warning to Olivia to keep her distance.
“Come on kitty,” she pleaded. “I won’t hurt you.”
She took one step closer. The cat arched its back, fur standing on end.
Olivia crouched, holding her hand out toward the cat. It sniffed in her direction, hissed, and scurried to the next piece of flesh.
A low rumble resonated nearby – the sound of rubber gripping pavement moved quickly in their direction.
“Move kitty!” Olivia screamed.
The cat did not move, but continued to tear at the bits of opossum that stuck to the road.
“Move!” She stood and ran toward the cat. The truck was closing in, giving little notice to the small animal in its path
Olivia waved her arms, shouting “shoo, shoo.” She slowed her pace as she neared the end of her driveway. Eyes glued to the cat, she didn’t see the bloody stick as she tripped and stumbled into the road.
Her arms flew out, the cat fled, the driver of the truck blew his horn.
Tires screeched. A woman screamed.
Blood covered the road.
No one cried for the opossum.