The little mole lay on the bicycle path in front of us, stiff in death yet oddly appealing. Chico, our Chihuahua-Dachshund mix, strained at the leash while Tiffany, my six-year-old, squatted down and stretched a finger toward the corpse.
“No, honey,” I said, “don’t touch it. You can look at it but don’t touch it.”
“Why not?” She turned her head to look up at me, eyes shadowed with concern. “It’s lonely.”
“Oh, well, I’m sure its friends will find it soon. C’mon. Let’s go.” Okay, that was lame but sometimes I don’t know what to say. Six-year-old logic can be elusive.
Her face took on that stubborn look I know so well. “We have to bury it,” she said. “And say a prayer.”
What? Standing there on the concrete path, torn between my daughter’s compassion for the tiny carcass and my own pragmatic nature, I gave in. That is how we came to gently wrap the mole in a spare poop bag and carry it home, Chico bouncing and jingling by my side as he tried to reach the interesting-smelling-thing in my hand.
Tiff and I live in a small rental house on the edge of town. The rent is cheap, mainly because the property is bordered at the rear by an old, unkempt cemetery. Some people are squeamish, I guess. But the price was right for us and I’ve found it quite peaceful to sit out back in the mornings, sipping a cup of coffee, gazing lazily at the disintegrating headstones that peek out from the weedy grass. The choice of burial spot for our small corpse was a no-brainer really.
“Tell you what,” I said to Tiff, “let me get the shovel from the garage and we’ll go find a nice headstone for the mole. Then we can bury it.”
After choosing a coffin (the pretty blue shoebox), discussing the eulogy (Tiff will think one up, no prob) and cutting some flowers (day lilies, of course), we trekked through the backyard to the burial ground. Tiff picked a spot next to an old headstone, whatever remembrance once chiseled on its surface long since lost to exposure and neglect. “Now it belongs to the mole,” she said. No need to mention the human remains still interred there, I decided. So we buried the mole in a shallow, box-shaped hole. I’d like to say it was a solemn occasion but Tiff’s reference to stiff little feet during the eulogy brought on a fit of giggles, giggles that bubbled irrepressibly until the last shovelful of dirt was heaped upon the grave.
That night I sat out back. Tiff was tucked in for the night. I sipped a glass of wine and savored a cigarette. Don’t crab. I allow myself two smokes a day. One with my morning coffee and one with my evening wine. I relaxed. Then I heard it, something moving or somehow creeping through the yard. Night noises normally don’t bother me. Critters do scurry about in the dark. But this noise made me start and shiver a bit. I fancied I could see small red eyes peering at me from the grass, glowing eyes. “That’s it,” I thought, “no more wine.” I went to bed.
The next morning, before I took Tiff to school, we walked out back so she could wave to the departed mole. And there it was, a fresh mole run stretching from the back of the yard to the edge of the patio. That must have been what I’d heard the night before, a very busy mole. Those red, glowing eyes simply the product of fatigue and wine. Tiff stared at the evidence of mole infestation then turned her gaze toward the cemetery.
“Mom,” she said, “what if it’s her?”
“You know,” head jerk at the burial ground, “her.”
“Don’t be silly, Tiff. We have a live mole in the yard. That’s all. C’mon. Let’s get you to school.”
It wasn’t all, of course. I continued to hear movement in the yard each evening. I imagined those eyes, shining with an eerie light, seeming larger as the week progressed. The fresh molehills were there every morning, bigger each day and feeling somehow more aggressive, more sinister. I reassured Tiff, of course. We had a baby mole and it was growing, as most creatures do. Nothing to fret about. But I did fret. I started taking a large, heavy flashlight out to the patio with me at night. Chico, who normally goes to bed with Tiff, refused to settle down and insisted on keeping me company in the dark; his periodic growls and bristles almost as unnerving as the rustling in the grass.
Then three nights ago, it happened. Something rushed from the grass and fastened its teeth on my ankle. Chico snarled and charged. I whacked it with the flashlight until it let go. As it retreated, I caught a glimpse of the creature in the beam of the light. Dear lord. It was a mole, a moldering caricature of a mole. And it was huge, larger than Chico. Dear lord. The next morning, I waited until Tiff was at school then took my shovel to the cemetery and dug the shoebox up. The box was empty, the lid shredded where something had clawed its way out.
I’m afraid. The house is locked up. Chico and I are camped at the top of the stairs as we have been every night since we first saw the creature. I have a small axe and a carving knife. I don’t know what else to do. We have no friends or family in this town. Who would believe me, anyway? We can’t afford to move. If it finds a way into the house, I think I can kill it – well, dismember it or something. I think so.
I must keep watch. I must. But I haven’t slept in days and I’m tired, so very tired.
© Karen Kleis – All Rights Reserved
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