Six year old girl, blonde hair, green eyes, hovers over a dead body. Her first dead body. There is no rule book for this situation, there was no picture book to tell her what to do or prepare her for this.
My sister, two years younger, had run away at the sight of the rusted fur but something tied me to the fox. Its body lay sprawled at the base of a horse chestnut tree. One of many that made up our wood; the envy of classmates who dreamt of tree houses and conkers.
Above, in the protective canopy, white and pink candles proudly declared Spring’s presence. I remember the man we found in our driveway staring at the waxy peach cones, amazed, full of questions about this abnormality. Questions we had no answers for, this was just how they grew, with their darker, smaller leaves and empty spiny shells that disappointed our friends. They had expected the rich smooth gift of a conker.
A glassy eye blinked. A muscle reaction I would later find out.
I stood watch over the body; chestnut tail, russet body, milky ruff and charcoal tipped ears.
There was no blood. The small creature lay seemingly as peaceful as a cat basking in the sun. It was not the fox I feared, it was not the death I feared, but I did fear leaving it alone. It felt wrong to witness death and walk away.
We buried it, my Dad and I, under a beech tree. Near the family pets but not so close that the fox would terrorise the guinea pigs, the chickens or the cats in the afterlife.